Alliterative Descriptors — Blackety Black Edition

I stopped watching Scandal early-ish in Season 5. I was so tired, and it was so convoluted and conniving, and I just didn’t have the energy.

Then last week I went back. The new season is on and I wanted to be able to peek in and understand where everyone was and how they got there. So I went to Netflix and slid into Season 5. From the top.

And you know? Never mind that it’s still convoluted and conniving and crazy and cringe-worthy and all the other alliterative descriptors I might think to use. Never mind that I can’t stand Fitz and have never found that man – the character or the actor, but so particularly the character – attractive. Never mind that even Olivia turns me off and annoys the crap out of me most of the time. Never mind all of that. I need to be watching Scandal, desperately need what this show is giving me.

How have I never noticed the music? How have I managed to watch four seasons and never notice the music? Where have my ears been? This show – which should come as no surprise – is so Black. But sooo Black. Powerfully, unashamedly, doggedly, determinedly. If it had a theme song, it would have to be the fabulously nonsensical yet bizarrely affirming “I’m Black,Y’all.”

And it’s not because Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope is the primary character, although yes, she’s part of it. And Joe Morton as Papa Pope is part of it – he is, after all, everyone’s favorite Brother from Another Planet. But the Popes are barely in the real world, certainly not anywhere near what my real world looks and feels and smells like. They are definitely Black, but they don’t make the show Black. No. For me, all that unapologetic Blackness is in the music. The soundtrack to Season 5 is a glorious celebration of Black music as Black voice, Black mood, Black conscience … and I am so here for it.

Maybe I never noticed this before because I didn’t need it as much in the past as I do in this moment. Maybe I stopped watching in part because I was getting further and further away from Pope-world and the cognitive dissonance was too much for me. And, while I’m still plenty far from Pope-world today, I need to dive in anyway, need to gather as much Blackness around me as possible. So I was drawn back to the show … and found my heart and soul waiting for me there, the running conversation under the scenes.

Just so you know:

  • You Got the Love — Rufus (yes, featuring Chaka Khan)
  • Got to Be Real — Cheryl Lynn
  • Do Right Woman, Do Right Man — Aretha Franklin
  • How Do You Keep the Music Playing — James Ingram and Patti Austin
  • You’re All I Need to Get By — Aretha Franklin
  • Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours) — Stevie Wonder

That’s just in the tiniest toe of a dip into the first four episodes, people! So 👏 damn 👏 black 👏.

On Sunday I went to a meeting of an anti-racist group. It was a meeting only for the POC members of the group. They meet monthly, and I’ve been wanting to go for a while, but Sunday was the first time my schedule allowed it.

And then I woke up Sunday, and the weather was awful: iced-over snowy rain and so cold! I didn’t want to leave my cozy apartment, and certainly not to head downtown to a meeting place right by the river!

But the chance to sit in community with a group of POC working for social justice and equity was too great a lure. I got my act together and got myself to DUMBO.

Thank goodness, too. Those two hours were fresh air. I could be as serious, silly, snarky, angry, frustrated, amused, or sad as I wanted, and no one expected me to explain, defend, modulate, or disappear my feelings. I could just have them.

And so I gathered a little more Blackness to me, wrapped myself in it as I would a fleece and mink blanket. Blackness — POC-ness — is the balm for my head and heart these days. I’m not closing doors on white folks. Can’t afford anything like that. There’s too much work to be done.

There is so much work. And I won’t get any of it done if I don’t look out for myself, find ways to take care of myself. I need to remember my sanctuary spaces, need to find myself some peace, need to put some shine on all the Blackness, all the big, bold, bodacious, brazen, blackety, black Blackness. Those alliterative descriptors are set to become my new mantra.

Time to slip back in. Nina Simone, Gil Scott Heron, and more Aretha on deck. Shonda clearly has my back in this fight.

“I’m black y’all, and I’m black y’all
and I’m blackety black, and I’m black y’all …”


In 2017, I’ve committed to writing an essay a week.

It’s not too late to join if you’re feeling ambitious! Check out Vanessa Mártir’s blog to find out how!

It’s Slice-of-Life Tuesday! Click on the badge to visit Two Writing Teachers and see what the other slicers are writing today!

Before You Come for Me

I write a lot about racism. And by “a lot” I mean A LOT. And I’ve been doing it for years. Anyone who knows my work knows this, or should know it, would know it if they’d been paying the least little bit of attention.

Since November 8th, much of my writing has had the same message, a message that has made some folks accuse me of being a racist: namely, that you, white people: you are responsible for THOTUS¹. You sided with the Klan, took up the cause of the neo Nazis, voted in a hateful, racist, misogynist, xenophobic, islamophobic, isolationist, elitist government. The who-voted-how numbers tell the tale quite plainly. White men went for THOTUS in droves. And more than half of white women followed.

I kept posting from the heart of my anger, telling white folks to take responsibility for the apocalypse-world they ushered in, telling them to come get their people and start doing the work of eradicating the deeply ingrained racism that is the poisoned lifeblood of this country, work they should have been doing all along.

Surprise! Some people didn’t like what I had to say. Some people felt saddened or angered or attacked by my posts. And I got a lot of pushback saying their feelings were hurt by my “come get your people” demand.

I was caught off guard – not so much by the fact that anyone was hurt, but by the fact that a lot of anyones were hurt. If only a few people had contacted me, I might have seen them as anomalies. But I had more than a dozen emails, a handful of private messages, and a bunch of responses to FB posts – they ranged from sad to offended to passionately self-defensive to curt. Clearly there was something I should take a closer look at.

So I looked. But you know what? I’m not wrong. White people decided this election. Full stop.

Yes, I know. Not all white people. I never said all-a y’all voted for him. No. What I said was that all-a y’all are responsible. What I said was that white people need to come get their people, need to start doing the hard work. And that’s what I meant.

I get it, the offense. I’ve written plenty about racism, but those other times were easier for my white friends and readers. They could see themselves as separate from the “bad” white people I chastised in those posts, remain comfortable in the knowledge that they were “good” white people. But in my writing since the election, there hasn’t been any room for white folks to hold themselves above the fray. The things I’ve written are the first time I’ve come for white people as a group, a monolith. And being seen as a whole group rather than as individuals makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

Fine. by. me. I’m not interested in anyone’s comfort, or at least not yours. It’s your comfort that made it possible for the election to turn out the way it did. It’s your comfort that enabled you to talk only to friends and family who agreed with you about the issues, who never said anything that rippled the quiet, happy waters of agreement that kept you buoyed and confident. It’s your comfort that kept you from giving credence to the number and socioeconomic diversity of people clearly enamored of THOTUS. Y’all been too damn comfortable for too damn long.

I know. On November 8th you cried. On November 9th you cried. How could the world have betrayed you like this? How could it be possible for that man to win the election?

Yes, you cried. But you know what? I’ve been crying, too … for years. Where’ve you been? You never noticed, never bothered to look, never bothered to care.

And I don’t mean the old-timey crying – when you kidnapped me and forced me into enslavement on your plantations and in your homes, when you sold my children away from me, when you raped and beat and killed me, when you lynched me for sport, when you refused to educate me, when you kept me from moving into better neighborhoods and better jobs … or any of the other ways this list could go on and on.

No, I mean in my own life. I mean the little ways you’ve cut and slapped me, made sure I knew I was “other.” I mean 8th grade when you took hold of my arm and rubbed hard enough to break the skin and then looked at me, puzzled, asking why none of the dirt would come off. I mean that time after college when you fixed me up with a guy from your job who you thought would be perfect for me – he was Black, after all – but you didn’t bother to tell him anything about me, not even the simple fact that I, too, am Black. If you had, he could’ve said to you instead of me that he didn’t date Black women because he found us uncontrollable and disrespectful. I mean every time I tried to tell you about some large-scale manifestation of discrimination, and instead of hearing me, you told me to calm down, to not be so angry. Instead of hearing me, you told me about some time when you, as a white person, had been a victim of reverse racism.

And I mean this moment in my own life. In the bigger ways you’ve let me down and broken my heart. Civil rights activist Johnetta Elzie says it so powerfully in her poem, “Where were you?

Where were you when the media called us “thugs” for protesting?

When I stood outside on those hot summer days, and needed ice water? 

Or a back rub?

Or someone to talk to?

Why weren’t you standing with me?

Where the hell were you?

Where were you when we asked you to #SayHerName?

When Rekia Boyd was killed while playing at the park with her friends?

When Tanisha Anderson, Sandra Bland, Shantel Davis, and others died at the hands of police, with little media attention?

When our trans sisters — Brandi Bledsoe, Rae’Lynn Thomas, Dee

Whigham — were also murdered and also forgotten? 

Where were you?

If you can answer at least one of the questions here, answer me this: We’ve been marching for years — where the hell have all of you been?

Exactly right. Do you see it now? You have been making me cry since the day we met. And you’ve never noticed.

But you want me to pay attention to your tears, need me to understand how my statement of facts is painful to you, how it makes you uncomfortable. You want me to apologize.

Nope. No more. I’m over coddling you. Over biting my tongue when I need to call you out. Over swallowing my anger and hurt when you slap me down with your unconscious bias. Done.

Instead, I’ll be pulling on a brightly colored bathing suit, goggles, a nose plug. I’ll be doing that weird, arm-flailing body-slap Phelps does before a race. And I’ll be diving into an Olympic-sized pool filled to overflow with your tears.

A friend sent me Leah Roberts Peterson’s Facebook note. She wrote it after Saturday’s march, wrote it to her white sisters who had just stepped up in their pink pussy hats of solidarity but who were feeling attacked by questions and comments from women of color. She wrote:

The best thing you can do is take in all those feelings coming from our sisters who are hurting and angry and OWN IT. Remind yourself that yes, you’re trying because THIS is how they feel. You’re doing what you’re doing because it’s RIGHT and it’s how humans with empathy and sympathy and a working heart should live their lives once they figure it out. Not because all the Black women are going to magically start appreciating you. They owe you NOTHING. Mark the date on your calendar when you’ve got as many days under your belt being awake as you did being asleep, and then, maybe, start being a tiny bit impatient when others don’t recognize your efforts. My own date is June 17, 2061. I will be 91.

I tell you this with sincere love in my heart because I KNOW you’re trying. Sit in the discomfort of these moments. It’s ok to not feel comfortable. That’s how lots of people around the world live their lives every single day. Comfort is not our goal. Equality is. ❤

Oh, I am so here for this. When I talk about white fragility and you respond by dm-ing me how that term is divisive and hurtful … know that you’re flat out exhibiting A-grade fragility right there. When I talk about how the safety pins make me feel so much “Meh,” and you tell me I should be happy people are making an effort … just … no. Don’t do that.

When you say these tone-policing, silencing things, I respond as kindly as I can because I’m interested in keeping dialogue going, keeping lines of communication open, because I know and care about you. But I need you to take a moment, think about how microaggressive some of your comments are, think about how much your comments are really asking me to shut up and be grateful, to give you a cookie in appreciation for all your hard work on my behalf.

Yeah. What Imma need is for you to think about what’s making you uncomfortable and examine your discomfort before you come for me. Thank you.


In 2017, I’ve committed to writing an essay a week.

It’s not too late to join if you’re feeling ambitious! Check out Vanessa Mártir’s blog to find out how!

¹ Titular Head oThese United States

Click on the badge to visit Two Writing Teachers and see what the other slicers are writing today!

Reintroduction – SOLSC 1

It’s March, the time each year when I make a public effort to commit to a daily writing practice. Today was also the due date for my first assignment in the online comics class I’m taking. We were supposed to write a 2-page comic introducing ourselves and sharing one interesting/surprising thing about ourselves. Yes, of course I agonized over this last bit. Interesting and surprising? About me? Mind = blank. In the end, I settled for introducing myself and Adventures in Racism because, even if I am pretty run of the mill, I do believe my comic is interesting and surprising. Here’s what I submitted:

6_Panel - Girlgriot 1_

5_Panel - Girlgriot 2_

(I’m scanner-less today, so the image quality is weird.) This is the first comic drawing I’ve done in over a year. Which is crazy to realize. I’ve been writing scripts for comics, but haven’t been able to get myself to do any drawing. So I’m glad this class kick-started me. It’s long past time to get to work on the new scripts I’ve written. As for this one, I have to say the GirlGriot-as-Superman-fleeing-the-boulder is one of my favorite things at this moment. I’d love to know what you think of the drawing, and of the coloring. In the perfect world of the future, I’ll use Adobe Illustrator to create the images for my comics, but I feel that world is a LONG way off. And working on the drawings for this assignment reminded me that, as much as the polish of Illustrator appeals to me, I really like my not-at-all-polished line drawings.

It’s that time again. Time for the Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC)! If you’ve spent more than a minute reading If You Want Kin, than you already know about the March challenge and the wonderful space that is Two Writing Teachers. If not, welcome to the ninth annual challenge! Back in 2008, moments after I started this blog and was trying to figure out what that meant, I was lucky enough to stumble into the very first SOLSC. It was tiny then — I think we were only about a dozen folks. Now there are hundreds of slicers all over the world. Thanks to this challenge, March in one of only two times a year when I can be counted on to post regularly (yes, we all see how well I did with that February fiction challenge …), and for that I am ever grateful. If you haven’t sliced before, now’s a great time to start!

SOL image 2014

The Eternal Sunshine of the Creative Mind

Tomorrow I’m going to come back to yesterday’s post and have some constructive, open-minded things to say. That’s tomorrow. I need another day to remember who I am, tap into that empathic side I’m cultivating.

Tonight, tonight is for the Brainery.

For a long time now, my friend Mopsy has been telling me about taking classes at the Brooklyn Brainery. She’s also tried to convince me I should sign up to  teach a class at the Brainery.

I’ve listened to her but haven’t listened to her, too. She’s taken a bunch of classes — cooking, knitting, other stuff I can’t remember. She is a true Brainery devotee. I gave her a Brainery gift certificate for Chanukah last year to feed her habit.

Then she sent me an email announcing a class to talk about three Octavia Butler short stories. How could I resist? I love Octavia Butler. Love. Her.

I’m on my way home from the second and final class. Both sessions were excellent. The workshop leaders were prepared, smart and funny, and so were the participants.

I love the idea of the Brainery. You know something, you want to share what you know, sign up and teach a class! People are teaching storytelling, calligraphy, canning, wine tasting …  I love people just figuring out this easy and inexpensive way to share their knowledge and bring people together.  As one of the workshop leaders said to me tonight, “We thought this would be a good way to bring people out of the woodwork.”  Yes.  Exactly.

So Mopsy’s gone and done it.  I’m a convert, a newly-inducted devotee, a Brainery lover.  Will I teach something?  I don’t know.  I still can’t think of what I’d teach. But I can’t wait to take my next class!

GirlGriot goes to Gracie

I almost forgot to post tonight!

Because random things happen, I was invited to Gracie Mansion to be part of the Mayor’s celebration of Women’s History Month.  No, I’m serious.

The existence of Gracie Mansion (the home of New York City’s mayors since the 1940s when Fiorello LaGuardia moved in) is a favorite thing of mine.  It sits on the water at the north end of a lovely city park.  I used to work at a community center a few blocks away, and we used to take our students to the park to write poetry looking out at the river.  Because the Mayor’s house is there, and maybe just because, it’s an incredibly clean and safe park.  We always wrote lots of fabulous poems.  I always seemed to be writing haikus there.  Odd.

But in all those trips, I never thought about going into the house.  I wasn’t anything even vaguely resembling a fan of the man who lived there at that time, so maybe that was why I didn’t think of visiting.  Maybe I just assumed we wouldn’t be allowed in.

That, apparently, wasn’t true then.  And it isn’t true now.  Our current Mayor chooses not to live at Gracie.  He has chosen to stay in the house he lived in before being elected.  He still uses the mansion — for meetings, for events like the one tonight — but his decision to make his home elsewhere means that more of the house is visit-able now than in the past.  So that’s kind of cool.

I went with three co-worker friends.  We took a tour of the first floor and then just wandered in and out of rooms.  The house is lovely.  Stiff and museum-y, but also not.  Two of the rooms in particular — the Patent Yellow room on the first floor and what looks like a guest bedroom upstairs — looked particularly welcoming.  I could eaily imagine myself curled up with a book on one of those yellow couches or in that cushy bed.  And what I wouldn’t give for that river view and the fabulous tall-as-I-am windows that glide all the way up to open the front rooms onto the porch.  Gorgeous.

And there’s the Mayor, telling some really not very good jokes at the start of his talk.  Hey, not everyone can be a comedian, right?  I was standing next to Police Commissioner Kelly during this part of the evening … and, in true Stacie fashion, not figuring out who he was.  I kept looking at him and thinking, “That guy issomebody.  Who is that guy?  Well, he’s somebody I should know.  Who is he?”   Yeah.  And not placing him at all until I came home and saw him in context: on the news page that opens up when I go online.  I did recognize Schools Commissioner Walcott when I saw him, however.  One for two isn’t great, but neither is it a complete fail.

And now let’s return to our regularly scheduled normal course of events in my life … check out the rest of today’s slices at Two Writing Teachers.