♡ THIS ISSUE FEATURES ♡ AJ Rodriguez Ana Thaker Angel Manalad Bethany Parker Crystal Noel Helen Gould Ishani Jasmin Jasmine Prasad Keren Chelsea L. Guevara Lauren Allwood Leyla Ahmed Neha Shah Pooja Tirunagari Quentisha Lavey Rachel Shi Saffa Khan Sarah Gaafar Sana Haroon Sara Foley Van Nguyen Yari Rose
Angelica Espiritu KEREN CHELSEA L. GUEVARA
15 April 1986: Birth The golden sun pierced through the dark sky; the break of dawn, a new beginning. Its heady light touched every roof and every tree top with violent determination to spread light across Tujunga. Neither Finley O’Byrne nor Rose Espiritu O’Byrne was there to see it. The hospital encased them in white, white walls, away from where the sun reclaimed its kingdom from the moon. Finley couldn’t keep still. He walked involuntary circles as if his feet had a life of their own. He moved, but he got nowhere; even a second’s pause was a moment too long, and the gnawing worry and excitement at the pit of his stomach swallowed him alive. Meanwhile, the screams of his wife Rose echoed through the corners of the delivery room. She held the hand of one nurse until both their knuckles were white—one because of pain, and the other because of a clog in blood circulation. Even a second’s pause was a moment too long, and the piercing agony would consume her. Rose pushed until there was a cry other than her own: a heavenly cry that had answered all her prayers, a daughter. She let her grip loose. He stopped walking. Only the cry of their daughter filled the room, a sweet shrill that every other noise in the room. The sun had well taken its throne in the sky, but it was nothing compare to the glow that radiated off that hospital room where Finn O’Byrne, Rose Espiritu O’Byrne, and their daughter celebrated. Angelica Evangeline E. O’Byrne was her name. June 1991: Age 5 Beauty was not in the eye of the beholder. Beauty was this: light-skinned little girls on television who went on adventures; blonde-haired students who received their teacher’s attention; blue eyes deep like the ocean, like the ones drawn on books. Beauty was commercialized, and beauty was biased. Beauty was dictated by a norm
so many followed whether by choice or otherwise; Angelica was not an exemption. 'Mama, how come I don’t look like Daddy?' The question rolled off the little girl’s tongue seamlessly, as if she’d practiced it so many times in her head that there was no trouble saying it. Angelica might as well have asked for the weather. 'My classmates saids I’m not Angel. I’m not an Angel,' the little girl continued, 'Carl said that Angels should has some pretty hair and that Angels are not M*ngloids.' There was no bitterness in her tone as she said the slur, but disgust. She talked about herself with disgust, the way her classmates had talked about her. 'I am Angelica. They don’t like me as Angel.' The little girl’s clear words would have passed by anybody else, but not to Rose. She knew. This was the same treatment she had received herself. She knew, and to hear the words course out of her daughter’s lips as if it were normal and accepted was a stab in her heart. Immediately, Rose put her hands to Angelica’s cheeks. 'Don’t let them call you that. Do not let them call you that. Do you understand?' Her Filipino accent was thick, but her anger thicker. 'You are my Angel. Do not let them tell you otherwise.' The girl didn’t understand, but in her mother’s eyes was an anger she’d never quite seen before. In her mother’s touch was intimacy she didn’t receive often. She didn’t understand, but she tried to. She was their Angelica, but her mother’s Angel. February 1995: Age 10 Loud, rambunctious laughter filled the nifty halls of the motorcycle club. Men and women clumped together, over drinks, over each other, just like they always did. They were what Angelica imagined a family to be, a place to be merry. But from where she stood beside her father—big man that he was—overshadowed by the difference everyone acknowledged yet no one spoke of, she could only imagine. Rose Espiritu, who had long stopped identifying as Rose O’Byrne, had it different. She was in no place to imagine; the others made sure of this. When Rose entered the room, those who took notice of her fell into a condescending silence. They shifted in their seats as quickly as their conversations shifted from trivial topics to the woman Finley married—Finley’s wife, Angelica’s mother, the woman that wasn’t supposed to be there; Rose didn’t have the name to the rest of them. Angelica tried her best not to notice, but one day, when her mother was picking her up, the question spilled from her lips. Accusation was the better term used, but they both called it a question.
'Why do you have to be so different? You couldn’t just be like the rest of them?' The question was harsh, and it offered no room for an answer. It prompted no reaction from her mother as they walked away from the club that afternoon, so she continued to speak. “They don’t want you around. And when they look at you, they look at me! Because we’re supposed to be related! But you’ve never been there for me, you’ve—“ Rose was not indifferent. Though her countenance did not falter, she was not numb to the pain her daughter’s words caused her. 'Stop talking. I do not want to hear it.' 'You see! That’s what I’m talking about! Why couldn’t you be just like the rest ofus?' That broke Rose. The indifference on her countenance was replaced by the sharp pain her daughter had intended, but with it was anger as deep as the roots of her ancestors. 'You listen to me, young woman. You are not one of them'—Rose’s tone was enough to keep her daughter quiet, even if for a moment—'You will never be one of them. Ikaw ay kayumanggi, anak—Espiritu. ‘Wag na ‘wag mong kakalimutan.' Angelica pretended not to hear, but the words made so much sense to her, that her mind accepted and meditated on them daily. They were the last words she heard from her mother; her mother had disappeared. July 2013: Age 27 It was inevitable; the broken remnants of her childhood spilled from every orifice of her old house—a home, if you will, but Angelica had never treated it as such. The smells and the sights were far too heavy, and though she doubted she would ever truly get used to it, Angelica could pretend she didn’t care anymore. But one thing was certain: her mother’s words were clear. At twenty-seven, after a life filled with the racial injustice that had been brought upon her because of her roots, her ethnicity, the color of her skin, Angelica knew of what her mother meant. She was kayumanggi. She was Filipino. The world would know of her name. They’d fall to it, and it would make them quiver, just as it had once made her quiver. Everyone that ever used her name as a curse would be cursed by it, and everyone else would see it as a blessing. There would be one that would make this all happen— —Angelica Espiritu.
Soft Palate Neha Shah
I thought that In this world Love had no colour; Yet you say How deeply Your body Is stained by mine.
LIFTING THE VEIL LIFTING THE VEIL
A MOTIVATIONAL PLAYLIST FOR EVERYONE IN THE PROCESS OF OVERCOMING AND EMBRACING THEIR 'OTHERNESS'.
Flawless Remix - Beyoncé ft. Nicki Minaj Two Weeks - FKA twigs Now I’m Here - Queen Do My Thing - Estelle ft. Janelle Monáe Stronger - Mandisa Survivor - Destiny’s Child I Am What I Am - Gloria Gaynor Pretty Girl Rock - Keri Hilson Bad Girls - M.I.A. Just Fine - Mary J. Blige I Decided - Solange You Gotta Be - Des’ree A Woman’s Worth - Alicia Keys Work It - Missy Elliott Try Again – Aaliyah Battle Cry – Angel Haze ft. Sia Loose Lips - Kimya Dawson
Exorcism Sara Foley
Pent up. Scratching, clawing, screaming. Ripping at the seams, Restless and bursting to come out. This skin is too thin and pale To keep such guile bottled up inside. The pain streaks and ripples Down like lightning strikes. Shrouding my body in violent shutters. I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t bare another moment, Not a second more can I hold you in. Brace yourselves, This vessel will be free.
OUTSIDE ARTISTRY a careful little interview with internet artist and all-around super cool person, Jasmine Prasad â&#x20AC;&#x201C; on the current state of things, what art even is, and how becoming insiders might not be the way forward. How did you start doing art in the first place, and how long have you been making art now?Â I've been drawing since I was a kid. I used to create my own characters, usually copying from the children's comic books, my mum used to buy for me. During high school, I decided I needed to pick a career that incorporated my love of art and design, so I pursued being a graphic designer. I thought that'd be a feasible choice and chose my degree accordingly. Although fun, graphic design is all about creating things for other people and following briefs. So a few years ago, I started doing these illustrations just for myself, to have that creative freedom. What drew you to the medium of digital art? When I frst started checking out other artists' work on the web, I found myself drawn to the feld of concept art. In particular, the digital art created for video games and flms. I just loved the speed that they could create these beautiful pieces, by using digital means. I can be a bit impatient, being able to throw myself into an illustration, make mistakes and correct them quickly, is what draws me most to the medium.
What fascinates you about fantasy and sci-fi? I tend to like the imagination found in most speculative fction. It's an escape. Having checked through your portfolio, you mainly focus on the people that exist within fantasy and sci-fi landscapes, and less on the actual surroundings. What fascinates you about the characters that exist within those genres? I generally prefer drawing people and human anatomy. The few times I've tried to draw environments, have somewhat failed. I'd rather focus on my strengths. I'm super jealous of artists that can create expressive and detailed environments though. For my characters, I don't recreate the fantasy and sci-f archetypes to a T. I mainly incorporate the theme of strength and independence prominent in said genres. I try to draw women, of different skin shades, as I relate to that. It took me a while to realise I needed to do that, because I was so used to the depictions of white women that dominate fantasy and sci-f. I still have more work to do when it comes to learning how to draw woman from different ethnicities. What do you like about zines? I've always looked at zines as a source of inspiration. Also, it's exposure to the talent of people, who are otherwise, ignored or dismissed by mainstream media. It's great way to get your work out there. I've recently created my frst zine, featuring my illustrations. I enjoyed the process of looking through my work and putting the zine together, for sure. What are your feelings on the ‘mainstream art’ world - art that makes museums and wider scale exhibits, I think I mean? And what would you like to see happen in that space? I think that it's still a bit of an 'old boys' club', meaning that it's about who you know, a bit cliquish. The mainstream galleries tend to be about what's current in pop culture. They also seem only to exhibit POC artists as a specifc 'foreign' or 'immigrant community' theme, rather than as an integral part of global visual culture. At best it feels contrived and at worst it's downright patronizing. There's also an issue of artists who don't have the fnancial means to create, or present, their work in a fashion that would be acceptable for those galleries. This deters a lot of very talented artists from pursuing art as a career. Rather than asserting ourselves into mainstream spaces, perhaps it would be more appropriate for POC to create their own spaces, to celebrate each other's work. Things like this zine are step forward in that direction. I think the main stumbling points for this happening more is: people feeling like their work is worthy, having the confdence to create those spaces, and last but not least, funding. We also need to mentor each other more, that relationship can be a huge boost to people's lives. I'd love to get more involved in POC projects in that way.
THAT'S NOT MY NAME, ANA THAKER:
‘Anastaki? Anataski?’ ‘No, my name’s Ana, sir.’ ‘Oh that's easier, thank you.’
That's how I became Ana: an appeasement of other people's whims, laziness, and closed-mindedness. My name means detachment, a denouncement of the worries and materialism of mortal life. My parents took pride in it, my relatives were envious of its strong meaning. And I hid from it.
Teachers, minders, doctors — made me Ana. People who had no idea of my heritage and background made me bend to theirs. Rural England has treated me well, I cannot complain, but I wear your clothes, I speak your language, I observe your holidays — must you take my name too? I am privileged enough to draw on the best of two rich cultures, but for eighteen years I remained in denial of one, the one that raised the people that raised and gave so much to me, including a name. Did it take a compliment or acceptance of my dual name by others to change my mind? Yes, it did. But it taught me a wonderful lesson. No sir, I am Ana, but I am also Anasakti. Am I having my cake and eating it too? Maybe, but I have been afforded that privilege alongside the misfortune. 1 person, 2 names. I'm up there with spies and royalty. "Oh that's an interesting name — how do I say that" ‘It's pronounced 'Ana-sak-ti', but most people call me Ana.’ ‘Cool!’ It is, isn't it?
WHEN OUTSIDE COMES IN TO SAY HI:
QUENTISHA LAVEY Some might think of me as one of the more fortunate black girls. I am a light skinned black girl, and I got placed in a white majority elementary to receive the best education available to me. When I was in a black majority school my best friend was the darkest girl in our class and some people like to believe that kids ‘don’t see color’ but from my own experience I disagree. Kids do see color, they just do not judge because of your color. I thought my best friend was the prettiest girl ever and I was so happy we were friends. Leaving that school to go to one where I was now one of the three black kids in my grade was a big change. And I was leaving before I formed a solid relationship with my best friend. I personally never had to experience this bullying. Being light skin in a white school was shielded me from some racism that I could have received from my peers. I was closer to their color than I was to the other two black kids in my grade. My hair was chemically treated and always straightened so I was ‘accepted’. My frst friend was another frst grader named Frank. He was my frst soon to be boy best friend. The year went on and we were as close as can be, but one day towards the end of the year he said to me, ‘My parents wouldn’t like you because you’re black’. We were in frst grade, so that may or may not have been how he said it, but that’s what I heard, and I remembered it. I never told anyone he said that to me. I was so hurt that I just wanted to forget about it. The next year, Frank had moved and I was on to searching for a new best friend. Every year in middle I had a new best friend because they all seemed to fnd someone they liked better than me. It never bother me until 5th grade when I found a friend who was so much like me and she was so pretty, and I thought, this is the one. This is the friend that I’m going to take to middle school with me. But of course, she decided that she liked her other friends better than me and that she wanted to spend more time playing with them. They could have just included me, but for reasons I didn’t understand, this was a foreign concept to them. As I grew older, the light skin that some might see as a ‘blessing’ became more of a curse. Living in a black majority city and attending school in white majority town transformed me into someone who only felt herself when with kids who were in the same situation. To POC, I was looked at as ‘white girl’ but the kids at school looked at me as someone from ‘the ghetto’.
In 7th grade, middle school drama turned the kids that I fault comfortable around turned on me. I had the BIGGEST crush on a Puerto Rican boy with pretty eyes on my bus. Hell, everybody had a crush on him. At the same time, everybody that had a crush on him also knew that my crush was serious. My best friend on the bus went to a different school but we had been bus friends since second grade and our mom’s knew each other. Well, she would always tell me how much my crush liked me and how we would be cute together. Before I knew it, he had asked her out. I was devastated but she was my best friend so I had to be supportive. Come to fnd out, the boy was a jerk, and he was cheating on her, so I told her. Somehow I was the bad guy. When I got on the bus that morning he began yelling at me and say all these mean things, she sat next to me saying nothing. All my other friends on the bus just laughed at what he was saying. I felt complete alone, I wanted to disappear. I asked him to stop but he kept going. When I fnally got to school, I locked myself in a bathroom stall and cried my eyes out until someone from the bus came and found me and walked me to the nurse. I went him before the school day even started, I went home a different person. That was the day I decided I was an outsider: I didn’t not ft in with the people I had to interact with on a delay basises and that was okay. I was going to be okay. I gave up on having a bestfriend, learned to keep to myself. People can love me without knowing everything about me, as long as I love myself. Sometimes I wish I got to stay in that school with Sasha, but without these experiences I wouldn’t be who I am today.
PLAY THAT WHITE GURL MUSIC (do that white gurl dance, too)
MY HUMPS - BLACK EYED PEAS SUPER BASS - NICKI MINAJ GANGNAM STYLE - PSY SINGLE LADIES - BEYONCE TIMBER - PITBULL FT. KESHA PAPER PLANES - MIA STARSHIPS - NICKI MINAJ MARRY YOU - BRUNO MARS ONLY GIRL - RIHANNA LIVIN' LA VIDA LOCA - RICKY MARTIN YEAH! - USHER
Genetics Ishani Jasmin
I roll over in bed and I say, ‘Hey, if we had kids (not that I want kids but if I did) they’d look like me.’ There is strange power in dark eyes, black hair, the convex profle; in knowing I will appear again. Sure, you can tell me what to do in bed, but I am the dominant one.
FROM THE KAKATIYAS TO THE BRITISH POOJA TIRUNAGARI We’d fly in hot air balloons and light freworks on Australia Day, go to the beach and have a barbie, we’d cry and grieve on ANZAC and Remembrance Days, for the soldiers that had lost their lives a hundred years ago, and the rest of the year, we’d spit out slurs at immigrants that left behind their country for one they didn’t deserve. Conformation doesn’t appear to be forced when it is volunteered, but when made to choose between becoming whitewashed and still be scorned for the colour of your skin, or choosing to be the way your culture asks and being loathed for everything about you, people opt to adapt. Conformation doesn’t appear to be forced when it is volunteered. Before the British occupied India, my mother would say, it was a country overflowing with riches. People would sell gemstones on the sides of the streets, on blankets on the floor, in baskets carried around on the back of a donkey. I nodded, and then laughed on the inside. That was impossible to me. Sometimes when my mother watches her historical dramas, I would sit and watch and be amazed at the accuracy of what she used to say to me. Kings and queens and ministers and servants. Priests and temple deities and merchants and farmers. All wearing trinkets and silk cloths, drinking from gold goblets and dining on silver plates. Palaces and carriages, temples and animals dripping in colours of stones, silks, paints and flowers. Diamonds stolen to be in the crown of the queen of another nation, taken as if to taunt us of our inferiority and powerlessness. Gone now, the world’s once largest diamond taken thousands of miles away to sit on a cushion rather than in the eye of Devi in the city where I was born, a symbol of worship made into a prize. The stories of the Siddhartha nor the Rig-Veda’s hymns can satiate me as I scream into my pillow that night, screaming for answers with a fury that I didn’t know the Buddhist me could feel. And yet people laugh at me, asking me if I was stupid to hold grudges for what happened hundreds of years ago, as if India could not escape from the clutches of the British until less than 70 years ago, as if she doesn’t still suffer, as if they do not cry about the deaths of their own soldiers from a century ago, and as if they too were not a nation built on the bodies of its previous owners. Bawling in bed after hearing my mother’s stories of the riches of India being stolen by the British, I think only about the days we spend in Australia praising this nation and how with each passing year as a child, I forgot the existence of my own.
HELEN GOULD'S CLASSIFIED GUIDE:
HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY BE 'THE BLACK FRIEND'
(or, how to make sure you're the token used in arguments about whether your white friend/partner is racist or not) 1. Under no circumstances read Malcolm X’s autobiography. 2. Learn the dictionary definition of racism by heart. 3. Subscribe to the view that colourblindness is the ideal way for people to interact; after all, if we just act like everyone is white then racism is solved. 4. Sing along to 'Do They Know It’s Christmas?' 5. Turn a blind eye to the small racist things your friend/partner does (e.g. 'I don’t even think of you as black!'). 6. Laugh along when your friends slam their hands against your hair and yell 'BOING!' 7. Don’t mention race ever because you don’t want to be That Black Person. 8. Assume that since you’re hanging out with them, your friends are not racist. 9. Assume that because all your friends are lefties, they are incapable of being something as right-wing as racist. 10. Differentiate yourself as much as possible from all the stereotypes you know exist. 11. Ignore it when you realise they think you’re just the exception to all the others. 12. Feel ashamed of your family, and act accordingly. 13. Feel ashamed of your food, and act accordingly. 14. Feel ashamed of your skin, your hair, your nose — and act accordingly. 15. Feel ashamed of yourself, and never wonder why.
YARI ROSA: ONE OF THESE THINGS
The first time I knew I was ‘different’ in their eyes was at 5. We had moved from Puerto Rico, and I still only knew Spanish. My parents wanted to place me into a daycare. I was accepted, playing with blocks. A white boy, not much older than me, hit me across the face, scratching up my cheek. I didn’t know why. I remember him calling me a beaner. I didn’t know what it meant at the time. At 13, I was sitting at our tables in math class. Everyone at my table, all my friends, were white. We were working on some problems when a friend of mine started singing, ‘One of these things is not like the other, one of these things does not belong!’ while looking straight at me. I didn’t know how to say that I was uncomfortable. I dealt with racism many times, but from a friend, it was awful. I didn’t trust her after that. I still have a hard time trusting white people because I don’t know what to expect. My partner is a white woman, but she lets me educate her on the issues affecting me. My grandfather is afro-Latino. I didn’t know until my aunt passed away, since I met him for the first time as an adult. And I felt worse. I knew the racism I internalized made bonding with him hard at first. I knew I had afro-Latino blood. I didn’t know how hard it was for me to accept it. Now, I sit at home, trying to dismantle the feelings I have of being different. For a very long time, I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to be white, to be straight, and recently, to be cis. My stepfather is white, my half brother appears to only be white. I am different from them. I am okay with it, and learning to embrace it.
The commodifcation of culture is ‘you can wear it, but I can’t’. Cultural appropriation is the same - ‘You can wear it, but I can’t!’ cries the white person as they drench themselves in henna, superglue a bindi to their forehead, and refuse to brush their hair for weeks on end. Growing up, I was surrounded by white kids. They said I smelled dirty every time I got back from visiting my family, or when I went to school the morning after my mother had made a particularly strong curry. They complained to their parents, who complained to their teacher, who complained to my parents, who gently told me that I spilled rice on the table at lunch time. Thus the switch to white bread and red meat began - bleaching myself from the inside out. School meals fucking sucked. I was banned from using my tastebuds for years.
'You can wear it, but I can't.' Kids ran away from me at school like I was poison ivy. Convinced that I would give them a horrible disease, or if I didn’t, I probably smelled anyway so there was no reason to go within a thirty foot proximity of me. Their parents would encourage them instating bans on ever ending up at my house when they saw my mother pick me up in the playground with a bindi on her forehead one day, when they heard my father’s strong accent. Like they’d have wanted to go to my house anyway. 'You can wear it, but I can't.' Funnily, I can’t wear it. I can’t wear the sari, the lengha or the bindi, even now, without someone looking me up and down with disgust. ‘Get out of our country’; ‘dothead’; ‘Paki’; ‘lousy immigrants, running our healthcare systems to lock us out’; it’s all the same to me. 'But it's cool to wear it at Coachella, right? At the party next week? I saw Madonna doing it, it's completely in right now.' And if I say no, I'm the bad guy, and it's people like me that are keeping the stereotype of Indian people alive - they're all freshies, they don't belong here and they're just, like, so intrusive. What's with them taking all our jobs? Why is there one behind every corner shop counter and on every call centre line? Why are all the doctors in my local hospital brown, yet the receptionist is white? Seems like some kind of supremacy, right? Thus the commodifcation of my culture continues. I watch crystal bindis being marked up to be sold in Forever21 and Topshop when I can buy them on the street in Delhi for a tenth of the cost. I see girls I knew in primary school plaster Friday night pictures of them in their bodycon dress and their bindi spot with a mixer in their hand all over my news feed, and I know that this is how it is 'You can wear it, but I can't.' I have somehow been locked out of a culture that I want to be proud of; I am rejected as the fresh off the boat immigrant who’s going to give everyone a disease with their dirty hands. On me it’s dirt, worthy of a slur in my direction and an inside joke with the next white person you see - but on you, it’s chic. It’s cheerful and oh-so-boho-indiepastel-pale-cute. You point with your left hand, and painstakingly apply your bindi spot with the right. Then you forget about it, because you can afford to, and adjust your sari in the mirror with both.
The Women Leyla Ahmed
you were only crawling feet when you left. your mother is a silent mouth, half-smiles and too much distance. she tells you about the blue-eyed woman at the airport who was all it must be sad leaving your homeland behind but aren't you so glad you got out of there? Aren't you so glad to begin afresh? silly woman. your mother carries home in the space under the tongue, couldn't she see? your mother is a mouth full of longing, a mouth full of missing. home is never too far. your grandmother smells of a clutched homeliness, frail legs in a land that threatens to break her back every single day. and you? you are a lifetime of searching. you grab and grab and grab but everything you try to hold on to runs with feet made out of urgency.
A SNEAK PEEK INTO THE DIARY OF
AJ RODRIGUEZ 12/14/14 Dear Diary, It happened fucking again at work. Being chastised for not knowing Spanish. Being called a fake. Being called only half. I hate that so much. In the great words of Gloria Anzaldulá, I’ve been OTHERED. '…The Chicana who can’t speak Spanish.' Err…not a girl, though. Chicanx. You know though, don’t you Diary? You know everything. You know how much of an outsider I feel. It eats me alive. I feel like a mutt. I feel like I don’t belong anywhere and maybe that’s why I have such horrible emotional issues. Anzaldulá said that OTHERING people is when we’re isolated and ostracized for something by people who think they’re — the oppressors — having been working its way into our ranks. That’s why other Chicanx people do this to me. To my mom. It hurts. 12/24/14 I told my cousins what they tell me at work because I can’t speak spanish. Adam gave me a good response. 'They tell you something in spanish like they do? Tell them “No habla Espanol.” They tell chastise you for not knowing spanish? Tell them “Silencio, pinche cabron.” They’ll leave you alone.' 12/31/14 It worked.
CRYSTAL NOEL A quick-fire round with a scary-good poetess, MVP and VIP, about girlhood, transition, self care and transition. You should check her out, she will intimidate you (but in the best way possible). I’ve noticed that when you write poetry (or prose, actually) you’re very to the point there’s no swerving, and sometimes when I write stuff I look at it and I’m like, ‘Uh, what was the point of this again? What was I even trying to say?’ Has that straightforwardness always been natural to you, or would you say it’s something you developed with time? Haha, NO. I was a really shy kid. As a spoken word poet I’m known for the velvety soft quality of my voice. I didn’t become blunt until I was my later twenties. A lot of that had to do with liking to make other people feel comfortable, so I would feel comfortable around them, which ultimately hurt me. I still struggle to a degree with not being so ‘nice’ all the time. Saying no is something that I had to practice. I still feel bad when I decline to do things that I don’t want to do. I have real anxiety over it.
So, to make a long story short, I am more blunt now than I have ever been and poetry has allowed me the space where I can be my entire self and speak my my mind and my truth without fear. And that is powerful. I love metaphor. Growing up I was always an artist. I loved to draw and I feel like metaphor allows you to create pictures with words. What drove you to writing in the first place? What catalysed that? When did you start? Has it always been something you did? What drove me to write….wow. My mom read to me when I was womb. She named me after a character in a soap opera. She has always loved a good story, and that impacted me. Reading was very important in home, and I LOVED to read. I was also pretty sheltered. My mom’s way of protecting and preparing me was giving us books. My parents are divorced and my parents had split custody of my sister, brother, and me. When my dad would get us he would take us to the East Liberty Library on Saturday’s where you could take out 15 books. My sister and I usually took out 15 every time. We would go through them..It helped me. One of the first things I ever wrote was recipe for scrambled eggs — another shortly after. It was literally therapeutic. As a child I was molested. My mom got me into therapy, and my therapist had me write and illustrate a book about what happened. I still have it. In that moment, and every moment after, writing made me feel empowered and emancipated… fearless. I think to write you really have to be interested in telling a story. When I write poetry these are usually little stories about me. What do you get from writing now? Has the journey from start to end of a piece changed? Oh wow. What I get from writing now is translating my feelings and thoughts, no matter how jumbled and confusing or even hurtful they are once they’re out. I get to be my whole sensitive self. The journey through the piece from beginning to end has changed in that now I am comfortable with not having a ending that makes much sense. Some pieces never feel finished no matter how much you add to them. Some though, are done after a few words. All of them are important and can help someone. I think I was given this gift to heal and comfort people. To let them know they aren’t alone.
My self care tips are be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself. Talk to you like you would your best friend. It’s okay to say no, even and especially to people you love without explanation. Knowing that resting is as important as ’doing’. Not comparing yourself to your friends. Try to create when you can. Go to therapy if you can. And if you suspect you are suffering from a mental illness and have access to a doctor, take the leap and ask about medication. I have depression and anxiety and I’m pretty sure being medicated saved my life… What is the most beautiful thing you can imagine in the world? To me the most beautiful thing I can imagine in the world is little girls growing up whole. Could you imagine who you would be if people hadn’t spoken discouragement and all kinds of micro aggressions into your life? And to that note, what inspires you these days? What inspires me these days is definitely what’s going on in the black community, the many murders and atrocities we’ve seen has caused me to write things I never thought I would. Some of my writing has just been visual mourning or praying. Some of it has been a wake up call to the passive, older, well do to black people touting respectability politics. I have to speak at my church as a part of a Spoken Word Ministry. I wrote a piece early Sunday morning inspired by murders, being at marches, information we were not taught in black history, and those older black people. Ever time I perform the piece I sob afterwards. I also am writing about love. Relationships inspire me for better and for worse. The downside of being artist is if you create a thing inspired by someone you love and it doesn’t work out you’ve got this time capsule of how powerful you felt and how wonderful or terrible it was.
Do you believe in breakfast? If so, what’s your best breakfast? (This is more I’m curious because good breakfasts are something I would love to know more about I’m so bad at breakfast) I LOVE BREAKFAST!! I could eat it all day. I love wet scrambled eggs cooked in bacon grease. I add cheese later to avoid the cheese sticking to the pan. I literally put it at the bottom of the the bowl the eggs go in then add piping hot eggs and stir. Ihop has these amazing cheese cake pancakes. Ohhh, they are soo good. Being that I’m trying to lose weight I’ve been eating scrambled eggs with no cheese or bacon grease with a cup of fruit or special K red berries. Do you like the way you grew up, and can you name anything that hit you super hard? I’m an eighties baby that grew up in a place where the black suburbs met the city on a mountaintop. The neighbourhood was full of children and we would get together and sing En Vounge or Exscape a Capella. Our moms would get us Dairy Queen and sit outside on Sunday nights in the summer while the oldies played Wamo, on the only black station in Pittsburgh. I fell in love with hip hop, video games, and art in those times. But I also watched as crack divided up homes and turned some of my neighbors into shadows of who they were. Gang banging was on it’s way out but still popular enough that my sister and I got chased home from a playground because she had on a red shirt in a place where crips were. They didn’t care that we were little kids. An older man we didn’t know walked us home just to make sure they didn’t follow us.
Check out Crystal's work at dynastylnoire.tumblr.com!
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