Engender Zine Summer Special 2020

Page 1

engender summer 2020

a production of the

Visit us in the RMC women.rice.edu facebook.com/RiceWRC

contents “untitled” Derin Okunubi “Ode to the Black Woman’s Body” Morgan Seay “Glass” Jermya Wilson “untitled” KC Nwadei “THE FLINCH” Jolisa Brown “Here I Stand” Jermya Wilson “Black Womxn Warrior” Taylor Crain “My Black” Aanu “Rise” Arielle Noah “Her Prayer”

Bryanah Rideaux

“Why I Hated Black History Month” Jolisa Brown “When a Black Girl Learns She is Black” Katimah Harper “your hair looks great!” alyce simien “N***y Headed” Winnie “TIRED” Shannon Dunwell “I will not be less me” Jazzmyne Rias “Black Monologue” Anonymous “Mind Wandering” Karen Okoroafor “Rice’s Black Students Demand...” Original document by a working group of Black students at Rice University Spread design by Bria Weisz “Of Fate & Misfortune” Arielle Noah “Can you feel color?” Simone Bergsrud

“Made It So” Malaika Bergner “when the rainbow is enuf” alyce simien “History in the Making” Patrick O. Aghadiuno (Pragmatic) “CHAINS” Morgan Seay “Goldheart” Chad Taylor “While I Wait” Karen Okoroafor “Amma” s.r. “Black Woman” Katimah Harper

letter from the editors dear friends, thank you for picking up this special summer edition of


per Alyce’s suggestion, we created this edition in response to the

egregious & systematic murders of members of the Black community — historically, & brought to a cultural reckoning especially this summer. this edition specifically invited the voices of Black women at Rice. we received a total of 29 submissions from dozens of artists, writers, poets, & other creators, making


history. the

works are diverse, varied in voice, subject matter, & form. their tones range from elegiac to celebratory, contemplative to playful, haunting to humorous. this is a time of collective mourning, suffering, & fury. however, we also believe in the infinite potential, beauty, & power of Black women & the Black community. we reflect this belief in the theme, Queens. thank you to our contributors, for sharing your words & your heart. thank you, dear reader, for witnessing these stories. regardless of who you are, we hope you can learn through reading. love, the


2020-2021 editors-in-chief (alyce, bria, & jenny)

Ode to the Black Woman’s Body Morgan Seay

Ode to the black woman’s body mother of all life Obsidian eve in a garden of green your body the bearer of all fruits Like Yemaya a goddess among all Saltwater tears destroying storms of oppression breathing life into black girls, boys yoking them in the protection of your watered womb Your body a temple though Sacrilegious thieves seek to defile, to own to build false gods with porcelain skin and swords of false prophecy but your melanin, a golden diadem adorned in rich histories, customs, and beauty Chronicles no blasphemer could claim black women your body is truth an acknowledgement of both plight And excellence may the gentrifiers bow to your beauty may the world gaze in awe at your presence A blueprint of man A wonder among wonders That is a black woman’s body

“Glass” Jermya Wilson

untitled KC Nwadei Look at you, Black Woman. There you go, Black Woman. Give us a smile, Black Woman. What a Strong, Black Woman, you’re inspiring. I am? We like your style, Black Woman. Wow your hair, Black Woman. Can I do that too, Black Woman? It’d be better on me, Black Woman, I’m sure. You are? Why are you crying, Black Woman? Quit whining, Black Woman.

Why are you yelling, Black Woman?

You sound more like an Angry, Black Woman.

I’m not. Fight for us, Black Woman

Your energy and your time, give it to us, Black Woman. No complaints, Black Woman, That’s your job. It is?

Are my physical and emotional labor, yours to harvest?

I’m fighting a war for myself on all fronts while fight for others too. I’m tired.

Hold it down, Black woman.

Aren’t you a Strong, Black Woman?

You have to fight for love, Black Woman Don’t you want to be loved?

Why do I need to fight and struggle before I’m allowed to get my happy ending?

I’ve got to “hold it down” but it’s more like I’m being pinned down. Why do I need to be kicked down before I’m allowed to stand up?

Ridiculed for everything I am and then suddenly that “everything I am” is what everyone else wants to be. If I speak, then I’m mad. If I cry, then I’m vexed.

If I even just feel, then I’m angry. How am I so supposed to win? Look around. I am the blueprint.

Is this how it feels to be the blueprint?

THE FLINCH Jolisa Brown I remember the first time I truly realized that the world wasn’t completely Black I mean, yea, I’d seen on TV people who didn’t look like me But everyone where I lived in Atlanta, the Black Mecca, had my nose, my frame, my skin, until they didn’t. Until I left my side of town to the side where opportunity lived high school, private, on scholarship, and I learned for the first time to be Black, Meant I was a minorityAn enigma to be explained due to origin from a place other than the Eurocentric majority. Suddenly people didn’t look like me. And I became aware no Black girl seemed to be On either the minds or the “hottest chicks list” on the part of the majority, And it felt like Black guys weren’t really checking for us either. And I became aware Black jokes really were quite hilarious, How we loved chicken, And got affirmative action, And looked like monkeys. And I became aware racism was actually dead, Ended with the gift of sharecropping right after slavery. But I most became aware of this phenomena I call the flinch. It’s this look. This .5 seconds of recoil signaling a deep rooted need, a desire, of flight A discomfort, a social chafing in my Eurocentric conversational counterpart occurring When I say this thing about the recent Black shooting at the hands of police, Or Black incarceration, or Black female social isolation, Or any one of a number of things that for me feels real, inescapable,

Feels relevant, a lived experience that feels bottled. But when I open,

When I talk, the recoil, the discomfort, on the faces of my porcelain skinned acquaintances makes me want to stop. And even if I hold out, Keep chugging With the telling of my truth, They won’t, Switching to the subject of homework Or a class or a party Or any other theme safer than that of my difference, Of my Blackness, how the difference sometimes chafes and how when I talk I feel relief, but my relief to them it chafes, and so I grew silent. I came to Rice, wary ever as always of this phenomena of the flinch. The flinch when I talk about the new movie promoting Afrocentric beauty, Or the flinch when I explain I personally don’t swim because my hair doesn’t like it, Or the flinch when I talk about the stove, the hot comb my family used to straighten to my scalp Trying traditionally to become something I never could quite be, A Eurocentric, bone-straight haired, uncomplicated beauty. And when I came here, to my new college place, ever still I saw this flinchthe one that signaled they wanted to flee. And still I chose to share, and share, and share because even though they still flinched, I found they wanted to share with me. So I share still, and mind the flinch less, and as a result the ever closer we: they- who at first could not understandand I- who for so long had chosen silencemay hope to become.

Here I Stand Jermya Wilson Recording of piece:

Here I stand The sun shines on my face Over the years, I’ve learned my place Here I stand Skin filled with melanin Day after day, I try to blend in Here I stand Gazing into the distance Not one to put up much of a resistance So, here I stand Free spirited Not even close to arrogant Wondering day in and day out If it will ever be safe to open my mouth I speak lightly And, even when I’m angry, politely I can’t be that girl That black girl The one who everyone expects me to be I can’t even be me I do everything right I don’t fight I keep my natural hair tucked away nice and tight I wear baggy clothes God forbid any curves show Because I’m much much more likely to be called a hoe

I can’t have a bad day I can’t have too much to say Voicing my opinion makes me entitled And if anything goes wrong I’m liable Standing for what I believe in makes me angry Which is ridiculous because I told them blatantly I’m just as human as you are A form of God’s art Yet, you judge me for two things that I have absolutely no control over Sorry, did I blow your cover Here I stand Staring at myself in the mirror Hoping that my message was crystal clear Here I stand Leaves blow in the air I play with my curly, coily hair Here I stand Watching the birds be free Unapologetically being me Can you believe it? A woman A black woman Taking a stand

Medium: watercolor and pen Inspired by Lajon39

“Black Womxn Warrior” Taylor Crain

My Black Aanu My black is beautiful A fact indisputable My skin magnificent And my speech significant Flat twists, cornrows, kinky hair, beady beads Box braids, lace-fronts A big ol afro that catches twigs and leaves Or maybe I put my hair in weaves ‘Is that your real hair?’ ‘Is that your real mustache, Claire?’ My black is beautiful And that’s not refutable Go ahead and talk smack But prepare yourself for the attack Because I will always defend my black My black voice, ‘proper’ or ebonic Whether I wear a suit or a silk bonnet Or both. My black is valuable. Now and forever, always fashionable. But not for you to appropriate. Stealing from the very people with whom you refuse to associate. No. My black is for me, and only me, to wear. And I’m sorry if that’s something that you can’t bear.

Hm. My black voice is strong. If you thought you could suppress it, you were wrong. My words hold weight and I will spew them without shame And if you think I’m loud or intimidating, maybe that’s the aim Because when you come after me, somehow I’m still the one to blame? Mhh. My black is so versatile It comes in every shape, size, and style So maybe my black is slim, slim-slim, thick, thick-thick, or slim-thick Or maybe my black is built like a brick. Hey. Maybe my black likes STEM and wants to be a mathematician Or maybe my black is into cosmetics and wants to be a beautician Maybe my black is ashy, in need of some Vaseline Or maybe my black is classy Or maybe you think my black dresses trashy Maybe my black has an attitude, shows no sense of gratitude Maybe you think my black is straight up rude Or maybe my black is polite Maybe my black talks ‘white’ Maybe my black listens to music that you don’t really like… And loudly. Maybe my black is light-skinned, dark-skinned, or somewhere in between Regardless, my black is royalty and I am a queen But what if...what if my black is really light or what if my black is ebony See, it doesn’t even matter because you don’t define what my black should be

My black is its own personal entity You don’t really have to like it; you don’t even have to agree I’ll always be boldly black and that’s the absolute tea My black is unapologetic And absolutely unsympathetic To the ones who refuse to recognize that My black is what I make it, And it doesn’t have to conform, it doesn’t have to fit To You. See, my black is real, my black is genetic. The black blood pulses through my veins The blood of my ancestors, who were beaten, put in chains. But that’s a different poem. My black is never synthetic Even if my hair is It is not an aesthetic That you use and throw away. My black IS magnetic, But understand, that it is not your fetish My black is beautiful Whether or not you find it suitable Or tasteful or palatable Genetic. Unapologetic. Unsympathetic. At the end of the day, In all its iterations and forms, My black is a song. My black is poetic.

Rise Arielle Noah

She has risen From the mud Watered by the cries Of those before. She has risen Like a cacao tree Reaching towards The loa she once knew. She has risen Picking herself up When no one else would. She has risen Glowing ebony from the ashes.

A black woman feels the weight of the world which is unjustly placed upon her to bear. Sometimes God is the only one she can turn to. “Her Prayer� Bryanah Rideaux

Why I Hated Black History Month Jolisa Brown

Every Black history month as a kid- 8,9 years old- I dreaded as I knew I would be force-fed storylines too unpleasant to discuss in politics society, Tales of gore and slavery, Of mothers dragged from babies kicking and screaming, Of brothers slayed trying to protect their sisters honor, Or of the shells left behind when people were too hollowed to care Of war rages between tribes who at the time knew no better, Of Hutu against Tootsie genocides unmeddled in by the supposedly civilized who sewed the lies that the shape of a nose made one group better than As a kid I hated Black history month And watching the endless licks inflicted on my brethren generations past, The documentaries like Roots the sole testimony of the pain they’d lived and us the Blacks The sole tasked with propagating our ancestors’ tales by word of mouth, Trudging down the stairs to the puke red couch I felt a weight of a lineage I preferred never to think about, And it made me scared, My dreams the night following riddled with nightmares Of the white man who hated me enough to shackle my neck to my arms to my legs And place me in a 3 by 8 compartment for a journey thousands of kilometers across blue sea Never asking if I got motion sickness Or if the smell of feces made me wanna throw up Or if shackles made me wanna die Or if I wanted his sweat on my body at night, As a kid I hated Black history month Bcuz all the while as I nestled under my dad’s arm And I cried and I begged to just this year not watch Kentakunte swear he’d never be called Toby

Nestled safely under my dad’s arm a cold grimace seized his face And an unyielding roar bellowed from within him that this history I couldn’t escape, Not without being doomed to repeat it, I certainly hoped not. As a kid I hated Black history month But ten years later in an all White history class I can tell my teacher that No Share croppers didn’t have it good And no masters didn’t have immense love for their slaves Even if they taught them to read the Bible, And I can swallow my traumatic rage enough to articulate how they are wrong Instead of feeling it burn hot and anonymous inside me with no selfknowledge to proclaim or conduit to explain As a kid I hated Black history month, The idea that maybe from some things my parents couldn’t protect me, That anyone with enough guns could come and rip me from my home And my parents would have to watch at the edge of a barrel as I was molested sold, Stripped of my clothes and my name and my home, And I couldn’t understand, I must’ve asked maybe twice why the lynchings in the 60s went on with white cops in the crowd And still in years to come I would not understand Until one day I would When reading Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry When the Black boy is found hiding inside his mother’s shop in 1916 And they drag him away and beat him bloodied and hang him dead In the sixth grade I would learn that sometimes hate is just too strong to defeat

For centuries our ancestors’ cries, our pleas just weren’t enough, Abolitionists thanks for saving us from the mess your people embedded, Though your hatred and prejudice still persisted generations to come, Thanks to us the Blacks for coming out in the end, Delayed start but steady stride to catch up to them But most importantly thanks to Ava DuVernay and James Baldwin for creating documentaries For other young black girls, like me, to watch during every African American History Month But thanks to me still for learning, our history, untold by Eurocentric narrations Did not begin and end with oppression, with highlights of White liberation, But rather, has roots as the first people ever to walk the sands of Pangea, Of Lucy, of the pyramids- still a marvel unexplainedOf invention- Katherin Johnson, Otis Boykin, Charles Drew- , Of hope and brilliance.

When a Black Girl Learns She is Black Katimah Harper When a black girl learns that she is black it will be at the swimming pool.

Clad in her flesh colored swimsuit they will ask her if she can’t swim because she’s afraid of the way

her hair will curl at the slightest drop of water. She will laugh with them as if this is true, as if something as trivial as her hair coul

replace the deep rooted fear of drowning

under their distaste, or simply drowning. When a black girl learns that she is blac it will be in a silent classroom.

It will be a cold February morning when the teachers feel obligated to share the stories of slaves long forgotten to them.

The black kids will filter to the back of the room

away from white eyes that have learned to erase black death with every disinterested blink.

She will feel as if she is hanging from a noose herself -a bloated body swinging in tandem to conflicted

thoughts about who to hate more: the white people who terrorized her distant kin, or those distant kin themselves whose memory clings to her still.

When a black girl learns she is black

it will be in the confines of her bathroom. She will lock the doors and prick herself with

needles to see the blood underneath her skin and wonder why this color isn’t enough for her to matter.

In the shower she will rub her skin raw until the layers peel off her bones and she is left with nothing but a feeling of being empty, but at least not black...

When a black girl learns that she is black it will be in her family’s embrace.

Despite being worn down by the ridicule they face when they return from summer shades darker or

a slip of the tongue transforms the English language into something “broken,” they will continue to

hold their head high, and teach her to do the same. She will feel ashamed for the nights she clawed

at her existence with the same hands that were held by her parents, who loved as if their backs had never

been broken by hard labor, and her sisters, who smiled

as if they had never been told that black girls aren’t pretty. When a Black girl learns that she is Black

it will be the same day that she learns how to swim.

“your hair looks great!” alyce simien

N***y Headed Winnie

Where is my twist cream?​​It was just here!

“Moooooommm, did you take my avocado twist cream,” I yell to the other side of the house. “Sage, baby, why are you yelling, its too early for alla that” my mother questions as she walks into my room and hands me the jar of cream. Of course, she​​has it! She continues to take all my products. This is my first time wearing a twist out to school, and she wants to go grabbing at my products again. “Nevermind, momma, I’m just tryna get ready for school.” My mom rolls her eyes and exits the room to continue getting ready for work. I open the jar of cream and swipe some into my palm and rake it through a few strands that weren’t curling the way I wanted. My lovely, hair product stealing mother has had locs since I was born, so she’s never been one to have to fuss with her hair a lot. When I was younger she loved to send me to the hairdresser and let someone else deal with my coily hair. Many times, I would sit on the salon chair, and let the hair lady who’s name I did not know take a hot comb to my head. I would squirm and wince when the hot comb hit my scalp, and she’d simply say “beauty is pain.” Now that I’m 15 and I have a bit more autonomy over my hair. I’ve been wearing a lot of protective styles to let my hair grow out all the years of heat damage from the hot comb. Bouncing in between box braids and passion twists, just trying to let my hair recover, and see what my mom and the hairdresser were trying to hide from me. The kinks and coils that they claim were just so “difficult” to maintain. Finally, I think my hair has recovered for me to wear a nice twist out to school. I can show everyone at school how cool my natural hair can be. I stare into the mirror at my voluminous hair. A dark, curly cloud surrounding my brown face.

The twist out came out great. My hair is adhering to the pretty curl pattern, and there’s no crazy fly aways. Yet, I still fear how people will react. Will the kids at school like it? Is it too wild? Should I pin some of it back? Maybe I should redo my edges? Is it too...nappy? I walk away from the mirror and pack up my backpack. I search for some extra clips and bobby pins to pack in case I want to put my hair up later. I double check my room to see if I’ve left anything. The mirror calls to me, and I run over to check my hair a final time.

I look good, I need to stop worrying.

My momma calls for me to hurry up and grab a snack and head to the bus stop. I walk to the kitchen to find the twins, Reed and Ivy, enjoying some toast and fruit at the kitchen table. Reed looks up to me, and I can feel his stare. He’s staring at my hair. I grab a banana from the fruit bowl, and heading towards the door, hoping to avoid a conversation about my hair. I’m not fast enough. “Sage, your hair looks weird today,” Reed proclaims right before taking another bite of his toast. I turn around, and prepare to say something witty back, but nothing comes out. Maybe, a twist out is just too out there for me. Maybe my nappy hair was meant to be hidden. Ivy steps in for me. “Shut up dummy! You look weird everyday, so whats your excuse?!? Reed is embarrassed. “Moooooommmmaaaa! Ivy called me a dummy.”

My mom is not having it. “Y’all are 10 years old, settle it yourselves.”

I look to the kitchen clock, and see I need to hustle if I wanna catch the school bus. I walk out the door, and start walking the 5 blocks to the bus stop. As I’m walking, I see Harry, a white boy in my class, jogging towards me. We’ve talked no more than 5 times, despite living in the same neighborhood and attending the same school for the past 2 years. Harry catches up to me. “Hi Sage! I saw you walking and I wanted to come tell you I love your hair! Its so different and cool and black Panther-y.”

I cringe and mildly grind my teeth.

Black Panther-y??!! Someone please explain to me what that means.

“Thanks Harry, that was nice of you to say.” I put on smile and hope we reach the bus stop before he can say something else.

We continue walking in a comfortable silence until---

“Hey Sage, can I touch your ha---”

A rage surges through me. “No!”

His hand is already centimeters from my curls before he quickly realizes that is not the way to go, and quickly pulls his hand back. mad.”

Harry blushes and looks down. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you

I take a deep breath and try to stay calm and collected. I am not gonna let this boy see me sweat. “I’m not mad, Harry. It would just be best if you didn’t touch my hair. It could really mess it up.” I smile at him to reassure him that I’m not mad, while on the inside I want to kick him in the shins. We arrive at the bus stop, right as it pulls up. Seven other students are already lined up to get on the bus. We file on the bus quickly. Once I make it on the bus, I search for my best friend Jade. I quickly spot her long, curly hair sitting in a seat by herself. I plop down beside her, and scare her. “Ah! Sage, don’t do that!” Jade being her dramatic self, starts to pout. I laugh at her ridiculousness, as she then starts to take in my appearance, mainly my hair. “Sage! Your hair it’s so big and beautiful! Look at you and all your nappy headed greatness. I love it.” She laughs and gushes over my hair. But my mind is stuck on that word. The n-word. Nappy. Jade’s mom is from Puerto Rico, and her dad is from New Orleans, resulting in a very loose, manageable, and desirable curl pattern. No one’s ever called her hair “nappy” and they probably never will. I try not to take offense to it, but the word has always been associated with black hair being ugly and difficult.

But my hair is beautiful. I know that, and everyone is telling me

that. So why don’t I feel that way? I ignore the feelings of doubt, and continue chatting with Jade the rest of the bus ride. We get off the bus, and head to our first class of the day, English with Mrs. Weathers. We arrive to class and take our assigned seats. I’m just getting settled when Mrs. Weathers walks up to me. Mrs. Weathers is one of the only black female teachers at our school. In fact, she is of 5 black teachers in our entire high school. She is also the faculty advisor of the book club, which Jade and I are in. She often has us read books by authors of color. “Sage, I just wanted to come tell you I love your hair. Very cute twist out, almost makes me want grow my hair out,” Mrs. Weathers gushes as she reaches to touch her own tiny afro that she always keeps short. The compliment makes me smile ear to ear. “Thank you Mrs. Weathers, I really appreciate that.” “The natural hair movement is really growing, and I’m so happy to see you embracing all your naps and curls.” She gives me a big smile and turns to walk away.

“Mrs. Weathers?”

“Yes, Sage?”

“You love your hair, even though sometimes it can be difficult and... uhh...I guess nappy?” “Why yes I do, I love my hair naps and all. It’s my hair, and I love every stand that grows out out of my head for what it is. Nappy headed and proud.”

Nappy headed and proud.

“TIRED” Shannon Dunwell

I will not be less me Jazzmyne Rias I heard an amazing poet say I will not be less me so that you could be more comfortable being more you Do not ask me to turn that down so that your life can make more sense See over 19 years ago, on December 15th, a “white” baby came out of a Black woman The doctor laughed and made jokes instead of admitting that all of his years in medical school did not prepare him for that. Albinism- genetic condition characterized by lack of melanin and vision impairments See, I can tell you about it now, answer any questions that you may have But 6 year old me knew the word but not the meaning She cried to herself after kids would point to their skin and say this is what Blackness looks like. You are white 8 year old me would just tell people she was mixed. She was tired of arguing with people 12 year old me let people believe she was white. She was tired of having the conversation. But 16 year old me decided to go natural. Before then, I did not realize how much I cared about other people’s opinions how much I hid behind my straight blonde hair and proper sounding voice how much I let other people‘s ignorance stop me from loving myself. The longer I wore my natural hair, the more I loved it the more I loved myself.

But there were also more people that thought they knew more about my skin, my hair, my life, thought they knew more about who I was supposed to be than I did. They tried to break me down for being different But I learned a long time ago that people make fun of you because they aren’t happy with themselves I know I have weird white eyebrows but it matches my weird personality I may not be able to see well, but I can see through your lies You may not like who you are, but I love who I am Do not ask me to turn that down so that your life can make more sense

Black Monologue Anonymous My mother is Vietnamese, and my father is Afro Caribbean, so I am, exactly, half black. I am here to dissect the layers of my experience as a black individual. So I think the first question, the first pervasive question in my life, for me, especially when I saw the challenge to write about my “black experience” was simple: am I black enough? How much black does it take, anyway? What is the percentage, the tone, the shade, how many “growing up black” jokes do I have to relate to, how many songs do I need to know? Do I have a black experience? Am I black enough? And to add another layer, what does it mean that I grew up around exclusively white people? Did they dilute my blackness? Am I less black by association or am I still, beyond it all, regardless of how much time I have spent around other black people or how much my skin has been in the sun, black? Am I good enough, dark enough, black enough for my story to be worth sharing? Have I faced enough racism to be black? Is that the measure of our worth, the number of people who have tried to negate it? But as I think on it I realize that this feeling, this question of “am I good enough to claim my blackness” is not a purely light skinned anxiety. This fear of even being able to claim your black identity, no matter how much your physical skin color betrays you, resides in all of us. Because an attitude has been impressed upon us that there is a level of adequacy we have to attain to be affirmed as an African American. Either you pass that test or you fall through the cracks and you’re not a strong beautiful black king or queen anymore, now you’re just a nigger. Because we have to be so brilliant to be black, so unfairly exceptional and so, so palatable. We have to be all these things to be black, because black people are not allowed to just be. So I think this question of “am I black enough” is actually deeper than that. It’s not just “am I black enough?” it’s “am I excellent enough to be the black person you have to be in this society to get half the respect a white person gets for doing nothing?”

Because there is this feeling that if I am going to claim to be black that I am now a martyr, ready to absorb all the white questions and queries and concerns. There is a feeling that if I am going to claim to be black that I have to understand all the delicacies of racism in this country, and be able to talk down a racist in under a minute. There is a feeling that being black means I have all the answers and all the stats and that I know all numbers that prove the racism of the police force and the racism of the prison system and that if I am going to claim to be black, I am a beacon and a representative for every black person that every white person I encounter will ever meet. There is this feeling that if you are going to go out there and say you are black, you had better not fuck it up. You had better not prove them right. Again. So in a way I think that this question of “am I black enough” is actually a very black question indeed. Recently I have seen an upthrust of people trying to shed light on light skin privilege. Check your light skin privilege, acknowledge your light skin privilege, and so on and so forth and I think it’s so funny that people of my approximate shade don’t realize or don’t want to admit to the privilege they have due to their shade. Because for me, as I agonize over this question of am I black enough for the black community here at Rice or here in the world, one fact is so clear. There is a community for which I have always been and always will be exactly black enough for: men. Before this phenomenon began in earnest I recognized it and hated it. Because I am just black enough for men who want to bring a black woman home (either black men who want to prove they haven’t bought into white beauty standards or non black men who want to prove they aren’t racist) but simultaneously are convinced that blackness is an ugly quality in a woman. Which is in of itself such an ugly fact. But for that unfortunately large group of men, I am so perfect. Because I am black, but I don’t look that black. I am such a diluted black woman. Just black enough to be black, but just not black enough to be attractive to men who have bought into the Eurocentric beauty standards of their oppressors. Palatable. It all comes back to palatable. Being half black instead of full? The media likes that. Men like that. My white friends from high school that are self-proclaimed affectees of “jungle fever” and who say that because of my lips I remind them of a “sexy fish” (and yes that is a verbatim quote: sexy fish) they like that.

My light skin privilege is something that has had a distinct presence in my life long before I even had a name for it. And it’s so funny because people think that these “woke” ideas of these nuanced concepts like light skin privilege are made up by a tumblr or twitter generation, but as a kid, before those media platforms existed and before anyone had explained to me the concept of the idea of the idea of fetishization, I knew I was being fetishized. For me that feeling is ancient. So being black for me has inextricably been linked to my light skin privilege but also the fetishization that it comes with it. And so I live this paralyzing place where I know that I, as I am at first glance, sexy fish lips and distinctly moderate skin tone and all, am palatable. But only as long as I keep my mouth shut. So what do I say? What can I say to the sexy fish incident and the jungle fever incident and many others? The same thing I keep saying, over and over and over again. Nothing. Because for me an integral part of my black experience has been and continues to be silence. And I think a big part of this whole issue, this whole struggle I have dragging out throughout this monologue, the struggle of locating and dissecting my black identity comes from the fact that for me, for most of my life, the black part of my identity was synonymous with the silent. For me, to be black was to be the one that had to be quiet and look down when issues of race were mentioned. And of course for most black people that isn’t an option, because their darkness puts them at the forefront. And I’m not proud of it. But as a kid growing up in a white world, it is so much easier to be ambiguous, to be mixed, to be lightskinned, to be “what are you?” or “where are your parents from” than it is to be black. And growing up in a home that wasn’t big on black power, or my roots, or anything of this sort, it was natural for me to carefully prune my blackness into something that my white peers could easily consume and identify. Many times that easy identification meant I was making my blackness into a joke. Most of the time that meant I was pruning it into nothing at all. And sometimes I think that I wouldn’t have this problem if I had grown up in a family that was more invested in instilling a backstory and a culture into me, if I hadn’t grown up in such white surroundings. Maybe I wouldn’t be afraid to speak and to be as a black individual if I knew exactly where I came from and exactly who I was and exactly what legacy I was carrying on.

And again, it is easy for me to think that that this phenomenon is related to my self-perceived black dilution that my Asian side and my white surroundings instilled in me. But I have realized that I am not alone in this, this feeling of alienation from my roots and from who my black self is. Because aren’t we all, by definition as black Americans alienated? Weren’t we all reduced, long ago to tourists in our own native lands? Maybe as black people, especially those who grew up and reside in predominantly white areas, we have a shared lack of identity. We all tend the same missing space where our lineage was stolen from us. But are we not still black? If we are black but without our people, without our culture, without this upbringing that taught us our rich history and about how that should and does carry forward into our life today, then what is our, what is my black identity? What does it mean, at its core, to be black? What does it fundamentally mean to be black? Slowly but surely, I’m finding the answers. Whether or not we know our African country, whether or not we grew up around black people or white people, whether or not we look black upon first glance, regardless of the numerous nuances and experiences and intersections that make up the many layers of each and every one of our black identities, we have a strength. It’s the strength that looks back at who I was in high school and knows that next time I won’t be quiet and complicit, that I will be stronger. It’s the strength that lets me know that none of the negative external consequences of my blackness will be allowed to define me. It’s the strength that my ancestors had, whether I can point to their origin place on a map or not. It’s a strength that can only be black. My mother is Vietnamese, and my father is Afro Caribbean, and I am, exactly, black.

Mind Wandering Karen Okoroafor Daybreak––I’m alarmed and unmoving The noise makes no difference this time I wake to my eyes unopened Fighting the darkness of morning This spans till my feet meet the floor Months ago I had eaten by now Time took the spring in my everything Letting want grow into its place I walk as it still seems the evening Quicker pace out of my reach Reason out of resolution Needing but not knowing what Noon––I walk where required Days pass and I know the ground better Gut dictates every movement Leading with no destination I walk till I stop leaning forward All straightens when I am upright All seems to change just as I do Bending toward feeling and will I fold in half at my center My thoughts travel only downhill Where instinct lives in isolation Resting in arrogant power Evening––my head and my feet meet Mattress their common terrain Accustomed to cloudy surroundings Seeking desensitization

They talk till the words are uneasy Then simply ignore one another Unbothered by constant stagnation Growing distant and waning in function Each wakes at the sight of the mind Shadowed in the dark of unknowing Adjacent and presently absent Disturbing the ignorant peace It mumbles a word incoherent And gestures that they better follow Drifting them all to a mirror It points to itself in defeat Turning away it would wander Facing reflection would stop Time and again it remembered And time and again it would not Suppose someone listens to the word but doesn’t do what it says. Then they are like a person who looks at their face in a mirror. After looking at themselves, they leave. And right away they forget what they look like.​(James 1:23-24 NIRV)

See the end of the zine for more details about these demands.

Layout: Bria Weisz

Of Fate & Misfortune Arielle Noah Serendipity is a curious force. It moves people from where they are to somewhere unimaginable, unfathomable to the human psyche. The same is said for misfortune. A rich man becomes poor, his wife miscarries, and their enemy prospers. Typical. Just another round on the wheel of fate. But, fate is not a manless contraption that whips us into shape. Sadie knows better. At least that is what the white man now calls her. She lays on the rotten wooden planks in the underbelly of her new ​Oku Mmuo*​, counting. It’s when she reaches three that the ship violently jerks, clinking the chains and throwing the stench of death. Her iron eyes flicker down to her husband; no, no longer husband. He is simply another face among the countless Black bodies, oscillating with the waves. The eerie depths of the ocean below was now home to the lost bones of brothers, sisters, loved ones. Discarded to the deep, wretched abyss of the Atlantic. The sheer terror of her disastrous circumstances bewildered her. The gears of the universe were not supposed to turn in this manner. Sadie closed her eyes. For just one moment, the feeling of unease left her body and the once unsteady ship grew calm; she was left with nothing but her thoughts. Behind the imprisoning ship, the sun was just beginning to set. It descended out of the sky with such grace until all that was left was a fleeting glimpse of yellow and orange. Up above, a flock of blackpoll warblers passed by, patiently flapping their wings and catching as much air as possible. Their three-day journey across the Atlantic had just begun. The only difference between Sadie and the warblers that had now faded in the distance was that one migration was voluntary and the other was not. It was a heist, fueled by hatred and greed; it was never supposed to be this way. I remember the first time she arrived. I was on the coast, fishing. The balanced spear in my hand felt smooth in my grasp. The dinghy stilled as I saw a silver flicker below the water. Spear ready, the sun rising. Her hand shot up through the surface, raining water like opalescent jewels. My first thought was not fear, but recognition. A deep-seated remembrance of something lost but never gained. Slowly, methodically, like a cobra tempted by a flute, she rose from the depths until she stood in her own ethereality.

The waves beneath her feet churned, sloshing against the hull. The tiller in my hand began to tremble, as the waves began to radiate shades of azure. Her long black hair stretched past her waist, highlighting the red and white beads that were strewn in her hair. Her breasts were decorated with the bones and shells of a goddess that became her protective armament. I looked up, into murky eyes that painted the truths of her primordial being. My mouth opened but only silence slipped out. “Do you know who calls you, akwadaa**?” Her voice resonated like thunder dancing with the sea. I nodded; this woman, no deity, could only be Mami Wata***. “Well then, would you like to see?” She offered her hand and when I accepted, her eyes became clear. A mirror of time itself. The smell of saltwater left my nose, replaced by the saccharine scent of hibiscus. Rough waters became a mellifluous stream and the rising sun replaced by a waning moon. I spoke for the first time but I sounded far away, like the ghost of myself. “Where are we?” I could not see Mami Wata, I could feel her. “In your realm; all of this you have created. I simply put it together for you to see.” I felt a kick in my stomach and my hand instinctively went to rub my full belly. “Am I with a child?” By the time I looked up, Mami Wata was already gone. I was left to myself, but there was a warmth inside that felt comforting. Floating down the stream, the humidity cooled on my hot skin. Bangles lined my wrist, embedded with diamonds. My hands rose to my head and I could feel my silken braids bedecked with cowrie shells and these tiny beads of white and red. In contrast with my dark complexion, the beads were unmistakable. They were the same ones that Mami Wata adorned. My old skirt had been replaced with beautiful kente cloth, a luxury that was foreign to me. I felt the same, but everything was different. I was never told that all of this would happen. “Yere****? Is that you?” The reeds folded under the weight of a frantic man. I called back to the man and eventually, he found me downstream and climbed in the boat. “I have been calling to you for hours, where have you been?” I was unsure of the man who sat in front of me. His head was shaved and gold rings covered his neck. His tarnished clothes were replaced with deep purples, blues, greens, those of a rich man. “Who are you?” I asked beguiled by his fineries. “Me Yere, have you hit your head? We must invite the medicine man to check on you. I

would not want you or our child to be in danger.” His voice sounded familiar, his face was the same one she laid eyes on six years ago. He was my husband, I was sure of that, but he held a new sense of nobility and wealth. “I am fine, it must be the moon that has me shaken.” I looked up at the moon in all its pallor. It had shifted, illuminating our home on the bank of the stream. What was once a dismal hut made of rammed earth and palm roofing, was now much grander, at least for our standards. The structure now had windows and what appeared to be identifiable rooms. The palm roofing was replaced by wood, and the rammed earth was substituted for fired mud brick. I looked back at him, with a newfound smile on my face, “where have you been?” I asked him. He turned to me and said, “I’d just been at home waiting for you to get back, when a strange woman came to greet me at the doorstep.” Automatically, I wondered who this woman was. My husband, Kwame, had always been faithful, but I knew there were women who would try and tempt him. “What did she want?” I asked. His voice was quiet at first, “It seemed like nothing, she carried a sack and a bundle of papers.” I listened attentively as he went on, “her greeting turned into ramblings of fate and fortune, and by the time our conversation ended, I signed this paper that promised us a better life.” He paused for a second, looking down at the ground for what he was about to say.“I’m not sure exactly how it got to that point to be honest, I got distracted by her eyes and these white and red beads that were dangling from her ears.” My interest peaked when he mentioned the red and white beads, it was oddly familiar. Too familiar. I glanced down at my stomach. Just as I thought, all I could see was red and white. At this moment I knew he had met Mami Wata as well. “Well, what did you promise her, what did you sign away?” His face widened with the look of amusement. “Nothing really Yere, she wanted me to be loyal to her, but I figured I just needed to do what she wanted to hear.” He held up his hand, and there was a tiny cut that looked like it had nearly healed on his palm. “What happened?” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small blade, its handle was encrusted with gold and diamonds lined the center of the grip. “She wanted a contract forged in blood, she handed me the blade. I cut my skin. Signed the paper, and in an instant she was gone and everything changed around me.”

From the banks of the stream, Sadie and her husband made their way back to their home. A carved wooden bed stood in the room they slept in. Exhausted, they undressed and bathed themselves. Dipping a cloth into a water-filled bucket, Kwame looked at his beautiful wife. He scrubbed her back with the damp cloth, wiping away the dirt and grime from the day. There was a block of soap made of animal fat and geranium which he worked into a lather. When Sadie was satisfied, she repeated the process for him. They dried off and laid in bed. They slept together as a husband and wife would, their hearts beating as one, and their bodies interlocking. Sadie felt the warmth in her stomach again, reminded of the oddities of the day. She admired the feeling though, embraced it rather. The night sky was pitch black and the hot day had been replaced by a cool night. The breeze rustled the trees outside. Things were okay, better than ok actually, but most importantly—they were together. This was the last time they laid together. When the morning came they were a woken to screams, the piercing voices of the villagers that lived nearby. They got up and darted outside. Smoke wafted in tendrils behind the tree line. They watched a Black body run out of the forested area that was near their home. Three men trailed closely behind, their skin a close match to the ivory tusks of the native elephants. They were not from here. They caught up to him with ease and he was thrown to the ground, his Black body meeting the hard earth. He was bound and shackled and carried away like property. If only they knew what was really happening. A branch snapped behind Sadie and Kwame, startling them as they turned around to see what caused the noise. Their eyes fell upon a friend, Ayobami. She fell to the floor in front of them, and all you could see was crimson pouring out of her back. She looked up at them, and you could see the pain in her face. Ever so softly she opened her mouth, and all she said was “run” before her face met the dirt and she was dead.They listened to their friend, and ran. They pumped their arms as fast as they could, making their way down the stream. The voice of a foreign tongue trailed behind them. It grew louder and louder as more voices filled the air. Sadie’s husband turned around and spotted the white men that weren’t too far behind now. “I love you Yere” he called out. “Don’t stop running until you can’t anymore, and when you feel like you can’t, keep going!” He stopped in his tracks and she turned around

to face him. Their eyes met and Sadie screamed out “ I love you Kwame.” She knew this may be the last time she would see him, but she had to keep going. She had to fight for him and herself and her child. Kwame ran in the opposite direction, distracting the men from his wife. He ran until the hard ground below him turned soft from the water that had leaked from the stream. Most of the men were trailing him, only two kept after Sadie. Having looked back to see where she was, Kwame didn’t see that the ground in front of him caved in. His foot struck the hole and he tripped. He hit the ground and the water that had puddled in front of him. The water had a calming effect and for a second the chase seemed to stop and the men were no longer after him. “Loyalty is all I asked for, young one.” The voice came from nowhere, there was no one around, but he knew the voice. It was unmistakable. The puddle he had fallen in became a mirror, and the face of Mami Wata appeared in the reflection. “You signed an agreement, one as ancient as I am, and you decide to break it? I gave your wife a child and all the riches you two could desire, for one small price, yet you still decide to sleep with her, to spoil her sanctitude and the growing life inside her.” Kwame’s voice began to tremble, “I didn’t know that’s what you were asking of me. I never would have made that mistake if I had known.” Her eyes hardened, “it is too late for you now young one, your efforts are futile, and you will have to suffer the consequences. I am a generous being, but I am not one to be betrayed.” Just like that, the mirror shattered and melted away into the murky water. Kwame tried to get up. He had been left with nothing, and the slavers were just a few paces away. He stood up and turned to them. He would not kneel, not now. His head turned towards the sky, he outstretched his arms and pleaded, “Oputa Obie***** help me.” When Sadie saw her husband again, he was not the same. She had been intercepted by another group of slave catchers that were rounding up her people like prey. They shackled her hands and feet, and a collar was fixed to her throat. They were forced to march through the day towards the coast. She didn’t know where they were going or who the people were around her.

They were all Black, but they spoke in different languages that were unknown to her. Sadie and the other captives didn’t stop marching until they reached the coastline where an enormous vessel floated in the ocean. Everyone around her was in shock. Kids had been lost and families had been separated. Not everyone made it to the ship. The elderly were the first to give out. Eventually they couldn’t move anymore when their tired feet became heavy anchors. They were unbound, killed, and tossed to the side as dead weight. Those who were strong made it to the ship, although dying may have been a better option. The entryway was gigantic. There were multiple levels on the inside, with about five feet in between. Some had less room than others. It didn’t really matter though because they were packed in so tightly. Sadie and the rest of the captives were chained up in the lower levels of the ship. Their hands were bound but they were able to move, however slightly. Kwame’s call was quiet at first, but eventually she picked up on it. “Kwame is that you?” She cried out to him, but didn’t hear anything back. She tried to find him, looking at everyone she could trying to recognize a part of her beloved. The search was tiring, as she tried to move around in the tiny space she had, crawling over bodies, both alive and dead. At the corner of the floor she was trapped on, she saw something promising. The broad back of a man leaning against the wall. His back was littered with lashings, the marks were red and tender, and they looked infected. She got closer to him and called his name again, “Kwame, Kwame, Kwame, is that you?” He was still at first but he began to turn around. He looked at her, and all she could do was cry. The tears on her face cut through the dirt, and in a second she was right by his side. Sadie reached up to touch his face. She could tell he was in pain, and all she wanted to do was comfort him. His eyes met her gaze, “you stopped running Yere?” She placed her hand on his chest, “I promise I didn’t stop until I couldn’t run anymore, and by then another group of them had ambushed me.” “I’m so sorry my love” she exclaimed. “I don’t know why this is happening, but we will make it through together.” She pulled him in close, she knew he wasn’t going to make it, not in this condition. She kissed him on the forehead and didn’t let go. Not for awhile. She could feel his breathing was beginning to slow.

“I’ll see you on the other side Yere.” He mumbled the statement with his whole being, and with that he took his last breath, and was united with the great Oputa Obie above. Sadie looked down at her beloved, and closed his lifeless eyes. “Your death will not be purposeless, I promise you that. There is life growing inside of me. He will know your name, and he will do many great things, as he will be known as Kwame.” Sadie pulled him in close, and whispered in his ear. “When we see the light, we will honor you, that I promise, that I know, and when he is old enough I will tell him our story, and the story of our people.” Sadie didn’t let go of Kwade, not until she was lulled into sleep by the most beautiful voice. The voice sang her a song, it was unfamiliar, but timeless. Ancient. “Go to sleep akwaada, let your worries melt away. Everything will be ok, Mami’s got you.”

*​Oku Mmuo​- Translates to hell in Igbo: Igbo is a Nigerian dialect. **Akwadda- Sweetheart originating from the Niger–Congo Atlantic– Congo Kwa Potou–Tano Tano Central Tano Akan Twi ***Mami Wata-​a water spirit venerated in West, Central, and Southern Africa ****Yere- A term of endearment originating from the Niger–Congo Atlantic–Congo Kwa Potou–Tano Tano Central Tano Akan Twi *****​Oputa Obie- One who is the beginning and the end

Can you feel color? Simone Bergsrud Admittedly pale, my identity knocks from within Perplexed by the freckles on a white canvas and framed by curls, people stare My blended complexion camouflages and protects My mother is black, I swear She’s not black she’s Jamaican, they respond and I stare Raised, loved, and held by black hands I am a reflection of her face, love, and spirit But the mirror reveals an honest picture and shows me what I’m working with I transform my inner dialogue into outward perceptions and take a step Leveraging the intersection between accepting privilege and activating empathy Some days I choose mom and some days I choose dad and some days I don’t get to choose I attempt to balance how two identities can equal one I feel it, now just how to prove it I feel something that I cannot see nor describe I feel color

Made It So Malaika Bergner I look up At what used to be white wall It now bares color I made it like that Red of Blood Blue of Sky Yellow of Sun Purple of Divine Green of Motherland But a common scheme threatens this entire blank scene I see Black I made it like that So that every time I lift my chin up I open my eyes to color Undeniable color! Black is a color And my God it is the most serene When its plastered across this Never ending white sea I made it like that So that when I get lost in the void I may feel my heart so Red I can dream of swimming in Blue I stay melanating in Yellow I am reminded of ancestors draped in Purple I feel grounded in Green

Every coil, curl, curve All these words of wisdom and will Each poster, print, and picture Glistening in the fairy lights Against this harsh Unforgiving white wall Pushes me outside And begs me to Paint their colors Across the whole wide world Our world is unlike my wall Brushes have been Digging into the Stubborn white canvas For centuries Many masterpieces were painted over Hues still remain Often seen only with a keen eye Pain picked up the painter’s brushes Resilience rose with them against the roaring fire Love lifted their limitless colors above To a canvas 7 billion times larger Than my little wall As I look at our world This infinite canvas It seems nearly impossible For it to bare all these colors But when was impossible ever an option My wall whispers to me Pumping passion through my veins I smile and begin Brush clutched tightly in hand And I see Others have brushes too The world will know the colors Black And we’ll know We made it like that

“rise up fa unfette dance with & mak - ntoza

allen fighters er the stars h the universe ke it ours” ake shange

“when the rainbow is enuf” alyce simien

History in the Making Patrick O. Aghadiuno (Pragmatic) This was a piece made for the most recent Black Women Appreciation Night. I see history in the making

Y’all’s sight is quite amazing

Cause when I see y’all’s smiles And I see y’all’s styles

I am taken back by all the Black excellence that is displaying I won’t lie

I do not think that I am the best guy

To sit up here and show my appreciation

For people who have no memories of me in conversation But it is not about me or what I believe

It is about what our predecessors set out to achieve

To make a world where people like us can support each other in peace So, let all the miscommunication cease And hear what I truly think

Bless my partners in the Impact Movement Their holy prayers are always fluent

The way they ease my mind and believe in me Preach just like late pastor Jarena Lee They fill me with so much glee

To be part of our great ministry

A salute to the matriarchs directing in RASA Y’all are as beautiful as Queen Nefertiti

Resilient like Queen Nandi

And strong like Queen Makeda, the ancient ruler of Sheba Respect to the girls that I dance with Our practices truly help me stay fit

Yall hit it like Beyoncé at Coachella

Sway and pose like Rihanna with an umbrella

And pop it like the Stallion like it’s a hot girl summah

Rejoice for our ladies holding up the BSA

Even the famous Coretta Scott King would be proud of the work that y’all claim

Y’all always remind us that our race is never a shame

And show this school that their gentrification will never be in our name! Cheer for our lady peers in NSBE

They will all one day be future scientific celebrities

They stay prepared for any problem set or career convention

And hold an intelligence that could even rival the late engineer Mary Jackson

Overall shoutout to the RBWA

They truly seek to support Black women’s needs; ease y’all’s pain

The unique power that this organization musters I am not worthy enough to explain

Let me just say that I respect it before I refrain

But let us not ignore our women who are not part of these clubs Y’all are still appreciated and will get some love

I see y’all grind too and receive blessings from up above Some are like Maya Angelou; Some are like Oprah The limit to y’all’s success has no quota

The faculty here are quite the inspiration

Working hard for this institution that never foresaw them in its inauguration

They remind us that anything is possible if you show some dedication

They are our mentors, teachers, coordinators; they are our foundation But before I conclude there is something, I want to make clear

My comparison of y’all to these historically great women is not really fair Don’t let the intimidating achievements of our predecessors make you mix your dreams with your fear

Because y’all’s own glorious come up is still awaking And that is why I see y’all as history in the making.

CHAINS Morgan Seay I have a theory as to why black men love their gold chains My father wore his gold chains religiously for years, even had tooth branded in gold, I imagine he wore that gold, made it a part of him because riches were something society desperately tried to deny him; these chains began long before that though these chains begin with our ancestors, iron hands wrapped around black necks, shackled around black bodies stuffed in ships and sent off to work a land that wasn’t theirs, build a country they never belonged to And even in the wake of our freedom, chains blossomed from plantation fields like cotton, grabbing at black ankles as the soles of black feet desperately ran to escape, binding us to a soil fertilized in racism, reaping the woes of those tending the land long before us My father’s father was accustomed to chains as well, he knew them, like he knew his own name. His chains were dressed in blue, they uttered word like thug, called him nigga. His chains told him to put his hands up, keep his mouth closed, threatened him with an iron death, locked him in an iron cage with metal kisses waiting for him when he got out. His chains were branded with the words jim crow, were forged from klan promises, draped in cloth of white; my father’s father had to run from his chains, they were sure to chase him, light the ground on fire with their hellish walk, tremble with rage as they screamed for black flesh, his chains were different from others, you see they walked, they talked, they looked like a man, but surely they were not; could a man really harbor that much hate? Be that hellish? So my father wears his chains, he clutched them when the officer asks for his license, it reminds him to hold his tongue, he wears his chains when he’s with his brothas, reminds him of where they came from, he tugs on them while he listens to 2pac, runs his tongue along the remnants of his gold tooth, most of the adornment has worn off over time, his chains are a reminder of the sacrifice his father made, and his father father, and his father father father

And although those chains screamed for flesh, cried for domination; they did not capture my father. Perhaps I say thank you to malcolm for this, who said give me chains and i will break them, or martin who said chains have no place here. Or maybe Maya, who took her chains made them a masterpiece and told them bondage is an afterthought. 2pac took his chains and said you will not silence me, Rosa said you can chain me but you can not stop me. Our chains are negro spirituals, promising low tides in wading waters A bebop of jazz notes crescendo-ing over the disdain of our oppressors Poems crafted into hip hop yelling fight the power, fuck the police Our chains are our hoods, sometimes dangerous, but always home Black men, black people wear their chains because no matter how many shackles society has waiting to hand to us, no matter how heavy their weight, how tight their grip,no chain can hold us. There is a resilience in our blood. You see we break shackles like Muhammad Ali broke records, like Serena williams wins wimbledons. We where our chains with pride, because we have conquered them.

Goldheart Chad Taylor Edited by: Christopher Ryan “Ms. Wilson, I have some news to share with you,” Dr. Samson said playing with his watch. “We have to do emergency heart surgery within a month for the cardiac arrhythmia you’ve been experiencing for a while. It could cause a stroke. I know we’ve been putting this off for a while, but its time.” She listened as the doctor as he explained her condition without losing her sanity. Jade had lived her life in seclusion since she was a teenager. Her mind drifted back to the times she wanted to be on the volley ball team at school, but her chest pains kept her from playing for too long. She remembers her mother being in the crowd with a purple bear and usually the biggest sign in the gymnasium. Her father Gary would make it to one game before he and her mother separated. He would have a child on the side and her mother would take out all the frustration a mother could have with a sick daughter. Jade made friends whenever she could come outside back then. She loved the smell of the rain, jumping in glee as it hit her tongue, and leaned in to smell the flowers, and welcoming any allergies that came along with them. She just wanted to feel the sunlight on her skin. Her mother would later tell her to take up crocheting to take her mind off things. Her friends would come over and humor her and make socks and things while they gossiped about boys at school. After senior year, she met Charles. He wore a colored velvet shirt and opened toe sandals and had brown, smooth skin. They bumped into one another eating ice cream—rocky road was her favorite. After the diagnosis her father told her you have to grow up sometime princess.. Her mom wanted to protect her. As much as her parents wanted to protect her, they couldn’t shield her from life no matter how hard they tried. Now as an adult, Jade could date, but in the past her father deemed her boyfriends not tasteful. Jade had only been dating Charles a few weeks so she had to be gentle with him. Yes, he knew she had heart

problems but didn’t know that she would need surgery soon. One day Jade was feeling down staring up at the ceiling fan when her mother came in.

“Mom, I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders!”

Walking towards her with her arms open, “Jade, I don’t want to hear you say that my angel. You, are gonna get through this.” Leaning over the cold Hello Kitty decorated toilet with her red hair in ponytail, “I’m tired and I haven’t been able to live the life others have lived. They take it for granted. I get shortness of breath every time I’m outside for a lengthy period of time. I’m tired of wearing masks everywhere I go.” Jade took a moment to release what she ate for lunch, “Lets just go watch silly things on Youtube to make me feel better. I just don’t want to think about this stuff,” she said holding her croquet hat. Jade wanted to go to the park the next day with Charles to talk about things. “I’m glad to see you.” With my leg shaking she asked, “Are we still going the park today?” “Of course, I’m happy that you’re in the mood to get out the house.” They went the park closest to the city; Sunlight Park. The park had hover boards, 3-D printing, dog fashion shows and all the like. But Jade appreciated the noise outside, which blocked much of the thoughts inside. Charles talked about his new art teaching gig that he couldn’t get enough of. Looking at her he could tell she had a lot on her mind. So they watched the sunset and had water balloon fights. They soon started talking about things from his past. “So, Charles what kinda guy were you in previous relationships? We never really discussed that.” “I was faithful I just didn’t want to feel too attached too soon.” The comments made Jade feel not to happy about sharing any health related news to him. She soon changed the subject and she asked to

go bike riding. Soon her phone rang with her parents wanting to know her where abouts every thirty minutes. “ Okay, Mom I’ll be home shortly,” she paused for a second “Banana pudding, my favorite.”

“Sounds like you have quite the party waiting on you,” Charles said.

“I lead a sort of complicated life. If you ever feel like it’s too much for you, you don’t have to stick around.”

“Yeah, I know.”

The next day, Jade would learn when her surgery was going to have to have her surgery. She carefully chose her outfit. It had to have the perfect combination of pink and purple and rainbow colors. Jade would rather go out in style than leave a bland routine life. Her mother asked her father Gary to come even though they were going through a separation. Even though, she could barely stand his selfishness of not being at every appointment. Jade and her mom met up with her father in front of the St. Mercy Hospital. The family said a prayer together before they went in. Jade thought about not wanting somebody see her gasping for air any more. She was actually looking forward to living a new life on her own terms. Dr. Samson gave her the date of her surgery, “We’re aiming for the thirtieth.” “That’s just a month away. I’m actually ready to get it over with,” Jade said as her mom wiped away tears. The month went fast and Jade still didn’t tell Charles anything. Her mother wanted her to at least tell him she had family issues to worry about but Jade didn’t feel like anyone could take a relationship with her seriously. Her father, however, was thrilled he could spend time with his “babygirl” without all the complications. Her phone rang the morning of the operation It was Charles. Her mother watched over her,saying, “Aren’t you gonna answer that honey?”

“No thanks.”

Jade had her bag packed full of board games and all the candy she could want to eat after the surgery was over. She was ready to go with her parents both going with her. This time, her mother didn’t have to tell her father Gary anything he stayed the night . He wasn’t fond of sleeping on the couch but he didn’t complain. When they got to the hospital Jade wore a necklace Charles had given her on their first date. Soon she heard a loud noise from the hallway.

“Wait, wait!” said Charles.

“But…but how?” Jade responded.

“Your mom told me everything.”

“Thanks mom! No really, thanks.”

Jade hugged Charles and he promised he would be there to greet her when her new life begins. Before the operation Dr.Samson asked her,“Jade, are you ready for your new life?” She looked at the almost sun like light beaming down on her brown face from the fixture as the gas kicked in, “We have to grow up some tiiimmmmeee.” A month later Jade was fully healed and wanted Charles to have a more proper introduction to her parents. Her father looked at him a stare of skepticism even after he’d come to the hospital to support her.

“So what is it you want with my daughter?

Charles wasn’t really sure how to answer. He said, “I want her to know it’s okay to put her guard down. If she walls I’ll catch her.” “You’re welcome to our home anytime. We rather she stay close until we do the follow up.” “Screw the follow up mom,” Jade said in rebellion. “I’m going outside for a walk in the rain.” Charles ran behind her and they threw away all of her old medicine she used to have to take. The mountain of pills we pushed as much as they could into the garbage can. Jade kissed him on the cheek then went to the

middle of the street.

“Hey Charles, do you want to race?”

He was cautious, but up for the challenge, “Sure.”

They ran for hours until Jade got fatigued. For first time she’d felt free without her parents hovering above, her without the feeling that she took away from others’ lives, she felt free.

While I Wait Karen Okoroafor Following the plans God has for me in terms of marriage Means certain requests may remain unmet

This could mean that he is shorter than me

Or, against my parents wishes, that he is not Igbo Or Nigerian, or even African They say that love is blind

But I have learned throughout my life

That love is God and it is patient and kind It does not envy or boast, it is not proud

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking

It is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs And honestly, I’m not there yet

I can barely maintain these things with my siblings

Let alone in a romantic relationship, but back to the blind thing Following the plans that God has for me in terms of marriage

Is the act of not being in the know, and being patient sometimes It means handing God the keys to my life

And deciding that the Creator of the two

Should be the only one who makes the two become one It is not pushing my own agenda It is trusting that His birds eye view, His behind my back view His by my side to the left and right view are all perfect vantage point

It is understanding

That I am shortsighted––I don’t understand where I’m going Or what’s going to happen when I get there It is deciding

That His omni view

Is greater than my outside view He knows the inside view

The heart of me, the heart of my husband

And the hearts of all the people who will try to disrupt the perfect plan He has for us

I see the surface and

God looks at the heart And––

Hello? Yes, I’m having trouble understanding why I should trust in my own understanding.

Yes, I’m having trouble finding the logic in not listening to someone with this kind of wisdom.

The One who created me for a purpose And knows exactly what it is

I’m talking ​knows​ me

The One who made me, fearfully and wonderfully

light for the first time

And knew the plan for my life before I even saw

I’m talking, ​good​ plans

Plans to prosper me, and not to harm me To give me a hope and a future

So yes, hello. I am having trouble fully grasping why I would not trust the One who has the perfect plan for me.

Following the plans God has for me in terms of marriage Means truly believing that His plan is perfect for me This could mean living

Through seasons of infertility

Or a lifetime of celibacy if that’s what He has planned So in the time until that plan is revealed

Until I walk or don’t walk down the aisle I will stand by

I will walk as God calls me

I will support my friends as their special days come I will be joyful and patient

And I will try to remain faithful To the ultimate Bridegroom

It would be a shame to devote my life to a man Before I commit my life to the Son of Man: To rush into a covenant unprepared

Following the plans God has for me in terms of marriage

Means knowing, in perfect peace, that God is sovereign, and all-

knowing, and I am not And walking along the path He lays out for me It is a means to an expected end We love because God first loved us. (1 John 4:19 ERV)

Amma s.r. She is regal in her armor, made of layered masks and scrubs and shields. She is joy, when her hair is curly and wild and free from her PPE. She is merry, in the garden, Spade in hand, leaves strewn around. Her very own tomatoes, Bright red and gleaming in the palms of her brown hands. She is supportive and brave, sensitive and strict. She is empathy embodied and yet, firm as a mountain. Her tears flow freely, To celebrate and mourn and plead and shine. Her hugs come unexpectedly, Startling and tight and warm like fresh bread. Amma, my mother. Bright and steady, sweet and steely. A queen, undoubtedly.

She is loud. Very loud. Clattering away in the kitchen, words flying from her mouth as she works. Sliding her shoes on the floor, squinting at us through cataracts. So loud. She is jolly, when she laughs. Wheezing with mirth and wiping tears up. Eyes shining. Hands fanning. She is quick with her anger. And her forgiveness. Made of frowns that turn into smiles, Glares that melt like butter in the heat. She is queen of exaggeration, Turning paper-cuts into ten-act plays, The stove is now a battleground, The knife, an evil genius. Her nose ring glints in the light, Her earrings hang heavy on stretched ear lobes, Her bindi: red and round and huge. Ammamma, my grandmother. Beautiful. Funny. Lovely. A queen, undoubtedly.

Black Woman Katimah Harper

When I tell you to look at me as a Black woman, I do not mean to read my skin with your fetishization beautiful as my skin may be. I do not need your lips against my throat unless you want to know what freedom’s beat sounds like. My ancestors have given me bones that grow toward the ground paving the way for a head that can sit above my shoulders and a heart that can rest upon my sleeve. This morning, I took a bite out of healing claimed it as my birthright

for years of being woken up by the sound of chains reminding me that I will never be able to walk in a body that has not known the weight of racism or the slow death of shame. My mom still teaches me the proper ways of English Lord forbid the word “ain’t” should fall from my tongue and ruin a generation that can finally say they’re “white enough” to have the right to speak. I am a black woman, but I am also an ongoing history. My story is constantly being rewritten into a new song and though I may not know the right notes to hit I know how to keep on dancing.

The “Rice’s Black Students Demand...” spread that appears near the middle of this edition is adapted from a document titled Tangible Ways to Improve the Black Experience, as Demanded by Black Students: Inaction is Not an Option. To view the original document in its entirety, please visit the following QR code:


summer 2020

Editors-in-Chief alyce simien Bria Weisz Jenny Li-Wang


Derin Okunubi

alyce simien

Morgan Seay


Jermya Wilson

Bryanah Rideaux

KC Nwadei

Karen Okoroafor

Jolisa Brown

Bria Weisz

Taylor Crain

Simone Bergsrud


Malaika Bergner

Arielle Noah

Patrick O. Aghadiuno (Pragmatic)

Katimah Harper

Chad Taylor

Jazzmyne Rias

& all of our anonymous submitters

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Cover art by Derin Okunubi

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