NOVEMBER 2019 | ISSUE 3
RIZE W U S T Lâ€™ S I N D E P E N D E N T B L A C K M A G A Z I N E
REVOLUTIONIZE REORGANIZE REVITALIZE REALIZE
A LET TER FROM THE EDITOR Reflecting on this past semester there’s been a lot happening on campus. While WashU life stays busy as usual, it’s important to take time away from all that. It’s especially been on my mind after talking with some recent grads, the overwhelming consensus is that post grad life is just weird. It’s an uncomfortable transitional time to go from life being all about school, to something different. Even going into grad school, there is definitely a noticeable shift from life as an undergrad or in high school. Alot expressed they started to feel without a purpose, merely existing, and takin it day by day. It’s hard to find ways to prevent the inevitable post grad slump, but starting to practice habits now can make a world of a difference. Our mental health is so important. Take those breaks now, and when you do, really take them. It’s a long road to graduation and at the very least, you owe it to yourself to be gracious and patient with your journey. it’s important to keep in mind that all these things we strive for in life are very much about the process, more so than the final product. It takes a special amount of courage to continuously choose and trust the process, especially when each step after that gets increasingly foreign and more daunting. I always want to use this space to bring you as much encouragement as possible, because I get it. You get it. And the point of RIZE is tp emphasize that we get it together. Sometimes we get it in different ways but regardless, we get it. We hope you enjoy this issue!
6 BLAVITY & BLACK SPACES NINA LAWRENCE 8 INCREASED POLICING OLIVIA WILLIAMS & CHAZZ POWELL 12 ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT EFUA OSEI 14 STUDENT SPOTLIGHT A’DAJA HARRIS 16 THE PLAYBOOK
18 SUSTAINABLE FASHION SPARKLE WHITAKER 22 MAKING SPACE: THE POLITICS OF BLACK HAIR GRACE GORE 24 VOICES 28 GIVE IT AIR AGAIN, GIVE IT LIFE AGAIN CECE HEARD 30 THE RIZE OF THEE STALLION A’DAJA HARRIS
&BLACK S PAC E S
â€œFor a long time, aff inity spaces they have faced resistance f rom others. The spaces we need are undervalued and underappreciated.â€?
The “Black table” in the DUC: we all know it as a safe, welcoming space for Black students to sit down, study together, talk, and generally just enjoy each other’s company. But that label is relatively new. The table has an important history, especially to Blavity, Inc. founders and Wash U alums Morgan DeBaun (AB ‘12), Aaron Samuels (BSBA ‘11), Jeff Nelson (BS ‘10), and Jonathan Jackson (AB ‘13). They would sit at the table for hours and talk about whatever was on their minds. As other Black students would gravitate to their table to join the conversation, gravity and the importance of Black spaces became important concepts to DeBaun. She eventually came up with the idea of Black gravity, or Blavity. Blavity, Inc. is a digital media company that produces content by Black people, for Black people. On the Blavity News website, you can find stories on everything from the 2020 election to the importance of Brandy and her music. But the brand does so much more than news. For example, they created the EmpowerHer Conference in 2016 (now Summit21), a one-day conference that brings together women influencers and creators of color. The company has been adding companies to their portfolio since 2017: Blavity News, 21Ninety, AfroTech, Travel Noire, and Shadow and Act.
will have other Black people in them. That’s why Black student groups, Black communities, the Black Table, etc. are not just liked and enjoyed, but necessary. Though they are crucial to us, it is sometimes difficult for others to see the importance of Black spaces. For a long time, affinity spaces have faced resistance from others. The spaces we need are undervalued and underappreciated by non-Blacks. But we need them because in integrated spaces, things such as African American Vernacular English (AAVE) or the way we dress have always been under scrutiny. Because of this, it’s so easy to shut off parts of ourselves and assimilate to another culture. We may forget what it means to be ourselves. Personally, I felt like I was in white-only spaces until highschool. In elementary and middle school, I was always one of the few Black people in class and my after-school program. None of my friends lived in the city. I put up with “friends” telling me I was one of the “good Black people,” with the constant “I should be able to say n****r if I want,” and never feeling like I belonged. It completely changed who I was; I adopted an entirely different personality. By the time I transferred districts for high school, I was used to assimilating and hadn’t even recognized that I wasn’t happy. It wasn’t until college that I finally started to accept the parts of my personality that I had held back for so long because I found accepting Black spaces that allowed me to explore who I was.
So what is a Black space, and why are they necessary? A Black space is a place in which we can truly be ourselves. We need them because people still call the police on us for going to public pools, waiting for our friends, and looking for parking, to name a few examples. And we’ve been shot for much less. Spaces that we might have never thought to be racialized — like the street in your neighborhood — suddenly become so when others decide that we do not belong. The only rationale they have for calling the police is that we are different, and therefore should not exist there. The only way the world can really begin to accept us is if people check the power of others and instill consequences (with actual repercussions). Until that day, we need affinity spaces.
The spaces and places for Black people to interact that Blavity creates are so powerful. CEO Morgan DeBaun, in her article, “Why I Created a Conference for Black Millennial Women,” discusses how it feels to tackle that constant stream of microaggressions and backhanded compliments. She stated that Blavity’s goal is to “amplify the voices for people of color and create opportunities for intersectional connection.” DeBaun has helped to create spaces online and in real life where Black people can come together and finally celebrate themselves. Specifically, the Black table was, is, and hopefully will continue to be a staple in Wash U’s Black community at which Black students feel welcome, and validated in their experiences.
At Wash U, we’re obviously in the minority. I can go to all of my classes and be one of the few or only Black people/ person in the class. When I go to my dorm, my roommates and I will be some of the few or only Black people that live on our floor. It can be difficult to make friends, to participate in class, and to join clubs that you’re not sure
Make sure you wear your best Wash U merch every time you go off campus. Your merch must have “Wash U” prominently embellished across the front. Make sure the merch is a hoodie or shirt, not pants, so officers can see the WashU embossment clearly. If you are wearing a Wash U hoodie, don’t actually wear the hood up while walking outdoors. This can confuse officers who will notice the suspicious raised hood rather than the large block collegiate letters and backpack bulging with books. Bonus points for reflective or glow-in-the-dark lettering that officers can see more clearly at night.
increased policing HOW TO SURVIVE
Display your student ID to any officer you come in contact with, even if they do not ask to see it. Consider taping your ID to the back of your hand so it can be seen at all times. Make sure your current appearance always matches that of your ID photo, so that differences in hairstyles, facial hair, or complexion don’t confuse and alarm officers
SUBMITTED BY KAREN DORDOR
Whenever you notice an officer approaching, make sure you are smiling broadly and stepping lively, preferably in a speedy, bouncy tiptoe fashion. Ensure that no hip-hop or trap music can be heard playing from your headphones, and avoid bumping music from a loudspeaker in your backpackâ€”this could earn you a noise ordinance fine. Be careful with backpacks in generalâ€”these can make officers uneasy, even if your backpack is covered in buttons only a college student would use. Consider carrying items like your laptop, binder, and textbooks in your arms when going off campus, so officers can clearly see the contents. Avoid carrying iffy supplies such as black pencil cases, which officers could misinterpret as a weapon.
As of October 10, there have been multiple armed robberies and one carjacking, all involving both WashU undergraduate and graduate students. These instances have happened off campus, mostly in neighborhoods that become populated with Wash U students during the school year (i.e. the SkinkerDeBaliviere neighborhood, Pershing Boulevard, and Delmar Boulevard.) Every time incidents like these happen, emails are sent both to the student body and parents, creating a frenzy. Chancellor Martin sent an email on September 13, 2019 outlining what WashU planned to do to address what was happening off campus. One of the first action items the Chancellor mentioned was “increasing officer patrols” in the neighborhoods near campus. As a Black student who lives off campus, it was impossible to ignore the increase in WUPD cars constantly circling my neighborhood. Although some might feel more safe with increased policing, it is likely that most Black and Brown students feel the exact opposite. Speaking for myself, my heart stops every time I see a police car in my rearview window. I’m not worried about getting a ticket or a warning, I’m worried about grabbing my phone and hitting record in case a police officer decides that I’m a threat. A few weeks ago, I was coming home pretty late and there was a WUPD officer outside of my home. Part of WUPD’s new initiatives include a program to increase communication between students and officers, called “sidewalk talks.” The officer outside of my home was handing out safety pamphlets and asked students if they knew how to use the blue light system. Even though I’m sure the officer had good intentions with his questions, I looked down and quickly walked past him because, as a person of color, it is difficult for me to even have a conversation with a police officer.
The increased policing signals yet another cognitive dissonance between police departments and the communities they police. Heightened police presence on and around Wash U’s campus comes only a year after the IHOP incident, where incoming Black FSAP students were leaving the restaurant and were stopped by the police. The Clayton Police Department refused to apologize for their actions and were defended by Clayton residents on social media, who said the police were “just doing their job.” But if undeservedly scrutinizing incoming Black Wash U students meant the department was “doing their job” in protecting and serving, then this insinuates that the police department is not here to protect and serve Wash U students—especially Black Wash U students. This incident was not the only time Black students have had issues with the police. Black students are often stopped, on or around campus, by WUPD officers and asked to show a student ID. Not only is this likely only happening to Black and Brown students, but this also shows that some of the police officers likely hold many negative stereotypes of Black people. This should not be the case if they are supposed to serve the entire student body. Given that this past August was only the 5th anniversary of Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson, the memory of that injustice could increase Black students’ unease with the high police presence in the WashU area. I recently found out that one of my friends is a student representative on the Washington University Police Department Student Advisory Council. During the first week of school, the newly formed council met for the first time. This council consists of a Residential Life administrator, Chief Mark Glenn, and 6 students: four undergraduate and two graduate students. The
undergraduate students were appointed to the board and it is not clear how they were chosen. Although this board was meant to address concerns and voice student opinions to WUPD, in the initial creation of the council, no Black students were invited to participate — a significant issue considering the history of WUPD and Clayton police previously mentioned. The Res Life administrator acknowledged the lack of diversity during the first meeting, and three Black students were added to the council when the group met for a second time. Student Union and Design for America held a discussion on September 24, 2019 to address campus safety while considering communities of color. However, the event was almost entirely white-led — the facilitator was white — and nearly all participants, besides three or four, were white. The event was not a public forum but was more of a strictly structured planning and problem-solving event. At the beginning, the facilitator strongly urged participants to hold suggestions for improvement until the end, starting out with the broad question “What is safety?” (An unexpected question for a majority white audience to answer within the subject of policing’s effect on people of color.) Each step of the event seemed controlled to discuss campus safety in an unconventional and circuitous manner.
voices of students of color when addressing safety concerns instead of assuming what would be best for us. This could include forums and open discussions just for students of color to have the floor and explain why increased police presence might not be the best solution. The history of the relationship between Black people and police is long and complex, and cannot be changed overnight. However, by giving Black and Brown students a space to discuss their issues, and by making sure that WUPD officers are held accountable for their actions, can help us move in the right direction. Until then, just keep your WashU zipup handy.
Discussing student safety is a tricky situation. Students are not the only ones impacted by the protocols Wash U administration and WUPD decide to implement; parents, faculty and staff, local St. Louis residents, and more are all affected as well. While I completely understand that student safety both on and off campus is a complicated issue, I urge the WashU administration to consider and include the
Jacqui Germain is a 2019 Fellow of the Missouri Regional Arts Commision, a published author and poet, and a 2015 alumna of Wash U’s African & African American Studies (AFAS) department. Hailing from Cincinnati, OH, Germain was heavily involved in student organizing and activism in high school, initially wanting to go on the Pre-Med track to work for Doctors Without Borders. Like many high school students, she had an idea of what she wanted to do, but lacked the language for it at the time. However, she knew she wanted to be in a humanitarian career ultimately helping people and communities. She explains that her Pre-Med plans lasted up until she took Orgo. Switching to AFAS from a science-heavy schedule allowed her to take more Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) and Sociology classes, which gave her a re-education on how to define social justice. She recalled a specific memory from AFAS during her time at Wash U when many students banded
together to get Professor Fenderson, who was then a post-doc, to full professorship. “It was the first year that he was teaching, while he was a post-doc, and there was a possibility of him not being hired on campus. Us students put together an organizing effort, petitions, and all sorts of things to get him hired,” she explained. “He was the first professor that I had to teach Black Radical Studies and Black Political Thought. He was really the only person on campus teaching Black American Political history during the late 40s, and 50s-70s. For a lot of us, it was our first time learning, what would now be called, “the basics”. No one on campus was teaching about the [Black] Panther movement, or any of that. Having him on campus, having students take his class, and having discussions about it shifted what people were talking about and what people were focused on educating themselves about.” Germain explained that Fenderson was hired by the following summer. Germain, an original member of WU-SLam, is currently a full-time writer. “I have always been writing, and have friends who have either founded Button Poetry, worked at Button Poetry, or knew a lot about Button Poetry, so I knew about their annual chapbook
to someone you need to, etc.”
competition.” At that time, the idea of having a book still felt very foreign. But more and more poets were putting together chapbooks, and playing with the idea of writing off stage. So working with Button Poetry, I put out my first chapbook.” From there she kept writing, and publishing more. She then, almost accidentally, got into more formal journalism and opinion writing, as well as content writing for marketing agencies. “I’ve been using the RAC Fellowship to see if writing is something I can really live off of.”
“I would also say make sure to create a foundation for yourself that you can always feel secure in. Especially for someone who was initially Pre-Med and was used to the preprofessional track progression of things — it starts to feel [like] you’re on the treadmill and that it’s just going, when in reality you’re the person taking those steps.”
learn how to be comfortable with uncertainty.
She explains that her creative representation is through Beotis Creative, a boutique agency that represents a leading roster of multi-hyphenate artists, speakers, and writers of color, which was actually founded by another Wash U graduate, Tabia Yapp. “A lot of people on the roster are folks who have the creative resume to accomplish all these things through Beotis regularly, so the goal is to be able to do that someday.” When asked to give advice to her undergraduate self, Germain replied, “Just one thing?” and laughed. “I would say to make sure you take care of the things you need to take care of. And this can mean a lot of different things, like making sure you get your butt to classes, making sure you are asking the questions you need to ask when you need to ask them, making mental health appointments while you have Wash U’s access to them, reaching out
“I think a lot of people don’t prepare you for what postgrad life looks like if you’re not on the pre-professional track. Or how strange your 20s can be if you’re not immediately going into a 9-5, or immediately going into grad school. So to that I would also say to learn how to be comfortable with uncertainty.”
There are many professors who had an immense impact on Germain’s college career, “but Adrienne Davis is one that comes to mind. Like Adrienne, the professors here, and the staff, legitimately care about you in a way that people say they didn’t back in high school. She has always been an advocate for me, especially in rooms I’m not in, and always connecting me with people. She’s been someone who works tirelessly for students in a way that not many students realize.” You can support Jacqui Germain by heading over to her website, and sharing her work. Instagram: @jaaaaacqui Website: jacquigermain.com
KAYLYN WEBSTER A’DAJA HARRIS
Class of 2022 Major: Art with concentration in painting Minor: AFAS Hometown: Memphis, TN
“AWAITING THE SON’S RISE”
Find her on: Instagram: @kaylyn_elyse & @k.kaygallery Facebook: Kaylyn Elyse Artistry When did you start creating art, and what does the process look like? I started taking art seriously in middle school, and here [at Wash U] I have my projects, and during the summer I was painting every week. I think I did about 12 paintings over the summer. It’s like an all day, all the time thing for me. Usually, I just think of my ideas randomly — like in the middle of the night — or I get inspiration from stuff I see on Instagram or in the news. Then, I either get people to pose for me, take photos, or I gather photos from the internet and combine them, sketch it, grab a canvas and start painting.
I painted myself as the Virgin Mary. It wasn’t necessarily meant to be a self-portrait, but I posed me and the baby after “The Virgin and Child Under an Apple Tree” by Lucas Cranach the Elder.
What has inspired you? Growing up in Memphis, I’ve noticed a lot of issues within the Black community, but at Wash U I feel like I’ve been able to learn and talk more about a larger system in America, in terms of tools that were built to keep people of color down. And, also realizing how heteronormative and patriarchal our system is to benefit white males. I tend to gravitate towards painting black people, because I feel like black people are underrepresented in Western art, and through my depictions, I try to create a narrative that symbolizes events going on in the world.
What advice would you give to other students? Don’t go for a major just because you feel like it will get you a job. Do what makes you happy. In the field of art, it’s especially important to spend a lot of time with your material because it’s a process. So do something that you like and will help benefit you and your passions.
This piece is commenting on how it can be scary to be a Black person in America. There’s a lot of symbolism of the fears surrounding police brutality, but I also wanted to create a sense of hope with the image of a white dove and a lighter colored sky peeking from the right side. I think that we, as humans, focus on the negative a lot, but there’s also a hope for a better future for everybody.
PLAYBOOK. BIG YOUNG M.A.
INTRO DABABY SLEEP DEPRIVED DREAMVILLE
CHARCOAL BABY BLOOD ORANGE
I BEEN ARI LENNOX
STILL DON’T KNOW MY NAME LABRINTH
I’LL KILL YOU SUMMER WALKER FT. JHENÉ AIKO
SUFI WOMAN JIDENNA
WHORE NATIONAL ANTEM ROB APOLLO
BÉBÉ MHD YELLOW AMINE
POSTMAN GOSHA GUPPY
GLORIA TIERRA WHACK
WE CURATED THIS PLAYLIST TO CRUSH ENCOMPASS SOME SUGGESTIONS MADE DUCKWRTH TO US BY THE BLACK STUDENTS AT WASHU. BEING BLACK ON THIS CAMPUS CAN BE DIFFICULT, SO HERE IS A PLAYLIST TO HELP YOU WHEN IT’S TOO MUCH. FILLED WITH SEVERAL GENRES AND ARTISTS, THIS PLAYLIST IS HERE TO HELP YOU STAY STRONG, GET LIT, AND CHILL OUT.
pieces designed by Sparkle Whitaker
Our clothing has the ability to tell others who we are. However, sometimes we wear something simply because we like the way it looks. I love seeing the versatility in style on campus. I equally enjoy when people get mixed up about who I am or what I value based on the ensemble I decide to wear one day. But fashion should not be about dressing up to fulfill other people’s ideas about you. Honestly, the only restriction in fashion that is permissible is holding people accountable for their ecological footprint. Scouting thrift stores and rummaging through scrap buckets is a favorite part of my personal design process. I enjoy breaking down large materials and eventually merging them for two reasons. One, it forces me to be comfortable with making mistakes, since sewing is a literal trial-and-error process. Two, executing these three-dimensional garments from a twodimensional sketch is magic. The biggest puzzle to fashion is not making products. The biggest puzzle is how to make without destroying our environment. The concept of sustainable devolution holds the lowest level of the fashion industry pyramid — consumers — responsible for being sustainable in fashion. However, such a large task should
be the responsibility of governments. They should get us into check and tell us what to do. I, myself, am no expert on how to approach sustainability in fashion, but at minimum, we should know the consequences of fashion production. Any sustainability researcher will tell you that the fashion industry largely contributes to the damage of our global environment. However, Sam Fox professor and fashion sustainability researcher Jennifer Ingram points out that there are companies that practice sustainable fashion production. Three such companies are Study New York, Amour Vert, and Indigenous Organic and Fair Trade. Designer Terra St. James runs Study New York. St. James sources her textiles, and is arguably “socially responsible” in her practice of fashion. Her fashion production process is formally known as “slow-fashion,” which allows her to sell items based on her price discretion. Amour Vert makes use of sustainable materials and specialized factory conditions. Indigenous Organic and Fair Trade features “classic pieces that are made to be environmentally friendly. The company has been at this for 25 years.” A lot of people think that sustainability is new, but that’s not the
case. It is more mainstream now, but there are companies that have been environmentally ethical for quite some time. Textile production is where the industry’s ecological footprint begins its walk. Cotton is one of the most environmentally-unfriendly materials in the fashion industry. Cotton growth demands excessive use of pesticides, fertilizers, and irrigation. All of these elements affect the health of the individuals managing and tending to the plant. Let’s also consider the textile production of polyester. Promulgated as a component of material blends, polyester is credited as the most used fiber in the textile production industry. The one upside to the production of synthetic materials, such as polyester, is that these materials can be drawn from recycled substances and non-renewable resources. And yet, each time you wash polyester, microfibers travel into the water, adding plastic back into the water supply. It seems as though you win one battle and lose another, but this should not discourage us from being knowledgeable about these processes. Buying a T-shirt or a pair of leggings cannot be an unconscious act. A lot of damage was done in order to create most of the items that hang in our closets. The numbers are saddening at first, but taking the initiative to be active and present in the way that I shop helps to limit my ecological footprint; that should be the first step for everyone. Everyone should have access to clothing that’s tailored to the personas they want to embody on any given day. That’s my philosophy of fashion, and that’s the philosophy of my fashion brand Toao (pronounced tway) Design House. Toao Design House is centered on providing a variety of styles to the always-changing consumer. Check out the official website for Toao Design House and Instagram page to view the styles. @toaodesignhouse toaodesignhouse.bigcartel.com
“Re-vamping can be described as taking an older article of clothing that I don’t like anymore and finding a way to bring new life to it.”
“2210 litres of H20 used to produce 1 kilo of raw cotton fibre is from irrigation.”
“KNOW THE FACTS AND FIGURE OUT WHERE YOU CONTRIBUTE IN THE EQUATION OF TEXTILE PRODUCTION”
“63,000 million tons [of polyester] are executed per year into the market”
making space GRACE GORE
Hair has always been an influential piece of Black culture. Much like every other aspect of Black culture, Black hair continues to be intensely scrutinized. For many students, college is a time for experimentation. Away from the judgement and opinions of relatives, students have a chance to discover their identities and portray them through their appearance. This becomes more complicated for students to navigate when they are taught that a part of their identity will hinder their chances of succeeding in their chosen career field. For Black students, this could include their hair. The challenge of balancing self-expression and others’ perceptions is a conundrum to which Black Wash U students are accustomed. First-year Tyler Burston is skeptical of how his personality, including his afro, will be received in professional settings. “I feel like I can’t really exist the way I do now if I were to go into the traditional workforce. I feel like my hair is unprofessional, but I like that,” Burston said. Prejudicial institutions make it obvious that Black hair has not traditionally been accepted by society. This idea that Black hair is unprofessional has led to “hair policing” becoming a common term in discussing the politics of Black hair. Although hair policing continues to function as an oppressive force on one’s Blackness, the natural hair movement actively fights to make natural hair acceptable. From celebrities who adorn their own natural hair to the expansive natural hair community on social media platforms, there are now more resources and inspiration to celebrate Black hair than there have ever been before. Sophomore Nadia Myrie felt more secure with her hair once she came to Wash U and saw other girls with natural hair. Myrie said, “Where I’m from, I was the only Black girl who wore her hair natural and now everybody has their hair natural. It’s cool because you get inspiration. I felt braver with my natural hair.” In a college setting, there is little pressure to look a particular way, but eventually students will transition to the workforce, in which perception is everything. Senior Rebecca Bowman has yet to graduate, but has already
“Where I’m from, I was the only Black girl who wore her hair natural and now everybody has their hair natural. It’s cool because you get inspiration.
“At the end of the day it’s the natural hair that grows out of my head, so whether it’s dreaded, whether it’s in twists or braids or anything like that, that’s people’s natural hair; it’s not a trend. The negative stereotypes are not the actual image”.
experienced microaggressions in the workplace. During her summer internship, she noticed that “people would only compliment [her] hair when it was a certain way.” Although there has been legislation implemented in California and New York to combat the discrimination of natural hair, Eurocentric features are still the standard to which everyone else is held to. This unrealistic comparison leaves Black students with the pressure to compromise their Blackness to succeed in their career. However, sophomore Rene Kina does not see why he should feel pressure to wear his natural hair in “professional” styles once he starts interviewing for jobs. Kina said, “At the end of the day it’s the natural hair that grows out of my head, so whether it’s dreaded, whether it’s in twists or braids or anything like that, that’s people’s natural hair… The negative stereotypes are not the actual image.” The natural hair movement was first publicized during the Black Power Movement to assert the message that Black people should be proud of their Afrocentric characteristics. Black men and women picked out their hair into afros, portraying that, much like their gravity-defying hair, Black people would transcend the limitations forced upon them by racist institutions. The past decade and a half has seen the evolution of the natural hair movement. While previous participants aimed to wear their natural hair as a political statement, we should now work towards de-politicizing Black hair and normalizing it instead. “I feel like I can’t really exist the way I do now if I were to go into the traditional workforce. I feel like my hair is unprofessional, but I like that,” Burston said. “Professional hairstyles make sure that they garner as little attention as possible. When you’re a Black man, you’re supposed to cut your hair low and you have to wave it. They’re not gonna accept my hair because it’s too real for the establishment that hates me.”
“Growing up wearing my natural hair wasn’t really a thing. When I started to experiment with my natural hair in high school, my mom would always be like, ‘why is your hair like that, it looks dry,’”
“I feel like I can’t really exist the way I do now if I were to go into the traditional workforce. I feel like my hair is unprofessional, but I like that,”
VOICES PREDOMINANTLY WHITE INSTITUTION
supporting and highlighting the creative voices of the community, through art and literary submissions
You spend all of your teenage years working as hard as you can so you can get into the Elite Esteemed One of the best in the country Predominantly white institution! You walk in on the first day of orientation and receive a brochure Bursting with boys and girls from all around the country Brimming with shades from pale white to ebony Black and you think, Maybe this school’s pledge to “diversity” really is more than just a ploy to convince kids who look like you to come here You walk in on the second day And a white girl hears your SAT score and assumes The melanin in your skin is the only reason you were accepted here She doesn’t know that instead of spending hundreds of dollars on SAT prep classes You were too busy driving your mother to doctors’ appointments when she was too sick to work She doesn’t realize you’ll go on to make the dean’s list freshman year despite having a learning disability no one’s ever diagnosed Because no one ever takes the time to diagnose Black and brown kids like me You walk in on the first day of classes and your teachers aren’t racist but You spend two weeks in a class discussing Othello and never talk about how blatantly anti-black it is Your teachers aren’t racist but when you say your favorite author’s last name is “Abdurraqib,” They immediately ask where he’s from. Your teachers aren’t racist but they’re dumbfounded when you write about being Black in America Because they don’t know what it’s like to not feel at home in your own home Your teachers aren’t racist but you learn about racial inequality from a white man You sign up for a class on contested racial boundaries that’s taught by a white woman Your teachers aren’t racist but none of them look like you You walk into the ninth week of classes and you realize Your peers aren’t racist but They think every minority kid is here on scholarship They won’t go into the working class community that surrounds you because they think it’s “The ghetto” Your peers aren’t racist but your friend went to a reading of an Emit Till play And a nonblack boy in the cast made sure all eyes were on him That everyone knew he was such an ally Even though he didn’t even know who Emit Till was until he got cast in the show Your peers aren’t racist but the white boy who sits next to you in class wants to make sure you know he watches Atlanta Your peers aren’t racist but they might ask to touch your hair Your peers aren’t racist but your non-black f riends don’t understand why you’re so weary of the campus police They don’t understand that to some people, the words “police” and “perpetrator” are synonyms Your school’s not racist but You walked into the chancellor’s office and realized 100 years ago you wouldn’t have been allowed to matriculate here Because of the color of your skin Your school’s not racist but today you get hit with microaggressions left and right Your school’s not racist but you can’t learn about your history unless you go to the Af rican American Studies Department This predominantly white institution isn’t racist but I had never been more aware of the color white Or the fact that I wasn’t it Until I came here.
A MAD WONDERLAND
ANGEL J DAELEN MORRIS
Stardust comes out as the boys play. As they hit and run and jump and catch and everything. When they hit, sweat goes flying. Sound is released. A cacophony of hard breaths and pants. The thud of bodies bouncing off bodies. The thick, meaty smack of flesh hitting pavement. All that. And they’re young. Mad young. Just Black boys enjoying being Black and boys. Enjoying all the aspects of Neverland that are ever-present in their lives away from the world. Sheltered in childhood, swaddled in love. Love for each other. Cause that love don’t always hit the same at home. Home love is tempered and changed through lens. Focused like a laser. Cause at home love has to come with a hard edge. Sometimes. Not out here though. That love can come through full force. Cause they ain’t gotta worry about teaching. These boys just playin. Bein themselves as best they know how. And they hug. They tackle. When they real little they kiss. Passing stardust between and amongst each other. Everyone gets they share. As the sun goes down, they think to the next day. The next time they can bask in sunlight. Be Black boys with Black thoughts they don’t know are Black yet. Their Blackness is boundless. Their love is untampered. Pure. Like stardust. Stardust should exist naturally in the infinite that is Blackness. Mini universes contained within boyhood. Contained within Black boyhood. They are microcosms who are feared. Hated. A problem to be solved. An expanse that has been woefully unexplored. And with no map, they may become lost. As one does. And
this can lead to problems. In development and growth. Black men can only provide so much guidance. A semblance of a map. Some partially complete shit. Pieces are added and formed with each generation. Ways to hold onto stardust, where it resides in infinite Blackness. And ways to find more and create more, can be given. But this does not always happen. What does sometimes happen? In some places and in some spaces in the American quilt. Sometimes stardust is mislabeled. Mislabeled as “gay”. Mislabeled as “soft”. Mislabeled as “sweet”. Or maybe, these are the correct labels. In some ways and some instances. But Black boys cannot be soft. They cannot be sweet, like honey, golden and flowing and natural throughout life. Unless it’s with they momma. Or they sista. Or any other woman in they life. But not with each other. That stardust don’t belong. To knuck and buck is to prove your “manhood”. So if you ain’t knuckin and buckin, you bullshittin. Boys don’t know this coming out. They are allowed to explore their own Noir Infinity with any roadmap they chose. Or any avenue they take. Avenues free of street signs with limiter terms, with gendered terms and norms as speed limits. With all the sugar in the tank that the boys so desire. Alas, this sugar can be quickly stamped out, or burned up or misused. In some spaces and places in the American quilt. But it does not go ever truly go away. It can never leave. As energy cannot be destroyed, our own stardust merely changes forms. We see it in our spaces
It’s often romanticized Thought about and sought after But it’s more than a rabbit hole It can be my very own hell I’m trying to avoid inviting you in From the outside looking in It’s cool and fun and enticing But once within The best and the worst come to fruition Daydreams and night horrors are the only manifestation The world, my world The one I escape to Where I am both queen of hearts and winter soldier But I don’t believe the same destiny for you So please let me go and don’t dare follow Before the fantasy and promise sucks you in too 5/2/19
and places of comfort. Our locker rooms, where we grapple and wrestle with each other. Where we feel safe as Black boys, as Black teens, to express that we love each other without the prying eyes of the outside. Where the loving rituals are harsh, cause the world has said they must be harsh. But they are still loving rituals. Meant to share and spread stardust amongst us. This makes sense. Stardust is hot. It burns. It hurts to give sometimes. Our Black Spaces are infinite. In that infinity, there is stardust. Black love. Black joy. Black heat. That we can pass amongst ourselves. And only we can do this. We have the space to. The range to. We mustn’t forget that. We mustn’t listen when the world says we shouldn’t. Tries to change this gift. Say Black boys ain’t got it. Ain’t got this gift. Hold onto it. Cherish it. Cherish your Black magic. Cherish our stardust.
“WHEN IT MANIFESTS”
And when they ask you how you did it, you’ll smile, with sunshine in your cheeks. You’ll tell them your skin is waterproof. That you weathered storms and climbed through jungles to arrive here. You’ll tell them to take notes, from themselves. That your ancestors ordered your steps. Tell them God sends Morse code messages through your heartbeat and all you had to do was listen. Remember to tell them how dark it was. How you couldn’t see past your next footstep, but you kept going. And how your vision was the only thing lighting your path.
Bursts of color, a little illogical Like my mind, but From the heart at least Scented oil to relax Or “relaxing” to the anxiety A bed to get lost in, sometimes Pressure - to do the right thing, all the time - to perform the best? Reminders - for meetings, phone calls - for class for the anxiety and too many hair products
Self-help books, books with universal secrets A queen with power in her eyes If I could have that power in my eyes Three decks to help me see Ideas Gifts that mean more Crystals on the windowsill and the desk A portal designed by the tenant A sanctuary 9/3/19
GIVE IT AIR AGAIN, GIVE IT LIFE AGAIN
AN INTERPRETATION OF THE EUPHORIA FINALE
***EUPHORIA SPOILERS AHEAD*** If you’re anything like me, the release of HBO’s Euphoria destroyed your life in the best way possible. Not only does the show star Zendaya, the love of all of our lives, but it also has beautifully trippy visuals, one of the greatest original soundtracks to ever be produced (shoutout to Labrinth), and the wildest, most heart-wrenching storylines to ever grace our screens. Long story short, the experience of watching Euphoria is quite antithetical to its name; but the show’s ability to pull you into its darkness is euphoric in itself. The show begins with Rue (portrayed by Zendaya) returning home from rehab after suffering a drug overdose. Although the season finale does not necessarily end with an overdose, it is heavily implied once one considers the context of Rue’s relapse. Therefore, it can be said that Euphoria begins and ends with a drug overdose. Initially, I assumed that the final scene of the season — the music video for Labrinth’s “All For Us” that serves as Rue’s drug-induced hallucination — was an allusion to Rue’s death. However, Sam Levinson, the creator of Euphoria, confirmed that Rue is alive. With that theory thrown out the window, I rewatched the last episode to try to make sense of the finale’s final moments. I realized that the scenes felt familiar not because this was my second time watching the episode, but because the finale so closely resembles the pilot episode. Here’s just a few similarities: 1. Rue does a line in the exact same way in the same setting. 2. Rue’s hair and makeup is the same. 3. Rue’s wearing the same clothes. In addition to these visual similarities, the storylines of the episodes complement each other so well, it’s as if the show’s writers used the finale to tell the story of the pilot in a newer, darker light. The first time we see Rue getting high in the show, Rue’s voiceover says, “And then it happens. That moment when your breath starts to slow. And every time you breathe, you breathe out all the oxygen you have. Everything stops: your heart, your lungs, and finally your brain. And everything you feel and wish and want to forget, it all just sinks. And then suddenly you give it air again, give it life again.” (“Pilot”, S1E1). Now let’s examine the last time we see Rue getting high in the show. The scene preceding Rue’s relapse features Rue on a lonely walk to her room, interspersed with cut scenes of dark memories from her past (i.e. the death of her father, arguing
with her mother, etc.). Memories Rue would “want to forget.” Given Rue’s mental health history, the sudden onslaught of this past trauma, coupled with the recent loss of her love interest, would be enough for her to want to make everything stop: her heart, her lungs, and finally her brain. The tone of these words suggests suicide, which is to say that Rue (intentionally) overdoses. Unlike every other episode in the season, which is narrated by Rue, the final episode begins with Rue’s mother as the narrator. She narrates the episode via a letter she wrote about what Rue’s addiction has done to their family. This letter begins with Rue’s mother telling the story of Rue’s birth — the very same birth Rue narrates in the opening scenes of the pilot. Such mirroring provides more evidence for my theory that the finale is a more indepth retelling of the pilot. Part of the letter states that Rue’s overdose caused Rue to be comatose for four days. Again, the show’s creator confirmed that Rue is not dead. However, in the midst of Rue’s drug-induced hallucination, she walks through her home and hugs her mom and sister. Her mom and sister continue with their lives as if Rue is not there. The only person who has actual mutual interactions with Rue is her father, who we know died of cancer. Considering that in these final moments, Rue walks among the living but can only interact with the dead, it can be assumed that she has one foot in each world. The possibility for such an experience presents itself when one is in a coma because their body is still alive, but their brain is essentially nonfunctional (i.e. one step away from death). I say all of this to suggest that the music video in the finale is not necessarily a hallucination, but the experiences Rue has while in the coma caused by the original overdose that propels Rue’s season one storyline. Even if my theory that Euphoria begins and ends with the same storyline is wrong, the similarities between the first and last episodes cannot be denied. The cyclical nature of the show beautifully captures the endless struggle of addiction. No matter how many sobriety chips addicts collect, temptation abounds and relapse is always a looming possibility. And for Rue, whose mother states that she has a “need for symmetry,” (“And Salt the Earth Behind You”, S1E8) it is all too easy for her to cycle in and out of sobriety so that her story always ends where it begins.
rise of thee stallion Aâ€™DAJA HARRIS
No matter how successful or unsuccessful you felt, Hot Girl Summer™ was for you. And we can all agree on one thing: Hot Girl Summer means something different for everyone. Whether you’re out being a “baddie,” chasing the bag, or just being unapologetically you, there is something to gain from the confidence elicited when hearing and speaking the popularly termed phrase.
This issue is no further aided or addressed by popular corporations, such as Wendy’s, Forever21, and Maybelline who use and stake claim to the term Hot Girl Summer in advertisements and employ the use of “Ebonics” as a way to appeal to their young readership. See here: “Official drink of hot girl summer,” “Hot girl summah,” and “Summer 19 in three words: hot girl summer. PERIODT!” You see the problem, right?
But… have we stopped to actually consider what this term truly stands for, and particularly, the way Hot Girl Summer — as recently trademarked by Megan Thee Stallion, a beautiful Black rapper on the rise — has expanded, evolved, and been shaped to fit a certain narrative of Blackness and womanhood. In order to understand how the masses have taken, tainted, and torn the original meaning of the phrase, we must first consult the history on which this spitefulness is predicated.
Mainstream media has attempted to take over a term used to bring forth confidence, beauty, and self-love, and formulate it into a promotional tool to sell the next best product in what they perceive to be a cool and captivating way. In contrast, Megan, in all her talent and creativity, lived her whole life looking up to independent Black women. Her mother, who was a rapper in her own right, was the driving force in her life that set the standard on which Megan wishes to present herself. Not only did her mother encourage her to pursue rapping and performing, but she also taught her how to love and be confident in her skills. As Megan is simultaneously taking online courses to get her degree in health administration and traveling city to city, the public — wishing only to focus on her body as a sexual source and her phrase as a publicity stunt — fail to acknowledge her passion and drive. But are we truly surprised? Society has pushed Black women into cages for a millenia, and refused to allow them to grow and form their own three-dimensional shapes. Megan has received a great deal of unwarranted criticism and feedback.
Welcome to History 101, where today’s lesson will delineate the politics surrounding the hyper-sexualization of Black women’s bodies. Since the European colonial period and the infiltration of the African continent, Black women have been a source of exoticism and fascination. This desire for Black women’s bodies traversed the Middle Passage and landed on the soil of the Americas, seeping itself into the very soil we stand upon. From the ownership of enslaved African women by white men, the displaying of Saartjie Baartman — the Hottentot Venus — in Europe (whose body was literally colonized and objectified due to her large buttocks), and the depiction of Black women as animalistic in 20th-century America (see: Josephine Baker), Black women have been subject to issues of both racial and gender stereotypes. Throughout time, in the midst of change, the narrative has remained the same. So why would we, as intellectual, knowledge-consuming individuals ever look at the same content — despite coming in new wrapping paper and ribbons — and believe that Megan’s role in popular culture would be any different? Don’t worry, this pop quiz isn’t being graded. However, I’m asking you to think. Black women throughout history, in the simple act of fighting for their lives and reaching for their higher selves, have been judged and subjected as physical bodies, rather than as actual souls and intellects. The public has taken Meg’s empowering phrase and ridiculed it for its power to induce self-determined thoughts in the minds of those — be it anyone seeking fulfilment in themselves no matter the race or gender — whom they would otherwise wish to see suffering and abused.
In an interview with Hot97, she mentions that she has received comments from people saying that she “just needs to rap, or just needs to twerk.” Others on Twitter have attempted to undermine her skills and claim that she looks and sounds “like a man.” Megan in response, has asked, “Why can’t I do it all?” And, as we see, she continues to do it all — performing on stage and doing homework behind the scenes, rapping and twerking, ignoring the hate and promoting self-love. Although, the list of insults and vile sexual comments go on and on, one thing will continue to ring true, and Megan herself has said it best on Twitter and throughout countless interviews: “Being a Hot Girl is about being unapologetically YOU, having fun, being confident, living YOUR truth, being the life of the party etc… You just have to have that self-love and that confidence, because if you’re worried about what other people think about you, then, you’re not ever going to feel beautiful.” Hot Girl Summer™ doesn’t stop here. What’s next for you?
photography: brandon wilburn model: delores hanson
ola adebayo porscha hayes rebecca bowman tyler burston rene kina nadia myrie malik gaye
angel j daelen moris ibura dehaan anthony bartley brandon wilburn
logan phillips karen dordor jordan coley charlyn moss
efua osei editor-in-chief WRITING TEAM cece heard writing editor nina lawrence olivia wiliams chazz powell grace gore sparkle whitaker kelly hagan aâ€™daja harris DESIGN TEAM ariel ashie design editor alexis walker camryn cogshell anthony bartley photographer cydney bibbs kennedy morganfield kimberly clark INTERNAL OPERATIONS cienna townson ashley thompson lauren cumberbatch joshua chu adriana patascil
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The RIZE staff would like to thank Tyler Priest for his assistance in making this issue possible!
This issue features pieces on increased policing around campus and Black hair. Special thank you to Brandon Wilburn and Delores Hanson for t...
Published on Nov 10, 2019
This issue features pieces on increased policing around campus and Black hair. Special thank you to Brandon Wilburn and Delores Hanson for t...