Resistance: A Poem

I simply do not write poems anymore, but for some reason, these last few days have been getting to me, and the only way I can process the tragedy and pain over the course of the week is to write. 

 

For Alton, for Philando, for them all, for the many who survive to witness the violence against black bodies...

Be everything you were meant to be

Before the world put its mark on you

 

Be the one who laughs the loudest,

Teeth shining, unashamed

Laugh in their faces, all of them

Be the joke teller, the joke lover

Feel the laughter from your belly and expel it like a gift

 

Be the one who sings songs like a child in the choir

Excited by the sound of your own voice

Sway so boldly you lose rhythm
Sing the songs only you want to sing

Repeat them, belt them, write them down

 

Be the one who dances

Be at the center when you do

Let them see you move with joy and feeling

Dance until your feet scream, till sweat glides down your face

Let them envy you

 

Be the best lover for yourself

Enjoy yourself every time you see her

Hug her, kiss her, and tell her she’s beautiful

Sit with her quietly on a dusty porch

Braid her hair and tell her secrets

 

Be the one who speaks the clearest

Speak with confidence and do not falter

Be the code merger and do not switch

Use as many big words as you would like

And use the smaller, silly ones too

 

Be part of neither this world nor that

Be above them both like the star you are

Exist in one piece with all of your might

Be the one who reflects the sun, and the moon

Claim the universe as your own.

 

Be the earth beneath your feet

Be and love the roots of the trees

Feel feelings, even pain

But when you feel, feel completely, genuinely

Without fear of attack or expectation of praise

 

Be without the stain of the world that taught you fear

Wash it off, scrub, reject

Be big, for there is no such thing as too big a spirit

Don’t let them tell you that you were made to be small.

3 Black Owned Businesses Helped Me Celebrate Turning 30

I guess turning 30 is a big deal. After the fact, not so much, but before, it can be either really exciting or really daunting. After 29, you're officially "adulting" and there's no turning back. Is there ever any turning back? 

To celebrate I decided that I would mix the solo/private endeavors, with typical social endeavors. I realized that as an introvert, I want time and space to reflect but I also recognize the joy of having friends, and family around you who are supportive and rooting for you. Although, I've never been the most vocal about "buying Black," I do buy black. This means that I pay special attention to businesses that offer products and services that I want and need, and are also owned by Black people. In DC, there's so much entrepreneurial spirit among folks in general, and it's so nice to see Black artists, creators, and innovators participate in this blooming creative business culture in DC, MD, and VA. When planning the little things I wanted to do for myself in light of my 30th birthday, I paid special attention to black owned businesses that offered services I was looking for. 

Gift One: Tattoo #3 from Imani K. Brown at Pinz-n-Needlez Tattoo.

 

I decided that I had to get my 3rd tattoo to commemorate many things: that I had failed to celebrate the past year: new job, new home, being fabulous, etc. After letting a year pass by without the tattoo I had wanted, I decided this was the perfect time to go for it. I knew that Pinz-n-Needles, a black owned tattoo and piercing shop located on the U Street Corridor in Washington DC, would pay special attention to my dark skin and give me expert advice on my tattoo aspirations. I wanted to look into the services of Imani K. Brown, especially, being one of the freshest black women tattoo artists in the area, if not the country, maybe? 

I got the neatest little mehndi-inspired shoulder cap tattoo a birthday girl could ask for and got to show it off at da club!

Ms. Brown is also a graphic designer and illustrator who's been creating for over 10 years in the DC area and in Japan. She started the Little Ink Play Shop, a space where tattooing, kawaii culture, and Japanese-inspired art meet, all the while championing body positivity and female empowerment.  Learn more and support Little Ink Play Shop here.

Gift Two: Cupcakes from Bake Sweet Love

I rarely touch cake, and cake-like desserts. Unlike the delicate bar of the deepest chocolate, or the fluffiest bowl of gelato, cake just seems too indulgent for me to eat, and not feel ashamed after eating it, BUT this is my birthday, so I decided to enlist Bake Sweet Love owner Ayana Patrick to create 2 dozen masterpieces of assorted gourmet cupcakes: Chocolate with Whipped Chocolate Ganache frosting, Vanilla Bean, with Salted Caramel frosting, Marble with Vanilla Chocolate Chip Frosting, Coconut with Lemon frosting. Yum! Patrick's creations, whether, cupcakes, the bite-sized "baby cakes," cake pops, or cookies are delicious and made with love, passion, and creativity. 

Gift Three: Photo Shoot with Catherine Rae Photography

Professional photographer Miranda Drummond, is a god-send behind the camera. I knew I wanted to pursue my own vanity for my 30th, and she was very happy to oblige. I was a dork in front of the camera, but she managed to squeeze out the model in me. I will definitely be shooting with Miranda again. 

I find that once in a while, it's okay to say, "I love my body." Since college, I have gained some weight, that I can't seem to shake, so I had to make a decision to love myself as I am while I make steady strides to a healthier, fitter lifestyle along the way. My portrait session was an affirmation.

See more of Miranda's work at catherineraephotography.com.

You Can't and Shouldn't and Other BS...

(butterfly: my shot)

There was a time that I wanted to get into a good MFA program for Creative Writing and spend my life half-heartedly teaching while I write my life’s greatest work. The time to make that happen was my junior year of college. Junior year was like trying to make up for lost time. I had finally made it into the fiction writing class that I had sought out since freshman year. I had even switched my advisor from a wonderful, Black, female english professor to a scatter-brained, White, feaux-liberal professor because she was a published fiction writer, and I wanted a good and relevant teacher recommendation in the bag.

My plan to take over the world seemed to be unfolding smoothly. By the end of the fall semester, I had written a few short stories that I would submit as writing samples. One story was voted second best in my fiction writing class, and I was praised by the instructor for taking feedback seriously (sometimes, too seriously). I felt I was ready to ask my advisor to write a teacher recommendation. She responded, not with an immediate yes, but rather, she wanted to read my stories. Ok, I said. That made perfect sense to me. That way, she could pull details from my most recent writings to express how brilliant I am as a writer! And I had no qualms about my writing and my potential. No problem.

After I submitted my samples to my advisor, she sent me an email saying that she wanted to meet with me. I was confused by this. Why was meeting necessary? Why didn’t she immediately agree to writing a recommendation? What was she going to say? At that moment I felt that I was applying for a teacher recommendation, that I had initially thought to be readily expected.

We met next to her office, unexpectedly big with an appearance of coziness, including a leather couch in a lobby area and a small conference room shortly passed that. We met in the conference room, which was more wooden table than room. Still, the warm wood color of the table and chairs calmed me a little, and she smiled warmly while carrying in copies of all of my samples. Perhaps she was giving me feedback. I am so so good at getting feedback. And I would appreciate any feedback before submitting these samples with my graduate applications.

Have you ever had a moment in which you were talking with someone and you at first think you understand where that person is coming from? And then something–maybe it’s the person’s body language, or the words that change meaning while their body language stays the same– something tells you that you and this person are no longer on the same page. 

She smiled and spoke. She smiled and told me that my writing was horrible. She said that she would not recommend me to any school. I had a lot to learn before…

…learning to write. She told me that I shouldn’t bother applying.

SHE TOLD ME THAT I SHOULDN’T BOTHER APPLYING.

SHOULDN’T BOTHER APPLYING.

SHOULDN’T BOTHER.

SHOULDN’T.

APPLY.

She smiled, and then, as I tried to make sense of this smile and the words that were coming out of her mouth, it finally clicked: she thought my writing was trash. There was no potential laid anywhere in those stories. Just trash. And then my face changed. I felt sick. My eyes looked down because they already had tears beating down the ducts.

And there I was, crying in front of this woman, who had read my writing before, even gave me an A in a past Creative Writing class, sophomore year. I can’t remember what I said in response to what she said about my writing. Honestly, I can’t remember, and I won’t try to make something up because nothing made up could even come close to the abject  desperation I exposed of myself in that moment. She suddenly looked sympathetic. And as I gathered my belongings and proceeded to the door, I further berated myself by thanking her for reading my stories. And she wrapped her arms around me, crushing my confidence with this confounding sense of caring and patted me on the back, crippling me for many years to come.

I don’t think she understood the fragility of a college student’s will to actively pursue something so hard to achieve even with the highest confidence. Or perhaps she did understand what she was doing. That Bitch.

After lamenting this dark moment in Teshonne history, something still told me to try. So I looked for someone else who would write my recommendation. Alas, I went to the one person whom I should neverhave left in the first place, my first advisor and mentor. I met with her in person to request a recommendation and she immediately said yes. She agreed to read my writing. When she did, she responded with the kindest words (and called that other woman a bitch). She made me feel better about applying. I don’t want you to think that she was feeding into my own delusions about my writing. That wasn’t her intent. Instead, she tried to restore a confidence that the other woman had shredded. And that confidence was needed to pursue writing. Without that, I would have lost the will to excel, to do better. I probably would have given up.

I applied to a few schools. I got into one which offered me a full tuition remission and a yearly stipend. Did I take it? No. (Because I was an idiot and followed a boyfriend to New York City.) But I did realize that I could write. Was I, am I perfect? No. But I have that potential that allowed people to see what a great writer I could become. And I will always hold onto that, especially in those moments when my confidence starts to wane.

I’ve also become more adept at sensing and dismissing bullshit.