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SPRING

AMENDMENT

2016

LITERARY AND ART JOURNAL

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ABOUT THE COVER:

The cover art of this journal is Heroism and Harm by Benjamin Winans. This art piece is inspired by Mike Mignola’s cover art of the comic book Batman: A Death in the Family. Heroism and Harm is a reinterpretation of the comic book cover it is inspired from where Benjamin Winans is hoping to evoke the same melancholy emotions people felt when they viewed Mike Mignola’s cover art while combining that emotion with recent events of police officers taking the lives of unarmed Black American children and young adults. Unlike Mike Mignola’s cover art, Benjamin Winans replaced the dead Jason Todd/Robin with a Black American child being cradled in a mournful Batman’s arms. Also, Batman’s signature symbol on his chest is replaced with the words “POLICE”. Finally, instead of a completely black background like Mike Mignola’s cover art, Benjamin Winans placed newspaper clippings of incidents around America where unarmed Black Americans are killed by police officers and the slogan of Starbucks’ ill-advised campaign to address the situation: “Race Together”.

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MISSION AMENDMENT

e men(d)ment/

1. An annual literary and art journal that seeks to promote discussion on issues of equality, class, race, gender, sexuality, ability and identity. 2. A socially progressive student-run organization that advocates for social change through artistic expression, as well as provides a platform for historically marginalized voices in the artistic and literary community. 3. What you’re holding in your hands.

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AMENDMENT STAFF EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Brittney Maddox EXECUTIVE EDITOR Cyrus Nuval LITERARY EDITOR Mikaela Reinard ART DIRECTOR Rachel Visser CO-ONLINE EDITORS Chris Okamuro Sammie Sheedy OUTREACH COORDINATOR Kathryn Novelli

AMENDMENT STAFF Elise Andrew Maddie Bowers Hallie Chametzky Addy Gravatte Claire Fuller Joy Jenkins Rachel Johnstone Natalie Kerby Meg Loudenslager Sam Manzare Malika Musawwir Gessler Santos-Lopez Izzy Senger Sasha Silberman COVER ARTIST Benjamin Winans ADVISOR Liz Canfielde

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STUDENT MEDIA CENTER STAFF

DESIGNER Uri Hamman SMC PRODUCTION MANAGER Mark Jeffries SMC BUSINESS MANAGER Jacob McFadden SMC DIRECTOR Greg Weatherford

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Greetings wonderful human being holding this book! As you can probably tell by the huge letters on top of this page, you are now reading the Acknowledgements portion of this journal’s introduction section. The fact that you are reading this part of journal says something very pleasant and important about you. Something that I admire. But I’ll get to that later. First things first, we would like to thank all of our talented and skilled contributors for transforming a little bit of their wonderful hearts and souls into compelling pieces of art and literature. The poems, essays, stories, drawings, paintings and photos you will find in this journal are about some of the topical social issues of our time that the artists and writers would like to present or discuss with you. Without these folx having the bravery to put a little bit of themselves out there for everyone to see, our journal would not exist. Next, we would like to thank our hard working and energetic staffers of Amendment and the Student Media Center. Like our contributors, all of the staffers are students. These remarkable individuals have taken time out of their studies to put this book together. They’ve reviewed every piece of content, they’ve encouraged students to express themselves through art and literature, they made sure we followed through with every plan we’ve made and they made damn sure this book got printed. Without our staffers’ hard work and energy, our journal would not exist. If you’ve read this far into the Acknowledgments section, I was right about you. While you could have ignored this section completely for the rest of your life, you’re actually reading it right now. I have a feeling that you’re the kind of person who knows that for every produced object in this world there are people who placed time and effort into creating that object. At the very least, those people need to be acknowledged for their efforts. I have a good feeling about you. I’m glad that this book is in your hands. So, finally, we have to thank good people like you Without you wonderful folx picking this book up and taking it home with you, our journal would not exist. Cyrus Nuval Executive Editor Amendment Literary and Art Journal

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EDITOR’S NOTE

When I first began working on Amendment, I was a VCU Arts student mostly interested in writing. I was just getting into Spoken Word and the RVA Slam Poetry scene. I had mostly written from my own perspective and the only editing that I did, at least in terms of a literary journal, was back in high school. It was something I did for fun with friends. We wrote bad poetry about boys who never paid us any attention. The art featured in the journal was pseudo-conscious and a knock-off of manga aesthetics. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a small gathering of individuals that liked to create art in their spare time. I think that was what initially attracted me to the Amendment, the people who were involved. I had never seen people who were interested in both social justice and the arts. Before then I had never seen a relationship between the two. I was stuck in the mindset that art could only be aesthetically pleasing or overly emotional. When I joined the staff of Amendment in 2014, I was introduced to a talented group of individuals who were interested in creating a literary and art journal that talked about issues that hit close to home from them. I knew then the poems that I had brought with me from high school did not have to be limited to love poems. In Amendment I made content that dealt with topics like body image, racism, mental health and self image. It was through working with Amendment that I was introduced to flash fiction and zines. This was a new form of collaborative writing that I had never experienced. Flash fiction is when a group of people get together and write for a few moments over a topic selected at random. The writing is not limited to prose, poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. It is, however, unedited. Many of the entries received are raw, unfiltered and honest Critiques of society. Something Amendment has always been dedicated to. Starting the hard conversation that need to be held. Since I joined, Amendment has grown into a publication that works both online and offline, hosts film festivals and makes mini documentaries. I am honestly proud of the progress we’ve made as a publication. I believe art grows ,informs, and learns. Amendment is much more than a literary magazine.

Brittney Maddox Editor-in-Chief Amendment Literary and Art Journal

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CONTENTS ART ANXIOUS by Jason Ly..................................................................................... 3 A CELEBRATION OF NATURAL HAIR by Christina Hairston............................... 4 HUGE by Christina Hairston............................................................................. 5 WEARY by Elise Ketch...................................................................................... 6 UNTITLED by Yixiao (Annia) Song.................................................................... 6 UNTITLED by Yixiao (Annia) Song.................................................................... 7 FEMALE CONSCIOUSNESS by Christina Hairston............................................. 8 MALE CONSCIOUSNESS by Christina Hairston................................................ 9 INVOLUNTARY by Elise Ketch.........................................................................10 BE FREE by Christina Hairston.........................................................................11 DISPLACED by Elise Ketch...............................................................................12 CLOCKHEADS by Rosie Petree........................................................................14 A PORTRAIT OF ERYKAH BADU by Christina Hairston......................................15 APHRODITEÂ by Rachel Johnstone and Sarah Hudson........................................15 COLORISM by Christina Hairston....................................................................16 HEROISM AND HARM by Benjamin Winans....................................................17 THE GLASS CLOSET by Manon Loustaunau.....................................................18

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CONTENTS LITERATURE EDIBLE, BUT UGLY by Sylvia Jones..................................................................25 NEOLIBERALISM: The Blind Side by Meg Loudenslager....................................26 REFRACTION by Sarah King...........................................................................30 AY MORENITA (Oh Little Brown Girl) by Aila Shai Castane..............................32 RUN IT by Lorenzo Simpson............................................................................34 RACISM by Jafar Cooper................................................................................36 SUNS OUT GUNS OUT by Katheryn Novelli....................................................38 MAMI, NO TE OLVIDES (Mother, Don’t Forget) by Aila Shai Castane...............40 INVERTEBRATE by Bayan Atari........................................................................42 PERMANENT BURNT by Nia McLeod..............................................................45 COPS AND ROBBERS by Brandon Duong........................................................46 WHEN I WAS TWELVE, I COULDN’T BRUSH MY HAIR by Taylor Manigoult......48 A PORTRAIT OF MYSELF AS AUDREY HEPBURN by Hallie Chametzky..............53 SILENCED AND REJUVENATED: A Memoir to Those Who Lost Their Voice by Aysegul.....................................................................................................54 THAT DAY by Lorenzo Simpson........................................................................56 I WONDER by Lorenzo Simpson......................................................................58 MOTHER MEDIUM by Eliott Rollins..................................................................60 UNTITLED ESSAY by Fadel Allasan..................................................................62

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ART

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ANXIOUS Jason Ly

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A CELEBRATION OF NATURAL HAIR Christina Hairston

HUGE

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Christina Hairston

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WEARY Elise Ketch

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UNTITLED I Yixiao (Annia) Song

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UNTITLED II Yixiao (Annia) Song

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FEMALE CONSCIOUSNESS Christina Hairston

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MALE CONSCIOUSNESS Christina Hairston

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Elise Ketch

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BE FREE

Christina Hairston

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DISPLACED Elise Ketch

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CLOCKHEADS

Rosie Petree

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A PORTRAIT OF ERYKAH BADU Christina Hairston

APHRODITE Rachel Johnstone and Sarah Hudson

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COLORISM Christina Hairston

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HEROISM AND HARM Benjamin Winans

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THE GLASS CLOSET: Identity, Appearance and Shame in the Context of Queerness Manon Loustanou

In the United States, shame is such a universal aspect of the coming-of-age process. You are shamed by your peers and community for being other. Taunts like four-eyes, nerd, dork, peewee, or loser – you grow out of. Puberty hits, and you, by choice or in desperation, embrace your otherness and all of the sudden those glasses are trendy, you attend a top-tier university, and those jeers are just a bad memory. But the first time someone calls you a dyke or a faggot – maybe you’re in the gym locker room in junior high and snuck one too many glances – it hurts more than the rest, because on some level you know your tormentors are right – you are other, you are queer, and you never grow out of that. The world we live in today confines queerness to marginalized otherness, but also fetishizes it as trendy. According to i-D, more than half of my generation considers itself “not straight”, however tabloids still call girl-on-girl kissing “news”. Straight women kiss 18 Amendment 2016.indd 18

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and touch each other to attract straight male attention, because in their minds “lesbian” is more a sex position and form of foreplay, and less a genuine identity. The fashion industry is so quick to appropriate otherness in to something palatable and exclusive, but intended for those who do not feel other. It is now trendy to be queer. But queerness is not a pretty package that everyone from Kohl’s to Bloomingdales can sell: “lumbersexual” men’s style is the new best-selling trend. But this aesthetic came from gay porn 25 years ago. At the time, it was shocking and disturbing to much of middle-class America. Their “all-american” boy – tall, tanned, and muscular – was doing it with other “all-American” boys. This was practically the Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ of porn; An Abomination!

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The Glass Closet was a performance piece that occurred in New York City, coinciding with New York Fashion Week, September 2015. We performed across the city, from Central Park to Washington Square Park, from Lincoln Center to the High Line, and finally at Chelsea Piers. Models paraded, meandered, and posed in our various locations, vacillating between interacting with and ignoring other people. The models commanded the attention of our space, causing viewers to pause and ogle, and sometimes turn away in disgust and horror. I wanted to do this performance in New York, because to locate it in a space that has historically been a hot spot for performance and queerness contextualized the performance for the viewers. Richmond did not seem to be a queer enough audience. New York tolerates oddity, but also challenge the oddity to be intentional, and therefore noticed. New York as a location also challenged me to work on a larger scale, and what that means for a sensitive topic. The entire ordeal involved 19 people. From start to finish, this was an eight month process – beginning in February with a diary entry about wanting to show at New York Fashion Week, while simultaneously rejecting the principle purpose of the fashion industry: commodified 20 Amendment 2016.indd 20

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appearance. Serious work began in late July, with an overhaul of the designs; construction took place in August. The Glass Closet was a public recognition of the shame one feels as a queer person. It was meant to challenge the viewer to contemplate their own otherness by creating a moment of pause for contemplation. Models each had two outfits that were designed with them specifically in mind. This is because the underlying purpose and pretext of The Glass Closet was an experiment in the correlation between identity and appearance. While dressed and performing, I observed the models becoming different from their usual selves – sometimes physically, in the way they carried themselves and their mannerisms, and sometimes through stronger or new personality traits than what I knew them to usually exhibit. This was intentional, and the most exciting part of the performance. The clothes were meant to reveal and conceal, both in actuality and allusion, the models’ physiques and minds. With visual cues from traditional fashion silhouettes and occasions, these clothes were meant to guide the models to explore hidden parts of themselves. I was giving them a new, queer, and to an extent, radical, appearance to inhabit, and they did so with vigor. It was magical to watch as they explored their usually censored otherness. This led to the models having a more refined sense of self-awareness. By the end of the performance, they were inhabiting our venues so deliberately, and commanding so much intensity and attention. The Glass Closet became a case study in identity and appearance. If you cannot look the way you feel, you can never truly be who you know yourself to be. (If you only exist internally, what kind of limited existence is that?) Conversely, if appearance can determine our roles and how we are perceived and treated, do they determine at a deep, internalized level our identity? There is such a flaunted abundance of clothing and accessory choices for consumers to buy and wear, to exist within the cis/heteronormative ideas of beauty and desire. When this is contrasted with the queer identity, and the complete lack of androgynous or nongender-specific clothing, it is no wonder we queers struggle with our appearance. When we dress ourselves what are we doing? 21 Amendment 2016.indd 21

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We are choosing an appearance. We are choosing a priority. We are choosing an identity. We are choosing to acknowledge our personality and state of independence. We are choosing how we want to be perceived. Even when we decide to not appear as we usually do we are doing so deliberately; even when we decide not to put thought or effort in to our appearance it is deliberate. It is the role of the fashion designer, the clothier, to craft appearances and potential appearances that will appeal to and validate certain existences and identities; to carefully consider how her clothes construct an appearance that will craft, support, and contribute to an individual’s sense of self. A businessman will tell you this is called a customer profile or a market analysis. Really, you are learning to emphasize and appreciate – in what feels like a safe way – a certain identity or part of an identity. It is magnificent we have such versatility in our existence. The Glass Closet is not over, but just the beginning. It was an ephemeral event, with such interesting results. I am ready to take this further now. The concept of queer shame can always be explored further – when reclaimed and processed, shame is such a point of strength and empowerment. Finding empowerment in otherness is perhaps the greatest freedom one can achieve. ____________________________ The Glass Closet would not have been possible without the patience and kindness of the models: Adele, Anya, Austin, Brandon, Campbell, Cyrus, Daniel, Kristin, Zach and Zoe; my mother; and the support of Kristin Caskey, Kasha Killingsworth and Miranda Leung. www.theglasscloset.info

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LITERATURE

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EDIBLE, BUT UGLY Sylvia Jones

Winner of the Amendment 2015 Literary Contest: Poetry Category

Respect is wit unpredictable it lives between public and private which is why our lives are as intense as they are sudden we cross roads to be respected we exit too we stand accused with the weight of an unshaped hunger our doubts pregnant and outnumbered by a unilateral need to be politically correct we inherited it, this debate room its linoleum floors its waxed opinions we are eating dirt to avoid peer censure we taxidermy ourselves to keep from having to consider the innuendos of small talk an exact fear a metallic taste an anthem a menagerie maybe blackness demands too much from us all I have left is a fatigue and a fear that my bad breath might ruin my friendships how asinine how eager we are to argue, to be consumed to maximize our potential. To become The Ballot or the Bullet* ____________________________ *Malcolm X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet” is the title of a public speech by human rights activist Malcolm X which was delivered on April 3, 1964, at Cory Methodist Church in Cleveland, Ohio.

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NEOLIBERALISM: The Blind Side Meg Loudenslager

As I began to formulate ideas for this essay, I grew concerned. I had just written about the importance of intersectionality yet here I was, outlining yet another essay on the same topic. Being a constant worrier when it comes to just about everything, this initially concerned me only because I was afraid that this trend would reflect poorly on me as a writer. However, as I have thought about it more, it has occurred to me that it does reflect poorly, only not on my work. We live in a society and are participating in an activist movement that consistently excludes people, a movement that the success of requires that we shine light to these disparities in order to make any change, any movement. Instead, it reflects poorly on the gay and lesbian politics that we are relying on to make a difference in our lives. The topic of my essay is, indeed, a cause for concern. The fact that LGBT political activism has now concretely existed for over half a century and continues to exclude and ignore countless members of the groups for whose rights they are fighting is a cause for concern. The fact that there is still a need to address the lack of intersectionality in a movement that began over sixty years ago is a cause for concern. It is astounding and disappointing that the LGBT movement continues to lack an integral facet of success. As stated by Cathy J. Cohen in her essay “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens,” “a truly radical transformative politics has not resulted from queer activism” (438). It is for this reason that I intend to argue that the existing majority of queer activism has encouraged a new form of systematic oppression and strengthened the influence and presence of heteronormativity in our everyday lives. Conflict has existed among queer activists since the beginning of the homophile movement of the 1950s (Duggan 51). In her book The Twilight of Equality? Lisa Duggan asserts that a significant conflict between two forms of queer activism has emerged since the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11th, 2001. According to Duggan, there are two dominant sides of this conflict- the progressive-left and neoliberalism. She calls these two approaches “wildly at odds with each other analytically and strategically” (Duggan 57). In order to fully understand the dramatic contrast between the two, we must first understand the inner workings of each political view. Duggan immediately makes her position clear by calling what some may simply term “the left” the “progressive-left,” insinuating that neoliberalism is the opposite

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Winner of the Amendment 2015 Literary Contest: Essay Category

of progressive. Progressive-leftists “contest dominant heteronormative assumptions and institutions” (Duggan 50), meaning that they work to destruct the idea that straight is the “norm” and that anyone who is not heterosexual continues to be automatically “othered.” Duggan argues that neoliberalism does the opposite, upholding heteronormativity by fighting solely for equality between the straight and gay populations. She calls this approach to activism “equality politics.” However, “equality politics” seems to define gay as white gay men, excluding all other forms of sexuality (the erasure of bisexuality is a common theme of what Duggan calls this non-progressive form of activism), as well as every other group of people who are othered and exist as minorities. Duggan goes as far as to say that “neoliberal advocacy… is defined as the nonpolitical exclusion of ‘issues of class, race, and gender’” (55). It is in this disregard for intersectionality that the shift from progressive-left politics to neoliberalism that is causing an anti-progressive movement to emerge and, unfortunately, become the dominant form of LGBTQIA+ activism- or rather, “LG” activism, in that it excludes all members of the smaller minorities involuntarily existing in the shadows of the acronym. Cohen could not have put it better when she states that “missing… is any attention to, or acknowledgment of, the ways in which identities of race, class, and/or gender either enhance or mute the marginalization of queers, on the one hand, and the power of heterosexuals, on the other” (448). This relatively new movement has created yet another form of systematic oppression through the marginalization that Cohen places such a heavy emphasis on. The shift from the progressive-left to neoliberalism has erased decades of progress. In “equality politics,” the fight for equality is so exclusive that it is nearly nonexistent, yet it is the most prominent form of queer politics out there today. The emergence of neoliberalism has made the need for intersexuality in queer activism even greater. It has created a society that is more blind than ever before to issues of race, gender, class, and just about everything else that exists outside of the lives of white gay men. This is precisely why Cohen believes that we have yet to reach a radical and transformative form of queer activism. In calling for a form of politics that places those in “nonnormative and marginal positions” (Cohen 438) at the forefront of queer politics and activism, Cohen is seeking to dismantle viewpoints such as those

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of neoliberalists and replace them with a politics that excludes no one, a politics that fights for the rights of those who are most deprived of them. The activism that she is calling for is one that places the utmost importance on intersectionality, one that will finally be progressive, radical, and, most importantly, transformative. In order for any cause or campaign to make any sort of change, existing dichotomies must be taken down. Queer theory is vastly multidimensional, but, according to Cohen, the queer politics that exists today “has served to reinforce simple dichotomies between heterosexual and everything ‘queer’” (438). Today, the term queer is strictly an umbrella term, an abbreviation for typically white and fairly wealthy lesbian and gay individuals. Therefore, this perceived dichotomy exists only between those whose sexualities are othered. Further, light is shed only the prevailing sexualities of such a vast minority. The problem with the existence of such a dichotomy is that it once again excludes the vast number of those whose identities are even more othered than gay men and lesbians. In order to deconstruct this dichotomy, we must make queerness expand its meaning to include all of those who are othered, therefore encompassing a larger population. Black women, teen moms, “welfare queens,” individuals whose gender do not align with their biological sex, all those whose identities go against societal norms, are queer. We do not exist in an “either/or” world. Change is not brought about by simply comparing two things- it occurs when an intricate web of contrasting identities that carry varying degrees of privilege are brought together and analyzed. It occurs when all levels of privilege and oppression are compared not only to the existing majority but to all members of such a web. It is not only the prevailing normative identity that oppresses those who are queer. Queers often oppress other queers in vast and complex ways. Black trans women face more violence than any other group in this web, yet these acts of violence are hidden in the shadows cast primarily by white gay men. By erasing the dichotomy discussed by Cohen, we are unraveling the notion that “all heterosexuals are represented as dominant and controlling and all queers are understood as marginalized and invisible” (Cohen 440). Neoliberalism is based on the belief in the existence of a dichotomy that places heteronormativity on end of the scale and everything else on the other. Cohen asserts that queer politics fails to challenge heteronormativity because of this. Duggan calls recent neoliberal sexual politics “the new homoonormativity” (50). Neoliberals are fighting for the right to assume the same position of heterosexuals, to be held on the same level. However, this is all that they are fighting for, creating a

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movement that holds back its potential to be transformative. It is for this reason that many people believe that homophobia and the exclusion of queers in public spaces has ended with the legalization of gay marriage. Once a single heteronormative institution has been opened up to the queer population, it is as though the struggle for equal rights has ended. This “new homonormativity” promises “the possibility of a demobilized gay constituency and a privatized, depoliticized gay culture anchored in domesticity and consumption” (Duggan 50). Neoliberalism offers a view of an ideal world, one in which we no longer need to fight against the norm and fight to integrate our identities into the norm. As appealing as this view may be, there are unfortunate certainties that we must face. Having what straight individuals have is not going to end centuries of systemized oppression. It is not going to end the distaste and disgust that certain people hold, both intentionally and unintentionally, for sexual and gender minorities. It simply encourages heteronormativity, keeping the existence of the normative population and the othered population alive and well. After over sixty years in the making, the vast majority of queer activists continue to fail to bring intersectionality into play when attempting to politically and socially transform society. This is the leading cause of our failure to form Cohen’s “truly radical or transformative politics” (438). Today’s queer politics continues to exclude countless individuals and support and uphold heterosexual norms and institutions. It is easy to say that change is long overdue. Intersectionality holds the key to the success of queer activism and it’s about time we put it to use.

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REFRACTION Sarah King

13 months ago we moved in because there was a $100 deposit and first month’s free rent. We didn’t have shit to our name except clothes, a bed, desk and rickety dressers older than I am. By Christmas, we had pieced together a fully furnished home, and I was quickly learning the different facets of loving an addict. I wore bruises beneath sweatshirts in solitary, dull black arms “too embarrassing” to go out. I spent sleepless nights wondering if 3 a.m. sirens were carrying a white body found too deep in the South Side. I studied for finals beside blood stained hardwood, wakened by seizing bones on the floor. I kept my head down and broken nose clean. I lost job opportunities and easy As because prying eyes couldn’t understand the chunks of flesh, gashed fingers, were from smashing glass roses in hopes of forsaking fiendish Devils. How do you hang to the fraying leash of debt, innocence, proof and life — but alone? Slung tight across your back? Not a noose, but close. I walked across this threshold to find my dog frenzied at the Feds. I cried curled beside him. I bit back tears when he was re-homed. I peered at these ceilings when I awoke, day after day, grateful for the shallow breaths beside me. I peered harder until I slept, swathed by syncopated stillness, grateful for the end of each day. I saw greed and guns and no glory in the kitchen.

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Winner of the Amendment 2015 Literary Contest: Short Story Category

Pipedreams. I watched life seep away slowly with dissipating smoke. I watched husks form from the bowels of silver spoons. It’s been a long 13 months. The eviction notice on the door seemed like a pathetic, leering last jab. How can you steal unsacred space? But as I look around these walls a final time, I see the scars of our presence — and I’m not sorry. The harrowed existence is past. I’m turning my back with windows wide open. The threshold of recovery close. The wind whispers her impermanent blessings, apologies. And despite the wars of attrition waged here: there is life. Not even crack can crack raw, unprecedented faith in the human spirit’s survival. Revival. 13 months later I’ve packed up a lot of our shit, and given away a lot more. I saw happiness manifested in the bare walls of the opportunity this empty apartment offered us a year and some change ago. The walls need new paint and the holes filling — but try and tell me as I look around at sunlight snatching through their sorrows that we ain’t gone be alright.

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AY MORENITXA (Oh Little Brown Girl) Aila Shai Castane

Ay Morenita When will you realize that your hips don’t lie? Your oppressors do They try to suppress your thighs Like you ain’t got the moves Every time you dance They get confused How a Little Brown Girl Could be so smooth Ay Morenita When will you realize that your skin is gold? Sweet like Caramelo Your flavor is bold They try to bland your being And whitewash your soul But you, Little Brown Girl, You break the mold Ay Morenita When will you realize that your arms are home? Don’t be ashamed of their shape That’s poison for your dome Embrace the fact that your embrace is so warm Little Brown Girl You are a quiet storm Ay Morenita When will you realize the power of your breasts? The strength of your nature Lies on your chest

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Your feminine figure Causes them to lose their breath Little Brown Girl You are so filled with life and zest Ay Morenita When will you realize the magic of your hair? The tighter the curl The harder they stare The bounce of your ‘fro Cannot be compared Little Brown Girl You have so much flair Ay Morenita When will you realize the perfection of your shape? The silhouette of your behind Is purposely ornate The geography of your curves Is a series of perfect lines Little Brown Girl You are one of a kind Ay Morenita Turn off the TV Close your eyes to propaganda So your mind can be free Love the body that you’re in Look in the mirror so you can see That you, Little Brown Girl Are exactly who you’re supposed to be

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RUN IT Lorenzo Simpson

That’s some nice white privilege you got there. Let me get that off you. You’ve had that complexion for protection for too long, it’s time you gave it up. I want that gaze, too. You know, the one employers give when they know they have nothing to fear with this one, go head and throw it in the bag! Run yo culture colonizing, eurocentric beauty standards, rip them out the page of every magazine and place them on the ground real slow like. My daughters and son eyes will not fall victim to your whiplash photography. Run to your junk drawer, throw out the ketchup and soy sauce packets, and let me see that Homestead Act you’ve been hiding behind. Open your mouth up wiiiiide, rip that Riff Raff brand of ebonics off your tongue, your people haven’t cried out in pain long enough to speak it. I want your shade of egotism, so I can criticize the government without being followed. I want your magnetism, so whenever I walk down the street, people don’t immediately switch poles. I want your leading role in almost every TV show and movie, how come the only white butler I see on the screen works for Batman? Matter of fact, man gimme your superpowers, too. I wanna be invisible when I walk into any gas station. I want the ability to take any conversation about a marginalized people and transform it into a self pity party. Hand over that Aryan alchemy, black magic doesn’t seem to be working as quickly. There’s nothing you can do when I run up in your social construct, guns blazing, I’m taking everything! In this cold world, you always fell softly as unique snowflakes, but the rest of us were collected in the gutter and labeled black ice. It’s time we changed that it’s time*click clack*

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That’s some nice melanin you got there, boy. Let me get that off you. Shave those nasty kinks off your scalp, place em on the ground and slide em over, they look better on me anyway. That’s a nice soul song you got there. Bleed on this contract right quick. Do it now, or your family starves. How’s that song go? You’re not knocking me off the top. Your rights in the backseat of my brand new foreign car, don’t act like you forgot. Hand over that rich history, you don’t need those pesky images of black bodies draped in gold poisoning your mind. These diamonds and this gold were never yours and forever ours. Instead, keep that black on black crime myth lodged deep in your subconscious. People with your skin are more prone to cannibalism. Remember that now. Keep your hands in the air, and don’t you dare make a fist. You got a little ammo in your gun, but we own the shop. Keep your head down, eyes to the ground. Don’t look at my face, you already know who I am. Now lie there, naked. And don’t you ever try pulling that shit again. This construct isn’t coming down in your lifetime.

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RACISM Jafar Cooper

6 letter word. I count from one to six. Drip. Drip. Drop. Drop. Splat. Splat. The sounds of the drops that hit the white floor. Each one sounding louder than the last. My life force staining the blank floors and walls that surround me. Walls with a space for a one way window. My hands behind my back. Shackles on my arms. Duct tape on my mouth. My throat begins to bleed from the strain and constriction that I force upon my throat to scream. It trickles down my neck and my chest, encircling my body until I feel it drip down my back and my legs. I feel the sun on my back, I feel the pain on my skin. I witness them being brought to their knees. I hear the ringing bang reverberate through the air and shake my bones. Breaking down all I used to perceive as normal, or even equal. I see the grainy displays of them falling to the ground. As they scream out to the world, What are you following me for!? I don’t have a gun, stop shooting! It’s not real! You shot me! you shot me!

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Let go of me! I can’t breathe! Mom I’m going to college. I can’t breathe! I love you too. I can’t breathe! My world constricts as the white walls close in on my body. My frame cracking from the pressure. My sanity being enveloped in fear and paranoia that come from being here. I walk forward through the halls, the streets. My every day interactions and conversations. Always trigger feelings of the shackles, the sun. Images of trees being adorned, but not with ornaments. Holidays don’t reach everyone in the south. I try to scream against the white walls as they slam into me. Day after day. The tape around my mouth prevents my sound. Intensifies my strain, increases the blood flow. By now I think I’m waist deep. Past the white walls I see people without duct tape, free of shackles. They laugh as it begins to drown me. Drip. Drip. Drop. Drop. Splat. Splat. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. … Racism …

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SUNS OUT GUNS OUT Kathryn Novelli

Earth embracing full tilt at aphelion, summer swelters, streets heat, skin slickens, skirts shorter, sleeves slimmer and I have been cultivating the urban jungle housed in my pits preparing the proverbial lougie of defiance to hawk and flipping four thousand flocks of birds your way, I am wrecking ball with bic pen. I’m sweating this. Can you smell it? I know you want me. I want you to know me. My tendrils are reaching for you. I want you to smell every follicle, sniff each individual strand of fuck you, groomed for sport and spite, tell me, do you still think I’m pretty? And damn, how I hope to high heaven and hot hell that you don’t. When you stare I want you to feel the fuck you fury directed to the horn honks, the construction workers, the bandanna shoved in the condom left on my doorstep, the men who asked if I, not the restaurant was open after hours, Laughed behind glass while I smiled back, swept floor, the boy who wouldn’t let go of me even when I started crying, laid still. Fuck you to the corporate created insecurities set in place to double the profit margin,

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didn’t start marketing razors to women til the 20’s, the same way they convinced you to strap on the stilettos so you couldn’t run away. Fuck you to the shame they ascribed to the natural state, the degradation of the self, the prevalence of Photoshop, this is personal. Does the consumer know what they are buying? Do they know what they are buying into? Tell me, when did they indoctrinate you? The hairs get darker every day. I flex my biceps to let every rat bastard in every dark alley, every sunny sidewalk, every crevice of every brain know I can be just as putrid as you. Do not yell at me. Do not call me baby. Not me, not anyone else. I hope this stench sticks forever. I hope it stains your nostrils. I hope you feel it on your tongue when you spit your hate speech. I hope you are scared. I need you to feel more scared than me. Please.

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MAMI, NO TE OLVIDES (Mother, Don’t forget) Aila Shai Castane

I used to admire my mother For the way her loose curls blew in the wind For the way her heavy Spanish accent rolled off of her tongue For the way she pronounced words in English that sounded like a song For the way her hips moved fast, as if Merengue Tipico was the soundtrack to her steps For the way she cooked with a flavor so proud For the way she read her Spanish-translated Bible at night For the way she radiated so effortlessly I admired her. Until the first-generation child syndrome kicked in When quality education meant assimilation When “stay in school so you don’t end up like me” Translated to “stay in school so you can erase all traces of me” I admired her until I realized you hated her. For the way her loose curls blew in the wind For the way her heavy Spanish accent rolled off of her tongue For the way she pronounced words in English that sounded like a song “Learn English! You’re in America!” You said. You hated the way her hips moved fast But you sure did love the way her hips moved fast to scrub your floors You hated the way she cooked But called yourself “cultured” when you tried the new Mexican spot in your gentrified neighborhood You hated the way she read in Spanish You said her English was too “broken” for your taste

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You said. You hated her. And that’s when I realized she hated her. She started wearing her hair in a bun She tried to sound like the white picket fence version of herself She became more quiet More docile Her hips moved slower, as if the melancholy cries of Bachata guided her steps Halfway torn between nostalgia and wanting to forget She started cooking less Like she was afraid of the power of her sazón She wants me to graduate But the same education she has pushed on me Is the same education that has pulled us apart I can’t help but think my degree will be a slap in the face I never knew it was possible to feel both pride and guilt in the same breath I’ve come to hate that about myself I’ve come to hate the fact that my mother admires me Mami, no te olvides that I admire YOU

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INVERTEBRATE Bayan Atari

The cybercrime investigators responded to my parents’ emergency call just before midnight on March 20th, 2060. They found my comatose body (still hooked up to the computer that swallowed up my conscious mind) and snapped the photographs which would soon be leaked onto all the most popular image boards. Expert analyses of my blogs and journals ruled out any suspicion of foul play, instead painting the portrait of a girl who evanesced into cyberspace of her own accord. News websites dubbed my online disappearance a “cyber suicide”; social media set itself alight with theories of how I might have managed to dissolve into the information highway. I still float through these discussions often, hidden amongst the cloud of lookalike avatars constructed by trolls and wannabes. I couldn’t want my body back, not even if I tried to. That body is unavailable. Now it is hooked up, not to my computer, but to hospital machines. They describe my brain activity as barely a whisper, whereas it was an anxious cacophony in the past, and my heart beat thumps a languid rhythm whereas it was once a boxer fighting against my breastbone. Looking through screens with my cyberized cyber-eyes, I have watched my once-devout mother’s faith fade into intermittence. One week, her mouth is a fountain of frenzied du’aa; the next, she seals her lips taut and talks to no one, not even to God. Meanwhile, my formerly agnostic father kneels to Allah five times a day. His final sujood is always punctuated by weeping. I cannot weep with him; you need eyes to cry. I realize now that my cyber-soul is numb; I realize now that I carried so much emotion in my limbs, my throat, my belly, my chest. To feel sick to my stomach, I would need organs; to feel a chill trickle down my spine, I would need bones. I have none. I am a digital invertebrate, a deep web jellyfish. Every chat group and discussion board asks at least once: “Why would she do this?” My avatar – assumed by everyone in the cyber-room to be a fake – walked into one of these discussions and took a seat. Pretending I am not myself, that I am indeed a copy of a copy, I replied: 42 Amendment 2016.indd 42

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“Maybe she uploaded herself to the Cloud and never came back because she hated her real body too much to live in it.” A poorly-constructed avatar responded: “Why would she hate her body THAT MUCH, though?” I replied: “Because it was HER body. The body of someone she hates. Bodies aren’t just a collection of structures; in our society, a body is objectified as a message, and the media gives us the language with which to interpret the message. Maybe she thought her body showed her weakness, so she tried to make herself look like one of the powerful, successful women on TV. They’re all thin, so maybe she went on a diet. They have clear white skin, so maybe she covered her face in chemicals. Maybe when that didn’t work, she decided that if she couldn’t get her body to send the right message, she would rather not send a message at all. Maybe she wanted to be the avatar she constructed, not her physical self.” The entire chat room paused for a moment. Then, from the sidelines, an avatar that looked just like mine shouted: “DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT A GIRL SMART ENOUGH TO FIND A WAY TO UPLOAD HER CONSCIOUS INTO THE INTERNET WOULD BE STUPID ENOUGH TO BE FOOLED BY POP CULTURE BEAUTY STANDARDS?” I promptly left the chatroom. When I’m not watching my parents through screens, I’m wading through the archive of body parts I spent too much of my corporeal life compiling: pictures of stilt-like thighs cut off of runway models; a file full of spidery clavicles extracted from screenshots of television waifs; a few hundred chest bones lifted from women who have been on no-carb diets for too long. Each one sent a message: Power. Respectability. Control. I was never fooled by beauty. When I fashioned my Frankenstein’s monster of an avatar out of these stolen bones, I was not trying to make her attractive. In the gap between her thighs, I captured the de-sexed capacity for control that the magazines told me I couldn’t have without a slender body. If “pop culture beauty standards” did anything for me, they gave me the language to express my selfloathing. My body was a rebel, a wild animal that needed to be tamed, that betrayed me with breakouts and stretchmarks. 43 Amendment 2016.indd 43

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Exactly one year has passed since I was found comatose on the ground. Today, my body gave up. I flatlined on a hospital bed. My mother prays for a daughter whose soul she assumes is in heaven, but I am still here, watching her through electronic devices. Now, as I watch my funeral through a screen, I realize: I never fixed my eyes. A million images of willowy arms and twig legs and clear skin went into the avatar I carved out of pixel flesh, but not once did I think to find a pair of eyes that would look at my own image as more than just an ugly shell. Not once did I think to look, really look, at the body I left behind. That acne, those stretch marks, that stubborn belly fat – I never saw that those were pieces of me, not until now, seeing myself in a coffin. I should be sad, but to feel sick to my stomach, I would need organs; to feel a chill trickle down my spine, I would need bones. I have none. I am a digital invertebrate, a deep web jellyfish.

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PERMANENT BURNT Nia McLeod

Had a sporadic moment of brilliance today This extra-terrestrial brown skin Bronzed with historical significance Scarred with repetitive adversity It isn’t coming off I once even tried to scrub the color away in the shower Sink sponge to skin like peeler to fruit Eager to get to the exquisite prize underneath Universal acceptance without repentance Jumped out the shower and Looked in the mirror and Still brown A boy once told me that God burnt me in the oven I’m starting to believe that’s true

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COPS AND ROBBERS Brandon Duong

Jail is where you go if you’re a bad person. Jail is where you go if you rob banks, it’s where you go if you punch Wilbert in the nose for eating your ring pop. It’s where you go if you hit your wife, it’s where people who shoot guns at people go. Right? That’s what mom told you, right? Well why is Jamycheal in jail? Jamycheal is sick. Sick people go to the hospital, right? Why did they put him there? He looks so skinny. He’s yelling, like, there’s someone else there with him. Like his schizophrenia is yelling at him and he’s just trying to get rid of it. Whatever it is, he didn’t hurt anybody. He didn’t mean to take the snickers bar. Why did you starve him for it? There has to be a mistake. Can’t we talk to the police? You go to the police when you’re in trouble, and they’ll help you. It’s their job to help you. I wonder if that’s what Ethan Saylor thought when they stole the air out of his lungs. Thieves go to jail, don’t they mom? Ethan just wanted to see a movie. Down syndrome doesn’t stop you from enjoying movies, from laughing or crying, from loving your mom or feeling pain when they punch you. When they punch your throat for not getting up from your seat in time. They only kill bad people right? Death sentence is for the bad of bad. It’s for robbers with guns.

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But they were the ones with the guns! They were the ones who robbed him of his life. So why’d they kill Ethan? He just really wanted to see the movie again. He already bought a ticket. When you buy a ticket, that means you can watch a movie right? You have to buy a ticket. Ethan bought a ticket. He watched the movie and he laughed and clapped, because that’s what you do when you like something, you laugh and clap and maybe you want to see it again. Maybe you think that since you bought a ticket you can watch it again. Maybe you get scared when big men with guns start yelling at you to get out. Maybe you’re too scared to move. Maybe all you can do is shield yourself when they jump on you. Maybe you hear them say stop resisting, but their bodies are on your torso and it’s getting so hard to breathe, maybe you need to get them off. Maybe. What would you guard with your life? What artifact would you regard so holy that you are justified to kill for it? The Holy Grail? A City of Gold? An ancient scepter? What about a movie ticket? We live in a world where people with mental diseases are worth less than movie tickets. Locked in asylums then thrown onto the street. Nobody wants them so they throw them in jail. My sister reads a lot. She’s got autism. She asked me what it’s like driving. She wants to drive. She wants to go places. Explore everything beautiful that’s in this world. I’m just scared that someone, someone’s going to stop her along the way.

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WHEN I WAS TWELVE, I COULDN’T BRUST MY HAIR Taylor Manigoult

Hair strands on wood floors are just as bad as splinters, but that’s only what my Mother taught me, and when next door neighbor Ashley’s hair lay on our floors, it’d get on me; I would pretend it was mine. Sometimes blonde strands sparkled on my little black shoulders and if I looked at it I could say it was mine. Mine, and straight, and right, but only when it got on me. My mom said the landscape of her shaved scalp looked something like potholes of little gravel, but instead it was dirt and tendrils of yesterday. After that, she never said much- we were altogether taciturn on matters concerning … her head. She laughed hairless and loved hairless, but all through undertones of truths that said the world would disregard her bare. Truths, or womanly, feminine things, that tasted like salt tears – I know this taste from when I looked at her. I was hush, but what I cried wasn’t her moods. Regardless of who felt what, I wanted to follow feelings that would hide her head and hairless body – because I had seen the way she crossed her arms so softly over her tummy at the hair store cashier counter and give her debit card money to a man, while pulling her white wool sweater further, and further over her hands, and glancing slow and nervous to check out the perimeters for people, while buying new wigs. Her alopecia was to shame there, on her scalp, but funny how on her legs and arms that softness was good and desirable. My dad shaved my mom’s head the first time it happened, but my mom never let me see under her unders, or beneath her hides – without her wigs, until years later when I was much older. So when I was a child, living under something meant being sweaty to me, and my mom always was fanning her dark sticky leather skin face and saying she wanted to “…take this thing off”. For all her laughs and loves, she still lived of an under, and I followed moods of embarrassment and hid her scalp too. During elementary school is when I hated my Mother. I dropped crayola marker letters from the banister, and they had illustrations

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on them – to say “I hate you”. I was all curt attitudes of stupid and stupid and stupid, and she told me she hated me too. Her, “I hate you too” was an educational method of reverse psychology to make me feel some vitriolic connotation; we never said those words again. But it was during the same time I told my mom I wished she was a white woman, and I wonder if those words are worse than hate. It was a TV time, and while she watched something intently I sat idly nearby on my own computer playing dress up girl dolls on barbie. com. I only liked commercials and feeling safe, and it was for those breaks I’d glance up. My mother liked news to stay in the know, but channel two wasn’t any know I wanted to know I didn’t want to know he died and they’re missing and still burning – and then the breaks made me feel … alright. Hidden Valley Ranch dressing did leave me nauseated when I ate it, but the commercial was such harmonic songs of a haven, one octave higher than my tune, sung by peach pretty people who never stopped smiling- and although their jingle was subtly discordant, I sang along to be there and to be nice. I liked hair commercials too, and I knew the hair of white people to be soft like paint – and the women feminine-soft like squash. Their hair moved just like it was supposed to. I was far from them, and always a little exhausted fret, or craving to be a soft girl like squash and have smooth hair like paint. Sometimes I was watching to get closer, or more alike: to step out of my tendrils. My hair was the place I was sad and hating myself, but when I was younger it was still too look-alike straight for realization. In relaxed hair I did feel dark day dreams of yearning to be flipping my hair over my shoulder, and my little timid black body quivering at the thought of being kinky. Anyway, once while watching TV with Mother, I told her I wished she was a white woman. When I saw hair commercials as a child, I always did, for a fleeting moment, feel into the low, inferior shadows of my hair and skin. I began to project the bright hues of white skin into my life. In

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a despicable subconscious wish I muttered, “I wish one of those girls was my mom”. Then the next few minutes of memory are mute, and slowed. Mother’s face went down, and (I’d never seen my mother in this furrowed energy) it is like I saw warm energies slip slide off, until she was just heavy perplexed. Next she stood from her spot, came to me, who was glazed oblivious as ever, and grabbed my arm. It was my upper arm. I remember this because of the proximity of her hand to my face. Her hand was not harsh; it was hurt, but firm enough to stunt that permeable sigh that happens sometimes when my disappointed Mother touches. A cold purple temperature occupied the rooms feelings while the hum of the hovering fan hid the lull in my mothers actions. We were standing quiet, then we were walking quiet to the front hall. In both spaces we stood alone and in both places we carried thick airs. It was curious that she manhandled me for the purpose of moving into yet another room we were the only people in. But – that other room did not have a TV in it. My eyes could not follow her quiet-sinking down. “Why would you say that?” “I don’t know.” I shrugged simply, as if she just asked me why I wore a blue shirt that day. As a much older child I could follow Mother’s sinking soul that day. As an older child when my hair was thinning, I apologized to my Mother; I said I was sorry I told her I wished she were a white woman. She did not remember what day I spoke of. Leftover strands of blonde hair on my shoulders were just tangible dreams of pretty. My fantasy was crisp, anti-self. See, my fantasy was all that I’d seen out, everywhere. The BIG white sparkling pretty pretty archetypes burned me right in my mirrors. And burned them to such ash that my fantasy of myself was all white-sparkling. I thought, “In high school I will be popular and cool, with brand outfits that are more expensive than the meals I eat.” – In high school I would wave to all my friends in the hallways while my very long, straight hair, would move softly along with my body in the

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wind my movements created. It was visible fantasy, and becoming a legitimized fantasy. Because out, popular girls were just white popular girls. Kind girls were just white kind-girls. White-sparkling is just a white girl, sparkling, fitting a pretty I wanted and wished for, every night. For all my space was full with love and effervescence that often attracted varieties of people. I did sit in traits of kindness and popularity and sparkling pretty, but my child character was elusive when I sought it elsewhere. There was no me to find in every medium and media. There was no me out there, like there was no me in my own mazed interiors and mirrors. The invisibility of brown people, like me, on television, did scrub at my childhood identity, until sometimes I only caught my reflection on broken glass pieces scattered behind my wet irises. While outward, I hadn’t come to the reality of my natural ethnic identity. I mean I’d never touched my curls, for fourteen years; I was snuggling ill-fit into molds that could never be my color. Like, before my arms had enough muscle to churn water in a pitcher using a large spoon, my hair was already flat from lye. My mother divided my hair into four sections, all evenly separated. Using the rat-tail comb, she’d take the pointy end of the utensil to my scalp to part strands in 3 millimeter groups. The hair straightening mixture was a thick white paste sitting in the fridge and it could only be touched with gloves on or it would burn you. On the cherry oak kitchen table, on a rag towel, amidst all the combs that could still tame me, were all the creams and oils of a hair relaxer. These monthly actions of alteration were like natural wrinkles on my Mother’s hands, and we’d both follow the crevices of her hand lines that ended with wisps of limp strands behind my ears. Mother always did my hair, always slowly working toward my value and my pretty – took always three hours or more each time. I wanted my hair to slip out of ribbons, and slip like from my grasp, or be silky. My head was a kitchen in the back; I’d sit small on the flat cherry oak chairs we owned then. She said her hands were manly and overweight, which was a nuisance and eye sore. But when I sat on a cherry oak chair for her to relax my hair, she only used touching

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language to move my head left and right. I liked it. Surely, everything in my mothers hands was secure – even that jar of white cream relaxer. I knew the process like I knew how to microwave mac & cheese – the cream was brushed into the roots of my scalp, for ten minutes I’d sit still, I’d neutralize and then double shampoo, soft towel dry, blow dry, moisturize, brush. Mom got tired and started taking me to a hair stylist, Jared- his hands were like hers but less sure, and he would leave the relaxer on my roots for a few minutes too long. It felt like pointed insects with scratch claws frantically landscaping my scalp. It wasn’t scalp after that- it was a red vulnerable spot of flesh with my hair glued down by I don’t know. I wouldn’t even dare touch my own hair, then. I didn’t want to rip my skin off. That was bad and hurt, but familiar and I never cried. All this was for straight hair, and the satisfaction of feeling the air touch my head was all “mmm” but a fleeting happy at that. I’d go home to test out the gravity in the mirror, test out the hair do’s in Seventeen Magazine. But when he left the relaxer cream in too long, the skin of my head got sensitive and stolen; in some parts of my head I had no scalp.

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A PORTRAIT OF MYSELF AS AUDREY HEPBURN Hallie Chametzky

I’ve thought about telling them, you know, that none of it’s a blessing or a diet or a trophy that my waist wasn’t always so svelte that there were days when my hands never stopped shaking and that’s why they dance like spider legs now. I felt my neck close in once from lack of use last week someone compared it to a swan. I’ve thought about saying that when men from a neighboring country put their children on trains to somewhere where food becomes more coveted than a neck that bends at just the right angle than a funny face, a lovely face then they can idolize my bones which protrude through too few red blood cells they can ruffle their feathers gracefully, delicately delicately like breaking delicately like crawling delicately like my father on his deathbed having never lamented the badges he wore and the thinness of dark eyed babes with hollow spaces for stomachs with craters for skin and no feathers in the winter. My Hollywood arms bear luggage which I may not unload into the pudgy, soft, unwrinkled hands of American celebrity. 53 Amendment 2016.indd 53

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SILENCED AND REJUVINATED: A memoire to Those who Lost their voice Aysegul

I had it, but then I lost it, and now I don’t have a single thing. Not one damn thing. When I was robbed of my one prized possession, everything else that rested comfortably between my two homey palms were disrupted and vanished instantaneously. I put a lost ad in the local newspaper the following day but it’s been a few weeks now and not one person has decided to reunite me with my dignity. My innocence, happiness, and self-worth all laid in that ornate box which had my name carved all over its multiple expressionless faces. My mind was anorexic and now that I no longer contained a substantial amount of mental weight, I found myself constantly on the ground as a result of the influx of angry voices that arise when an innocent soul speaks up about date rape. Up until this stage in my young life, I was unaware that it was a misdemeanor to be the victim of a felony. Little did I know that my right to speak and be heard when I was wronged would be stripped from my list of humane freedoms because a minuscule amount of stuck-up, self absorbed bitches were dehydrated from the lack of attention they were receiving. I have this special segment in my blackened heart for the ruthless soul who shared her fable with some small reporter trying to get a big break. Her story made it into the Rolling Stone. For a spread in the Rolling Stone as female, you basically have to be willing to expose your two surgically enlarged fat sacs — yes, I’m talking about breasts — in front of a high definition camera, be the bassist in a decently shitty band, or lie about your encounters with date rape. I guess she found the latter of the choices to be the best ticket to fifteen minutes of fame. I could see this being true if she didn’t have DD knockers and if she failed to enhance herself musically train her overly-privileged adolescence. Stories such as her’s transformed me into a walking, breathing joke. I was slut-shamed despite the fact that that unfortunate night marked my first sexual experience. Now, society would shame and punish me for eternity because I made the decision to consume a beverage which I initially thought was harmless, realizing too late that it was rigged with bad intentions. The sad thing was that no one 54 Amendment 2016.indd 54

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TRIGGER WARNING contains sexual violence cared because someone else’s false account of a situation that occurs at every sunset and every moonrise now morphed every real moment into a figment of the disgruntled woman’s imagination. I was stuck. I was cornered in a dark alley by society’s flawed ideology and I was being squeezed into a crevice that led to a wormhole that rushed me into a downward slope with the destination being an overwhelming amount of Prozac and Xanax. Unfortunately, this appeared to be a one-way ticket and the fine print read “no refunds.” Maybe I should have visited a fortune teller prior to attending the party. I may have been able to save myself a monumental amount of trouble by forking over 2 hours worth of my minimum wage earnings. Months and months passed. They all ran together and clicked into years. My freshman year of college passed, as did my sophomore and junior year. Alas, my senior year had crept up on my miserable soul. By this point in my career of higher education, I had relocated from the unsightly dorms to a flat that was a mere few minutes of walking from the framework of the main campus. I shared my flat with one of my dearly beloved friends who had stuck by me since that unfortunate moment in my life when I lost my unique identity. My current identity was peculiarly foreign to me. I even changed my major to better understand myself. They say Psychology leads to the answers for every enigma the mind creates, but unfortunately all it led me to was my mental demise. Senior year had just begun and a myriad of parties were underway. “Let’s go to one! It’s been so long! I’m sure you’ll be fine,” my roommate said. “Anyways, you’re always so tense … loosen up a little bit! Let your body go with flow!” My roommate never took no for an answer, so I decided to go. I’m 26 now. That was 5 years ago, and I don’t recall what happened that night. Everything’s a blur. All I know is that now my best friend is just as miserable as I am.

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THAT DAY Lorenzo Simpson

The keys were out of the ignition, but my heart still raced. I did everything right. I signaled at the right time, I’m sure of it. I made a full stop at every sign, I know I did. I mean, I went 47 when the speed limit was 45, but it couldn’t be that. Everyone does that. I pry my trembling fingers from the steering wheel and place them on my lap, staring into the dark nothingness of the winding road. Daylight savings time just started, it’s usually not this dark out. The flashing blue lights spill over my hunched shoulders, tagging my skin with the enemy’s colors. I remember the stories on the news of black men being wrenched from their cars and stomped out of existence. I remember the rap lyrics condemning cops with an anger that only comes from first hand experience. I remember that the media has a fetish for black mugshots. I remember I am 16, colored and powerless under these blue lights. They’re like reverse bug zappers, following us around until we’re exterminated. “It’s okay,” Mom says. “Just keep quiet, be polite, look him right in the eye.” She is seated next to me, eyes closed, head tilted back resting in her right hand. She fought through an hour of traffic to pick me up from school so I could practice driving, and this shit happens. I was just supposed to take us home. I did everything right, I know I did. Looking back on it, I know how it looked. Black bodies in an old, busted, black Altima driving through a neighborhood with houses so big there’s no way any of them belonged to us.

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I hear his shoes tap the pavement, right up to my window. He looks down at us, looks down on us, and says “License and registration.” I feel like that phrase should have “trigger warning” in front of it. I almost drop my wallet handing over my learners. My mom has to cut her rest short to fumble through her bag and hand over her license. And there we were, sitting in the dark on the side of the road, our identities at the mercy of the man in uniform. He walks away, I wait in silence, my mom keeps saying, “it’s okay. It’s gonna be okay.” Five minutes go by. I’m just…new to the system, that’s all. Takes a while to register. Ten minutes go by. I just got my learner’s, what’s taking so long? I feel taunted by the drivers passing us, glad it wasn’t them this time. Twenty minutes go by, you know the longer it takes, the more trouble I’m probably in, I just want to go home. My mind is backtracking, looking for crimes I must have committed to justify how long it’s taking. Finally I hear his shoes tap the pavement again. Frustrated that he couldn’t find anything on me, he made sure to make the words, “You need to get that tail light fixed” sound as stern and vindictive as possible. He returns my identity, but keeps my dignity as a souvenir. He disappears in a flash of blue oppression. I am confusion and frustration. My mother is truth, as it spills from her mouth as soon as he leaves. 16 year old black kid going to private school is a perceived threat. Eloquence is my only weapon against their arrogance. I must learn to maneuver this world with a colored consciousness, keep the target on my back as invisible as possible. But first, I need to get us home. At least my hands have stopped trembling. And my heart’s stopped racing, for now. 57 Amendment 2016.indd 57

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I WONDER Lorenzo Simpson

Sometimes I wonder who I’d be praying to if the Bible hadn’t ethnically cleansed my ancestors. I wonder what native tongue I’d be fluent in if the King’s English hadn’t chopped it off. What color robes did they wear before they bowed to the European button-down? How sweet was the freshly grown pineapple before they added the aftertaste of imperialism? How long did it take my forefathers to notice the ships rocking towards their Western shores, and did they do anything to prepare for what was coming? You’re supposed to warn everyone in the area when a hurricane is about to hit. Bar the doors, hit the floors, unchain your prisoners of war, because when it lands, it’ll wipe out everything. It doesn’t discriminate. I sat in my high school history classes getting told the same story every year, the rape and pillage of brown skin villages in the name of the Cross and the Crown. King Leopold’s ghost is more terrifying than every ‘Jason’ sequel, but I guess 10 million Congolese corpses couldn’t fit into an 8 month syllabus. I wonder why God gave my people farms and Europeans arms, it made it that much easier to rob them at gunpoint. When they laid side to side at the bottom of slave ships halfway into the Atlantic, did they hold hands for comfort, staring at the wooden ceiling as the salt water slipped through the cracks, splashing onto their cheeks just in case they ran out of tears? I wonder how something as light as cotton could weigh them down so brutally, the fabric of their lives that was worth more than the hands that picked it, pinches of white clouds burning holes in the lining of their knapsacks as they snapped their spines to reach infinite quotas. 58 Amendment 2016.indd 58

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I wonder how my culture can be invisible while at the same time stick out like a broken thumb. Why did it take a mass epidemic to get the first female president of Liberia and the first black president of America in the same room? Whether it’s hip-hop or Ebola, America doesn’t take notice until it’s seen through blue eyes or shown with blond hair or sung by John Legend. I wonder why Pharrell helped Robin Thicke rob Marvin Gaye instead of just asking his family. When did we become cannibals Feeding off each other’s talent just to get a check from a hand that only feeds you if your melanin levels are set properly? I wonder why Shaka Zulu hasn’t had a feature film when his army was bigger than two “300” movies. I wonder if my culture will be concealed or consumed until there’s nothing left. I wonder how much of it the hurricane had already washed away before I heard the sound of the alarm. I wonder how many people I can warn before the dark clouds form again. I wonder how many posts on Facebook I’ll have to make about appropriation, police brutality and microaggressions until my top commenters stop making excuses for ignorance. The storm came. It never left. We all see it swelling and swirling in the humid air. I wonder how long it’ll take to destroy history’s repeat button.

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MOTHER MEDIUM Eliott Rollins

Media is a semaphore signals pooled for Narcissist to adore reflection gathered by sense extension nothing more. Breaker-box-outage spread assault on the body more alive – The dead that can’t remember when music heard meant music read. How long can your arms grow? How narrow are your back bends? Separate a signal from a body find a child lost among the saturated amusements boots kicked from the high swing in the center of the park. Feel unclean for size fourteen and too-large-legs in skinny jeans be cool just have a smoke its only natural. Mother medium made a mandate: See my beautiful face, touch my beautiful skin, smell my beautiful breath, taste my beautiful milk, and feel the beauty of my never ending warmth.

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We gave that up for extensions on the feels and reinventing the wheel. We gave her up. Sold her in chains. We shipped her across the ocean. We made her flesh exotic we called her breasts obscene. We crowded around the pond to stare at our reflection too afraid to bare our nakedness. A young creole woman rises from a running river after washing her face. She drops a heavy piece of iron into the plantation mill. The world does not end, and she smiles at the warmth of the sun. Her masters find her at the river, knowing – The progressives have outlawed flogging women, so instead she will run. Hands lashed to bar high above head, one foot over the other on a brand new medium: the treadmill. Hundreds of years later, once the we know the medium is the message. Once the land has been built for the masters and the old issues are easier to hide. Women will be made to gather in small rooms One foot over the other, running forward to nowhere.

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UNTITLED ESSAY Fadel Allasan

Your life can change in the blink of an eye. I hate to start off with such a tacky cliche, but it’s an appropriate way to describe what happened to me when I was 11 years old. On what seemed to be an ordinary Tuesday afternoon for me, I found out that my dad had been offered a job at the International Monetary Fund, an organization headquartered in Washington DC. By Thursday that same week, we had settled into a new home in Ashburn, Virginia, which is halfway around the world from where we had previously lived: Skopje, Macedonia. My family would be given a five-year work visa that was active as long as my father worked for the IMF. I didn’t know a word of English, nor was I at all familiar with American culture. I had never eaten fast food. I had never watched a Star Wars movie. I had never tipped my waiter. I hadn’t even ever heard of American Football, or as you probably call it: Football. All the characteristics of American culture were so foreign to me, but here, I was the foreigner. However, I was thrilled to be in what I believe is the greatest country in the world, I still am. My family was pretty well-off financially in Macedonia, and although my father made less money when we moved to the states, the standard of living is so much better here than in so many other countries that it more than made up for the somewhat significant disparity in our income —just one of the many reasons why America is often called “the land of opportunity”. Life at home was not so pleasant, however. My mother discovered that my father had been cheating on her and the relationship that had been strong for over two decades was broken. My parents began fighting almost daily until, in a manner that seemed so sudden to my young mind, my father decided to desert my mother and his two children, he returned to Macedonia. With my father no longer employed in the states, the rest of my family’s legal status was 62 Amendment 2016.indd 62

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revoked. In another “blink of an eye” moment, my family was a family of illegal immigrants. Our lifestyle changed drastically. We were essentially fugitives and had to keep an extremely low profile or risk being deported. Our chances of survival if we were deported back to Macedonia were much slimmer than if we stayed in the states. Why? Because the United States has much better upward mobility than most countries. (Editor’s note: upward mobility is the ability to climb up the social ladder, increase your wages etc.) My mother was unemployed and without a college degree. Without my father to support us, we needed to be in a social environment that was as helpful as possible. We were dirt poor and surviving off of the little money that my father had given to my mother before he left. The free and reduced lunch program at my public school meant that I was still able to eat a little regularly. But in the summers I ate Cup of Noodles three times a day for years— breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Although we tried to mask the monotony of our meals by switching up the flavors for every meal, they all tasted the fucking same. I still hate the taste of Cup of Noodles 10 years later. Our meals began to taste better when my mother found a job as a maid, it was the best job she could find due to her inability to speak English. She saved her money and was able to go to school to be trained as a nurse. She would be a maid during the day and attend classes at night for a couple years until she finally graduated and was able to get a much better paying job as a nurse. I don’t know where I would be today without my mother’s resilience. Her strength kept our mentally battered family alive at a time when the odds were stacked heavily against us. Today, I’m a junior at a respectable four-year university and my sister graduated from one of the top private colleges in America and has a well-paying job.

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Unlike many people who lived here undocumented, my family was lucky. Just when we thought it was impossible to change our legal status, in what seemed like another blink of an eye, we became citizens of the United States of America. Mexican immigrants come from conditions of extreme poverty, concurrent with the threat of being murdered every day by the dangerous drug cartel. They come to America for a chance at survival. They gladly do the laborious jobs that Americans refuse to do, playing an important role in our economy. While my experience contrasts the typical Mexican immigrant’s in many ways, there are some semblances in our respective experiences: We are drawn to the United States by the prospect of opportunity— a shot at a better life. Upward income mobility is what created the American dream— the idea that you may not have the life you want now, but work hard enough and one day you will. I lived in poverty as do many Mexicans who receive extremely low wages. Not only does not speaking English hold you back, but only a select amount of jobs are available to those who are not legally allowed to work, often times, they are the jobs that no one else will do. I wrote this piece not to ask for the sympathy of those who share the views of Donald Trump, but to ask those people to at least understand why it is that Mexicans cross the border. If those same people that hate illegals were positioned south of the border, they would risk their lives to escape too. Illegal immigrants aren’t evil people, they’re simply searching for a better life for themselves and their children. They pursue the same happiness that we all do as humans. They know that although their situation is bleak now, life can change in the blink of an eye, they’re simply looking for a place where they have at least the opportunity for it to do so.

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817 W. Broad Street, Richmond

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Profile for VCU Student Media Center

Amendment - Spring 2016  

Amendment - Spring 2016