jae shepherd (they/them)
since reading salt, and hanging around people who tell me to be soft on myself, i’ve tried to do that. and that looks like more positive self-talk. that looks like trying to get out of my head. that looks like taking deep breaths and affirming myself more.
i think in order to survive being black in this world, being black and queer in this world, being black and trans in this world, we have to be soft. with ourselves. and with our communities. because we are just gonna keep getting attacked. our identities and our families and communities are just gonna keep getting attacked. this world is extremely violent on us, and we gotta live. we have to remain happy some kinda way. i think that one thing i haven’t done is let trump and all his bullshit take away my joy. because that’s him winning. typically i’m a very smiley happy, person. and i’m not gonna let this take away my joy. that’s a form of resistance in and of itself.
i mean, hanging out with people. taking people out to coffee - that’s beautiful. quality time. really good hugs. cooking for people. another good form of self-care is putting on a bowtie. or getting a fresh cut. and remembering that it’s okay to be soft and angry.
cristin, my partner. who always believes in me, even when i don’t believe in myself. always loves me, when i don’t love myself. and is always teaching me how to be a better person. and partner.
community gives me hope. and the people i surround myself with. who teach me how to love better. animals. cats. peach. i think right now my focus is just trying to figure out how to take care of myself better, and take care of the people i love better. like call them and tell them i love them.
the book [salt] - about flower work - it was just so beautifully written. about being soft, even when this world makes you hard. i hang around charles and all these other qtpoc folks. and life just keeps throwing curve balls at us and our identities. and they all help affirm me and keep me happy. keep me mentally and physically happy.
nick speed (he/him)
so for me, i’m a very emotional person. and i can be sensitive towards a lot of things. and i think being able to have a safe space in which i can express those emotions without being judged. whether that be crying or letting out frustrations of whatever is going on in life. i think, to me, that is what tenderness looks like. especially identifying as a man. i think that because of this way that society believes that we should be and act. it’s frustrating because anything outside of that is considered less than, or some type of threat. it’s been a journey, for me, to get to a place to feel comfortable to express that tenderness. and so i think my partner, nikia, has definitely been huge in that.
i would say a lot of things. i think knowing that i’m in a situation in which i can do the things that i’m passionate about for a living. and also i’ve made it a priority to surround myself with like-minded individuals and people who really appreciate my authentic self, whether that’s my partner or close friends or family. that has been huge. especially when life gets very difficult.
i think it started before my relationship with nikia. one time in particular i can remember, this was just after a breakup. and i was frustrated with where i was career-wise. and it just seemed that everything was not going right in my life. and i actually found myself just driving through forest park. i went to a spot that was familiar to me. a spot that i used to have practice for football in high school. i remember just pulling up to that place and just crying. like bawling. like ugly crying. for like ten minutes. and it was a really powerful moment for me. because, even during the process, realizing that there is some really messed up stuff going on in my life. but i do have some amazing things going. i’m so fortunate to have so many things and so many blessings. awesome people in my life. it just kind of lifted a weight off of my shoulders. and from then i just kind of looked at being emotional and crying in a different way for myself. i found myself being less ashamed of showing my emotions. being okay with being tender with other people. being vulnerable with other people. because i found myself being stronger the more vulnerable i am with certain people.
yeah that’s really a touchy subject with my dad. because, unfortunately, he believes bisexuality or homosexuality is not a valid way in which you can express yourself. we can’t even get to the basics if we stuck right there. so unfortunately it’s at a situation where we don’t really talk about it. but i know that for me, being with my partner and being with like-minded individuals who accept my queerness has been a game changer. because i know of so many people who are forced to live this certain way of life because they really don’t know a way out. and it’s frustrating. but it’s not easy for me. and i have to take it a day at a time. but as long as i continue to stay on my path, and surround myself with awesome individuals, i can’t control anything else.
one story that kind of sticks out to me. my dad and i have always been close. but the relationship hasn’t always been the best. and growing up i just remember him reinforcing the idea of being strong, and not letting people see your emotions. i remember one time, in particular, i got in trouble and i wasn’t allowed to go on a field trip to crown candy. and i had never been before, and i remember feeling cheated in that particular scenario. because i feel like i was unjustly not allowed to go on the field trip. so through that i was really frustrated and i cried. and i remember my dad being more so frustrated that i cried, not necessarily that i got in trouble. so that was something that stuck out to me growing up. and just, overall, this idea of hypermasculinity and you have to be so strong. and salt talks about that. talking about how seeing men who wanted to weep, but instead beat their heart until it’s unconscious. and i think we see that a lot in various degrees. so i think i would just encourage, people in general, to just accept their emotions and realize that they’re only temporary. and there are constructive ways in which you can go about expressing your emotions.
oh yeah. for me. definitely the people i found myself hanging around with changed. before i was open with my sexuality, i found myself, unfortunately, in circles that were very homophobic. and i kind of tolerated those situations, by and large. i think because people just assume that i’m straight. because i’m masculine and i look a certain way. i was still kind of figuring it out. but i think it’s easy to fall in line, and not be disruptive, and not open yourself up to shame. so i think, once i did kind of accept that part of myself, i just found myself distancing from certain people. and it’s frustrating for me because i have such high expectations for humanity. so when i see certain things, i struggle with, should i confront this person, how should i go about confronting this person, or is it even worth my energy. so those are some difficult things that i had to navigate going forward. but i think separating that negativity from my life has helped tremendously. and i feel like going forward when i do get confronted with those scenarios, i feel like i’m better equipped. because i don’t surround myself with that anymore. so it’s just like, nah i’m not checking for that no more.
brittany ferrell (she/her)
i struggle with that. kind of like - there’s this poem in salt, it was, i am a brutally soft woman. and it resonated. but i struggle with language that softens my femininity. so even though i am brutally soft, or that pieces of me can identify with being tender, i struggle with saying that. because i don’t want to ever encounter people who think they can take advantage of that. because those are things that usually people who are really close to me, those are just things that they know. it’s kind of like this shell that’s been created since i’ve been walking this earth. i know those things, but how am i supposed to feel safe to let everybody else know those things?
usually they’re with other people that embrace that part of themselves. and they know that it exists. and that it’s okay to be tender or brutally soft or delicate, even. i mean i can only be that way with other people who embrace that, too. because if i don’t feel like i can trust my surroundings enough, i always feel like i have to have this external shell on, where i’m anything but those things. and i think that just comes with having to grapple with being super fem in a world that takes advantage. or in a world where misogyny makes you feel this small. or even when you intersect being black and being a woman and being queer. like, yeah, i’m all of those things, but you’re not gonna fuck with me. it’s like a survival mechanism that i’ve used for so long. so i’m learning to be both and, outwardly. and anyone who tries to threaten that, realizing that it’s a problem with them, and not me.
i think i just didn’t know what to call it. and it definitely would have been different had mike brown not been murdered here. it probably would have just been more centered on the work i had decided to do with healthcare in black communities. it definitely would still be organizing. at the time i just don’t think i had a word for it. because i was wanting to do that. i was wanting to go out doorknocking in communities, getting women together to advocate for their health, wantingto empower them to take hold of their health. i remember at one time i wanted to open a food co-op. and make it so that women could put in hours there, and then the hours that they put in there would provide them with healthy foods for their homes, to feed themselves and their children. so it would have looked a lot different. and i’m still grateful for what the movement has shown me. because it did show me that you can do this and this. it has shown me that you can find your lane, but still incorporate what you’re passionate about into the greater good of black liberation. so it definitely helped bring things full circle. and it has helped to influence where i want to take my career and my future.
i think about that everyday. one thing that has remained consistent is that i’ve never been able to identify as a religious person. and i have struggled with it. not necessarily wanting to be, but i see the beauty in it. with other people who are believers. like traci blackmon. there’s so much beauty in the way people honor their religion. but even with all of that beauty, nothing about me identifies with it. and sure, i can criticize it. but what good is that gonna do? why am i criticizing how someone else beautifully worships what they believe in? so i’m learning what it means to appreciate that, and to let it move me, in a way that makes me believe that something is there. and everybody has their own perception, or feeling, or belief of what that is to them. it’s something to me. i don’t know what it is. but i know it’s something. because it’s something so powerful that can stir someone’s soul to act in the ways that they might, or say the things that they might, or touch people’s lives the way that they do. anyways, i know i’m not religious. and i know i believe in something. i just don’t know what it is.
so what i do is stop trying to place myself in any particular spiritual box. and i do what feels good to me. and it’s a little weird to other people because i talk a lot about west african tradition. even this book, called jambalaya. this writer is from new orleans and she talks about a lot of rituals and afro-american beliefs and traditions and stuff like that. and honestly that’s where i feel more grounded. that’s what feels real to me, because i don’t have to guess about it. i don’t have to wonder or guess or say, i mean, does this story sound too good to be true? so it feels a little bit more tangible for me when i think about how they tried to eradicate us for decades and we are still here. and what kept us here. and what kept us grounded. and what kept us believing. what keeps those single mothers in the projects who don’t have shit but they make it every single day. what keeps them. and i think about where we come from. and about how it’s not just by coincidence that we are as resilient as we are.
i think about, why does god have to exist outside of us? why can’t god exist within us? how come whenever you question whether or not we do have god within us, that we’re proclaiming that we are gods? why can’t we just say that god does live within us so we don’t have to search for something in the clouds or in a church? why can’t we do the soulwork to recognize that that thing is within us and we have power to choose to be love, or not? to be destructive, or to rebuild. all of that is kind of deep down inside. and i also think about how it seems that the most fucked up people think that god is out there. like they think that it’s this thing that you have to search for and find, and they think that when they’ve found it that other people just don’t understand. it’s like, no. i would rather connect with what feels tangible to me. something i can look at and say there’s no way we could be here if it wasn’t for something bigger than us. and i would also like to believe that that energy is in the core of each of us. and when you feel that you can’t find your place, is when you begin to ask those questions that help to reveal it.
oh it has taken me so long to get here. i feel like i had to get drug through the mud before i finally learned to extend myself some grace. and to take care of myself. now i think i just focus on the things that i want to happen for myself. and what i want to happen for us as a community. because at one point in time i was focusing on what someone could do to us, or what someone could do to me, or how someone might threaten my family. and that’s draining because you’re working against things that haven’t happened yet. i had to change my framework of where i was operating out of. i was operating out of a place of fear. and i had to tell myself that i’ve already won. we’ve already won. they can do so much to us, but i still have to remain vigilant about what i want for myself. i can’t let them take away my hope because then i won’t have anything to ground me. so i had to change my frame of thought first, and everything else kind of followed. i knew that if i wanted to have a healthy mind i needed to have a healthy body. so then i started simple things. making sure that i eat things that would nourish me, making sure that i take care of my body the same way i want to educate people to take care of theirs. so exercising. and being cautious of what i put in my body. and then also how i feed myself mentally. and being more diligent in the circles that i place myself in. i can be all for community, but that doesn’t mean that i need to compromise my principles or my values. or put myself in environments that are completely unhealthy to my physical and mental health.
i had to do an entire readjustment. and just ground myself every single day. every single day i wake up and remind myself that i have control over the things i have control over. and the things that i don’t, i will face them and handle them as they come. because what else can i do? what else can i do, but move forward?
and i just hang onto the things and people who have supported me, or who have carried me this far. i don’t take a single person or thing, who has taken me to this point of becoming my best self, again, for granted. i just don’t. like i have such a great appreciation for public transportation in st. louis. because at one point, that was my only method of transportation. so just noticing little things. like everyday i hear this bus pass in front of my apartment building, and recognizing that i was there at one point in time. or it can be knowing that i have this comfortable place to live in. and i used to live in shit just a few years ago. so i’m just grateful for the things that i’ve made for myself despite it all. and then when i think about how me and my mom have reestablished a healthy relationship. i can call her, even when i’m not doing anything, don’t need anything, but like do you want to come over? and even making the best out of relationships that probably didn’t end in the best way. but mending bridges and talking things out. and just really appreciating everything around me that has carried me. and everything that makes life feel worthwhile.
dominique aneekaneeka (she/her)
on tenderness. i love that word. i think that it brings this idea of respect. this idea that when you have tenderness toward another person, it’s because you respect their squishy underside. and don’t pity it. and don’t see it as a problem. i think it also goes hand in hand with consent. like when someone allows you into their space, or their life, or their emotional vulnerabilities - which we all have - being tender with that gift, or that opportunity, is a really big form of respect.
i’m thinking for a minute, because in my head i’m differentiating between the different types of relationships. familial. friendship. partnership. and i would say that with all those things, you’re constantly learning about each other. and tenderness - that is part of that love. giving each other space to be yourselves. not boxing anybody in. or having unrealistic expectations. when you give people room you can really see who they are.
i think it’s harder to be tender as a person of color. this makes me think of the ways that we are violated when organizing. and that folx often respond by saying, “well, they’re so strong.” and i get really mad at that sentiment. like of course, we are strong. but that’s not what we are discussing. the fact that we are being physically violated, and the power dynamics with older, white, men in positions of authority. it makes me really upset. because there is this sense of, you have to be strong. you don’t have room for anything else. because your life is gonna be shitty. so you’re expected to be strong. and i appreciate sometimes, the fact that i’m seen as strong. or can go up against big things and be brave. but it really takes a more nuanced listener or onlooker or even friend to see that it’s not always easy. and that it’s kind of unfair to be expected to be strong all the time. so within the community, and with activism, what’s really been amazing is having the openness to let people of color, or people who exist on the intersections, let them be something besides resilient. besides, you can take it because you’ve been taking it. you parents, your grandparents, your whole community just takes it, and becomes stronger from it. it’s like, that’s not a life. i don’t want just, if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger. so tenderness in that regard is an openness of allowing people to not just be strong and resilient, but to be humxn. and to have a full range of emotions. like hurt. or fear. or vulnerability. and i think for me, it’s interesting this project is about tenderness and stuff. that comes pretty naturally for me. compassion. but anger is one of those emotions that i’ve really been figuring out how to use and harness, in a way that’s not consuming. anger is one of the most interesting emotions to me. because it’s valid. but it’s reactionary, too, sometimes. and there’s something underneath it. i get mad when people are dismissed because they’re angry. it makes me angry. it’s one of those things where there’s always something underneath it. like fear. or hurt. or danger. or oppression. so for anger, i think it’s a really important emotion, because once you figure out how to harness it, it ends up fueling you. that’s why i got involved in any sort of activism, period. because i was really angry at the situation. and wanted to change it. and so it created an amazing amount of productivity and energy and motivation to create change and surround myself with people who are like-minded. similarly, sadness is another emotion, like anger, where if you just sit with it, it will consume you. but if you let it transform, it can be something much different. so sadness, especially when talking about the collective experience of black or brown people, or the collective experience of trans, queer, siblings, sadness is a lot of that day to day feeling. but if anger can be transformed, then so can sadness. and i think sadness, maybe even verging on depression or depressive feelings, creates a depth inside of you, where you’re able to be compassionate toward other people who you see are suffering. because you know what suffering is.
the anger has been all my life. but when i came out of the closet, and took that personal stance of, this is who i am, don’t fuck with me. and found community of a bunch of people who have - on a macro and micro scale - that rejection and invalidation and being the butt of the joke in everything. but then it transformed, of course, a couple years ago. living here. when mike brown got murdered. i think that was a lot of people’s call to action, in a way. but for me, because i’m not black, but i’m not white either, that allyship and that figuring out how to put myself side by side with this whole supercharged community of activists and game changers, it was so inspirational. one thing that really struck me was that for most marginalized people, the reason that they might be oppressed in all kinds of ways, is also often the source of their strength. whether that’s blackness. or religion. or country of origin. latin america. indigeneity. maybe that’s one of the exact reasons why they’re being fucked with. but that’s also where they draw their strength. and i think that can also be said about queerness. and transness. that may be a lot of the reason why i feel judged or dismissed - for this gay thing - but it’s also one of my favorite things about myself. it’s literally how i find love in this world. so it’s just funny that it’s got those two sides to it.
on mental health. oh lord. i think about this a lot. there’s so much stigma around not having perfect mental health. and it’s hard to admit to yourself. it’s hard to admit to a friend. how do you get help if you’re just shrouded in shame. i think about this as a health care professional person. and i’ve also thought about this a lot since being at standing rock. how for people of color, there’s usually a couple different levels of trauma to deal with. there’s the individual. there’s collective, now as a society in the present. and there’s collective, the ancestral of the past. so there’s the shift that you see within your lifetime, and your childhood. and i think that’s a lot with class. what poverty can do. and how that affects your self-image. and then, as far as the collective present. you see what’s happening on the state and federal level. how they don’t give a shit. they don’t care. and that does a lot to your self-image. and then you think about the stories from your community or your family, that’s been passed down. yeah it’s a lot. it’s a really heavy weight to carry. and like i said earlier, i think white people are allowed to have more of an emotional range. they’re allowed to falter and not be seen as completely unstable. they’re allowed to be fractured and not be seen as broken. and maybe that has to do with the fact that they control the narrative of people of color. and so it’s often been two-dimensional. and then you see yourself as a two-dimensional person. and, as far as that question, a project like this creates that third dimension. it really does. and having more artists or amplified voices that create a more authentic and rounded image of people of color, with then start chipping away at that stigma that we’re not allowed to be anything but our stereotypes. whether that be angry or stoic or just a sexual object. i think that might be an answer on the collective level. but then, on an individual level, i don’t really have an answer. it’s hard. it’s really hard. depression sucks. anxiety sucks. and i think i deal with the first more so than the second. but what’s really nice, i mean we talked about how people came together through community activism. and then stayed together. and then did this different version of activism. like using their skills in really productive ways. and, it’s really nice, because it creates space to find someone who respects you as a whole person, and therefore can listen to you as a whole person, in your imperfections. and not judge you. and not cast you aside. that’s something that’s really helpful. and because people have done that to me, in the gay community, and in the activist community - people who have become my friends and family - i know how to do that for other people now.
i probably don’t have immediate thoughts. but feelings. a sense of calming, automatically. and then what i think about is vulnerability and the risk that comes sometimes with being tender. and also, at the same time, the risk of not allowing yourself to be tender. thinking about myself, i feel like as far as me being tender and open and expressive and warm emotionally, that’s something i’ve definitely had to grow into over the years. and i definitely can’t pinpoint that to just one factor. so it’s like a combination of things. i’ve always been a person who walks to the beat of their own drum. so one, from being an only child. two, probably from my mom being such a solitary bird. so i didn’t necessarily have like family dinners. but still, that’s like my best friend. and we all experience closeness but whatever that whole tradition you sit down, we only did that during holidays. so i might even have dinner at a separate time or separate location than anyone else who’s in my house. and so i think i’ve thought a lot about that now. and how that kind of contributes to how new it is for me to even sit down with people. or even sit down period. i eat meals standing up all the time. and so to me, that relates a lot to being warm. being tender. being open. being expressive. being vulnerable. because i spent so much time solo. also i was never a hugger. it’s not like anyone told me not to. i have no idea what it was. but i probably didn’t start hugging people till like three years ago. i started being around people who would just always hug whenever they said hi. and it started off with a group that i was around. i became close friends with one of my high school basketball coaches. so her and her friends they all hug, like all the damn time. and it’s a predominantly all white group. and so i got exposed to hugging from them. but i still wasn’t necessarily comfortable because i was the only chocolate chip in the cookie. and so things got better within the past two years as i’ve gotten to know people that are involved in the movement. the movements. and so we were hugging a lot even beyond hello. and so something shifted with me through all of this that’s been going on over the last two years. so i started to learn about that real extending family. and now i have no problem expressing love even to strangers. something definitely cracked open and shifted. and i didn’t fear to express tenderness anymore.
we needed more arms to lift each other up. i needed them. they needed me. there were so many people who i didn’t even know that i ended up being beside. crying beside. mourning beside. celebrating beside. and i did not know them before that point. so there were so many instances where a person’s a stranger because maybe you don’t necessarily know their name, but they’re so familiar. and a whole other universal, spiritual sense of love. so i experienced so much closeness with people. so the whole definition of stranger or knowing or friend. it changed. because it was a bond through shared experience. and so it’s like looking into another person’s eyes, you feel like, damn, i don’t know. something through struggle. it just shifted. so i just experienced a lot more hugging. and a lot more talking. there have been so many community discussions. where people are openly talking about this fucked up shit. around racism. around hate. around all these things. it’s just more open now. so all the way around, i’ve been able to have conversations with people that would not have happened ten years ago. so i feel like, overall, the community i’m in is just more expressive. so now i’m just drawn more to those. and now i’m in the position where i’m pushing and initiating these experiences so that people can create more spaces to do what i actually just recently got exposed to.
on the hulk. i’m with hulk right now. and for real hulk was actually tender. but just ended up getting real pissed the fuck off. and then grew into this. so you can even go into the misunderstanding of hulk. and people mostly only talk about hulk when he got angry. and so i think about that with black womxn. and the angry black womxn. and they’re just being real. but nobody even talks or tries to remember the peace. but when there’s something that really gets at you, you just blow up.
i’m gonna start from the inside out. so i gotta start with me. because my work would not be able to exist if i did not go with me first. so how it looked before versus how it looks now: i spent a lot of time working for npos. giving so much time. like fourteen hour days. yet, i wasn’t part of any movement. there was no time. there was no progression. even though there was so much investment. and sure on a case by case basis, i experienced some joy and some growth but everything was about putting out fires and it was always through somebody else’s lens. and i saw the physical effects of that. i spent all this time working, working, working, and i would forget to eat. and all of the sudden i would be at one hundred and thirty pounds whereas i like to be around one fifty, one sixty. and it would be horrible. and i wasn’t paying that much attention to my body. to my hair. to my skin. so everything even with blackness. and not even realizing it. but i was giving so much to something outside, that i neglected everything within. so then even being in romantic relationships, all this stuff was still going on. and i was dating people who weren’t doing that for themselves. and also weren’t in a position to care enough or to recognize that i wasn’t doing that for me. so all over it just wasn’t healthy. so i have had to over time, little by little, learn to do little things for myself. like get back involved in drumming. really invest time into eating healthier. learning what that even looks like and means. to make sure to say i love you to my mom. make sure to give her a hug in the morning. taking out the time to show love to myself. like i’ll even do something where i’ll make a point to massage my feet every day for thirty seconds. little things like that. and i would just think how i would take the time every day to massage the person i’m dating to be like, look i can love. i can do this. but yet, i’m not doing it for myself. so i had to really take the time to start paying attention: i should be the first to experience love. and that’s gonna build my capacity to be able to share it. and a lot of people would argue and say that’s selfish. but it’s not. that’s self-care. and it’s self-love. there’s nothing selfish about it. you can’t neglect yourself. and so i had to start doing those things. and once i started with myself i was able to promote it probably first with the youth that i work with. and telling them, hey, when’s the last time you looked in the mirror and said i love you. and just little things like that. started sharing it with them. and with my closest friends. and i was able to do it because it wasn’t just like fluff. i was actually trying to practice it myself. and then from there it grew into why i left my last job in the first place. because i cannot love myself and my community, my black community and my queer community, in this environment. and so as i started to take more chances in those baby steps, like massaging my feet, well now i have a boxing coach. and my weight hasn’t been fluctuating now. and i do eat healthier. and when i started making more time to pour into myself like that, i started meeting other people who were doing the same thing. so i haven’t been around people who were anti-that in awhile, because i haven’t been. so the whole law of attraction thing. and so now in my company, first phase that everyone goes through is balancing flexibility. balancing on one leg. balancing with their eyes closed. no weights. literally just relying on their body as the gym. so they can even practice this without me being around. and my goal is to show them that they have everything it takes to take care of themselves. and then we can build on that. and then we can go external. but you have to realize that you don’t need to have extra money. or extra anything. you can literally just start now, like i did.
on st. louis. st. louis is like the mecca of white supremacy in the united states. so you have to work hard to be apart of or create spaces for you to incubate. whether that’s you as an individual. or if you can find safe groups to be in. cause like the movie get out, rose is everywhere. in your church. in your family, maybe. in your school. in your relationship. and so you have to not be afraid to be intentional. even recently, when trying to create spaces for black and brown folx, i ran into some opposition from other people of color. they really did not want to be apart of anything that did not also include white people. so rose is there, too. which is why i say whiteness instead of white. cause the skin color isn’t the piece. it’s the philosophy. it’s the mindset. it’s the structure. and literally can be anywhere. so being here in st. louis, it’s a trip. but it’s also a trip if you’ve been here the whole time. cause there are things that other people don’t understand, like the severity of the situation. but then there are things, on the flipside, that i haven’t been able to understand because i’ve been here. like i remember being in college, maybe freshman year, and someone said, what’s wrong with this city? and i asked, what do you mean? and they were like, it’s so segregated. and i was like, no it’s not. what do you mean? and i remember that conversation like it was yesterday. and for awhile i was really upset with myself. cause from that conversation, i was like, woah. mind you, i went to an all black grade school, and all these other things. but that doesn’t matter, if you’re not able to see how things work systemically. and so with that said, i know that there’s even more still that i have not been able to see. so that means my tenderness can only go so far. my work can only go so far. as long as i continue to have so much dominant experience. it’s like predominantly st. louis living is so damn dangerous. spiritually. physically. in all kinds of ways. so i know that i’ve got to spend more time outside of here, as many great things as i’ve experienced here. i know that i still have a lens. i know that there’s still filtered living. with a dirty ass filter. and so it’s like my spirit tells me. and i connect with everything. despite the rubble. despite the concrete. and the vacos. the bandos. all of that being around right down the street from the million dollar homes that none of us can even walk close to without somebody pulling us over. with all that going on. it’s like how they said in get out, they can take the black people's’ mind but there’s something they still can’t get rid of. and that’s what it’s like in st. louis. there’s all this conditioning that takes place. but you’re not completely dead. and there’s something that still keeps you rooted and connected. but if you spend a lot of time not being around other people who are with it, and who embrace you, then you’ll start to believe that you’re completely lost forever, even though you’re not. but the more that you’re able to connect with these safe spaces, and around other black folx, tender poc, tender poc queer folx, then that space inside of you starts to grow. and all the other conditioned shit starts to get knocked off. so all the relaxer. and the processed. so you start to get your natural back. start to get your kinks. and all that. so that’s where i’m at. and i’m by no means done or finished. but that’s why i’m especially protective of my development, like going back to grad school. it’s like when you stop eating mcdonalds or something. now the smell of it makes me sick. and so it’s like i can’t be around anyone who’s still eating that right now because i’m in a very critical state. and i’m craving this healing. i’m craving this space. i’m craving to experience space to be open. to be free. to be tender. to be love. to not just give or accept love. but to be love.
on reclamation. so i got this necklace from yeyo arts collective. and i wear this and got this because it was about the reclaiming of myself. and reminding me to keep remembering me. even still. so i was born and my mom named me emily. and my whole life, people would tell me, oh you don’t look like an emily. because you’re black. and i remember asking her why i was named emily. and she said it’s because she likes old fashioned names. so when i was a kid i would just retell that. and every time a white person heard me say that, they beamed. so it wasn’t until my mid-20s that i was like, wait, whose fashion. that’s not my fucking fashion. so i needed to not just reclaim me, in my memory and history and self and culture and presence and all that. but also my name. and so i don’t go by emily. but i had to rename myself as part of my liberation. so this necklace is just all the way around, remembering all that is me. and reclaiming my body. my self. and i have to do something about my last name. cause i don’t want to have a white girl’s first name and a white man’s last name. and that’s what the last names are. and i just don’t like being owned by whiteness and patriarchy.