MelaNation issue 4: sex n' stuff

Page 1

MELANATION Why pro-heauxism is central, page 1

issue 4 sex n’ stuff

Playlist of sexy music from DC-based Black artists, page 9 Learn more about the contributors, page 3 Sexual health resources in the DC area, page 51

Survival sex workers need your support, page 53

an art zine by BYP100 DC and Black artists and writers in the DC area

May 2019

MELANATION an art zine by BYP100 DC

and Black artists and writers

issue 4: sex n’ stuff

© 2019 MelaNation: an art zine by BYP100 DC All Rights Reserved Cover art by Jordan N. DeLoach

to the artists and creators who contributed to MelaNation to all who have supported and affirmed MelaNation to those who fight for Black liberation to the readers to our families and to our ancestors

and to Black survival sex workers, Endesha Ida Mae Holland, Marsha P. Johnson, Lucille Bogan, Billie Holiday, Maya Angelou, and many more, present and past,

thank you.

this issue is dedicated to Ashanti Carmon


Pussy Juice and How to Talk About Your STIs artwork, essay by Darya Nicol

The MelaNation Team


[this what God feel like.] artwork, poem by Je’Kendria Trahan


Lust Up Playlist by Jillian Burford, Jordan DeLoach


Sacred Fruit poem by Uptown Shane


Explicit Language essay by Tahirah Green


blushing touch illustration by Brianna Pippens


Inside Me photography by Meisha Armstrong


Asexuality is Normal by the MelaNation team


Black Love Blossoms photography by Meisha Armstrong


Borders poem by Khadija Carr


Introduction by the MelaNation team


Bios of the Artists



Sexy.curvy.beach photo of Yasmine Saibou


Pleasure is My Birthright art by Valerie Onifade


The Best Thing, My Love poem by BuddahDesmond


The Goddess painting by Lauren Lawrence


Lustful Veneration: Adoration of my Idolatry poem by Evyan Roberts


The Empress painting by Lauren Lawrence


Show Me the Money photography by Onyinye Alheri


Le Thrust Thrice poem by Nnennaya Amuchie


Blackness, Eroticism, and Healing on U Street interview by Jordan DeLoach


Sexual Health Resources compiled by Darya Nicol, Kinjo Kiema, Samantha Masters


Consent poem by anonymous


Call to Action by the MelaNation team


the artist/her work/her muse (in the heart of the sun of the moon) poem by Khadija Carr


Community Glossary by the MelaNation team



Sex is a word that elicits many reactions: excitement,

nurturers and caregivers stripped of any desire or

shame, curiosity, humor, joy, embarrassment, and

sexuality; the “brute” caricature that paints Black men

sometimes nothing. Sex positivity is a concept that has

as animalistic savages who terrorize white women;

been coined to combat the negative stigma around sex

sexual violence targeted towards Black trans people;

while uplifting the positive. It’s the acceptance

and countless other prejudices about Black sexuality.

and affirmation of sexuality, attraction, pleasure, and sexual exploration when done safely, respectfully, and with enthusiastic consent. We also recognize that for many people, particularly asexual people, sex is not a want, desire, or interest.

“Radically thotty, and proud of it.” ­ ­— suprihmbé

Our affirmation and recognition of all sexualities is rooted is self determination and intimacy free from

Sex positivity doesn’t always capture the nuances of sex

violence or coercion.

for Black LGBTQIA+ people, so many Black feminists are adopting the concept of ‘proheaux womanism’


Sex can be an uplifting experience. It can help you

instead. Developed by Black writer, theorist, and sex

connect with your body and provide you with a release.

worker suprihmbé*, proheaux womanism pushes the

But sex can also be used as a tool to oppress,

boundaries of sex positivity to incorporate demands

overpower, and harm. Moralistic stigma against

for safety and liberation for Black and Brown trans

sex can be used to stereotype and police people.

people, women, femmes, gender nonconforming people,

Consider discrimination associated with queer sex;

nonbinary people, sex workers, and more. Black and

hostility directed towards Black and Brown sex

Brown folks can be proheaux by being “committed to

workers; stigma against people who are HIV positive;

collective and personal empowerment, not just sexually,

the “jezebel” stereotype that casts Black women

but through economic security sans judgment of the

as naturally promiscuous and sexually deviant; the

means. Radically thotty, and proud of it,” suprihmbé

“mammy” stereotype that casts Black women as

writes in the article ‘working definition of proheaux

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womanism’ on her Patreon. She describes proheaux

and more to this issue. Their work describes giving

womanism as being “curious about sex, about birth and

to a lover like worship (“Lustful Veneration:

rebirth, about challenge and change, about redemption

Adoration of my Idolatry”), the limitations of

and reparations, about the physical and the divine.”

language in describing sexuality (“Explicit Language”), tips for navigating getting an STI (“How to Talk About

There’s power in sex and eroticism, and you deserve

Your STIs”), and artistic affirmations about our right to

to explore that power in your lifetime.You know how

joy and happiness (“Pleasure is My Birthright.”)

powerful it is to be able to enjoy pleasure in the face of everything that tries to bring us down? Making your

Whether this issue serves as a resource to help you

lover find peace, trying something new, playing with

navigate your sexual and reproductive health, as a guide

yourself, messing around with a trusted friend, grinding,

to inspire you to explore your sexuality and its nuances,

touching, twerking, breathing, feeling. At MelaNation

as an affirmation of your sexual power, or as a call to

Zine, we vow not to shame your curiosities, your kinks,

action to support Black people by decriminalizing sex

your bodies, your work, your libidos, your boundaries,

work and investing in resources in DC, we hope

your choices, your preferences, your abilities—the list

‘sex n’ stuff’ brings you love and pleasure.

goes on. Sex is complex, and so are you. Black artists and writers in the DC area contributed poetry, paintings, essays, collage, photography, musings,


* Learn more about suprihmbé at

her Patreon, and on Twitter at


1. The Jezebel Stereotype. Jim Crow Museum, Ferris State University.

5. a working definition of proheaux womanism. suprihmbé, also known as thotscholar. suprihmbé’s Patreon.

2. The Mammy Stereotype. Jim Crow Museum, Ferris State University. mammies/

6. Why decriminalizing sex work is central for gender equity, public health, and racial justice. Tamika Spellman. 730 DC.

3. The Brute Stereotype. Jim Crow Museum, Ferris State University. 4. Centering Trans Survivors in the #MeToo Movement Damary Rodriguez. National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

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Onyinye Alheri Onyinye is a visual artist born in Lagos, Nigeria and currently residing in Baltimore. She says that she is a no-body, and so are you.

bios of the

artists 3

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Nnennaya Amuchie Nnennaya Amuchie is a first generation Black Nigerian feminist, abolitionist, and artist. Hailing from California before moving to the DMV, Nnenna has been organizing in the DC area for two years. A published academic writer and poetry prose slanger, her style is versatile and eerie, yet provocative.

Meisha Armstrong Meisha Simone is 27 years-old and from the DMV— Silver Spring, Maryland to be exact. For Meisha, art is life, light, and love. Art is healing. Art is an infinite road to self expression. Meisha discovers more of herself every time she creates.

Khadija Carr KHADIJA. is a poet, singer, and visual artist from Silver Spring, Maryland and a Mount Pleasant resident. She is committed to healing through the arts. Black Lives Matter DC is her first organizing home where she has worked to create safe spaces for Black folks to create, affirm, and share their artistic gifts and skills while processing racial trauma and stress. Through art, KHADIJA. relates to and makes sense of the world around her, it is what makes her come alive. Her work is a reflection of all that moves her, breaks her, and makes her whole. She is also the creator and facilitator of the Black Lives Matter DC Writing Workshop Series.

Buddah Desmond BuddahDesmond’s poetry showcases life’s gritty side but imbues hope and resilience. Past projects include Prevail (2012) and Exotic Shifter (2014). His next project, From The Inside Out, is underway.

Valerie Onifade Valerie Onifade (1995 -) was born in Nigeria. She spent her childhood years in Lagos, Nigeria before moving to Maryland, and now she lives in DC. She has shown her work mainly in DC, at the James A. Porter Gallery of Art and the Emergence Community Arts Collective, and in Maryland, at Exittheapple Art Space, John A. Cade Center for Fine Arts Gallery, and University of Baltimore. She is primarily a painter, using manipulation of canvas and acrylic paint to create layered depth. She taught herself linocut this year, in a continued passion for subtractive art techniques. Her work explores the subject of black femme empowerment. See more of her work at, her linoprints @onifprints, and her curations at

Brianna Pippens Brianna Pippens, also known as Banana Peppers, is a visual and performing artist from Maryland currently living in DC. She is a business analyst for the DOE but art is her true passion. As a singer and dancer, Brianna uses her connection to music and movement to aid in her visual creations. She experiments with many different mediums but has always aimed to create images that speak to the beauty, nuances, and strength of women, particularly women of color. Her paintings and illustrations are created from a place of love and self exploration. She hopes people can see the strength and celebration of life, both the mundane and whimsical, in her work.

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Evyan Roberts

Uptown Shane

Evyan Roberts is a queer, fat, black, femme who is deeply committed to intersectional feminism and #blackgirlmagic. She has been living and playing in the DMV since ‘95, and between 2012 and 2017 she dabbled in the area’s vibrant burlesque scene. She holds a BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Wells College and won the H. Helena Zachos Prize for Fiction in 2007. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in Social Work.

Uptown Shane is from Uptown, Washington, DC and is a hip-hop MC, poet, writer, and advocate for ending youth violence and poverty by uniting the youth through arts and spirituality.

Yasmine Saibou Yasmine Owoolabi is a fashion and lifestyle blogger living in DC whose goal is to empower women through fashion and sharing personal stories. She was born in Benin but has lived in DC since she was 7. She has always loved the diversity of the city and made a point to return after attending Florida A&M. She says that she has no hoods to rep, but she shouts out McKinley Tech High School!


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Je’Kendria Trahan Je’Kendria is a fat Black femme who is just reigniting her creative expression through this work. A facilitator and organizer are other names she resonates with, and she’s been growing alongside other DMV community members since she made this place her home in 2005. Her work is inspired by life experiences, the history of fatness in ancient African culture (equally deified and dehumanized), and the work that dark skin fat Black women/femmes/GNC folks have been doing to liberate us. Special shoutouts to @fatfemme, @funkychunkyy, @ jervae, and @love_power_magic for creating and being the vision of the kind of world we wanna live in.

sex n’ stuff sex n’ stuff sex n’ st sex n’ stuff sex n’ stuff sex n’ st sex n’ stuff sex n’ stuff sex n’ st

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Kendra Allen editor + designer


Mela Nation team


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Kendra is a queer writer and artist from DC who is inspired by the lives of her ancestors and wedded to Black liberation and the many forms it can take.

Jonathan “Jon Jon� Moore editor

Jillian Burford editor

Jillian is a writer and artist from DC who uses creativity to explore ideas of justice and freedom.

Jonathan L. Butler editor

Jonathan is a queer and emo blerd, organizer, and artist. Through his work, Jonathan helps to curate art, words, and twerking education sessions as a form of cultural resistance and empowerment. He is committed to the fight for Black liberation and believes in both the possibilities of the future and the radical possibilities of now.

Tahirah Alexander Green writer + editor + designer

Tahirah is a storyteller driven to craft nuanced works that reflect the complexity of identity. They currently live in their hometown of Washington, DC.

Lauren Lawrence designer

Kira Coleman editor + designer

Kira is a black queer graphic artist from the DMV with a burning passion for music and Black liberation.

Darya Nicol lead editor + designer

Darya is an ever-evolving queer Black Krio-American creative from Aurora, Colorado who finds peace in writing, praying, and making art. She believes in the unique beauty of blackness and the transformative power of asking questions— just don’t question her mother’s God-given talents in the kitchen.

Jordan DeLoach lead editor + designer

Jordan is a Maryland born-and-raised artist, writer, and comic book lover. Black, queer, and proud, she engages her love for liberation and storytelling by uplifting the creative work of trans, gender non-conforming Black people.

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LUST UP PLAYLIST by Jillian Burford and Jordan DeLoach

There’s a lot of love and sexy inside the music scene in the DMV, so we put together a playlist of love songs and panty droppers from Black singers, rappers, and other musicians from round the way. Listen to the Lust Up playlist while you’re reading the zine, on the train to your job, school, or hustle, chilling with your boo(s), or chilling with yourself!


“40 Shades of Choke” by Ari Lennox

Ari Lennox is a DC native and graduate of Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Her smooth, sultry vocals have been paired with J. Cole, Cozz, EARTHGANG, Bas, Masego, and Omen.

“Go All Night” by Kelela “Price” by Beau Young Prince “Phatty” by CCB Check out the playlist and let us know what you think. Email us at, reach out on Facebook at, or Instagram @melanation.zine.

“Ice Cream” by Rico Nasty

Rico Nasty is a Brooklyn-born rapper raised in the DMV with a gritty voice and fresh lyricism. The 21 year old’s major single Poppin was featured in HBO’s hit show Insecure.


The Peace and Body Roll Duo BOOMscat is made up of two DC artists: Asha Santee provides deep, sexy vocals, production, and percussion alongside powerhouse vocalist Patience Sings.


“Lovely” by Brent Faiyaz MelaNation issue 4

i’m on on a mission to take your body places it wants to go

­— BOOMscat, Feel Good

“U” by Danny Indigo

Raised in Maryland, Danny Indigo is a Tanzanian-American singer who also practices herbal healing in the District.

“Love Is You” by Yahzarah “Parts” by OSHUN

“Beg” by Babeo Baggins “Blue Light” by Kelela

“Dreams” by Jamila Silvera

Kelela is a vocalist and second-generation queer Ethiopian-American from the DMV. Her debut album, Take Me Apart, was released in 2017.

“Orange” by Winzday Love

“Late Night” by GoldLink (ft. Masego)

“Know You” by be steadwell

“Roses” by Raheem Devaughn (ft. Yahzarah)

be steadwell is a queer pop artist, producer, and cinematographer born and raised in DC. She released her first full studio album, “Queer Love Songs,” in 2018.

“Finewine” by Winzday Love “Backseat” by Ari Lennox “Clockwork” by Danny Indigo “Feels Good” by Reaction Band “Swing” by AZTEC SUN

“don’t pop my bubble” by Babeo Baggins “GOOD” by Christen B

Christen B is a queer indie artist from Baltimore with soft, emotive vocals and gentle instrumentals.

Explicit Language by Tahirah Alexander Green

I’m unsatisfied. I’ve tested terms on my lips and not one satiates my thirst for accuracy. Not one encompasses the nuances of my lusts and pleasures. Not one captures the variety of the bodies I’ve tasted. Captures the variety of the bodies I want to.

Language tries. Gay. Bisexual. Omnisexual. Queer. The words fit too loosely around my desires and too tightly around my history.

Language contradicts. Context and colloquial usage alter definitions and make words imperfect. These words slide onto my identity like an old sock, feigning a good fit at first then slipping down as I walk.


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Slut slides on just right for a time. My curiosity brings new shapes, new colors, new tactile experiences to bed, to couch, to floor, to car, to staircase. Slut fits just right when it means promiscuous- when promiscuous means not limited to one sexual partner.

When slut means indiscriminate, it doesn’t fit anymore. Whether for one night or one month, l vet my lovers on safety. I do not bring to bed the human who rolls their window down and licks their tongue at me. The one who calls me a bitch when I ignore their invitation for a ride. I do not bring to bed the bigot who deems me a fetish. The one who leads with, “I’ve never been with a Black girl before.” I do not bring to bed the one who wants to keep me a secret from their spouse. The one who asks, “Why should you care about my wife?” I do not bring to bed the one who can’t remember their last STD test. The one who presumes my IUD means no condoms. I do not bring the unsafe to bed.

I do have sex with those I trust. I’ll have sex with the friend who will tease me for the way I sound during sex. Tease me for the loudness of it, the profanity of it. The friend who loves my moans. I’ll have sex with the stranger who will listen when I tell them what I want. Who will tell me what they need. The stranger who knows consent must be gained before penetration, choke, and bite.

No word is sufficient for all of the whos, whys, and hows of my sex life. I need a word that means attracted to personality, physicality, talent, and shared experience. I need a word that means to exhaust her entire body with my tongue. I need a word that means sore because of hours my thighs spent spread apart.

I need more explicit language.

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Inside Me


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By Meisha Armstrong

Black Love Blossoms

By Meisha Armstrong

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Pussy Juice by Darya Nicol


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How to Talk About Your STIs

Sex­—let’s call it what it is. It can be messy, fun, intriguing, and safe when interacting with a sexual partner who respects you. And, while there’s nothing wrong with enjoying sex, we are practicing naming its realities. And a reality is that anyone who engages in sexual contact could get a sexually transmitted infection (STI). While safer sex practices decrease the risk, sometimes STIs happen! So, if it happens to you, there’s no need to feel ashamed.

We have your back at MelaNation Zine. Because we know that the stigma associated with STIs can create barriers to people getting tested and treated, here are 8 steps (you can choose the order of importance) with some tips about talking about your STIs. And remember, you deserve respect, support, and affirmations for however you feel while processing.

After you read these steps, be sure to check out the sexual health resources in the DC area listed on pages 51 - 52.

by Darya Nicol

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Remember that you’re not an anomaly.

Remember that STIs happen, and they don’t make you dirty, shameful, or ruined.


Think about how normal it is to contract an STI. Think about how being open about your STIs isn’t shameful, because you are working to empower yourself and others. Think about how affirming it is to reclaim your power over things that have been portrayed as dirty or scary. Think about how talking about your STIs will work to chip away at the harm false narratives cause.

Chances are, when and if you decide to talk about the STIs you’ve encountered with friends or family, they may have encountered the same.



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Learn the facts.

Continue to educate yourself so you can educate others.

There are many types of STIs, some of them have little or no symptoms, and some of them are harder or easier to treat than others.

It’s easy to become a statistic, even with “proper” education. Stigma and discrimination creates obstacles for people to access respectful, nonjudgmental sexual health care and education.

DC has one of the highest rates of HIV in the country. With support, diagnosis, and treatment, people with HIV can have healthy and fulfilling lives, and rates of transmission can decrease. HPV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are some of the most common STIs. Nine out of ten people will have HPV in their lives. Eight out of ten currently have it. Reflect on how fucked up it is that about 75 percent of chlamydia infections in people with vaginas and 50 percent in people with penises are without symptoms.

Think about how the knowledge you’ve gained from your personal experiences could help teach and support someone else. Think about how you can help others learn that having an STI doesn’t make someone a “slut” or “dirty.” There’s power in dictating your sexual experiences. There’s power in being informed and in being safe. Think about how we need to DECONSTRUCT our language and create, reclaim, modify, and adapt words that were meant to disempower us.

Reflect on how fucked up it is that there’s no approved HPV test for people with penises. Think about how it’s fucked that people with vaginas can only find out about their HPV diagnosis during a pap smear, which is normally scheduled every 3 years — unless that shit comes back abnormal, then it’s every year. Reflect on how fucked up it is that there is limited sexual health information and resources for people who are intersex, people who are trans, people who are gender nonconforming, and people who are queer.

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Contemplate who you trust talking to about your STIs.

Thank those who listen to you, support you, and do not cause harm.

Remember that you have a right to be provided with love, care, and nonjudgmental support. Remember that you can choose who you tell anything or nothing to.You are not obligated to tell anyone or everyone everything or anything about yourself. Also remember that sharing your story can help your loved ones support you while also helping others with similar experiences by challenging the stigma. Chances are, many people in your community have had STIs at some point in their lives. Consider how important getting support from those you trust is. Consider how much community can add to healing. Lean on those you trust. Ask for help in accessing resources. Due to stigma, consider that not everyone will understand. Consider that not everyone has the proper education to know how common STIs are. Consider that telling someone about your abnormal pap smear or the results of your checkup may change how they view you. If you still want to talk about it, get brave and love yourself while you do it.


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Thank your new sexual partners who care about your well-being, thank old sexual partners who were honest, and thank everyone who is supportive throughout your STI journey. Thank yourself for the courage to get tested. Thank your circumstances if you have had access to resources. Thank the advocates who are fighting to destigmatize STIs. Thank the advocates who are fighting to ensure that globally people who contract HIV or other STIs are supported and treated with humanity.

STEP 7 Get MAD if you need to. Get mad if you weren’t given the proper resources for your body or your sexual identity.

Get mad that false narratives have been spread about who can contract STIs.

Get mad that many people aren’t given the proper resources for their bodies or sexual identities.

Get mad that dental dams are some shit. Get mad that dental dams are some shit.

Get mad that there may not be many clinicians who look like you or have similar lived experiences.

Get mad that dental dams are some shit! Damn!

Get mad that the new vaccine for HPV isn’t much better than the old one and that it only covers nine out of 100+ strains. Get mad that there’s conflicting information from medical care providers about HPV. Get mad that the original HPV vaccine has been largely ineffective for Black women.

Get mad that someone hasn’t come up with better safe sex alternatives for trans, gender nonconforming, queer, and intersex people.

Get mad that you likely were never taught queer sex education in school.

Get mad that you may have placed trust in others before you placed trust in yourself.

Get mad about how US education systems try to scare folks into abstinence or safe sex.

Get mad that you live in a culture that discourages you from making empowered sexual decisions.

Get mad that you may have trusted others more than you trusted your right to safety.

Get mad, then affirm yourself so you can affirm others.

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Let go of your shame. And if you need to, go back to Step 1. While you’re there, visit pages 51 - 52 for sexual health resources in the DC area!

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collage and poem by Je’Kendria Trahan original image from Taylor Giavasis, @thenakeddiaries

[this what God feel like.] by Je’Kendria Trahan

How dare you be this big and still be invisible? Shrink your desire, to fit into something you’re bigger than. Adorn yourself, just to hide parts of yourself still. Couldn’t be this dark, this fat, AND this in a world where you’re fetishized and equally discarded bc of your fat body. Knowing good and damn well you got that [good] good, that gushy But when you overhear your thinner friend in the mirror hating her rolls. You feel yourself becoming example people use in the gym of who not to be. Everyone gets to define what is for you. Remember when dude on the phone told you, you came Your first consenting sexual experience You were 16 and he’d never even touched your body Didn’t know what he was talking about. So many claim to know your body. What your fat body needs. But you know your rolls make ripply waves like a puddle How your stretch marks glisten and pulsate across dark canvass When you Who else to define your ultimate pleasure but you? Your softness.Your heaviness. Who can really handle all of this? Hold all of this? How can you claim your worth? Your sexual yearnings? When how you love is mammified, They call you big momma, auntie, the nurturer Stripping away your sexuality while assuring you that you’re beautiful. What room is there for our fat Black bodies Already synonymous with overindulgence and taking up too much space pleasure­—soaking ourselves in it? Watch us start a muhfuckin’ FUPA riot How dare we exist How dare we [cum] [bust] We too biiig, we too wiiide, we won’t fiiit. We too much.

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SACRED FRUIT by Uptown Shane

humbled enough to see into thee goat’s eyes and see my worth see no death no hurt see the truth she’s for her people like ruth

she’s all there is there’s no need for proof no negatives just windfalls & windmills of soul meals accepting thee essence of healing christ skills friendly skies she paints the sky blue genuine connect home sweet home my heart k{new}


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like a fresh pair of k-swiss with a lil twist she designs and coordinates my soul she’s my stylist astonishing A LIST but im on my bee shxt raw honey yellow patience balance tummy it’s god embrace this. off our 90s aaliyah shxt

it’s hot like fire, ya know?!

blushing touch by Brianna Pippens

You deserve respect, safety, and love.

Black, trans, gender nonconforming, queer, disabled, fat, incarcerated, HIV positive, poor, immigrant, woman, femme, intersex, drug user, victim, survivor—

You are worthy and deserving, because you are you.

We’ll fight oppression so the world understands this, too.


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by the MelaNation team “Asexuality is a sexual orientation characterized by a persistent lack of sexual attraction toward any gender.” ­—What Is Asexuality?

As the introduction of this issue says, “sex positivity is the acceptance and affirmation of sexuality, attraction, pleasure, and sexual exploration when done with enthusiastic consent.” Sex positivity includes acceptance and respect for people who are asexual or on the asexuality spectrum. People who identify as asexual have little to no desire to engage with others sexually. But it’s also a bit more complex than that. Some people who are asexual experience no sexual attraction or arousal; others may feel attraction to others but no sexual desire. Some may be grossed out by the idea of having sex, while others feel more ambivalent (and may even be sexually active.) Many people who are asexual still seek intimacy and romantic relationships—just without the “sex” part. Some people who are asexual love physical intimacy

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while others don’t experience “crushes” or seek intimacy or romance at all. And many people who are asexual still masturbate (just without the desire of having sex with someone!) Asexuality is a sexual orientation/identity, similar to being gay, lesbian, straight, queer, pansexual, bisexual, and more. But since many people who are asexual also have romantic relationships, it’s possible to be asexual and lesbian, asexual and gay, asexual and bisexual—the list goes on. Some people, like MelaNation team member Kendra Allen, identify as lesbian gray-asexual (someone who

Sex positivity means we feel normal as we are

like holding hands, embracing, hugging, and touching,

experiences limited sexual desire and is interested in women):

I remember the first time I experienced a crush. I was so relieved that I could “feel”. That I could actually feel things for another person.

It was during my last year of high school. I knew I was gay, I’d known for a while so it wasn’t a surprise it was another girl.You know, reading books and watching tv shows and movies that showed how the main characters feel when they’re interested in another person? Like wanting to hold hands, be near them, feeling butterflies? I felt all that! I even imagined kissing her. But I also didn’t feel the need to act on it. Part of the reason was I was still basking in the glow of being “normal” finally. But also because I knew how much intimacy I was interested in (or required) and just growing up in this society and being told what a relationship is made me think (if she was gay and interested) she would expect more than I was able to give. And that wouldn’t be enough. Take the kissing. I wanted to imagine it to see my comfort level with that kind of intimacy, and even though I was really interested in this person, I felt like, “I can do this if they need this. But this could be a regular thing or it could never happen and I’d be cool with that (and


honestly I’d be very cool with it not happening).” But I didn’t think she would be. I wasn’t sure anyone would be. But I still smile when I think about it. I can remember feeling “right” for the first time, however briefly that lasted. So I’d say, to me, asexuality within sex positivity means that asexual people or anyone on that spectrum don’t only feel normal or “right” once they experience something that our society deems normal. For me it was a crush, for others who may not experience crushes, it could be something like your first time holding hands with your partner and being completely okay with it like a “regular couple.”

Sex positivity means we feel normal as we are.

—Kendra Allen

Despite what many relationships on television and in

confuse us, inflict harm on us, and damage our

the media lead us to believe, having no sexual desire

confidence. When we collectively choose to abandon

is normal. Unfortunately, our society feeds us many

these lies, we create opportunities for all of us to be

rules about sex—both spoken and unspoken—that

fulfilled by affirming the diversity of our sexual identities

cause us to believe that our very natural sexual

and needs.

identities and urges (or lack thereof!) are wrong, especially for Black trans and nontrans women,

Being asexual is normal. Seeking romantic relationships

gender nonconforming people, and queer people.

without sex is normal. Not wanting to have any sexual

These rules are often contradictory, set up so that

contact or interactions is normal. Asexual people

we can never “win.”

aren’t “missing out” on sex. Asexuality isn’t a phase, it isn’t celibacy, it isn’t strange—it’s

In the media, Black women are misrepresented as

life, and it’s normal.

sexual deviants who deserve judgment, stigmatization, and abuse; or we are “mammified,” stripped of all sexual desire so that we can be the perfect emotional laborers for the people around

To learn more about asexuality, check out and @AsexualJournal on Twitter.

us. All of these representations are lies designed to

sex n' sTUFF


borders The both of us; lay bare. impulse turns fondle turns fold; yes, spellbound and lustful. Like ants under a magnifying glass I learn in a hurry, of traps and scurrying and kindling. the expansive vocabulary of your hands conjured canyons, eroding your inhibitions peeling back the layers of my soul for all to marvel, using my goosebumps as braille to narrate our story: The Antidote to Centuries of Bad Blood and Ill Will. Sweet and damp. Again. Slow and juicy. Once again. Exquisite and passionate. Another again. It’s you I adore.


MelaNation issue 4

by Khadija Carr

Sexy.curvy.beach by Yasmin Saibou sex n' sTUFF


The Best Thing, My Love by BuddahDesmond


MelaNation issue 4

It’s the Pulsating rhythms of my heart You give The beating of drums of my pulse I live It’s the syncopated breaths that I breathe It’s the ruckus of sound in my ears You made leave It’s that music you helped make of me That 12/8 measure in my eyes I see I’m in love

It’s that explicit Nature of your luscious lips That carried that lyrical content To my lips That continuously rolls Number one songs For hour tolls We sing tastes Of albums haste You made me play the piano with My hands You strum the guitar Of my abs My body is The bass you play By plucking or playing with The bow-­-like fingers On your hands You are the best thing, My love


Lustful Veneration: Adoration of my Idolatry


a soft vessel of moods, tightly held in her grip. i am mounds of wet flesh. thoughts with no home. anticipating pleasure, between her thighs.



I am all that she requires to elevate. kneeling to admire the velvet-honeydew shrine. and I nourish in return dripping sweetly between my legs.

by Evyan Roberts III.


i sit powerful in the hands latched to my throat adored sweetly praised by control i let go and open lending my power for a temporary fix momentarily devoured, by my love’s strength.

sex n' sTUFF


Show Me the Money by Onyinye Alheri


MelaNation issue 4

Blackness, Eroticism, and Healing

on U Street

interview by Jordan DeLoach, photography by Ceraun The DivaNun

Secret Pleasures Boutique uplifts sexual health, education, gender inclusivity, and pleasure in DC

For nearly a decade, the Black-owned-and-run sex shop Secret Pleasures Boutique has operated nestled in a rowhouse on DC’s busy and popping U Street. Upon entering the shop, you’ll be greeted by an orderly smorgasbord of kink. Glass-blown dildos, books, and videos on clitoral orgasms. Straps, ball gags, and silicone toys of multiple colors resting neatly on tables and shelves. Nayla is one of Secret Pleasure Boutique’s many Black sex educators on staff. Nayla uses they/them/she/her pronouns and grew up in DC. They have a shaved head, an affinity for big jewelry and bright lipstick, and a voice that’s smooth and bright like a soprano saxophone. “I spend a lot of time thinking about the nuts and bolts of how sex works,” Nayla says. “What causes different sensations. Learning about all the ways that sex can be. What is sex, and what isn’t. All of it.” A smile breaks across Nayla’s face, a kind of smile that would make you want to smile, too. “A lot of thinking goes on here.”

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Customers at Secret Pleasures can learn about sexuality and sexual health while gaining access to quality toys from a knowledgeable and affirming staff of dope Black people. Secret Pleasures prides itself in being body positive, sex positive, and body safe. The team carefully selects all of the toys they stock to make sure community members are able to explore sexual pleasure safely.

“I enjoy when people are like, ‘ew I wouldn’t do that!’, and I can go, ‘actually, I have done it and it’s pretty cool.’

People are figuring out what they’re comfortable with and their views are expanding.” Nayla used to be a doula, a guide who assists

“Body safe is a big thing! The sex toy industry isn’t

parents-to-be with pregnancy, childbirth, and child

regulated, so anybody can be putting anything in a

rearing. They spent a lot of time providing education,

toy,” Nayla says. “There are a lot of toys out there

company, and resources. Nayla was drawn to Secret

made of harmful materials, so we curate the shop

Pleasures in 2016 in part because of the shop’s focus

so that everything’s body safe and nonporous.”

on education. The store has a steady rotation of workshops throughout the year that are open to the

The emphasis on choosing safe sex toys is huge in

community: themes range from fun, sex toy focused

Secret Pleasures, and they have a fascinating way

workshops to sessions about sexual health. “Our main

of showing it. On one of the shelves towards the

goal is to create a safe space for people to explore their

back of the store is a jar containing two dildos—

sexuality,” Nayla says. “Sexual health is just as important

at least, what used to be dildos. A sign next to

as any other realm of health.”

the jar warns that PVC and latex sex toys can decompose and leak into the bloodstream.


MelaNation issue 4

The dildos in the jar are latex, and customers can

of mine. I’m a writer at heart and a research

watch them decompose into brown sludge in real

junkie, so I can read and read and read and get

time. As you can guess, Secret Pleasures doesn’t

paid to do it,” Nayla says. “And it’s fun to share

stock PVC or latex toys.

sexual stories during workshops. Some of our workshops are pretty interactive, so you get to

One of the reasons why Secret Pleasures is able

learn what other people are experiencing and

to provide so much guidance on sex toys and

what questions they have.”

sexual health is because of the diversity of knowledge of their staff. The educators at Secret

Nayla shares their own sexual experiences to help

Pleasures all have different areas of focus, and they

people understand the myriad ways that people

take turns staffing the shop and preparing and

can have sex and pleasure. This frequently takes

facilitating workshops.

the form of challenging people’s assumptions about different activities. “I actually enjoy when

Nayla specializes in gender inclusive sexual and

people are like, ew, I wouldn’t do that!, and I can go,

reproductive health. One of their favorite parts

actually, I have done it and it’s pretty cool. You can

about working at Secret Pleasures is being able to

watch them shift their thinking. People are

share resources to uplift healthy sexual practices,

figuring out what they’re comfortable with and

break down taboos, and empower people to have

their views are expanding.”

fulfilling sexual lives. “Writing workshops is a joy

sex n' sTUFF


Educators at Secret Pleasures work to deepen

called ma’am a lot, which I don’t enjoy hearing.”

customers’ understandings of sex, gender, love,

Mainstream society makes assumptions about sex

safety, respect, boundaries, kink, and more.

and gender that marginalize, silence, and oppress

Destigmatizing and normalizing gender inclusivity

people who are trans, gender nonconforming,

is a regular part of Nayla’s practice, both during

gender nonbinary, gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual,

their workshops and during their day-to-day

queer, and intersex. But one of the keys to having

interactions with customers. While many times

a fulfilling sex life is to limit the amount of

these interactions are exciting and stimulating,

assumptions you make: don’t assume someone’s

there are also moments with customers that

gender, don’t assume what someone will find

Nayla finds more challenging, especially when

pleasurable, don’t assume that someone consents

people carry harmful assumptions about

to sexual activity without discussion.

sexuality and gender with them into the store. In their classes at Secret Pleasures, Nayla “We have packers downstairs. They’re for creating

emphasizes the importance of establishing consent

a bulge and look like a flaccid penis. A lot of

with sexual partners. For people who enjoy using

people’s misunderstandings around gender, and

words as foreplay, discussing consent can be

what someone can do sexually, come up around

incorporated as a natural starting point. “I think a

those,” Nayla says. “There’s also a lot of gendering

lot of it is about what people personally think is

that happens automatically that I don’t like. I get

sexy. For me, I love getting asked if I like


MelaNation issue 4

something,” Nayla says. “Usually people just

choice in sexual encounters is a concept that

assume what I like! So asking communicates

Nayla has been grappling with lately. “There’s

that this person is attentive and that they’re

something about choice that feels a bit different

interested in pleasing me.” Ultimately, Nayla affirms

from consent, and both of them are needed in

that establishing consent with partners is a must

order to have pleasure,” Nayla says. “Without

have, even if you don’t fit it into your dirty talk.

both of them, if something’s happening to you and

“Enthusiastic consent doesn’t have to be sexy, it

you didn’t consent to it and choose to do it, it’s

just has to be.”

not going to be pleasurable.” Even more than that, it can be harmful.

There are a variety of tools that people can use to discuss consent with partners, and one that Nayla

The absence of consent and choice can create

finds useful is the ‘Yes, No, Maybe’ list. The list looks

sexual harm, and Nayla points out that sexual

like a long menu, sort of like the ones you’d use to

harm is deeper and more nuanced than reductive

order sushi. It has a list of acts—from sexual acts,

portrayals of “good victims” and “bad victims” that

to nonmonogamy terms, to touching—and you can

are often pushed in the media. Movements like

check ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ or ‘maybe’ next to the acts based

“me too.” have been illuminating how institutions

on how comfortable you’d be doing them. “The list came out of the kink community,” Nayla says. “People who are interacting with one another can separately fill out the list, and the ‘maybes’ are the more negotiable space.”

“Enthusiasic consent doesn’t

have to be sexy, it just has to be.” Remember how much time Nayla spends thinking? Well, consent is one of the things they think about the most. Consent is important, but doesn’t tell the full story of what constitutes a positive, healthy, and fulfilling sexual experience. There’s more to establishing mutual respect, communication, and safety. The dual significance of both consent and

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and people fail to respect the full complexity of victims and survivors of sexual harm. “There’s a spectrum. There’s rape, sexual assault, and there are things that are harder to pinpoint but are still significant, like where someone

“Our main goal is to create a safe space for people to explore their sexuality.”

touched me in a way that I didn’t necessarily say I wanted to be touched, but I didn’t say no to it

boundaries, and your body, especially for people

and I wasn’t sure if I did or didn’t like it,” Nayla

who have been marginalized and have experienced

says. “There are all these fuzzy things that are still

violence. Nayla references Audre Lorde’s Uses of


the Erotic when explaining why sexual freedom is important to them as a tool to heal and more

Working at Secret Pleasures has deepened Nayla’s

deeply understand the world.

understanding of sexual harm and has supported their healing. There’s power in connecting with

“Sex is often used as a way to have power over

and feeling affirmed in your sexuality, your

someone, as a way to take people out of their bodies. And when you’re checked out of your


MelaNation issue 4

body, you’re not able to fully do whatever it is you’re supposed to do, which is living fully and experiencing your pleasures,” Nayla says. “Being able to tap into the erotic without shame and without harm can help bring us back into ourselves. It’s a reclaiming of our bodies.” Having a fulfilled sexual life is more than just cumming frequently. It means tapping into the well of erotic energy that you have inside. It means being empowered to direct that energy in positive ways. Sex is another way of connecting with your body, whether you’re experiencing pleasure alone or with others. You deserve to listen to your body, explore it, and give your body—and yourself—what feels good. And you get to define what good means, for you. “Sexual energy is creative,” Nayla says. “It’s generative when it’s used correctly and is rooted in joy and respect, and not oppression.”

Follow Secret Pleasures Boutique

Photography by Ceraun the DivaNun








Instagram: @ceraunthedivanun


Accessibility Note from Secret Pleasures: “At Secret Pleasures, we care about all of our customers. Sadly, because of the building we are located in and DC Historic Zoning laws, our store is not accessible to customers in wheelchairs or those who may have trouble climbing fairly steep steps. We are striving to keep our website up to date with all products we have in the store so that customers who can not physically visit our location can still access our products online. As always, our customers are welcome to call us with any questions they may have and we will do our best to guide you over the phone. If you have any suggestions as to how we may better serve our customers who can not come to the store, we would love to hear from you.”

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Nayla Explains: How to Explore Sex Toys For the First Time Interested in going to a sex shop or getting a sex toy? Are you nervous? Is it your first time? Nayla from Secret Pleasures can help with that.

“First, I’d suggest vetting a shop by visiting

Then, of course, there’s masturbation. I

it and taking it in, but commit to yourself

believe in normalizing masturbation. If you’re

that you’re not going to buy anything or talk

too nervous to touch yourself, or if there’s

to anyone. Go to take in the sounds, sights,

shame associated with it, sometimes it

smells, energy, how the employees make you

requires more work or you need more help

feel, and how the customers make you feel.

in order to break that type of stuff down. But

Then, go home and think about it.

when you’re ready, masturbation is the ultimate teacher of what you like.

Process your experience. If it feels right, go back and tell an employee that you visited

If you can, get you some time and a space

a few weeks ago, say that you’re feeling

where you feel comfortable, with no

nervous, and explain some of the things

interruptions. I’m in the business of selling

you’re considering. Whether it’s buying a

toys, and toys are great, but they’re not

vibrator or getting tips on sex. Feel it out,

necessary. Your hands are perfect tools.

and go with what feels right. Get you some fantasies, and spend time with There are also options other than going to

yourself. Approach it with curiosity. Don’t

sex shops. There are a lot of sex educators

take yourself too seriously and don’t try to be

putting out great work, like Oh Joy Sex Toy,

super sexy. Be able to laugh at yourself and

Afrosexology, and more, that you can read

allow yourself to enjoy it.

and review to see what resonates. Even if it doesn’t feel sexually pleasurable, it’s a sensation. And you can investigate that.”


MelaNation issue 4

CONSENT by Anynomous

Tracing my sighs onto his neck, fingers separating my lips and any hesitation that was left This is right There is dependency in the kisses he leaves on my chest They can only be sweet on me Pulling away just to take a snapshot of the way his eyes close when I grip his neck Like linen window shades keepin’ in the light I let go Of anything that made me heavy Any hard questions or answers slip away from me Becoming yellow-petalled flowers before hitting the ground His hands are the mold my thighs sit in, His mouth makes the slip Running my universe into his His soil, my stars My sun, his night Eclipsed by latent cravings And the brilliance of sweat Love moves in between the starlight winking in between us as we move like a calm tide And yet, if my mind changes

I can still say no.

/ t s i t r a e / th k r o w r e h e s u m her art of the e he


h on o m (in t the f o sun by

dija a h K

r Car

it was the most passionately you’ve ever held meit was as if you thought it could be the last time

and tonight, we’ll reach a plateau no one can elevate above. and tonight, I’ll cast my weight behind you. and tonight, you won’t stand alone. and tonight, you’ll see your reflection in me. and tonight, my prayers came in the form of you. to laugh with tears that flow like streams. to dance with the energy of radiance. to sing melodies so soothing, kindred spirits meld into one. to be held captive by your own imagination. to rest and relinquish.

echoes of love emerge from the smile in your sunshine. and like clockwork, yet another crusader stops traffic, seeking solace and showing reverence. and as fists crash, they fight and yearn for their daily dose of you. and dimming the circulation of indistinct chatter, your light paints the sky for me. and I’ll never forget the first time I tasted those colors. and my love magnified, creating the most powerful connection there is.


MelaNation issue 4

to be opposite/to be illuminated/to be full

Pleasure is My Birthright by Valerie Onifade sex n' sTUFF


the goddess

by Lauren Lawrence


MelaNation issue 4

the empress by Lauren Lawrence sex n' sTUFF


le thrust thrice I want to please you in any way I can Aaliyah is blasting through my headphones As I reminisce about my first “freak dance” one elementary summer where I chose the flyest outfit from the Slauson Swap Meet in Los Angeles. I had a matching white shirt and jean knee-length skirt with sparkly handprints across my negative –A breasts, my newly developed ass and across my lap.

Did I have hips? Probably not.

I thought I was fine and they thought I was fast Always telling me to cover up What was I covering up? What was I hiding? Sending me to the principal’s office forcing me to change into them

I could (can/want to) make a home out of her I, the fertile land and She, the ocean I’d keep jumping into swimming to the rhythm of her pelvis /thrusts/. She hydrated my skin, my mind, my tongue. Water is revolutionary. Let me show you my BACKSTROKE/// He says, swimming in and out of my pussy, poonani, vagina (what ya’ll calling it nowadays?) Whispering in my air about Assata. Politics get me WET, giving me a sense of intimacy and he knew(knows) exactly what to say. Every time I’m with him, it’s something else. It almost feels as good as the first time. The first time....

stank ass recycled ass

P.E. Clothes I was 6 and they ripped away my presupposed innocence I say presupposed because what the fuck is innocence? What the fuck is purity? Catholic gospels preaching about something my black queer body could never BE I was so ashamed when I started fucking But the more fucked, the more I loved it I mean they don’t teach you this in the church or schools. And my parents never said a damn thing about it. Even at 26 years of age. I was supposed to love fucking? I fucking loved it. I fucking love it. And I fucking loved her on top of my face Juices (are) pouring down my neck


by Nnennaya Amuchie

I Touched myself That was revolutionary. The way I could command my body. Don’t you dare start squirting until I stroke you to do so. Quiet down. !SHOUT! Okay today I want a soft cum, one that will put me to sleep but won’t wake up the neighbors. And tomorrow I want that headache-go-away strain that you give me every time of the month. It is revolutionary. The way I can command my body. The way I can control how I feel, when I feel it, what I feel. It is revolutionary. My body is not a temple. It is a revolution always erupting. Always grasping me at the roots and catapulting me into new horizons. I love it and you better respect it too.



compiled by Darya Nicol, Kinjo Kiema, Samantha Master, and DECRIMNOW

Casa Ruby

Planned Parenthood


Us Helping Us From DECRIMNOW: “Casa Ruby is a DC-based bilingual and multicultural organization that supports queer, trans, gender nonconforming people. The organization provides holistic community support like meals, clothing, legal services, support groups, and emergency housing referrals. Casa Ruby also provides HIV and some STI testing.” From DECRIMNOW: “HIPS believes that those engaged in sex work, sex trade, and drug use should be able to live healthy, self-determined, and self-sufficient lives free from stigma, violence, criminalization, or oppression. HIPS supports sex workers in the DC area through counseling, housing support, syringe access and disposal, and a 24-hour hotline.”

The Qink Conversation From the website: “The Qink Conversation is an educational, sex positive, safe space, that centers queer wom(in) of color.”


MelaNation issue 4 From the website: Planned Parenthood’s mission is “to empower individuals to make independent, informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive lives.” They provide information and health care concerning STDs and STIs, birth control, abortion, and emergency contraceptives. From DECRIMNOW: “Started in the 1980s by a group of gay and bisexual Black men aiming to find community in the wake of the AIDS crisis, Us Helping Us is a service organization that provides HIV/AIDS education and support, mental health care, and a caring community in the DC metro area.

Whitman-Walker Health From DECRIMNOW: “Whitman-Walker Health is a health and wellness provider in DC that has a series of health care centers across the district. Whitman-Walker specializes in transgender and queer health, emphasizes holistic care, and provides health care practices grounded in dignity, respect, and love.”

You deserve health care and support that is respectful and nonjudgmental; that affirms your sexuality, your gender identity, and culture; and that truly supports your wellbeing. A few resources in the DC area are listed below. This list can also be viewed at the website of DECRIMNOW DC, a campaign BYP100 DC participates in to decriminalize sex work and invest in community, at

Secret Pleasures Boutique


DC Abortion Fund

DC Rape Crisis Center

Mary’s Center

Know an organization you would add to the list? From the website: A sex shop within a rowhouse, Secret Pleasures Boutique is an “education focused sex toy shop in Washington DC designed for ppl of all genders and identities to explore their sexuality in a safe and nurturing environment.” The shop also has an online store for convenience and greater accessibility. From the website: “The DC Abortion Fund is an all-volunteer, nonprofit that makes grants to pregnant people in the DC area, as well as those traveling to the area, who cannot afford the full cost of an abortion. DCAF is the only organization in the DC region that focuses solely on providing this service in our community.” From the website: “Mary’s Center, founded in 1988, is a Community Health Center that provides health care, family literacy and social services to individuals whose needs too often go unmet by public and private systems. They provide services regardless of ability to pay.” From the website: “Serving and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL) started in 1984, when local youth service professionals and community activists organized a conference on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth issues. SMYAL provides sexual health information, HIV testing, and support to LGBTQ youth ages 13-24.” From the website: “DCRCC is the oldest and the first rape crisis center in the country, and the only rape crisis center in the District of Columbia that has spent the past 46 years listening to the stories of survivors of sexual assault. In our 46th year, we are working to empower a culture of consent.”

Let us know at and

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“There are things I need to get for myself. I need food, I need shoes, I need a heater for my apartment. These things cost money. I’ve gone to sell sex to make some money, risking my freedom just so I could eat that night.” — Nona Conner, advocate, organizer, and Black trans woman in DC with experience in survival sex work

“Sex Workers have had so many negative experiences with police that we just take what is done to us and keep pushing through. Many of us suffer with PTSD and have been severely traumatized. We don’t like harassment from police or any violence we incur while doing Sex Work, but when Sex Work is all you have, you have no choice.” — Tamika Spellman, advocate, organizer, and Black trans woman in DC with experience in survival sex work

“A percentage of policemen and people out there locking us up, use us. Now think about that.” —Pontianna Ivan, organizer, entertainer, and Black trans woman in DC with experience in survival sex work


MelaNation issue 4

Call to Action This zine is about sex, and we’d be remiss if we

Since sex work is criminalized, sex workers—

didn’t talk about sex work. Sex work includes a

especially Black trans and cis women and gender

variety of professions, like dancing, street-based

nonconforming sex workers—end up getting

work, camming, escorting, and massage. Lots of

arrested and harassed by cops for the things

sex workers in DC are Black trans and cis women,

they need to do to survive. And if they catch

gender nonconforming, and nonbinary people who

charges for working, they face even more

have been marginalized from housing, employment,

obstacles to getting homes, jobs, healthcare, and

healthcare, and more, so they depend on

other resources. Taking away these options makes

informal or underground economies like

sex work even more necessary for them to get by.

sex work to survive. The stigma against sex workers encourages Sex work is criminalized and extremely

violence against them. So many sex workers get

stigmatized in mainstream society. But what’s

raped, stabbed, beaten, stalked, killed, and more.

so wrong with exchanging sex for money? People

And they have no one to report abuse to, since

gotta eat and people gotta have somewhere safe

sometimes the violence is perpetrated by the cops

to stay, period. And people be having sex anyways.

themselves. And when people in the sex trade use

Society tells us we have to work and make money

self-defense to protect themselves against abusers,

to live, and sex work is one job among many that

they’re frequently thrown in prison.

people use to meet their needs. Feels like a set up.

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Some say that sex work is criminalized to target sex

that would actually benefit our communities. We’re

trafficking, but the numbers show that that doesn’t

in the Sex Workers’ Advocates Coalition and the

work. DC police records show that there were 2,582

campaign DECRIMNOW DC, where we fight to

prostitution-related arrests between 2013 and 2017,

remove criminal penalties from sex work in the

and seven were related to trafficking. That’s 0.002%.

District. By decriminalizing sex work, we seek to target one industry in which Black people are

No one in the sex trade is benefited by

exploited and make circumstances safer, more

criminalization. All it does is make it harder for

respectful and supportive.

people in the sex trade to advocate for themselves and meet their needs. Criminalization harms

Violence against Black sex workers is a part of


state oppression against Black women, femmes, and

Black sex workers­ deserve respect,

TLGBTQIA+ people. BYP100 nationally is running the campaign #SheSafeWeSafe to end state violence and gender-based violence against Black people, and

justice, and rights, and none of us

fighting for sex workers is central to this fight.

are free if any of us are left behind.

Black sex workers deserve respect, justice, and rights, and none of us are free if any of us are left behind.

So what would support people in the sex trade?

If Black sex workers are supported and provided

Being able to speak up about abuse and exploitation,

with safety and the autonomy to dictate how they

without fear of getting arrested and targeted by

survive, thrive, and use their labor, this will help us

police. Feeling free to get medical check ups, without

achieve liberation for all Black people. If Black sex

being stigmatized and reported by doctors because

workers are no longer criminalized for actions they

of their profession. Being supported when seeking

take to survive, that would benefit us all.

services. Many Black sex workers have been leaders in social You know what else would support people in the sex

justice movements. Maya Angelou, Endesha Ida Mae

trade? Increasing access to safe and stable homes.

Holland, Malcolm X, Marsha P. Johnson, Janet Mock,

Providing quality and respectful healthcare to

Josephine Baker, and more. They’ve opened a route

everyone, regardless of race, gender, wealth, or

for us to imagine what liberation for all Black people

profession. Having a holistic and uplifting educational

could be like. If they gave you the torch, would you

system. Giving resources to people who need it.

be ready to carry it?

BYP100 DC and our zine, MelaNation, supports decriminalizing sex work and investing in resources


MelaNation issue 4

sign the petition to decriminalize sex work: References “Why decriminalizing sex work is central for gender equity, public health, and racial justice.” Tamika Spellman. 730 DC. 2018.

“#DecrimNow: What media should be telling you about the fight to decriminalize sex work.” DECRIMNOW DC and Media Matters. 2018.

“Not a Cardboard Cut Out: Cyntoia Brown and the Framing of a Victim.” Mariame Kaba, Brit Schulte. The Appeal. 2018.

“Decriminalizing Sex Work Is a Matter of Survival.” Jordan DeLoach. Truthout. 2019.

“‘One of the Most Taboo Conversations’—New Yorkers Push to Decriminalize Sex Work.” Natasha Lennard. The Intercept. 2019.

sex n' sTUFF


MelaNation’s Community Organizing Glossary A short, incomplete list of social justice terms pulled from several resources! This glossary is not comprehensive and is meant to grow and evolve over time. Please email if you’re interested in contributing to the development of MelaNation’s Community Organizing Glossary.

The Black Queer Feminist Lens

identity when we consider how oppression, power,

A Black Queer Feminist Lens allows us to under-

and privilege affect their day-to-day life. (For exam-

stand that our identities make us vulnerable to

ple, please do not just think of a Black queer wom-

multiple types of oppression. Therefore, liberation

an as just Black, or just a woman, or just queer - all

for all Black people can only be realized by lifting

of these identities shape her experience.)

up the voices and experiences of historically silenced and vulnerable groups within Black com-


munities. Specifically, queer, trans*, women, femme,

Actions or involvement as a way to achieve polit-

poor, disabled and undocumented bodies are the

ical goals, sometimes by demonstrations, protests,

ones most vulnerable because they are traditional-

and/or other actions.

ly marginalized groups within already marginalized communities. It is in taking a Black Queer Feminist


lens that one recognizes and humanizes Black

The denial or limiting of a group’s power and

bodies that have been made inferior.

ability to participate fully in society because of their perceived inferiority by the privileged group.


Oppression manifests in social ideologies, institu-

A system or group of people that has influence

tions, and interpersonal interactions.

over human behavior, relationships, and society. Some examples of societal institutions include

Implicit Bias

schools, religious groups, families, and government.

Basically, these are the prejudices that you have about other people or things that you didn’t even



know were there. Implicit biases often favor our

Taking into account every aspect of a person’s

own social group and disfavor other social groups.

MelaNation issue 4

And even if you aren’t aware of them, you could

Gender Expression

still act on them ALL THE TIME.

How you choose to express your gender identity through behavior, clothing, hairstyle, voice, body


characteristics, and more

A sociopolitical construction that gives White people most of the power over people of color.

Transgender A denotation of trans identity that recognizes

Racial and Ethnic Identity

that transgender people are not limited to a male/

The race that someone describes themselves as

female binary or the sex listed on one’s birth

based on their biological heritage, culture,


appearance, and personal experience. Cisgender Patriarchy

When a person’s gender identity is the same as

A type of group, society, or government in which

the sex they were assigned at birth.

men are given power over other genders. Gender Nonconforming and Gender Misogynoir


A combination of the words misogyny, which

Both are gender identities that exist outside of the

describes prejudice against women, and noir, which

male/female gender binary. Those who identify as

is a French word for black. Misogynoir is prejudice

gender nonconforming or nonbinary may or may

and oppression against Black women, and it con-

not also identify under the transgender umbrella.

siders the unique experiences that Black women face because of their racial and gender identities

Asexual People who are asexual experience little to no


sexual attraction. Many people who are asexual

When people are treated poorly, excluded, and/or

pursue romantic relationships, and some do not!

denied goods, services, and resources because they have disabilities.

Bisexual Bisexuality is having attraction to people of your

Gender Identity

own gender, as well as other genders.

Whatever gender you feel represents your inner self, whether you feel that you are a man, a woman,


both, or neither. There are infinite gender

People who are pansexual are attracted to people

identities that someone can identify with.

of any gender identity, and have the potential to

This identity is real, regardless of what sex is listed

be attracted to all or many gender identities and

on someone’s birth certificate.

expressions. (Source: Purdue University)

sex n' sTUFF



Police Brutality

“1. An umbrella term which includes lesbians, gay

When police do too much and abuse the power

men, bisexuals, trans people, intersex persons,

they have (for example, excessive tear gas, sexual

radical sex communities, and many other sexually

abuse, racial profiling, physical intimidation). This

transgressive communities. 2. This term is some-

violence disproportionately targets Black and

times used as a sexual orientation label or gender

Latinx folks.

identity label used to denote a non-heterosexual or cisgender identity without have to define spe-


cifics. 3. A reclaimed word that was formerly used

“Abolition is a political vision with the goal of

solely as a slur but that has been reclaimed by

eliminating imprisonment, policing, and surveillance

some folks in the LGBTQIA community. Neverthe-

and creating lasting alternatives. “

less, a sizable percentage of people to whom this


term might apply still hold ‘queer’ to be a hateful insult, and its use by heterosexual people is often


considered offensive.” (Source: Purdue University)

A person who is a part of a privileged group who actively and consistently engages in dismantling

Sex Work

their privileged status, supporting the interests of

The exchange of money or goods for sexual

an oppressed group that they do not belong to,

services. Sex work is an umbrella term that en-

and facilitates the redistribution of power

compasses many different forms of sexual labor.


We use the term “sex work” to reinforce the idea that sex work is work and to allow for a greater


discussion of labor rights and conditions. Explore

The making of amends for a wrong one has done,

more at

by paying some form of compensatory payment (money, land, public apology, etc) to those who


have been wronged. One example of reparations is

The removal of criminal penalties or consequenc-

the demand for material compensation to be made

es for behavior or activities that were previously

to the descendants of Africans who were enslaved.

deemed “criminal.” Capitalism Legalization

“An economic system in which the means of

The creation of laws or regulations that gives the

production, access to goods and the value of

government or government actors the ability to

goods are controlled by private individuals and

monitor, surveil, and enforce laws that were

corporations.” (Source: Charlene Carruthers)

previously illegal or behaviors that did not formerly have a law.


MelaNation issue 4

Racial Capitalism As theorized by Cedric Robinson, argues that our capitalist system was built and flourished through the exploitation of people through slavery, imperialism, and genocide. (Source: Charlene Carruthers, Unapologetic) Neoliberalism A model of capitalism that operates through the privatization of public goods, deregulation of trade, diminishment of social services, and emphasis on individual freedoms. (Source: Charlene Carruthers, Unapologetic) Reproductive Justice “All people having the social, political, and economic power and resources to make healthy decisions about their gender, bodies, sexuality, and families for themselves and their communities.” “SisterSong defines Reproductive Justice as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” (Source:; Birth Justice “Birth Justice exists when gender non binary, cisgender women and trans folks are empowered during pregnancy, labor, childbirth and postpartum to make healthy decisions for themselves and their babies. Birth Justice is part of a wider movement against reproductive oppression. It aims to dismantle inequalities of race, class, gender and sexuality that lead to negative birth experiences, especially for women of color, low-income women, survivors of violence, immigrant women, queer and trans folks, and women in the Global South.” (Source:

sex n' sTUFF


May 2019

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this issue is dedicated to Ashanti Carmon

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