Staff: Adrianna Brown Aili Francis What is the Ankh? Campbell Silverstein The Ankh is Wesleyan’s student of color Cat Wulff publication. Hailey Broughton-Jones We ask that all submissions fulfill the Jed Munson following criteria: that they be by and for Jordan White people of color. Kafilah Muhammad Kazumi Fish What can you do? Kelly D’oleo Read the Ankh, just like you are now, and Olivia Najera contribute! Even if you aren’t on the staff, Paul McLaren even if you’ve never done anything like Simone Roberts-Payne this before, there are many ways you can Sung Joon Kim contribute. Submit any type of writing-Rebekah Song fiction, non-fiction, essays, news articles, Contributors: poetry. Any visual art is welcome, and other Cover by Olivia Najera mediums can be published on our digital 3. Mya Valentin platform. If you’ve created something and Keizo Fish want to share it with others, do it here. The 4. Byron Haskins ‘76 Ankh is your space. 5. Kiara Benn 6. Alicia Strong Submit to the Ankh! 8. Nola Nelson the-ankh.org 9. Campbell Silverstein 10. Caridad Cruz 11. Rebekah Song 12. Kelly Acevedo 14. Simone Roberts-Payne This edition was sustainably printed with support from: 15. Anjali Desai 16. Nicole Adabunu 17. Princeton Carter 18. Noa Lin 19. Inayah Bashir 20. Ruby Fludzinski The Ankh partners with the Green Fund to work towards a more intersectional notion of environmentalism and demon21. Jed Munson strate our continued dedication to environmental justice. 22. Akanksha Kalasabail 23. Paul McLaren Back Cover by Mya Valentin 2
DIASPORICAN Mya Valentin
I. the first rule of surviving in the inbetween is to learn how to laugh at yourself when you feel not enough throw your head back and let your laughter fill you up this is your inheritance II. itâ€™s the feeling of being everywhere and nowhere at once knowing everyone and no one some days I feel like the sole inhabitant of my own remote island home acquires a different definition depending on the day III. hips float through islands wide enough to straddle borders back strong enough to carry me across in between to and from islands, mountains, mainlands, homelands my existence is not derivative. 3
PICKIN’ KING COTTON Byron Haskins ‘76 The coke The gin; meth and fentanyl. The heroin. We pickin’ cotton still We sharecropping’ again. making babies out of women and men. We dig We pry we cry We delude in the mirror. To think you all want to be African American, too, it’s an error. Absurd Suburbs We’ve studied How you waste away like me At least there was death at sea. If you want knowledge of how, I will sell you your fill. You just send me the bill. We just all pickin’ cotton still.
BECOMING PRIVILEGED: RACE, NATIONALITY & CLASS IN SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
This past January, I made my second trip to Southeastern Europe to do research and take courses. I spent most of my time in Kosovo; it is a small country that became embroiled in war in 1998 and, with the help of the United States, eventually gained independence in 2008. While studying in Kosovo, I tried to understand my positionality in Kosovar society as a Muslim-American woman of color. Initially, I came into the society with a very American perspective on race, class and nationality. I quickly realized that the American notions of identity did not translate easily into Kosovar society, so I had to readjust my thinking. When we discuss race in America, we generally place it in a historical context. Throughout American history, people of color have been oppressed, marginalized, and killed at the hands of white Europeans. Furthermore, economic marginalization has disproportionately impacted people of color (POC) in America starting from the beginning of American history, when they were considered property. Thus, class and race are very closely linked. American identity politics tend to operate in a white/POC binary and there is very little focus on specific ethnicities. Similarly, Kosovo has a specific historical context that is important to understand. Demographically, Kosovo is about 95% Albanian and Muslim and geographically Kosovo is located in Europe. The Albanians in this region have been impacted by colonialism and imperialism throughout their entire history. I find many historical parallels between Kosovar Albanians and many POC populations in America. For example, when Kosovo was part of Yugoslavia, the government led active efforts to “modernize” Albanian women. Government-sponsored groups spent time and resources urging Albanian Muslim women to remove their headscarves. However, these same groups did not integrate Albanian women into their leadership, and often continued to look down on them. This is very similar present day problems regarding the white savior complex and white feminism that seek to “liberate” Muslim women from the headscarf without working for their inclusion in other ways. The 1990s were a time of turmoil in Kosovar history, marked by the collapse of Yugoslavia and eventually the Kosovo War. One interesting parallel I found during this time was the depiction of Albanian men. A lot of Serbian media painted them as hypersexual rapists. Many Albanian men were accused of raping both Serbian women and men. This depiction is shockingly similar to that of black men in America, where even the accusation of raping a white woman often resulted in lynchings. Later, depictions like these were used to justify the oppression of the Albanian population in Kosovo. Also during this time, there was a massive disparity in birth rates between Albanian and non-Albanian populations
in Kosovo. As a result, conspiracy theories were formed that painted Albanian women as â€œbaby factoriesâ€? who sought to control Kosovo by increasing the populations. This is dangerously close to the way American white supremacists fear becoming the minority and worry about the high birth rates in black and latino communities. For a long time, Kosovo was considered part of Serbia, but was given a large amount of autonomy. Things started changing with the rise of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. He rose to power by capitalizing on the fear of Albanians. He played up the idea that it was actually Serbs who were oppressed by Albanians, and used this to justify systematic discrimination. Slobodanâ€™s tactics are very similar to the way Trump rose to power in the US by capitalizing on white fears. Albanians were fired from jobs, barred from schools, and faced intense police brutality. These are problems that POC in America have faced throughout history. Lastly, the Serbian government committed mass ethnic cleansing against Albanians, which eventually led to American intervention. In the American context racial identity is the primary basis for oppression. In the Kosovar context it is ethno-religious identity. If we imposed the American race paradigm onto the case of Kosovo, the systematic oppression of Albanians would be erased by the fact that both Serbs and Albanians are technically white Europeans. Thus it is clear why this paradigm proves contextually insufficient. America played a key role in the liberation of Kosovo from Serbian oppression. Even today, the largest NATO operation is located in Kosovo. People in the country have a lot of respect for America and think very highly of the country. Many of the first black people to visit Kosovo were African-American soldiers, thus many of the people I spoke with associate blackness with Americanness. This means in Kosovo my American identity affords me a lot of privilege regardless of my racial identity. I have more access to jobs and institutions in Kosovo. My salary as an American in Kosovo is significantly higher than the average salary in Kosovo, which allows me financial freedom. Police and border security are more lenient towards me when they see my American passport, which provides me with the freedom and movement that many Kosovars lack. The POC/white binary works to determine privilege in the American context and many Western European contexts, but it cannot be universally applied. In certain contexts, other factors such as history, class, and nationality can weigh more heavily than race. An Albanian in America would hold racial privilege, whereas in Kosovo I hold class and nationality privilege. When engaging with issues of identity and privilege in an international context, this is important to remember. By accepting the premise that oppression and privilege have historical roots, we must acknowledge that the POC/white binary is not an all-encompassing theoretical framework.
turned towards the sun she is most ready blushing at the rounds of her cheeks taut and tan at her hips she’s put on some color for this rendezvous
you don’t have to be within arms-reach to sense her aroma but you will want to be close enticing scent surrounding; musk of nature sweetness divine sweat of indulgence
her skin relaxes against your fingertips gives slightly under the weight of your touch you pluck her off the heights she occupies she is soft when squeezed
take a bite she is juicy. smooth on the inside. spongy core. she drops to the pit of your stomach. sweet like expansion your palate has new horizons. taste is subjective but she will taste good to you.
“how to tell if your peach is ripe” by Caridad Cruz 10
Kelly Acevedo In the book Ghettonation, Cora Daniels states, “you see your old world and
your new world collide. The crash can be overwhelming.” Boy, is she right. I feel that I live two identities: Hood Kelly and Censored Kelly. I constantly see myself switching between two modes. How I am in my old world (South Central LA) and how I am in my new world (Wesleyan). In my old world, I use LA slang, wear Nike slides with socks, eat Hot Cheetos for breakfast and gummy worms covered in Kool-Aid powder for lunch. I constantly catch myself acting too tough or being like (and I quote Ice Cube), “Fuck them Lincolns. I want them Franklins.” I wear my backpack all the way down and make jokes about getting mugged, or how we had lockdowns at school. I say “ugh, not again” every time I am told to put my hands against the wall as they search me in school. I feel the constant stares from police officers every day when we eat at the lunch tables. I put my keys in between my fingers just in case someone wants to try me. I put my money in my shoe and dress a certain way so that I can prevent myself from getting robbed. I walk longer distances because I know something will most likely happen to me if I go through small streets. I go to kickbacks where I find myself hanging out with Crips, eses, people who have gone to jail, and people who are not affiliated with these things, but know the hood experience very well. Also, you won’t ever find me wearing red or blue. In my old world, I vividly imagine throwing myself onto the floor every time there is a drive-by. I panic when I am in the house alone at night because people have broken into my house. I can describe the exact details of the time a police officer pointed a gun to a young black man, who repeatedly told the officer, “I got shot! I got shot!” right in front of my gate. I do not blame myself for having this hood mentality. I am the product of my environment. As Ice Cube stated, “No kid left behind but he get the runaround/ Can’t you motherfuckers see that they trying to dumb us down?” In part, it is the systems fault. The system has low expectations of us hood kids. Because of this, we never reach our full potential. I find myself turning on and off this hood mentality as I enter my new world. In my new world, I enjoy having intellectual conversations, reading books, eating healthy and eating foods outside of my culture, and networking with people from the entertainment industry. I learned how to turn off that “hood” mentality by being exposed to great things such as going out of state and working on a film project with a professor. I want the same for people in my community.
Although I can get out of that hood mentality, I do sometimes feel that I have to sell my soul to be able to attend Wesleyan. By that, I mean I have to act differently to get my way around this school and become successful. I constantly have to act like I am always happy or that I have no idea what slang is. I feel the need to put on this huge smile and act engaged in someone’s conversation when in reality I am not. I hate that sometimes when I network, I have to find a way to please you so that you can listen to me. But, fake it ’til you make it, right? It is very overwhelming and frustrating to come from a background not many people can relate to on this campus. It is overwhelming to voice my perspective and experiences knowing that I am making people feel very uncomfortable. I am probably making some of you uncomfortable right now. It is frustrating when people cannot see where you are coming from, or when people try to correct you and completely shut you down. It is frustrating hearing a person who comes from a more privileged background say, “I find it interesting how…,” “It is so shocking to hear…,” “I am so surprised that…” How is it interesting to you? How is this shocking to you? How is this surprising to you? What you are barely learning about is something that I deal with daily. It is normal for me to get searched, robbed, and overall treated like a criminal. It is normal for me to see gang fights, trash cans on fire, R.I.P. T-shirts, and to continue classes even though one of our classmates recently got shot right in front of our school. It is normal for me to not rely on my parents because I have not seen them in many years due to them being undocumented. It is normal for me that I had to raise myself. It is normal for me to be hopping from one house to the next because I do not have an exact place where I can call “home.” It is normal to sleep on the floor or on the couch, or for Little Caesar’s crazy bread to be my only meal of the day. It was normal for me to be abandoned on the streets, threatened, and told that I am not worth shit. You know what, though? South Central made me, and I could not be any more proud. The way I listen to classical music from the film Moonlight comes from listening to gunshots as alarm clocks in South Central. It is my job to voice these experiences because many of my peers in my old world cannot. As I walk away, I will continue to put on my sneakers and a hip hop shirt. I will put on some earphones and hear Tupac tell me through my earphones, “Born with less but you still precious, smile for me now.” One last thing: As Tech N9ne said, “So what I’ve come to realize is, I will never fit in. So it is my duty to stand the fuck out.”
Simone Roberts-Payne When happiness is based off of who won a sports game i wonder if it actually brought you joy or you are faking but that smile seems so real and is it because thatâ€™s what your dad cheered for or grandpa taught you just like grandpa taught you to hate the black boys across town but worship them when they came on your screen He is not black he is OJ a fighting machine to win a sports game to jump higher kick a ball farther but not human not deserving of your love unless they are pushing your team further white grandpa raises his fist in the air and kisses the screen at Wilt Chamberlain and David Ortiz But shudders when Malcolmâ€™s name is mentioned
Anjali Desai Staring at the ceiling motionless while someone on the phone talks me into humble bruising Strong Finally my skin gives into my blood, it’s been saying all along: There’s really something about crying at the heel of hell’s mercy Looking into melting eyes and make the violence weep I still try to catch, still still, failing soiling Critical mass of air displaced by standing The true salience like the tip of my tongue
................ i have always been fascinated by punctuation they signify endings yet they represent a sense of completion. a sense of /closure/. but then why am i so afraid of ellipses? maybe itâ€™s because they remind me of black bodies. of Mike Browns. of how blackness is always left outside to bleed into white spaces. nothing more than insignificant, black, lifeless dots on the bloodstained pages of white American history. ellipses remind me of unnecessary pauses. of the straight heart beat monitor lines of black boyâ€™s breaths in hospitals that they should not be in I am scared of ellipses because they remind me of how black lives are nothing more than a mere symbol of never-ending endings. ................ Nicole Adabunu 16
DRIVE BYS IN COP CARS Princeton Carter
These days black boys don’t know how to act, If we “comply” we got 12 warning shots in our back, And that’s a fact, A community hungering for unity is under attack, That’s no coincidence my guy, fill the black body with lead, watch the light leave his eyes, The only white that surrounds him is the chalk from the station, Now a murderer killed a teenager, is now on probation, It’s funny how the colors on the flag are worn by the same men who make high schoolers hashtags, Bet! You better not ask me to stand for the pledge, Wanting me to sign without the fine print read, See I smile a lot, I keep the pain in chains like they did our people as they tried to change our names, Stripping our links to our home so we don’t known who we are, But everytime I check my back I see the scars, My grandfather and his father have the same marks, These faint markings on their back, Now I’m no doctor, yet, and I don’t have my BS degree, But when I look in the mirror I know what it looked like to me, Scar tissue of my father’s father helping me remember who I must be, This is why I kneel, fight, and resist too, Because at 11 my father told me I had those lashes too, I’ve got those lashes too 17
PILLAR OF THE NIGHT
Nana My sweet, beautiful innocence, you will still grow into a pillar of the night. I write this for you because I know how it feels to be fatherless and alone. It is not merely a constant state of being, but an overwhelming feeling that flies into your mind and delves into the deepest crevices of your spirit. You’ll feel it when you observe the girl at the park clinging onto her father’s arm. Or maybe you’ll feel it when your friend nags about her dad being too overprotective. Or perhaps there will be a time whenever you see a man, you think that it could’ve been your father standing before you. Oh, you will definitely feel it in those moments when you know your dad’s laugh would have filled the silence and his smell would have made you feel safe. This feeling will force into your mind the ever-present knowledge that you are alienated from the touch of your father. You are far away from hearing his laugh, and you are worlds away from ever truly understanding who he is or who he was, or worse yet, who he was meant to be. Your unadorned wishes and his unfulfilled dreams become one, leaving your fatherlessness inflamed in your heart. While your mind and h eart become consumed, you quickly brush away tears and grab your mother’s hand. You will still grow into a pillar of the night. I write this for you because I know what it is to be fatherless and feel alone, missing half of the support you were destined to have, missing half of the joy you were created to indulge in, missing half of the love you were entitled to receive. This feeling of fatherlessness will make you feel alone, but you are not alone because I know what it feels like, too. Unfortunately my dear, sweet child, you’ll know this feeling more than I ever did. But you will know my love, you will know the power of a fulfilled dream, and you will become a pillar of the night. 19
Jed Munson this is the part where you tell me why i am the you in all the poems you write or else i stop believing, start conflating you with dumbness and my dicksize for the reason you don’t sleep good at night. ask me if i loved you one more time & i will show you where the fear of my father’s blood begins: in truth you dazzle me in lies no i never had A _________.
1. chance 2. way with words 3. Motive
remind me again how i (re)f[r]act(or) into this ? or is it one of those things that doesn’t quite compute like the shit that makes your math teachers weep because it’s so mad beautiful, like e ^ i (me) times pi + 1 is you is me in the poems you write = 0 = us if so then this Voice is the law of me now. 21
Akanksha Kalasabail Your image follows me even in places most hostile to romance. I follow the wiggling of his beard, the twitching of his bristling eyebrows blocking the other half of the classroom. His voluptuous bellows and his deep inquiries fill the philosophy class with emotion; even the most drugged-up kids look half-interested in our teacher’s spastic gesticulations. But the second the lights go off—to watch some shitty movie clip or for us to peer out the side windows to “admire the natural light”—my eyes serendipitously find your impish curve of a smirk. When my mother slices peaches and apricots in the sultry late-July heat, the wry curve of your smile haunts me—I imagine resting in the dip of your Cupid’s bow—and strikes the breath from my lungs in gasps I quickly fail to hide under my breath in between every syrupy sip from the forbidden fruit. I see your reflection in the sunroom windows, just like now: with the meandering light rays tangling with the harshest tones of your hair. I can see your fingers, wandering from your twirling pen to frustrate themselves in the brilliant straying strands which flitter like the sheer porch curtains against summer wind. But when our teacher’s bushy fingers direct our attention away from the once-dark projector screen, the width of the room filters in with the sunlight and I pretend to look at the bleary worksheet in front of me. The paper’s pressed ink brings me back to my imaginings of your twiddling pen, sometimes accidentally flung from your fingers. I’d bend over to pick the pen up quickly, so that maybe our fingers would touch and your smile could be directed at me, for me, just for an instant. I don’t know whether I will ever speak to you or not or, if I spoke to you, how I could tell you of my confused adoration. With you, love feels quixotically infectious, as if I have cataracts in my mouth: a blurry vision of you on my tongue. Oh lord, I’d wear prescription glasses to clear the stars from my cloudy eyes to see your ethereal backdrop. I’d get arthritis with you, so my freshly-washed hands would be forced to cup your chin with warm deliberation. These visions converged in a single sensation of life for me: I think little of a future, except one beside you. But if I feel your gaze resting on the top of my head, I turn my face back to our teacher’s wriggling eyebrows—praying and taking the Lord’s name in vain in the same breath until the lights turn off, when I can look at you again. 22