Blaque/OUT Magazine; Issue 001 Sept/Oct 2020

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ISSUE: 001

September/October 2020

Contents: Sept/ October 2020


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Living In the Light Javannah Davis



My Own Words

Page 30 Zenith Fulton


online magazine platform centered

FIRMLY in Black & Brown Queer Cultural Excellence. We seek to center, celebrate & showcase every facet of the diversity & utter magnificence of our community through art, activism, photography & the spoken word.


Page 8. Ask marshay Page 14. tran/s/ Page 32. Reviews may vary

Letter From the Editor… Dear Reader, It is with endless joy and my whole heart that I welcome you to enter “The Blaque/OUT.” As I write this final piece on the last few moments of my birthday, it very much feels like both the culmination of everything I have worked for my entire life and the birth of new dreams, aspirations and community. The thing you hold before you is the manifestation of

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words I’ve spoken again and again in front of crowds of thousands as we stand together demanding justice, liberation, and equity. These pages formed of sweat and tears pouring down as “ALL Black Lives Matter” escaped our lungs and dripped over the folks that stood before us. Excellence lives here. Beauty Lives here. Blackness lives here. Queerness lives here. Culture lives here. Pride Lives here. It is in us and of us and by us. Be FREE here. Ase’

Tamara Sanaa Leigh, Editor-In-Chief

Living In theLight


Growing up, learning, and understanding who you are as an individual in a “normal” environment is hard in and of itself. So one can only imagine developing in an environment that contradicts the feelings bubbling to the core of your psyche like hot lava, and being told directly or indirectly that you are “abnormal”.

Allow me to take the time to introduce myself; my name is Javannah Jasmeen Davis and I was born and raised in the -not so accepting- city of Rochester, NY. Throughout the reign of my life I have seen and been through things that have shaped and molded me into the resilient black woman of trans experience that I am today. Some of those things, just some, I am going to share with you in this column. My goal for this, and future columns, will be to enlighten, encourage, and bring awareness to the importance of bringing awareness to things that most affect individuals within our community.

By far, this may be one the hardest columns that I write, solely due to the fact that talking about myself is not an easy thing for me to do. But if sharing my experiences, highs and lows, is a bridge for someone to find their own self love and acceptance then it makes it all the easier.

I grew up in a family that was pretty open to a lot of things. However, like most families in our culture, they were open as long as it wasn’t in OUR family. One of my earliest memories I have that involves me learning to keep certain feelings to myself was when I was about 4 or 5 years old. I was in the kitchen with my mother fingering through a Teen Beat Magazine - yes, I’m that old! Anyway, I came across an article featuring a young Ricky Martin and his group, Menudo.

Now at this age I remember being wise enough to know that there were only boyfriends and girlfriends, and as a lil boy I couldn’t say, “I want to be his girlfriend.” So in my innocent little mind, and equating love with something I always received from my mother and grandmother, I decided it should be safe to share my infatuation for this handsome young Latin hunk by saying, “I’m going to be his mother, mama.” My mother never looked up from doing the dishes. As she turned to place the plate she was washing into the sink she plainly, in the most unbothered tone said, “No, you can’t be their mother, you are a boy, you can be their brother, or a dad one day. *Silence* I continued to look in the magazine, while a feeling of anger started to rise in my belly. By this time, only 4 or 5 years old, I had already gotten a bit tired of being reminded that I was a little boy because of my unapologetic effeminate ways. I slammed the magazine closed, and shouted, “I’m going to be his mother!” and ran outside. My mother screamed my name but I was already out the door. I ran to the swing set my brother and I had in the backyard, and just sat on the swing in tears. My mother didn’t come out to console me or tell me it was okay. She just stood in the doorway, and went back in the house. I never talked about my feelings in that way again.

As the years went on, typical for any LGBTQ+ child growing up in a closed minded social environment, I was continuously bullied and teased for being different. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until high school that I began to blossom socially. At a time where most saw high school as hell, I found it to be a social awakening for me. I learned the value of true friendships, and I started to learn that it was okay for me to be who I was. However, the earlier traumas I faced stopped me from truly living in the light, or living my true tea. Yet, I took comfort in who I was at the time and that I was loved and accepted by family, friends, godchildren, coworkers, lovers. So I felt it

was enough and didn’t want to rock the boat- so to speak. So I went on with life, surrounding myself with all this love that I didn’t realize that I was missing this love I really needed own.

Four years ago it all came to a head. I was in such a dark place, and I couldn’t find any way out. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, except that I wanted the pain to stop. So there I was with my tear soaked face; sitting on my bedroom floor, a bottle of Mountain Dew in front of me, and a hand full of sleeping pills in my hand. Just before I tossed every single pill in my mouth and washed them down I heard a voice so loud in my ear that I froze.

This voice spoke clearly, “You will never be happy until you accept who you are.” The pills fell to the floor, and I fell back; sobbing. Not out of sadness, but from the release of acceptance. It was time for a change, and this time my life depended on it! I wasted no time. The next morning my journey to self-love, and self-acceptance began and it’s been going uphill ever since. As each day comes I embrace the lessons, both good and bad, that might help me to show up in my life and be the best ME I can. If I can ask anything of anyone it would be to, as hard as I understand it can be sometimes, never give up on you. No matter who tells you that you can’t, or shouldn’t, or it “ain’t right”. Always look inward and check with YOU first to determine if the path for YOU is needed to continue your life's journey to be healthy, happy, and mentally capable to see another day.

With love, this is your girl Javannah saying,

“Be Good to You!”


Life as we know it! Eyes locked, All I can hear are the softened screams of the sufferers who had appeared before me. Teeth clenched, From the visions of my people being destroyed, with words struck with fist and smothered with unwanted hate. I don't understand why my existence frightens you. My black is beautiful. Yet being born black comes with guidelines and codes. When stopped by cops remain calm, respond when declared to, and please announce every gesture you start. Work twice as hard in whatever line of work you prefer, but don't expect twice as much gratitude. Just to refer to a few “but we are equal” laws. However, are we? What takes place if we don’t adhere to these orders, you ask. Well, in 2020 we are seeing the beauty beat out of us with every blow, but with every bullet I hear my ancestors telling me to remain strong. You can weep but let your tears be indications that at least you're still breathing. You can become angry but remember our time will take place shortly. Carry on for just a little while longer, my child. My question is, how many more lives do they call for us to take on? This battle has been evident since before the 1700s, and this is the season for it to become no more. This may be my condition of survival as I know it, but I protest to tolerate this to be the experience of my grandchildren. The term for change is now. What will you do to make it happen?

- Ashanti Taylor-Alexander Photography by: Halima Aweis [she/her]



Love, Sex and...Marriage? If you sit anywhere silently long enough, you can hear the direction the world is moving in. You can actually hear people’s thoughts! Conversations, both online and off, seem to all be chattering about the same thing. Is anyone even able to find love at all right now? While we’re dealing with COVID-19, systemic racism and the protection of personal energy, have we forgotten all about love? Personally, I’ve decided to take a more reserved approach and am keeping to myself but that’s after years & years of insistence. I realize you must always ask yourself first, what’s driving you? As a single mother of one with a full plate, I was motivated by desperation for a while and believed a partner could provide my son with a father and myself with a helpmate. Needless to say, I was wrong! So I re-assessed my priorities and took myself OUT of the running. With that, I can tell you I did learn there’s NOTHING WRONG with being single. I don’t know that there’s a soulmate out there for everyone, but I can at least tell you what to be careful of. 1.) The Freeloader Have you ever started to date someone who seems to have less and less the more you talk to them? At first, it’s ˜My transmission just blew on my car, can you pick me up?” Then, the next thing you know, they need a place to stay for a few weeks which inevitably becomes months. Some people are in a position to support The Freeloader but I’d say just for the sake of all the rest of us, let’s stop breeding these diabetic sugar babies, shall we? From one adult to another, maybe it’s healthier to date when you have everything you need for yourself and can contribute to a complete relationship. I understand the need to survive, but using people usually does not end well, even if that’s not the intention. Just as a safety tip, I’d suggest considering moving in with someone or supporting them AFTER they’ve proven to you that they’re capable of standing on their own two feet. Self-care starts here! 2.) The Narcissists We all know someone whose got unsolicited advice at the ready and misplaces all of their own personal accountability by shaming or blaming us, right? Be very leery of entertaining this type of energy as it’s usually the hardest to get rid of. By definition,


Marshay narcissist is (noun): a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves (definition from Oxford Languages). This person is especially toxic to love because they cannot give love in return. Narcissistic Personality Disorder actually describes someone who is self-centered with a lack of empathy and consideration for other people. I affectionately renamed this type of relationship, “The Black Hole” because, honey, all it serves to do is suck you into another dimension! 3.) The Compulsive Liar Unfortunately, we can’t see all red flags coming. I’m studying the art of lying & deception and even I can’t always spot a compulsive liar. Someone who lies compulsively (pathological liar) literally only lies for comfort. Regardless of how big or small the lies are, they’re especially intolerable because they’re everywhere! How can you build anything with lies being laid in the foundation? Trust is absolutely critical. If you sense your newest love interest has a deep-seeded mental health issue, encourage them to seek help but it’s typically safest if you stay out of their way. We all know misery loves company and most mothers will tell you that when you lie with dogs, you do end up with fleas... 4.) The Abuser Abuse displays itself in many forms. I describe it as anything you find offensive to your overall health and well-being. You have a right to your personal space and boundaries. You deserve to be treated with respect. A large percentage of abusers in a relationship are motivated by power & control. Needless to say, love should never feel like slavery. There’s actually a formula that most cycles of abuse adhere to called the ‘Power & Control Wheel’. This outlines the 4 stages of abuse shown in almost every case. They read as such: 1.) Tension building: Stress builds for the abuser & target feels growing sense of anxiety 2.) Incident: Abuser makes an attempt to dominate their target & stress building comes to a head (explosion)


3.) Reconciliation: Abuser feels remorse and may begin “Love Bombing” to overcompensate for the damage they’ve done 4.) Calm: Honeymoon Stage; everything appears to be normal before the cycle inevitably begins again.
 If you or anyone you know is being tormented by an abusive relationship, please reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1800-799-7233. You can text, call or reach out however you choose to safely but REACH OUT to someone for help. Even if all you do is confide in a trusted friend, please don’t try to shoulder this burden alone. It can actually save your life! In conclusion, there’s nothing wrong with chasing love but be careful of how and where you find it. I want love for every person reading this article but most importantly, I want it to be real for you. I want it to be long-standing and revitalizing to your inner being. With all that’s going on, you definitely deserve that much. Always & Eternally Yours,

Marshay Dominique Need Advice? Email your questions about love, life & entanglements to: & you might see it answered in an upcoming issue of Blaque/Out Mag!!

**Power & Control Wheel:

(Understanding the Cycle of Abuse)**

** National Domestic Abuse Hotline:**

We Affirm…. This publication is firmly centered in Black & Brown Queer Culture & Excellence. This is a SAFE space for ALL who enter

ALL Black Lives Matter


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Dread/ Ndia (She/Her/They/Them)

Youth Philosopher



We in the streets because we got no choice to be. This is our obligation to stand for justice till we free. My people heed the calling

We lift our head unto the creed. Whistling through the leaves, wind is whispering, “peace”. Peace be unto thee. If we shall pick for every piece.

So let us march and stomp our feet, As we watch hate meet its defeat.

How do I begin to talk about how this all feels? What is it like being a witness of this movement? To be young, black, queer and fighting. What is it like to realize what it is I’m really fighting for? How have I navigated being young black and queer with this rebellious ass spirit? How did I put that rebellious energy to use by marching and shouting and screaming and stomping through the street? How do I further this fight? How do I take this fight from the streets and keep the same energy alive everywhere? How do I keep fighting? How can I fight for my freedom and the freedom of my people in my school, in my work setting, wherever I go how can I stay proactive and productive in terms of the fight for spiritual, physical, psychological, mental, economic, and social Freedom?



The weight of responsibility on my heart

(I have to do something, I have to say something)

Recycled trauma

Resurfacing trauma

Music lives

I am inspired all the time

It has been so hard for me. The deeply rooted systems of oppression and control can often times take a toll on my young body and mind. The oppression shows up in my life in many different forms and oftentimes its feels like just what it is; a trap.

A trap. What do you do when you realize that your trapped?

Trapped in a mess that your oppressors made for you. You’ve been controlled most of your life. Controlled, manipulated, degraded, broken down, abused, misused, lied to, stolen from. All these things. How do I navigate it all? What is black joy for me? Black joy is resisting the trap. Black joy is taking back what is rightfully mine, internal and eternal peace and happiness. I navigate the trap with my breath


Brittan Hardgers [He/ Him/ His]

Most people have spent the majority of their lives fighting to break the stereotypes we feel life has given us. The shocker is the stereotypes we battle; are the ones we put on ourselves. It seems as if those are the hardest ones to shake off, bury, let go of, and/or completely free ourselves from. When we find our true resilience; when we stand against all negative stereotypes. It's such a liberating transition to self authenticity. TRANZ is a safe place where any and everyone is welcome as long as you believe and support True Resilience Against Negative Stereotypes. Transition is a must when it comes to growing and walking into our authentic selves. I didn't want to be the one to say it but lets just put it out there- when I say transition I am referring to all life transitions. When we stand before ourselves; filled with pure bliss for choosing who we are, what we will become, where we will leave our mark and how we will continue to fight passed negative stereotypes in order to change pure bliss into education. We will share and educate on self love, self worth, self acceptance, self perseverance, self care, and rebuilding self esteem merely by challenging negative stereotypes we put on ourselves. We together will face the negativity; bringing forth the power and positive energy; we will work together because we leave no one behind and transition is a must for us to survive.Â

Each month we will recognize someone who demonstrates TRANS; we will discuss positive coping skills and techniques, promote positivity at all cost and raise awareness to healthy transitions for walking into your true authentic self. We will stand on resilience!

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom” - Assata Shakur We must fight for our freedom.. Free ourselves, educate and fight to free others. This month we would like to recognize Melanie Funchess Of Rochester, NY.

Melanie “Mama Mel” Funchess

Can you tell me what comes to mind when you hear (True Resilience Against Negative Stereotypes)? When I hear T.R.A.N.S. (True Resilience against Negative Stereotypes), I think about transcending all of the negative messages we hear about ourselves. Some of that messaging is external, some of it internal. I think about coming out on the other side, a more authentic version of who we are meant to be. Can you explain a little about the difference between negative stereotypes we as people put on ourselves vs. the ones we may feel life has given us?

I feel that the negative stereotypes that we put on ourselves are a direct outgrowth of the ones that the dominant culture puts upon us. We all drank the same Kool-Aid. We were all weaned on the same dominant culture message diet. So we all heard the same messages about ourselves. Unless you had people in your life from a very young age to awaken you and counteract those messages, you came to believe it. Is there a difference? The only difference with the messages that we as people put on ourselves is that sometimes they hurt a little more because they come from within, and there is this constant battle of whether the stereotypes are real. If we really are inferior. Suppose there is something wrong with us since those closest to us are saying the same thing. The problem with this is they were fed the same lie. How has being true to yourself shaped how you handle negative stereotypes in life? Being true to myself and being EXTREMELY comfortable in my skin has helped me in so much that I can look at the stereotypes that dominant culture has prescribed me and choose who I want to be. I know I can choose which of these characteristics I want to embrace and which I wish to leave. See, not all stereotypes are necessarily negative. Also, something that may be seen, or even meant as a negative, can be whatever you choose it to be if you understand and are clear in the fact that YOU OWN YOU and YOU OWN YOUR CHOICES. One must also understand that there is nothing more powerful (and therefore intimidating) than a person who is fully actualized in their personhood, utterly comfortable in their skin, and entirely in tune with their own power. •

For example, I have had white women call me fat in the workplace as an insult. Because I’m FULLY in love with every inch of myself I have been able to say to them “Why yes, I AM FAT. I’m also beautiful!!! How do I know? Your man and your woman said so!!! I fully understand that you are intimidated by your complete and utter inability to measure up to the magnificence that is me so you think that you can reduce me by projecting your body insecurity upon me. What you fail to realize is that I’m ‘The Big Girl’ which is a place of honor. Ask ya man and ya woman!!

Can you give an example of a life transition that has changed you into who you are today? Actually, there are several. Coming into the person that I am today came in several distinctly different stages. Looking back, it seems as if I was on a quest to find myself, not knowing that was the goal. I was having all of these experiences, and all of these incredible people were being put in my path. Each of them, only with me for a season, leaving me with an amazing gift, a lesson or skill or insight that would take me to the next level on my journey. I will share one of the most important ones. When I was about 16 I came to Rochester under seemingly serendipitous circumstances. I had been homeless for a couple of years, living in NYC between shelters, the streets, and group homes. By this point I was pretty hardened by the streets. I would go for several days without sleep. I hustled pool and cards for money. I grifted

some. I did everything but sex work because the OGs on the street said that was not for me, and they looked out for me, so I didn’t have to. They said I didn’t belong there, and they were going to make sure nothing happened to me until I got to where I belonged. Anywho, I came to Rochester for a visit, and while I was here, I walked into this church. I had never been to church and didn’t know much about it. I’m about to make a long story REALLY SHORT) There was a woman there who said to me that God said to her that she was to be my mother, and I was to be her child. I didn’t believe her. But through another set of circumstances (another long story), I unknowingly ended up at her house. This woman took me in and saved my life in all the ways a life could be saved. I live today because that woman, on that day, made a choice, defied what her peers said, defied what the stereotypes told about me and who I was supposed to be. She LOVED ME. She was the original MAMA. I am Mama Mel because of her. What are a few positive coping skills or techniques would you recommend to someone transitioning out of negativity in order to find their true authentic self? •

Meditation- getting some time to be still. In the stillness, get to know yourself. Get to know your heartbeat; how your breath feels in your chest. As you develop your meditation practice, you will begin to see how marvelously made you are.

Physical Movement- Some sort of physical activity daily. Walking, running, sports, yoga, dancing any of these work. You need to do it for at least 30 minutes every day. Physical activity keeps the blood flowing and helps clear the mind.

Journaling- Get all of the thoughts in your head out and on paper. Both the positive and negative thoughts, the stories, the poems, everything!!! This serves multiple purposes.

You can do a brain dump and clear your mind

You can chronicle your journey through a particular season in time

You can problem-solve things with a bit of distance once they’re out of your head.

Have your “Person”- This is a person who YOU KNOW will be honest with you, won’t bullshit you, loves you, and cares for your long term well being. This is the person you can’t bullshit. They can ALWAYS see right through you. This doesn’t have to be someone you “hang out” with but someone you can count on to talk to without judgment.

What are some basic self care tips to finding your true self? Along with the tips above, I would add:

Give yourself grace- You will mess up MANY TIMES on the journey to finding your true self. You "18

will probably hurt people along the way. Give your self grace and know that you won’t get it all right all the time.

Own your stuff- When you do stuff, to yourself or to others own your thoughts as well as your deeds. It is about your impact! Both on yourself and on others. Remember, often, you are not on this journey alone, even if it feels like it.

Keep getting up- This is one of the most arduous journeys that you will ever go on. There will be many hills and valleys. There will be rocky places. You will get tired, and you will fall along the way. KEEP GETTING UP!!! The journey is not easy, but IT IS WORTH IT!!! My mother always said, “If you fall, make sure you land on your back. Because if you can look up, you can get up!!!

What does support look like when finding your true self? •

Non Judgmental- Understanding that I don’t know and I’m just trying to figure things out as I go along. I may make decisions that are not what you would do, but please don’t judge.

Grace- Please know that I’m trying and that I will mess up. Please give me grace to make the mistakes I need to make to grow.

Peace- Help me find places of peace. Sometimes that is just a quiet place to be or just having you sit with me in silence. Be a place of peace.

Comfort- During this journey, parts of me will die. Even if I understand that these things need to go, and I want them to go, I will still grieve their loss. Please comfort me through the loss so that I may move forward in my growth.

Unconditional Love- Love me through. Love me when I seem unloveable. This means to act in my long term best interests. Tell me the truth when it’s hard. Set boundaries, and celebrate my evolution.

How do you define resilience? I don’t like the word resilience for a whole bunch of reasons that are not really relevant to this conversation. But I’m going to tell you anyway. I don’t like the word resilience because it seems to put the

responsibility on the individual to ‘Bounce Back’ or to ‘Rise Above’ the terrible circumstances rather than for the responsibility to be where it belongs. On society to be better. To make our society more equitable and affirming of all people. To make the world better so that people don’t have to be so damn resilient. Resilience means having the ability to bounce back from adversity. How can we contact you if we have questions or comments? Email-

Facebook- Melanie Funchess

Twitter- @MoBlessed469

Instagram- Afriqueenme

A Little About Me…. Not only am I the author of this column; A proud father and grandfather. I enjoy being a licensed barber, educator, activist, mentor and leader. I am founder and president of Next Generation Men of Transition. NGMT18 was originally born in Rochester, NY. In less than a year our outreach has touched almost every major city and state in the United States. When I started NGMT18; I longed to be the face and support of what I needed when starting my own life changing transition. Transitioning from others perspectives of me into my own perspective of self. I needed mental, emotional, spiritual and physical support from those that look like me, live like me, even more those that have chosen themselves to survive just as me. Choosing myself to survive was one of the hardest decisions i've ever had to make. I had to re-adjust the lens of selfishness I had carried for years due to others views of my actions. I had to redefine the word selfishness; and teach myself to be selfish above all others needs, wants, desires and understanding of who I am and the purpose over my life. In the beginning, I spent more time depressed about putting myself 1st. I felt I was losing everything in life I had fought for, everything in life I believed I had actually chosen. Many days I battled mentally, emotionally and spiritually on if I had made the right decision. How could choosing me and finally being selfish be so lonely? I began to channel my loneliness; I began to see my loneliness came from a space of being with myself yet not knowing myself. I thought about if I really knew my favorite color, my favorite food, favorite place of security, and the list goes on. The more questions that arose... the more I knew I needed me more than I've ever needed anyone else in my entire life.

I vowed to learn myself, and be all that I was looking for in the definition of support; I promised to myself to provide other brothers of transition with that same support. To stand on visibility is power! To share the importance and true definition of freedom. Becoming and walking into your true authentic self. It's not easy but it is worth it. Once you get to learn the you.. you've neglected for so long.. you vow to never allow yourself to feel that alone again! I am a proud reflection of TRANS (True Resilience Against Negative Stereotypes.


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Now is the time to ensure your space is one that is safe for and reflective of the entire community. Let us help to evaluate the equity standards you currently have in place and introduce you to workshops, speakers & consultants to broaden that commitment to your staff, students or customers. For more information or a free consult, please contact Tamara Leigh at:


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The Occupation of City People’s Hall Rochester, New York In March of 2020, a call was made to 911 by a family member of Daniel Prude to report he was experiencing a mental health crisis and needed help. Prude was found, nude, on the Westside of the city, walking in the cold. Once the officers located Mr. Prude, instead of helping him, they left him in cuffs on the cold, wet ground with a hood over his head while they made jokes about his condition. The officers eventually pinned him down and tightened the hood around his neck as EMTs sat idly by and watched him slip away. Mr. Prude was pronounced dead days later and the Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide by asphyxia caused by physical restraint. The RPD made a calculated attempt to mask the death as a drug overdose. The public knew nothing until a FOIL request by the family attorneys brought the heartbreaking and disturbing video account of the night to light in August of that year. As the light grew stronger over the sleepy Upstate NY town, the layers of corruption and injustice that ran from the officers at the scene, to the Chief of Police and straight through City Hall brought the town to its knees. Free the People Roc had staged weekly protests all summer long in support of George Floyd. Black Lives Matter once again rang through the streets where Frederick Douglass once walked, without them even realizing that the same tragedy had already occurred in their own town. The people took to the streets demanding truth… demanding justice for Daniel Prude. They were met with heavy opposition. The RPD launched a vicious attack against protestors. Men, woman, children and elders were met with rubber bullets, tear gas, physical assault and unlawful arrest. Taking it to the streets earned a resignation of the Police Chief but when the Mayor refused to resign and the City refused to arrest the officers, despite endless documents proving collusion…. they took it to the house.

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Zach Brown

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My Own Words Zenith Fulton


30 yrs old with 9 yrs of that being given to and taken by the justice system. I grew up feeling as if I were different. It took me til the age of 15 to realize that everyone and everything is different. Every tree isn’t the same but may be the same species. So I finally CHOSE ME TO SURVIVE. I told my mother that I liked girls. Even though she already knew ... it didn’t go too well. Especially because I preferred boy clothes. That was for her to work through. I was ready to be loud n proud about being interested in women. I went to School Of The Arts for violin then switched to the viola. I even had a 4yr scholarship to Eastman School Of Music. I love music, sports and I write. Im just good people. I did feel like a lot was on my shoulders. I went to school, I tried to be active in basketball, and I worked. I had to rush to get a job just to buy my preferred clothing, footwear, and whatever else to accessorize. To know that I had no support and had to get it on my own instead of having help ... really affected me. I understand responsibilities ... don’t get me wrong. Support is vital. People without a parent or parents always talk about wishing they had them. Sometimes that’s better than having a parental figure but not having support. Thats what we all seek and what should be given ... correct. So that’s what bothered me. To go from I LOVE YOU NO MATTER WHAT ... to the opposite. I’m thankful to have found that strength and support in myself. I graduated high school and went on to college. I really just went to continue playing basketball. Soon after, I dropped out due to being placed on academic probation. Better for me, I thought. More time to work since I was still supporting myself. Financial Aid wasn’t enough. Not too long after, I quit my job. Two years out of high school with high hopes and I catch a criminal charge. At the age of 19, I was sentenced to 11 yrs. WHOA! Just writing this I get stuck. I was released after doing 9 yrs. Let me tell you ,that prison is definitely not what you see on TV. Or what your friends and family see when visiting you. A lot happens behind them walls, gates, n barbed wires. Transgressions by those who are responsible for our well-being. I started my transition after I came home; however, there were transmen there.

It was something new for DOCCS (Dept. of Corrections and Community Supervision). So it was hard going for ftms. Essential needs (boxers/briefs and just being comfortable and safe around the women they were housed with). Some transmen had top surgery already and the officers would want them to put on a bra or a shirt over their tank top. Yes, some officers may have needed to know that the person was transman but majority of them knew and were being ignorant. Regular aggression was now taken to the extreme because some inmates took testosterone. They were ridiculed. It’s one thing to have support from friends n family. But when you can’t communicate as freely as you used to ... who can you run to? There was no one. There was no safe haven. They tried to keep one transman to each dorm. So there was no support there either. I’m only an onlooker with the little bit of insight they gave me. It was enough. I get it because I always considered myself trans. I just never started taking testosterone. I respect the fight they gave and still give for our rights. Especially knowing how hard it is. I don’t know how much it’s changed now. But before I was released, a group of us, trans and supporters, were fighting the good battle and their was a support group. I hope great things for the present and future for ALL prisons when it comes to the " LGBT+" community. I hope the the same for us all out here in society.

If you have a story to tell in Your Own Words, submit it to for possible publication in an upcoming issue of Blaque/OUT.


ay Vary

Book of the Month with Dr. Kenya Martin

When I read that Tamara Leigh was planning a new magazine focused on Queer Black and Brown excellence, I rushed to my email to beg for a corner of space to share some book love! I’m a psychologist. I believe in the power of storytelling as a way that we stay connected with our roots and each other. Even our successes are less when we are unseen and disconnected. Did you ever hear that old quote from James Baldwin? It goes, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” I taught him that! Ok. I did’t. He said that before I was born, but it’s just at true now as it was back then. So, when I think about Queer Black and Brown people and their intentional marginalization, all marginalization is intentional at its root, I think about the power of story. In story we can see reflections of ourselves. We can also see into any world we can imagine and into those we never thought possible. Now, I tend to read a lot of books across age ranges and I favor fiction so don’t be surprised if I am dragging you along with me down a rabbit hole or into a mythology retelling. But I will try to mix it up. Some columns will be multiple books and some may be a deeper dive into one piece. Hopefully, you will come along as find a groove. If you know me, you know that might take a minute because I have no rhythm! Ok. Enough of the yackity-yack. On to the books! I’ve got two book picks for you this month for my very first Kenya’s Book Recommendation of the Month.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (2020; Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, written in verse) The novel starts with the introduction of Camino Rios, 17 years old and living in the Dominican Republic with her aunt. Camino’s father visits from NYC every summer. His money and his reputation allow Camino to live better than some of her neighbors and without fear of the men on the street who have started to notice her new woman’s body and how much it might be worth. This summer, as she arrives at the airport to greet her dad, she learns his plane has gone down. At the same time in New York City, Yahaira Rios is called from her prestigious private school classroom to the office. Her father’s plane has crashed. The book takes us along with the girls as they learn about each other and the double life that their father was living. Each of the girls finds it impossible to go back to their regular lives. They are pulled into dangerous plans as they try to create new connections and opportunities. This book is beautifully written in verse. Yahaira’s story offers one example of young lesbian love in an accepting household. Camino’s story highlights the desperation of young girls who live in areas where there is not always enough to go around. Acevedo was inspired by the stories she heard from people in NY and DR following a real crash in 2001 that was largely forgotten by the media in the wake of 9/11. You can watch her read an excerpt from the book on Youtube: https://

The Deep by Rivers Solomon (2019, Science Fiction, Novella) This book is a bit of a trip! It is a story about an aquatic species of people who evolved from the fetuses of pregnant enslaved women thrown overboard during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. One person has been chosen to hold the traumatic memory of the species’ history. Once per year, everyone comes together to share

the memories so that they don’t all forget where they came from, but can live the rest of the year without the memories bothering them. This year Yetu, the current memory keeper, can’t bear to go back to the memories alone and runs away while her family is in the remembering. She gets stranded, meets a human woman, and learns about the species she’s descended from. She’s curious about humans, who have distinct genders and sexualities whereas her species has fluid gender and is able to join with each other in multiple ways. This story is a reinterpretation of a song by the same name. I listened it and it was even trippier than the book! Find it here: v=5EnPFsk4lOo


Equal Energy Transfer Jordin “QVEEN” Paige return into a light a light of the moon tiptoe onto gossamer and hide behind waterfalls retreat into the roots that made us whole. whisper only to crystals that hold the secrets to creation where Mother left them at inception and sleep on molten rock at the core return energy to its rightful owner to continue its spiral in the universe and be gifted eternal life in the stars i bestow stardust from my pocket onto the restless brown babies who knew nothing but Oshun before their mothers

return into a light a light of the moon lay in chartreuse pastures collecting clouds for regeneration and imagination blood gives life even when shed on cement and white nikes divinity lives in darkness, for light is too easy to tame the bottom of the sea holds our secrets, those shackled and still pardoned by waves swaddled by Olokun and re-gifted into the spirits of the new

and follow the rays of Olorun back home inside the sacred forest the tree of life stretches to every Ghetto Blessed be the brown people of the light Blessed be the brown people of the light.

return energy to its rightful owner, to continue its spiral in the universe


FASHION w/ Shamar Beverly

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