FLAWLESS ISSUE 1 • FALL 2015
THE DEBUT ISSUE
CONTRIBUTORS EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Lissa Deonarain
ASSISTANT EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Alexandria Ellison
COPYEDITORS Michelle Ajodah Iris Peña Lucie Pereira Chala Tshitundu
DESIGN TEAM Indigo Asim Pola Dobrzynski Alexandria Ellison Rraine Hanson Megan Mowery Natalie Torres
PHOTOGRAPHERS Lissa Deonarain Pola Dobrzynski COLLAGER Rraine Hanson
PATTERNS COURTESY OF: Travis Beckham Patterncooler The Pattern Library Claudia Delfina Cardona
FLAWLESS WRITES FALL 2015 MEMBERS Michelle Ajodah Indigo Asim Sandra Bustamante Prasuna Cheruku Lissa Deonarain Pola Dobrzynski Alexandria Ellison Rraine Hanson Sydney James Megan Mowery Iris Peña Natalie Torres Valerie Reynoso
Flawless Brown © 2015
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR This semester has been wild. While simultaneously balancing school and life, Flawless Brown has been doing so much stuff. Flawless is only in its fourth semester and I’m only in my second semester of being part of the sisterhood. Also, Flawless Writes is in its first semester. I’m so proud of everything that this section has become and, just like everyone, I’m still learning. I am not a Writing, Literature and Publishing major so, this was quite an interesting experience for me. The main focus of this issue was patterns. Minimalism is historically a metaphor for White people and White culture (i.e. Ikea). People of color’s cultures are full of vibrant colors and patterns; from ankaras and khangas to papel picado to intricate henna and paintings of Hindu dieties. Therefore, we have dedicated this issue to acknowledging the wonder and beauty associatied with these marginalized cultures. We have put all of our heart and soul into this issue and Enjoy our debut issue and much love, Lissa Deonarain
LETTER FROM THE ASSISTANT EDITOR Flawless Mag was supposed to be experimental. I repeat this in my head as I look over the seventy pages of content. At the beginning of this semester, I didn’t anticipate working on a magazine. Perhaps it was Black Jesus or another Magical Negro archetype that led me to dedicate my entire life these past few months to Flawless Mag. Why is this Mag important for women of color? The ultimate question. The speech “Ain’t I a Woman” by Sojourner Truth is seen as a staple to illustrate the necessity of liberation. Although the speech as we know today has empowering elements, those were not her words. Twelve years after Sojourner performed her speech at a women’s convention, it was recorded and reworded by a white woman involved in the Women Suffrage movement. Young women of color need spaces to tell their stories. Out of anything, I would like for the magazine to serve as a platform for women of color to express themselves honestly and creatively. I have met the most wonderful girls this semester. I love them each dearly. I hope this experiment continues to grow. Peace and Love forever, Alex Ellison
6 11 12
Who the Hell Am I?
Calaveras Contra La Injusticia
Why Black is Worn for Mourning
PSA for Whitewashing Filmmakers Rraine Hanson
Dear Young Black Girl Rraine Hanson
You Always Do This
Drums of War
CONTENTS Photo Essay
Americanoir Fine Dining
Pochisma Natalie Torres
Untitled I & II
Sydney Rae Chin
Tree of Life
Rraine Hanson, Alexandria Ellison, Lissa Deonarain, & Natalie Torres
64 68 70
POC in POC
Modern Day Colonialism
Describe the Color Yellow
Yung Art Heaux Vibez
WHO THE HELL AM I? How I Solved (Almost) All of My Identity Issues by Lissa Deonarain
I’m half Guyanese. When I answer the “What are you?” question with this, most people just get even more confused. They don’t know where or even what Guyana is, therefore they have no awareness of the demographics or history of the country. I used to have an entire speech rehearsed and memorized, ready to go when I was confronted with this situation. “Oh my dad’s from Guyana, the only English speaking country in South America that is technically also part of the Caribbean and has a culture very similar to that of Trinidad...” Sometimes I would give up and just say: “I’m Black, Chinese Indian and White,” or even just “I’m Black and/or Indian.” I would dumb down my identity into digestible pieces. However, the truth is, up until this last summer I didn’t even know if any of the things I knew or had been told about my racial makeup were true. My father, Vishnu Deonarain
My dad was born and raised in Skeldon, Guyana, a small town
on the East Coast of Guyana just past Number 63 Beach. Across the Courantyne River is Suriname, where my grandmother was from. As with most POC cultures, especially in countries that have been colonized, almost all stories are passed down verbally. Nothing is really ever written down, and if it were, it would be almost impossible to find. My father told me stories about him growing up in Guyana (funny stories; troublemaking, adventures, traditions,) but I never really heard much about my grandparents’ lives.
I knew some stuff about my Grandpa Deo. He had died in Guyana
before I was born, but lived a very successful life. He was an insurance salesman and a member of the Skeldon Lions Club. I also knew he was 100% Indian. He was the grandson of Pertab Naraine from Patna, India, and Sundree, who was from Rajasthan. I knew he made my dad and his siblings practice tongue twisters in order to speak “properly”, and not in Guyanese Creole.
My Grandma Virgie, however, was a bit more of a mystery. Her
maiden name was Virginia Aloy. She was from Nickerie, Suriname, and therefore spoke Dutch. She was honestly wild. She developed a love for
My grandfather, Deo Naraine
boxing at a young age, and would pretend to punch along when she went to boxing matches. She would save all her fights for Friday after school so she could get it all done in one day. When she came to Skeldon, she acted as a mother to the whole town. She would trade herbal remedies and recipes with other women, and take in anyone who needed her help. When she immigrated to Canada, she
Left to right: My Grandma Virgie, Grandma Iris (her sister) & my Auntie Teddy.
would spend her days watching WWE and Indian soap operas. She was feisty, strong-willed, and you did not mess with her.
However, I know very little about her actual life and family. Relatives have told me that her mother Maria
was born in Jamaica, and was Scottish, Portuguese, and Chinese. I don’t know much about her father’s side except that he was Black. I don’t even know what age my Grandma was when she came to Guyana. I was always so confused when it came to her side because of how different her and her siblings were. There’s a strange phenomenon in our family where if there are four kids, three of them look almost completely Indian or mixed, and one looks almost completely Chinese. This happened with my Grandma and her sister as well as some of my uncles and cousins.
While hearing stories about my family is one of my most
favorite things in the world, I also love having concrete evidence, proving these things I’ve been told. I’ve been curious as to how accurate all this information is. The problem is, in order to gain access to any records from Guyana or Suriname, you actually have to go there yourself. While the British and Dutch did keep records, they are most likely not in decent condition. They’re probably sitting in a room in the humid heat of the tropics, no climate control, and no gloves required to touch century-old documents.
Since going to Guyana is out of the question for a number of
reasons, I took matters into my own hands, and ordered the ninety-nine dollar AncestryDNA test. All I had to do was spit in the tube they mailed me, shake it up a little, and send it back again in the pre-paid box. AncestryDNA uses autosomal DNA testing to determine whose genes yours are most similar to, based off of their reference populations. This means the genes from both your
My Grandma Virgie in Guyana
paternal and maternal sides are analyzed to determine your results. With past versions of the test, there were some rather large errors in their testing. However, they have since 7
improved their testing, and they are now able to have much more specific results. This is not the best or highest quality DNA testing service out there, but it is the cheapest. Other tests can range up to hundreds of dollars, but I figured Ancestry would give me the answers I was looking for.
MY DNA RESULT
Back in August, I was helping my friend (who is also Guyanese) move into her new apartment. While on
a dinner break, she asked me if I had gotten my DNA test results back. Little did I know, earlier that day, they had sent me an email letting me know what my results were. An insane intense feeling came over me as a clicked on the link and finally had the answers to questions I had been asking and wondering about my entire life. My results aligned closely with everything my aunts had told me about my family, something I didn’t know whether I expected or not.
It’s kind of scary how much my genetic makeup is the epitome of what it means to be colonized. In
Guyana and Suriname, West Africans were brought over as slaves by the Dutch to work on the plantations. After slavery was abolished, Blacks began to rise in status, and eventually created the Black middle class. The British, who had now made all of Guyana a British colony, brought contract workers over from another one of their territories, Hong Kong. The Portuguese were also brought over. The Dutch brought over Pacific Islanders because the Dutch East India Company was stationed in their colony, the Dutch East Indies, or modern-day Indonesia. The British then tricked large numbers of Indians to come work as indentured servants on the sugar cane plantations in Guyana, causing a conflict to surface between the Afro-Guyanese and the Indo-Guyanese.
Yes, I am half-White because of my mother. Her side is very easy to trace genetically, with plenty of doc-
uments to prove her lineage. I was able to trace her family back to the Mayflower, coming to Massachusetts in 1620 as whalers. I can find every census, every one of the Quaker Minutes, and every ship the family took. The only documentation I can find about my father’s side is my dad’s actual naturalization papers from 1986. This summer, while waiting for my test results, my cousins and I took a look through some old family photos. Many were from Guyana, giving me something else tangible, and showing me proof that a life did exist before my dad came to the United States.
One day, I do wish to actually go to Guyana and Suriname to see where my family grew up, as well as
find any documents pertaining to their lives and our history. For now, however, I am satisfied. The pieces of my identity puzzle are slowly starting to fit together, and even though it’s not complete, I still am at peace with something that had been weighing on my mind for so long.
AncestryDNA breaks down your results in specific geographic locations your genetics are similar to and/or match with. Pictured (right): My ethnic breakdown according to my AncestryDNA results Graphic by Lissa Deonarain
PSA for Whitewashing Filmmakers:
we are not your costume.
we are not your color palette. we are not your shoulder angel. we are not your fairy god parents. we are more than your soundtrack. we are more than your moral lesson. we are more than your stereotype. we are worth more than a token. we exist. we exist. we exist.
-- Rraine Hanson
by Becca Chairin
Hvar, Croatia - In the heat of the afternoon, the rocky coastline is dotted with bod-
ies, the chatter of tourists blends with the lapping of the waves, and I soak in the rays of the sun. My skin is slick with sweat, my hair wet with sea water, my lips salty with the lingering taste of the ocean. Surrounding me are more slick bodies, skin exposed to the same warmth, same rays, same sun. On this island are different people from different places, here to soak up the same sun that I soak up.
White Noise i stand in a room where i am the only person of color. all i hear is white noise. i read piles of history books full of oppressors and people of color suffering. i see a headline about a black man being unjustly killed and i think about the many others just like him who could be added to the list. i look up at the TV and i see people of color being misrepresented, their culture being appropriated, and their response to their oppression being looked down upon. but really all i hear is white noise. more of the same over and over again a wheel turning over and over again while the oppressors remain at the top. i speak. there is no sound. just white noise. i scream. there is no sound. just white noise. i cry. there is no sound. just white noise. i get angry. finally iâ€™m noticed, but no consolation is given to me. i trash the place. white noise. i fight. white noise. i cry again, but it is not heard over the white noise. -- Rraine Hanson
Restraint The hardware of my jawbone is a mousetrap. Cast iron, sturdy wires, loaded spring. It groans grinds against the rust of stillness too stubborn to be pried open quickly. When the noise gets too close, when I entice someone to the point of salivation, they canâ€™t stand the silence they try to pull the treasure out of my mouth before I am ready to release it. The cage clicks shut. -- Michelle Ajodah
Series: Calaveras Contra La Injusticia Artist: Sandra Bustamante 18
Series: Calaveras Contra La Injusticia Artist: Sandra Bustamante 19
La Justicia Esta En AgonĂ?a En Mexico
No La Dejes Morir Series: Calaveras Contra La Injusticia Artist: Sandra Bustamante 20
Melting Pot A photo essay by Sofia Barrett Last summer, I took my family to New York. My mother is Peruvian, and my uncle married a woman from the Philippines. The blending of these two cultures â€“ one of South American descent and one of Southeastern Asian coming together in the melting pot of New York City was a moment in time that I could not pass up. Capturing the joy on their faces exercising the city for the first time is an experience I will not forget any time soon.
Amazónes There is a myth that tells of a tribe of warrior women. Their name was bestowed upon the jungle dwellers of the vast South American rainforest because their women fought back. This could only be the stuff of legend. I come from a long line of warrior women and men who are fairly useless by nature. Our women are tough we fight hard, and find another fight to tackle when ours is won. I do not have to cut off one of my breasts in order to prove my strength it is in the marrow of my bones. I have never shot an arrow at an enemy, but my tongue has sent out words of poison, body under mind and our strength is more of the spirit than the warring kind. But if we go to war with my spirit on my side I have to warn you I don’t think you’ll survive. -- Michelle Ajodah
Why Black is Worn for Mourning Some wear black clothing To mourn for a moment. I wear black skin And mourn for a lifetime. -- Chala Tshitundu
Dear young black girl, Know that your skin color is nothing but your skin color, despite every instance society will try to blow it up and overlook what lies underneath. That is not to say that you shouldn’t appreciate every ounce of melanin you were conceived with, because you should; as well as each feature of your body that is linked with your ancestry. When you encounter other girls who don’t look like you, don’t look at them with envy, but with polite admiration. For they are just other examples of the wonders of the universe. When their hair falls more gracefully than it seems yours ever will, or their nose takes up less space on their face, or their lips seem to be more delicate, or their eyes seem to possess a sparkle yours don’t, understand that there is beauty in your differences, and no less beauty in you. Do not allow society to oust your curiosity for your heritage and replace it with shame. Do not be deterred by the lack of light given to black females in any array of toys or displayed in the media. Do not permit societal standards to scar your richly colored skin. Do not wait for society to perceive you as good enough. Do not look in the mirror and feel lesser, or feel ugly. Take hold of your curls and treasure their endless swirl. Keep your skin moist with an overflowing love for your existence, and for your uniqueness. There are many kinds of beautiful, and the human race is every single one of them. And that includes you, too. Sincerely, A healing older one
-- Rraine Hanson
Amazónes There is a myth that tells of a tribe of warrior women. Their name was bestowed upon the jungle dwellers of the vast South American rainforest because their women fought back. This could only be the stuff of legend. I come from a long line of warrior women and men who are fairly useless by nature. Our women are tough we fight hard, and find another fight to tackle when ours is won. I do not have to cut off one of my breasts in order to prove my strength it is in the marrow of my bones. I have never shot an arrow at an enemy, but my tongue has sent out words of poison, body under mind and our strength is more of the spirit than the warring kind. But if we go to war with my spirit on my side I have to warn you I don’t think you’ll survive. -- Michelle Ajodah 29
You Always Do This You always do this You crawl in through my ears Then you press at the edges of my skull When you canâ€™t get out I inhale you through my lungs And it burns till itâ€™s cold And it feels like you love me My mind is crumpling like The paper that we finger-painted on For hours until there were no white spaces left Then balled up like Broken wings when we Tired of the game -- Morgan Dunstan
Drums of War There is a warrior sleeping in my chest. She nestles herself in my ribcage, between the fifth and sixth rung on the right side. She likes to fall asleep next to my heartbeat. She wakes up when it beats too loudly too quickly out of rhythm, and rises ready for war. -- Michelle Ajodah
A Q&A with Amissa Miller by Alexandria Ellison
Amissa Miller has big hair and an even bigger heart. She works as a dramaturge, writer, educator, yogi, and as Flawless Brown’s advisor. She grew up in Portland, Oregon and studied at Spelman College for her undergrad. She then went to Columbia University to pursue a M.F.A. in Dramaturgy and Script Development. She has been working with Flawless Brown for about a year and enjoys the moments she gets to spend with the Flawless ladies. What are your influences? There are lots of different people coming to mind. I guess I can start with my influences as an artist. I really love Adrienne Kennedy. I think she was the first writer I ever encountered who was writing from perPicture courtesy of Amissa Miller sonal experiences--and quite explicitly--but [she was doing so in a way that was nonlinear and dreamlike. When I first read her in college, she was someone who was looking at intersections of gender, race, and class in a brave way. Many Black writers that I read in college were making “well-made plays” like Lorraine and August. I love them, but life isn’t well-made. As much as I am a student of dramatic structure, I also like people who fuck with it. Adrienne was the first Black woman I read who was fucking with it. The first play I ever wrote was deeply influenced by her, so I love her. When I think about intellectuals who influenced me, I always come back to Assata Shakur. When I first read her, I was impressed by the way she could articulate [in a way people your age are able to articulate now] At the time, I had never heard someone who could link my struggles as a Black person to the struggles of Indigenous people and then link the struggles of Latin American people to the struggles of poor White people. It helped me understand that all of our liberations are tied together. Another influence was Spelman College. I probably should have started there. Being in that space,--not just the physical, but the spiritual, the metaphysical of that space--it’s the only space that was specifically created with Black women in mind. It had it’s issues like many Black colleges. It had, and continues to have, conservative versus progressive politics. It was a place where I was seen, for the first time, as myself and not representative of my race or gender. I don’t think I would be who I am without being in the space. You’ve talk about your inspirations as an artists. What influences your personal life? For the past few years, I’ve been studying and practicing yoga and meditation, and stumbled upon the work of a Black queer Buddhist monk named Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, who is based in Oakland. In spiritual places, I felt like there was no space for me to acknowledge my particular experience in the world, in this body. She is someone who is able to articulate [that] in spiritual practice...we can use our embodied experiences to get closer to the
practice of self. I call her a guru of mine, even though we have never met. Its hard living in a Black female body and she is someone who is able to articulate that our bodies are just as a part of nature as anything else. For me, that was revolutionary. I could think of my body as something that belonged here. It’s perfect in the way that it’s made. I don’t have to apologize for it in the same way you would never apologize for that tree over there, while also understanding my experience in the world is different from someone who does not walk in my body. So when I think of my personal development path, she is THE person who is walking with me on the personal and spiritual development path. She is really wise. And my mom, that is sort of a given, right? She’s fantastic. I am quite similar to her in lots ways and so different from her in other ways. In Passing Strange, Youth talks about love versus understanding. When you’re young, you really want to be understood. And then you get older and recognize it is great to be understood, but love matters more. My mom has always made an effort to understand me. She doesn’t always. More than anything, I appreciate how she loves. She loves deeply and fiercely. She has experienced a lot of pain and because of that, she doesn’t stop loving. I admire and try to embody that everyday. She’s brilliant and funny. I love her. And what influences you as an educator? Kahlo Freire’s ideas about education translate in so many other aspects of how we work to achieve a common goal. When I first read him, it blew my mind because I realized so much of our education is based on the banking methods. Students’ brains are empty receptacles and the teacher just deposits information into it and that is so much of education. The goal [as educators] is for us to collaboratively construct knowledge. I am not above anyone because I happen to be the teacher and you’re not below anyone because you happen to be the student. Each of us have important knowledge to share and to contribute to whatever it is we’re learning. I always try to conduct my classes in that way. I never try to assume that I know everything. I never position myself as an expert. I think that word is really scary. People who use that word to describe themselves I’ve never understood. I feel like I’m always learning. I feel like you all, as students, are always pushing me to learn more. You’re bringing your only knowledge and experiences into the space and your own ability to think critically and to view things through lenses that I could never view them, because I am not you and vice versa. I think we need all of those...to get to the heart of what we are really trying to explore. Freire blew my mind when I first read him. He continues to be the theorist that I keep in mind and come back to when I’m reflecting on my practice as an educator. What were the key decisions that brought you to where you are now? That’s funny. I’ve been reflecting on that a lot. I never imagined I would be here, doing what I’m doing now. When I was your age, I thought I would be an actor. I was studying theatre at Spelman. Over time, I realized I had a lot of interest outside of acting. If I were to pursue a career in acting it would require so much of me. I also knew I was ok; I wasn’t great. I think part of it was actors need to be so comfortable in their bodies. I wasn’t at the time, and I knew that. But, I knew I was comfortable in a library, I am comfortable analyzing a text, and I am super comfortable having a conversation with someone about how a 33
play works. Dramaturgy was not a word I had heard in my theatre department. I happened to see a play with my mom in Baltimore, during one of my breaks in college. Afterwards, this guy came out to lead a discussion. He was really smart and he was answering all these great questions. He was synthesizing all of this great information in the room and I was like, “What is that job? What is he doing?” I read in his bio that he was a dramaturge. I thought well I think I could do that! I studied dramaturge in graduate school. At the same time I was doing theatre education work, working as teaching artist in New York City; recognizing I had sort of these dual areas of interest in making theatre, but also cultivating spaces where people who aren’t explicitly invited into theatrical spaces can also make art. How did you get involved with Flawless Brown? Nyla Wissa was in my African American Theater class last fall. In that space, we were having conversations about inclusion and representation of artists of color in the larger theatrical ecosystem, which inevitably led us to talking about the inclusion of students of color in the Emerson Performing Arts ecosystem--or, the lack thereof. I saw the Fall 2014 show because I knew Nyla was in it, and at the time I was still new to the campus. I was interested in seeing what work was happening outside of EmStage and the other student troupes. Once I saw the Fall 2014 performance and recognized there was something really special and necessary here, I said to Nyla “If there’s anything to assist you all, let me know.” and she said, “Yes, we need a faculty advisor”. She told me about how the group wasn’t funded and the reasons why. They were working independently and I actually really supported that. It was through her that learned the origin story of Flawless and I was in support of the mission. I guess I knew part of my presence here is not just to be in the classroom teaching, but it is also to get to know all of you as artists and to support your creative process. You all are going to be the folks going out to tell the stories and I want to support--and it’s just fun. I really enjoy being. . .with the Flawless ladies. The same sense of sisterhood and camaraderie that you all have is something I, in my life, am trying to cultivate here in a city I don’t know that well. It’s fun to be in the room with that energy. I feel like I benefit from that. How do you keep your hair looking so flawless? I did the big chop when I graduated from Spelman. It was very liberating. When I first went natural, there [were] a lot of products that [were] marketed like...curly puddy things... and I did all of those.What I realize[d] is that my hair liked simplicity much more than a ton of stuff, so I mix up my own little deep conditioners with coconut milk, avocado, honey, and olive oil. I let that sit on my hair on wash day for awhile. I usually shampoo with something very gentle, like a sulfate-free shampoo. As far as styling, my hair really likes aloe vera gel, and in the winter it likes Shea Butter. In the Summer, it gets a little heavy so I switch to coconut oil. I try not to put too much stuff in it. It’s different everyday. One day the curls are tighter, puffier, or more elongated. I just stopped caring about it because the natural hair Internet is a whole thing, like “Are you 3-this or 4-that?” I feel like that can be just as oppressive as relaxing. It can be just as oppressive to have a certain kind of natural hair. I have opted out of that whole thing. My hair just does what it does. I try not to think about it too much. •
Americanoir I was born in America With a prison number Tattooed on my chest, And a large target Stitched on my back. I was born in America, Black. -- Chala Tshitundu
Fine Dining They say little girls are made from sugar, and spice. I think someone poured too much of both into my recipe. I donâ€™t think there is supposed to be this much passion in me I donâ€™t think I am supposed to feel this much. I am something you can only indulge in on an empty stomach, otherwise you will be too full before you can lick your plate clean. -- Michelle Ajodah 35
Pochisma 2002 Mom gives me an American girl doll named Josefina Montoya for my birthday. Her traditional 19th century Mexican dress confuses me. I push it underneath my bed and continue playing with my N’Sync JC action figure. 2006 Uncle Ray comes over to our house and brings a copy of George Lopez’s El Mas Chingon? Mom looks at me and laughs “see it was hotter inside than outside that’s why we had to play outside—you don’t get that.” I go to my room because I don’t get that and watch the premiere of Demetri Martin’s These Are Jokes. 2009 Grandma sings Linda Ronstandt’s “Los Laureles” at the family Christmas party. I’m sitting toward the back of Aunt Veronica’s living room listening to Fall Out Boy’s “Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes” on my video iPod. 2012 I watch the pilot episode of HBO’s Girls by accident as I do my homework with the T.V. on. Later that year I tell mom and dad half-jokingly that I’m ethnically Hispanic and culturally white. 2015 I read Sor Juana’s “Loa to Divine Narcissus.” Mom asks me what Chicana means when I use it to describe myself. -- Natalie Torres
Art by Claudia Delfina Cardona
Manifest Destiny The sun rises in the east, it sets in the west, but we prefer to think it revolves around us. Our god makes water holier than yours makes its people We made our discoveries from yours. Donâ€™t they look better in our clothes? Let us remold your clay. We are expert sculptors. Your colors are too loud ours are art. You open your arms wide to welcome us I cannot open my eyes wide enough to see you. -- Michelle Ajodah
I . The electricity that shakes my bones Ignites a previously unknown fire I thought my heart was made of ice I thought the metal surrounding this core, this soul, this heart Was firm and to never be fully naked But your touch Has founds its way to make me feel something The shedding of layer upon layer Built to protect And I am terrified Of what this could actually mean This feels like jumping off a cliff into deep black sea where you don’t know when your feet will touch the secure sea floor This feels like a roller coaster going into loops, ups and downs that I cannot foresee I don’t know how to love but maybe this is very close And I want to scream and shout Run away because a huge wave is crashing towards me And my gut is telling me to never stop running And maybe my heart has lost its way through the sinking ocean liner This wave is engulfing my secrets, my desires and my passions Please don’t take them away from me Please honor them And bring them back with sun-kissed skin and fulfilled promises
-- Untitled I by Mona Moriya
II . I remember the lopsided pigtails you created when you did my hair, I remember the airplane game where you lifted me up into the sky and flew me around your new apartment, I remember running into your arms after ballet and sitting in the backseat of your beat up Toyota with your arm dangling out the window as you held your prized cigarette. I thought you were the world. I hold onto my memories of you because if I donâ€™t I will suffocate into a dark abyss where shooting stars and galaxies cannot be found. Your cigarette buds are scattered across my garden, each bud crushed, aching to become a delicate flower but failing to do so. Your tobacco stench permeates everywhere, finding its way into my kitchen, my bedroom, my hair, my lips and the twilight of my mind. I have dreams about you. I have dreams where you knock on my door and beg for forgiveness. To forgive you for the pain you have inflicted that has left scars and wounds I cannot escape. I hate myself for loving you and God how easier would it be to hate you with every part of me. I didnâ€™t know then, that you would become the man who could shatter me, hurt me more, that anyone ever could and still somehow hold a place in my heart. I wish those three words would leave my lips but we both know that would simply be a lie. -- Untitled II by Mona Moriya
Photographs by Nydia Hartono
â€œBoudoir Studiesâ€? explores the relationship between our bodies and the private spaces we occupy. I wanted to capture the vulnerability that we possess in spaces we seek comfort in. The bedroom is a sacred space. Free from the confines of external judgement, my bedroom is one of the few places where I feel like I have full control over my body. It is such a liberating feeling to be able to strip myself of all the artificial things I hide my body behind and spend some quality time appreciating my bare self.
Breakthrough As we outlined each other’s fingers on the cold park bench A newfound serenity was found as many passed by My body was at peace for once without a surprise attack upon my mind and my body My head fell easily onto his shoulder as our eyes pierced each other’s with a fresh twinkle He said he felt butterflies as I sat there in utter shock as men have only seen me as a sexual commodity, rather than a person For once, my body and my mind were all mine. In that moment, I knew I had caught him by the tips of my fingers as his brown eyes stared back at me. I unveiled parts of me that I often hide to most. We went back to outlining the back of each other’s hands as we sat on that cold park bench.
-- Sydney Rae Chin
â€œTree of Lifeâ€? 24x35 in Acrylic on Canvas Joelle Dunkley
Bite There is a wildcat living in my mouth, prowling in between my teeth, tracing steps on retracted claws. He eats sugar and salt in equal parts, but his favorite flavor is fire. He loves bitterness and spice. He has taught me to always go for the jugular.
--Michelle Ajodah 49
POC IN POC
(PEOPLE OF COLOR)
(PATTERNS OF COLOR)
Color, pattern, texture - it’s everywhere we look. How wonderful that our melanin contributes to the Earth’s canvas? How wonderful that our ancestors embedded it in their art, architecture and design? What better way to celebrate our diversity than with patterned clothing and collage? I hoped to capture the beauty of some of Emerson’s students of color in this mixed media, inspired by the Art Heaux movement in our contemporary culture. Creative Director Rraine Hanson Wardrobe Rraine Hanson & Alexandria Ellison
Makeup Lissa Deonarain & Alexandria Ellison Photographer Lissa Deonarain & Rraine Hanson
Model: Felicity Poussaint
Model: Rija Rehan
Model: Nydia Hartono
Model:: Junior Johnson
Model: Megan Mowery
Model: Xia Rondeau
Model: Ella Brooks
Model: Alexandria Ellison
Model: Natalie Torres
Model: Indigo Asim
Model: Jody Lam
Model: Lily Lubin
Model: Nupur Amin
Modern Day Colonialism: Gentrification in Boston by Pola Dobrzynski Graphic by Lissa Deonarain Photos by Lissa Deonarain and Pola Dobrzynski
AS A STUDENT OF COLOR, living in Boston has been a blessing and a curse.
While living in a major city enables more activism and mobilization of like-minded people, Boston is arguably one of the most historically racist areas in the nation. Although the conversation surrounding racial issues focuses on race, the intersection between race and class is undeniably present in an issue brewing right in our backyard: gentrification. Like most oppressive institutions, the definition of gentrification has been watered down to the advantage of those who perpetuate it. Most people might have a rudimentary understanding of gentrification as “affluent white people moving into the neighborhood of, and displacing the poor, usually black, community who had previously inhabited the urban space.” This rationale overlooks the intricacies and reality of gentrification for the people of color who experience it. Although most people may associate gentrification with the transformation of a physical area (i.e. buildings, businesses, private property), there is a deeper phenomenon.
In order to frame an understanding of gentrification, including its role in Boston, it is
crucial to consider the larger implications of gentrification as an institution. Gentrification thrives as a process that revolves around one fundamental idea: the devaluation of a people inhabiting an area. In this way, gentrification can be likened to colonialism. It is the acquisition, occupancy, and exploiting of a territory by those who are of another territory. It is built on unequal power relationships between the two groups. Colonialism has fortunately been outlawed, but gentrification remains very real while doing the exact same thing. Not only in Boston, but in many major cities across the country, there are influxes of White people who displace the people of color who live there. They exploit the area economically by taking advantage of the low rent and dismiss the people who developed the area. There is an inherent disregard for the people who were living in gentrified areas pre-gentrification. Even though it was their own small businesses, communities, people, and culture that kept abandoned cities alive, they fall prey to the White people who claim it for themselves.
Gentrification in Boston began roughly in the 1990’s. According to Boston Magazine,
between the 1990s and 2000s, “6.7 percent of areas with median incomes and house values within the bottom 40th percentile experienced gentrification.” Today, that number has risen to 21.1 percent. It has become so prevalent that Boston Magazine has also initiated a “Gentriwatch” in which the effects of gentrification can be seen weekly. Small businesses are being cleared out to make way for hyper-sanitized corporate businesses. The City Target in Fenway, one of Boston’s most heavily gentrified areas, decreases the chances of success for local businesses to succeed. In other parts of the city, local bodegas close down to make way for Whole Foods. 65
People tend to associate gentrification most closely with housing, and a decline in affordable housing demonstrates that this is occurring in Boston as well. Higher income residents move into neighborhoods and change real estate prices that drive existing residents out of the area. According to a study conducted by Tufts University, Chinatown and South Boston are at high risk of becoming gentrified next, and in response, some organizations have begun to mobilize, such as the Chinese Progressive Association. They are in the midst of developing campaigns that advocate for housing to remain occupied by those who currently reside there. While this cannot deter gentrification completely, it is the manifestation of how damaging gentrification can be to their lifestyles. These practices are masked in phrases like “urban revitalization” without any awareness of the risks gentrification poses to area natives.
With 61% of low-price tracts undergoing gentrification, Boston has become America’s
top gentrifying city. Amidst the chaos, the only trace of the once rich culture that inhabited areas like Jamaica Plain and Roxbury is art. Like the legacy of many of the oppressed, these cultural remnants live on through the art that depicts them. Murals scattered throughout gentrified areas represent the people who are of the area. Through these pieces of art, we can remember those who made an area into the thriving place it is. But will the murals outlast the institutions which enable them?
Pictured Right: The “Soul Revial” mural in the South End neighbourhood of Boston, MA. 66
â€œDescribe yellow without using the word yellowâ€? Artwork by Valerie Reynoso I do not possess the articulation to pronounce the two-syllable word that is the essence of happiness, the light of day, the color that beams with joviality. It is the chartreuse that illuminates the dim sky as the scorching sun gently rises and diffuses throughout the darkness. It is the light that intermingles with the mauves and corals to reincarnate itself into what becomes the dawn. It is what creeps onto my frigid skin with warmth and wakes me from my droopy sleep in the morning. The aura of utter and complete joy. It is hugs, kisses, friendship, love. It is cuddling in the middle of a December night, the light at the end of the tunnel, overwhelmingly raw and beautiful euphoria. Yellow.
YUNG ART HEAUX VIBEZ by Rraine Hanson
The Internet - Dontcha The Internet - Runnin’ (feat. Tay Walker) Pharrell - Frontin (Zikomo Remix) Olivia Louise - Peak OSHUN - Gods (feat. T’nah Apex) Chris McClenney - Tuning Up Masego x Medasin - Sunday Vibes Noname Gypsy - Mary Jane Love Noname Gypsy - Hold Me Up (feat. Kiara Lanier) steev l-m - C U GiiiiiiiiiiRL SNAKEHIPS - Gone (feat. Syd) DIASPORA - Wit A Indigo (feat. Tyler Cole) Lil B & Chance the Rapper - Last Dance Jay Prince - Polaroids Chance the Rapper - Israel (Sparring) (feat. Noname Gypsy) Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment - Warm Enough Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment - Zion Bitty McLean - Walk Away From Love Kali Uchis - Know What I Want Noname Gypsy - Baby The Internet - Girl OSHUN - that day OSHUN - this day Noname Gypsy - You & I Matt Burton - House Party Frank Ocean - Super Rich Kids Kilo Kish - Navy Mozaic (AGO) - Gold Daniel Caesar - Paradise (ft. BADBADNOTGOOD & Sean Leon) Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment - Pass the Vibes
ABOUT FLAWLESS Flawless Brown started in the Spring 2014 semester as a theatre troup specifically for women of color. Starting with less than ten members, the sisterhood has grown and expanded in number and areas of focus. In the spring of 2015, Flawless Pictures began, the visual and media arts and film production department. This semester, Fall 2015, Flawless Writes was started.
THIS ISSUE IS DEDICATED TO POLA ~HAPPY BIRTHDAY~