This Initiative Beautifully Shows Everyday Life As A Black Woman ~ Taryn Finley

Njaimeh Njie is exploring the many different complexities of black womanhood in the United States with her new website, Power(ed) by Grace: Musings on Black Womanhood.

The project, which Njie started last spring, documents the different realms of life that impact black women and girls by providing photo and video content to help them tell their stories. Starting with photos of the black women in her hometown of Pittsburgh, Njie has honed in on the everyday complexities and nuances of black womanhood that are often overlooked in mainstream media by showing these women in their everyday element. In the photo series, some of which can be seen on her Instagram, she shows black women gardening, skateboarding, enjoying their homegirls’ company and more.

“I came to focus on exploring the small moments in black women’s lives because, when pulled together, these are what make us who we are,” Njie wrote on Blavity about why she created Power(ed) by Grace. “By lifting up our everyday ups and downs, I hoped to provide a space where we could see and appreciate the beauty in ourselves and consequently share that with the world.”

According to her site, Power(ed) by Grace wants to help promote diversity and to uplift the lives of black women by asking them to define themselves on their own terms and in boundless ways without society’s input.

“Black women are human beings deserving of care and consideration, and we deserve images that reflect the nuances, trials and triumphs of our lives,” Njie wrote. “The content and stories on this platform are a simple declaration that we’re here, we’ve been here and we’re not going anywhere. I hope that there are black girls and women out there who will see this and find some of their stories, but I also hope that anyone who engages in this work can see it and find their stories, too.”


Also on HuffPost:

  • Shirley Chisolm (1924–2005)
    New York Daily News Archive via Getty Images
    Chisolm broke major barriers when she became the first black congresswoman in 1968. She continued on her political track when she ran for president four years later, making her the first major-party black candidate to run.
  • Claudette Colvin (1939-)
    Several months before Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a bus, Colvin was the FIRST person arrested for resisting bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, at the age of 15. She also served as one of four plaintiffs in the case of Browder v. Gayle, which ruled that Montgomery’s segregated bus system was unconstitutional.
  • Septima Poinsette Clark (1898–1987)
    Charlotte Observer via Getty Images
    Clark was an educator and civil rights activist who established citizenship schools that helped many African Americans register to vote. Regarded as a pioneer in grassroots citizenship education, she was active with the NAACP in getting more black teachers hired in the South.
  • Mary Church Terrell (1863–1954)
    Stock Montage via Getty Images
    This women’s suffrage activist and journalist was the first president of the National Association of Colored Women and a charter member of the NAACP. She was also one of the first African American women to be awarded a college degree.
  • Angela Davis (1944-)
    Hulton Archive via Getty Images
    Davis is an American revolutionary and educator. The former Black Panther has fought for race, class and gender equality over the years. Davis authored one of the of the most distinguished books in the field of women’s studies called Women, Race & Class. She’s also an advocate of prison reform.
  • Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931)
    Fotosearch via Getty Images
    Wells helped bring international attention to the horrors of lynching in the South with her investigative journalism. She was also elected as the Secretary of the Colored Press Association in 1889.
  • Kathleen Cleaver (1945-)
    Kathleen Cleaver is one of the central figures in Black Panther history. She was the first communications secretary for the organization and is currently a law professor at Emory University. She also helped found the Human Rights Research Fund.
  • Dr. Dorothy Height (1912-2010)
    The Washington Post via Getty Images
    Dr. Height was regarded by President Barack Obama as “the godmother of the Civil Rights Movement.” She served as the president of the National Council of Negro Women for over two decades and was instrumental in the integration of all YWCA centers in 1946.
  • Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784)
    Stock Montage via Getty Images
    Wheatley was a former slave who was kidnapped from West Africa and brought to America. She was bought by a Boston family and became their personal servant. With the aid of the family, she learned to read and eventually became one of the first women to publish a book of poetry in 1773.
  • Audre Lorde (1934-1992)
    Robert Alexander via Getty Images
    This Caribbean-American writer and activist was a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior and poet.” She empowered her readers with her moving poetry often tackling the injustices of racism, sexism and homophobia. She’s known for her poetry and memoirs such as, From a Land Where Other People Live, The Black Unicorn and A Burst of Light. 
  • Flo Kennedy (1916-2000)
    Duane Howell via Getty Images
    Kennedy was a founding member of the National Organization of Women and one of the first black female lawyers to graduate from Columbia Law School. She helped found the Feminist Party in 1971 which went on to nominate Representative Shirley Chisholm for president.
  • Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992)
    Wikimedia Commons
    Johnson was an outspoken and fearless trans woman who was a vital part in the fight for civil rights for the LGBT community in New York. She was known as the patron at Stonewall Inn who initiated resistance on the night the police raided the bar.
  • Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)
    MPI via Getty Images
    Born Isabella Baumfree, she escaped slavery with her infant daughter and changed her name to Sojourner Truth. She’s best known for her speech delievered at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in 1851 titled “Ain’t I A Woman?”
  • Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977)
    Afro Newspaper/Gado via Getty Images
    Hamer was a civil rights activist and organizer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Fannie Lou Hamer. She helped blacks register to vote and co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
  • Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955)
    Chicago History Museum via Getty Images
    Dr. Bethune was an educator and civil rights activist who believed education was the key to racial advancement. She served as the president of the National Association of Colored Women and founded the National Council of Negro Women. She was also the president and founder of Bethune-Cookman College in Florida.
  • Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)
    Robert Abbott Sengstacke via Getty Images
    This poet was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for her 1949 book titled Annie Allen. 
  • Bessie Coleman (1892-1926)
    Fotosearch via Getty Images
    Coleman became the first black woman to earn a pilot’s license and the first black woman to stage a public flight in the United States. She specialized in stunt flying and parachuting and remains a pioneer for women in aviation.
  • Lena Horne (1917-2010)
    Gilles Petard via Getty Images
    Horne was a popular actress and singer who was most known for her performances in the films “Stormy Weather” and “The Wiz.” She worked closely with civil rights groups and refused to play roles that stereotyped black women.
  • Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994)
    STAFF via Getty Images
    Nicknamed “the black gazelle,” Rudolph was born premature and was stricken with polio as a child. Though her doctor said she would never be able to walk without her brace, she went on to become a track star. She became the first American woman to win three gold medals at a single Olympics in 1960.
  • Billie Holiday (1915-1959)
    Gilles Petard via Getty Images
    Holiday was an extremely influential jazz vocalist who was known for her “distinctive phrasing and expressive, sometimes melancholy voice.” Two of her most famous songs are “God Bless the Child” and “Strange Fruit,” a heart-wrenching ballad about blacks being lynched in the South.
  • Diane Nash (1938-)
    Afro Newspaper/Gado via Getty Images
    Nash is a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She was instrumental in organizing the Freedom Rides, which helped desegregate interstate buses in the South. She also planned the Selma Voting Rights Movement in response to the Birmingham 16th Street Church bombing that killed four young girls.
  • Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960)
    Fotosearch via Getty Images
    Hurston was an anthropologist and author during the Harlem Renaissance. Though she didn’t receive much recognition for her work while she was alive, her works of fiction, especially Their Eyes Were Watching God,  became staples in American literature.
  • Hattie McDaniel (1893-1952)
    CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images
    As an actress, McDaniel appeared in more than 300 films and was the first African American to win an Oscar in 1940. She was also the star of the CBS Radio program, “The Beulah Show.”
  • Ruby Bridges (1954-)
    Wikimedia Commons
    Ruby Bridges was six years old when she became the first black child to integrate an all-white school in the South. She was escorted to class by her mother and U.S. marshals due to violent mobs outside of the Mississippi school.
  • Charlayne Hunter-Gault (1942-)
    Hunter-Gault was the first black woman to enroll at the University of Georgia. She became an award-winning journalist after she graduated and worked for outlets such as the New York Times, PBS and NPR.
  • Daisy Bates (1914-1999)
    Afro Newspaper/Gado via Getty Images
    As a civil rights activist and journalist, Bates documented the fight to end segregation in Arkansas. Along with her husband, she ran a weekly black newspaper and became the president of the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP.
  • Dr. Mae Jemison (1956-)
    Science & Society Picture Library via Getty Images
    Dr. Jemison is the first black woman to be admitted into the astronaut training program and fly into space in 1987. Jemison also developed and participated in research projects on the Hepatitis B vaccine and rabies.
  • Ella Baker (1903-1986)
    Afro Newspaper/Gado via Getty Images
    Baker was the national director for the  NAACP. She also worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. As one of the leading figures in the civil rights movement, Baker is known for her leadership style which helped develop others’ skills to become leaders in the fight for a better future.


30 Movies That Could Make the 2017 Oscars Less White ~ Sulagna Misra

The Oscar nominations are blindingly white for the second year in a row, so much so that Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and the Board of Governors voted to change the rules for voting on the Oscars—the boldest move yet to bring real diversity to the membership and the awards themselves. Now the pressure is on for those changes to actually be reflected in the nominations, and lucky for the Academy voters, there seems to be no lack of choices for diverse films to nominate next year. It’s going to be hard to ignore these contenders—diverse stories that span the globe and history, both from directors and writers of color, and three featuring Idris Elba, just for good measure.

1. Vincent-n-Roxxy stars Zoë Kravitz, who was in Mad Max: Fury Road and the Divergentseries and this summer’s very excellent Dope. No doubt she’ll be flashing that clever smile of hers in the way only she can.

2. Oscar-winning and multi-nominee Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon will get a sequel on Netflix, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, with Michelle Yeohreturning and Glee’s Harry Shum Jr. (!) also starring. Releases February 26.

3. Amandla Stenberg stars in the 90s set As You Are, a movie about the friendship between three awkward, punk outcasts. Stenberg plays Sarah, a transracial adoptee to a white family in a predominantly white suburb.

Nate Parker in The Birth of a Nation.

Courtesy of Sundance

4. Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation, which was part of a bidding war for distribution rights at Sundance, is the biopic about Nat Turner, a slave who led a rebellion in 1831. Yes, that title is a deliberate reference to a certain other Hollywood historical drama.

5. Are you sick of Oscar-nominated Wall Street films like The Wolf on Wall Street and The Big Short that barely feature any women? Indian-American director Meera Menon will hopefully change that with her new film, Equity, described as the “first female-driven Wall Street film.”

6. Moonlight, based on Tarell McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, stars André Holland (The Knick, Selma), Naomie Harris (Spectre), Janelle Monae (the woman behind albums Electric Lady and The ArchAndroid), and Mahershala Ali (House of Cards).

7. Belle director Amma Asante takes on A United Kingdom, the story of the first president of Botswana (David Oyelowo, who played Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma) and his wife (Rosamund Pike).

Lupita Nyong’o in Queen of Katwe.

Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

8. Oyelowo will also star in Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe, about Phiona Mutesi, the Ugandan chess prodigy, alongside Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o.

9. In Lion, Dev Patel stars as an Indian adoptee in Australia who goes back to India to find his family. The movie also features several Indian actors such as Tannishtha Chatterjee(Brick Lane).

10. Korean-American So Yong Kim directs the Sundance-debuting Lovesong (for which she also co-wrote the screenplay), about two female friends falling in love just as one of them is about to get married. Also starring Beasts of No Nation director Cary Joji Fukunaga!

Joe Seo Spa Night.

Courtesy of Sundance.

11. Andrew Ahn’s first feature length film, Spa Night, is about a closeted Korean teen struggling with how his sexuality might exclude him from his family. For his first short film, Dol (First Birthday), about a gay Korean man balancing identities, Ahn cast his family and screened it for them as a way of coming out.

13. Bastille Day: Idris Elba stops a terrorist attack in France.

14. A Hundred Streets: Idris Elba stars in a movie about London.

A scene from The Jungle Book.

Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

15. The Jungle Book: Idris Elba plays a child-eating tiger (bonus: with Lupita Nyong’o as a wolf). Opens April 15.

16. Golden Globe winner Gael García Bernal stars as a journalist who interviews the titular poet in Neruda (yes, that Pablo Neruda, whose love poems are everywhere).

17. Bernal also stars in this Werner Herzog penned drama Salt and Fire, about a scientist and the head of a large company working together against a volcano. Yes, you read that right.

18. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson voices a demigod in the Disney movie Moana, set in ancient Oceania, with the titular character played by native Hawaiian Auli’I Cravalho. Also featuring music from Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda! Opens November 23.

Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyers in Southside With You.

Courtesy of Sundance

19. At Sundance, Southside with You, about the Obamas’ first date, premiered at Sundance with critical acclaim for the actors, the love story, and filmmaking.

20. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’s Iranian-American director Ana Lily Amirpourreturns with the cannibalistic love story A Bad Batch, starring Jason Momoa. (The Hawaiian born actor will also star as Aquaman in Batman v Superman).

Royalty Hightower in The Fits.

Courtesy of Paul Yee

12. The Fits, which debuted at Sundance, is about an introverted tomboy (newcomer Royalty Hightower) deciding to join a dance troupe that becomes overwhelmed with mysterious spasms.

21. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story seems to be carrying on the newly minted Star Wars tradition of diversity with Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, and Forest Whitaker among the cast, plus yet another female lead with Felicity Jones. Opens December 16.

22. Meanwhile, The Force Awakens’s Finn, John Boyega, will star in The Circle, based on the book by David Eggers. Also starring Hermione (Emma Watson) and Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks)!

A scene from Morris from America.

Courtesy of Sundance

23. In the drama Morris from America, which won two prizes at the Sundance Film Festival, comedian Craig Robinson changes things up to star as the father of a black teen who is struggling to fit in in his new country of Germany.

24. Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek continues to star in trippy stories about haunted men in Buster’s Mal Heart.

25. African-American director J.D. Dillard’s film Sleight, which premiered at Sundance, looks like it evokes the realism of Attack the Block but echoes Ex Machina’s “20 minutes into the future” mien.

26. House of Flying Daggers director Yimou Zhang’s The Great Wall centers on a mystery about the Great Wall of China. Starring Chinese people with actual lines, Pedro Pascal, and white guys Matt Damon and Willem Dafoe, too. Opens November 23.

Stephan James in Race.

Courtesy of Focus Features.

27. Race, opening February, is the movie on this list with the most apropos title. About Olympian Jesse Owens and his incredible achievements at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, the film stars Stephan James from Selma, plus Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons,and William Hurt.

28. Training Day’s Antoine Fuqua directs Denzel Washington—have you heard of him? He’s been in some things—once again in The Magnificent Seven. Opens September 23.

29. The RZA will direct Azealia Banks, Common, Jill Scott, Lorraine Toussaint, and Hana Mae Lee in Coco, about a twentysomething woman from Brooklyn who dreams of a hip-hop career before getting involved in her college’s slam-poetry scene. Opens March 11.

30. Don Cheadle directs and stars in Miles Ahead, about Miles Davis at a turning point in his musical career, with Emayatzy Corinealdi co-starring. Opens April 1.

The Dukkha of Racism: Racial Inclusion and Justice in American Convert Buddhism ~ Justin Whitaker

Smiling Buddha

On July 1 2015, a website titled “Buddhists for Racial Justice” started circulating across Buddhist social media. It included an open letter that spoke of the deep sadness at the murders of the nine members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, Carolina on June 17, 2015. These murders were not only the result of an individual deluded by racial hatred and a desire to start a race war, it stated, but also reflexive of the legacy of slavery and white supremacy that persisted in the American collective consciousness and institutional structures. As Buddhists, it continued, we are obliged to realize the interconnectedness of experience, to recognize the causes and conditions that perpetuate this collective suffering, and to respond compassionately by uniting the precept of non-harm to tangible actions. Alongside this open letter, were two “Calls to Engage” one for white practitioners to awaken to white privilege, and one for members of color to “investigate their own unconscious patterning that perpetuates the suffering of racism.” By the next day over 500 people from a wide variety of Buddhist lineages had endorsed this letter and two weeks later that number had risen to 1400.

The immediate origins for “Buddhists for Racial Justice” can be traced to May 14th when a delegation of 125 Buddhists from a variety of lineages gathered for the first “White House-U.S. Buddhist Leadership Conference.” Here they presented two letters: one on climate change and one titled “Buddhist Statement on Racial Justice.” The latter opened with the declaration that as Buddhist teachers they were distressed by the killings of unarmed African Americans brought to attention by the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in NYC. As with the open call letter, it intertwined the language of Buddhism—suffering, interdependence, non-harm and compassion— with racial justice.

The impetus for this letter was attributed to the courage of the people of Ferguson and the Black Lives Matter movement, which had brought urgency to what the Buddhist Peace Fellowship has dubbed as “Buddhism in America After Ferguson.” However, both letters should be seen as products of work to challenge white privilege in American Buddhist convert communities spanning over nearly two decades. Many of the themes expressed on them, for instance, are articulated in Making the Invisible Visible: Healing Racism in Our Buddhist Communities a booklet compiled by a small group of Buddhist practitioners of color and distributed to the Buddhist Teachers in the West conference at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, in June 2000. It declared that for many years the Euro-American middle-class sangha had been resistant to the efforts of people of color and their white allies to raise awareness of the reproduction of oppressive racial and socioeconomic within Western Buddhist sanghas and unless this was addressed the dharma risked becoming “irrelevant to vast parts of our society.” Interweaving personal experiences of racism with Buddhist teachings and critical race theory, this collection offers a number of resources to combat racism in Western sanghas ranging from institutional diversity trainings to addressing racism in dharma talks.

For much of this time, such efforts have been marginalized, ignored and even actively opposed. For example, there is no mention of diversity work in the Shambhala Sun 2009 edition “Celebrating 30 years of Buddhism in America” and a number of American Buddhists have accused such work as being divisive and against core Buddhist teachings such as interdependence and anatta. Due to a combination of a small but extremely committed loose network of American Buddhist People of Color (POC) teacher and practitioners and their white allies, and the wider cultural critical mass around racial justice, however, such work is slowly coming to the forefront of American Buddhist convert communities. Communities such as the East Bay Meditation Center (EBMC) in Oakland, California, (INY), Insight Meditation Community of Washington (IMCW), and the Brooklyn Zen Center (BZC) have put racial inclusion and justice work at the center of their work and racial justice issues are getting increased coverage in Buddhist media.

My current book project on contemporary developments in American convent Buddhism devotes a chapter to the history of this racial inclusion and justice work. Here I will offer just one snapshot of this important and multilayered project: the ways in which participants from the Insight Meditation community understand racial inclusion and justice work as an expression and extension of core Buddhist principles. Most fundamental is the presentation of racism as a form of dukkha. As La Sarmiento, a POC teacher at Insight Meditation Community of Washington (IMCW) put it:

I just want to be able to notice suffering when I see it and not perpetuate it and alleviate it, if I can. It’s all about suffering for me. Doing this diversity work is actually addressing suffering, addressing it in the ways that some people perpetuate it and some people have to live it. So when some people say to me, “What does this have to do with our practice?” It’s like “This is the practice. If you don’t get that, well I don’t know.”

The dukkha of racism manifests both on an individual and collective level. As the letter for racial justice puts it: “The historic and continued suffering of people of color in this country is our collective suffering.” Once racial injustice has been established as a form of dukkha, the next move, following the Four Noble Truths, is to inquire into the causes and conditions of that suffering. Tara Brach teaches that at the root of racism is the existential tendency to create a false sense of self and “an unreal other” that we respond to with aversion and fear. In essence, therefore, racism is a cultural manifestation of this existential illusion of separateness. Waking up to the reality of interdependence requires an investigation of both the individual and collective conditioning around race that keeps one ensnared in separateness. Certain practices of Buddhism such as mindfulness offer potent tools to inquire into and become free of this conditioning.

Ruth King, a senior teacher at IMCW, has developed a training called Mindful of Race, which combines mindfulness practice with diversity awareness training. White Awakeoffers race awareness training in the wider context of mindfulness practice and notes that “the development of racial awareness is not only an important piece of our spiritual practice, it is a spiritual practice in and of itself.”

Larry Yang, an Insight teacher and pioneer of Buddhist diversity work, has also grounded such work in Buddhist canonical texts. He draws on Bhikkhu Analayo’s (2004) commentary on the Satipatthana sutta in which Analayo discusses the refrain on internal and external mindfulness within the sutta, noting that the presence of the latter has been put aside in modern translations After considering different interpretations, Analayo concludes that external mindfulness means being mindful of other people and discusses several ways to practice this. Following Analayo, Yang argues that whilst the Insight community has historically exclusively focused on mindfulness in the internal realm of the meditator, diversity awareness is the application of mindfulness to the external or collective realm.

In conclusion, the shift in focus from the individual to the collective is crucial to understanding what makes racial diversity and justice work Buddhist. This shift manifests in two main ways: First, one characteristic of first-generation American Buddhist teachers has been to focus on using Buddhist teachings and tools to address individual psychological suffering. With teachings on the “dukkha of racism,” Buddhist principles and practices are now being applied to the socio-cultural dimensions of that individual self and the collective suffering of racial injustice in the United States. Second, a foundational part of racial inclusion and justice work is the recovery of the third jewel of Buddhism, the sangha, which has been historically neglected in American convert communities, which have emphasized individual meditation practice rather than building community. Racial inclusion and justice work is concerned with building sanghas that are inclusive and welcoming for all. As the Insight Meditation Society puts it, unless they create a “multicultural refuge” that “reflects the diversity of our society, our world,” IMS cannot be “a true spiritual refuge.” In this way, racial inclusion and justice work should be seen as both a corrective to earlier Euro-American Buddhist trends and also a continuation of the application of Buddhist teachings to contemporary Western forms of suffering.

How to Parent on a Night Like This ~ Carvell Wallace


My son is home from school. He stays in bed while I take his little sister to her fourth grade class. He watches about eight hours of television. I have to work. We watch Skyfall together in the morning. The violence is a little beyond what I would normally allow, but something about a father and son watching a spy thriller together… I can’t resist. A Final Showdown at the Scottish Manor. Helicopters and explosions. Cars with semi-automatics in the headlights. Sawed-off shotguns.

I pick my daughter up at 3:30 while he stays at home. I take her to the grocery. We talk about persimmons and how to tell if they’re ripe. She asks me how I decide which chicken to buy. I explain about air-chilled, and free-range, and grain fed, and hormone free. I realize that I don’t actually understand “air chilled.” I send her clear across the store to go find peanut oil. She does. I am impressed.

In the car, she asks about her brother. I tell her he’s home alone. She is quiet for a few more minutes. Then she tells a story of the time her mother went to the store and left them home alone. And they heard a sound. An explosion of a kind. And her older brother started panicking, telling her it was gunshots, telling her to close the blinds and hide on the floor. And how she became terrified and FaceTimed Mommy from her iPad. And Mommy tried to calm her down, but eventually came right home, leaving a cart filled with groceries in the aisle.

Helicopters are already circling downtown.

She tells me that she now knows that they were overreacting. That it was probably fireworks. It didn’t sound like real gunshots. She’s heard real gunshots. They happened one afternoon while she was playing in the schoolyard. The teachers told them to run inside and they didn’t even have to line up. That’s how she knew it was serious.

We come back home and the kids are reunited. Rare is the day that one has school and the other doesn’t. They are so used to being together in the same cars on the same schedule, even at different schools, that when they see each other, there is awkwardness. They want to check in. If they were adults, they might say “how was your day?” and “I missed you!” But they are not adults. So they argue about who is the worst teacher at the elementary school, and then reminisce about funny episodes of sitcoms that they’ve watched. She quizzes him on his menu, keen to make sure that he didn’t get an ice cream or a cookie on his day off. She’s always keeping track of things like this. Everything must be even.

Grand Jury Decision is expected to be read at 8 p.m. CST.

She begins her homework. He watches vaguely racist and sexist YouTube videos.

I make her a snack of plain yogurt and granola.

Rumors are starting to spread that there will be no indictment.

I already know there will be no indictment. I’ve been a black man in America for a long time.

The house is quiet, everyone engrossed in their screens. I am agitated. Scrolling social media, lead in the pit of my stomach.

We’ve been here before. As a family.

We are black people in Oakland. We talk about race a lot. We talk about gender a lot. We discuss transphobia and homophobia a lot. We discuss capitalism and civil rights a lot. We’ve heard helicopters and chants and seen the streets burn. We’ve been to protests. We’ve held signs and played drums. We’ve had our car broken into and our heart-covered backpack and pink size 3 trench coat stolen from the front seat on the first night of Occupy. We’ve driven past armies of cops in riot gear in our minivan. We’ve been here before. We are black people in Oakland.

I send them to the corner store, so they can get outside and I can have some quiet. $3 each. I wonder if they’ll be attacked walking down the street. Black people sometimes get attacked when white people are scared of the reality of race.

Darren Wilson is not charged, and it makes me wonder if someone is going to attack my black children.

I decide to make tacos al pastor. I’m keeping it simple this week because Thanksgiving is a few days away and there’s going to be a shitload of cooking for that. I already have some frozen pork that I made months ago. I heat up the meat and tortillas. I am not very woo woo at all, but the one thing I know is that when I cook while agitated the food does not taste good. I try to calm down but I can’t. I brought my phone and Twitter feed into the kitchen. Scrolling with my pinky, leaving cumin residue on my screen.

They return with Rollos and 7up.

People are now live tweeting the speech. Apparently it’s taking forever. “what’s next, an interpretive dance?” a particularly funny tweet asks. The tortillas burn. I throw them out. Start again.

I consider playing the press conference on the living room TV. But my daughter warned me about that. She warned me when she told me how frightened she was of the firecracker that may have been a gun. What will the TV show my 9-year-old before she goes to sleep? I decided to let them stay lost in Netflix.

The food is… meh. Pork is overcooked. Salad dressing too vinegar-y. Beans underdone. But the rice turns out great. When all else fails I can always make amazing Spanish rice. Nevertheless, they finish every last bite and ask for more.

I retire upstairs while they do the post dinner chores.

I want to put my phone down but I can’t. Every moment without it feels terrifying. I read more on Twitter. Protesters have taken to the street. They’ve closed down 580. The freeway. I’m happy for them. Friends are uploading videos. I’ve been to enough protests in Oakland. I know this will be relatively harmless. A few white kids with masks will try and break shit. The police will not be stupid and everyone will go home relatively unscathed. It just has that feel.

It’s hard to continue. I wish it was my kids’ bedtime. I wish the dishes were done. I wish the house was clean. I wish America wasn’t racist. I wish Mike Brown was in police custody. I wish Darren Wilson admitted guilt. I wish America admitted guilt.

I post on Facebook “How do you parent on a night like this?” People respond with advice about how to talk to kids about race. Well-meaning, but missing the point. I don’t mean what do you say. I mean how do you go on.

How do you go on.

How do you make lunch for tomorrow and sweep and handle bath time?

How do you parent with a permanently broken heart?

I text their mother. “Hi” I say. She responds. But I stop. She is white. I don’t actually want to talk to any white people right now. I love her though. She is an exceedingly kind, strong and loving person. And I make a note to tell her the next time I see her.

My son is being a dick.

He keeps messing with his sister. He keeps not following directions. He keeps jumping around the house like a… well, like an 11-year-old boy. My patience is wearing thin. I want to yell at him. Will you calm the fuck down?! Do you know what the fuck is happening out there?! But I don’t. Because he will know way sooner than I want.

Mike Brown kept messing with people.

Mike Brown kept jumping around.

Mike Brown kept not following directions.

But when I tell him to brush his teeth and he bullshits for another 10 minutes, I finally lose it.

“Hey!” I yell. The room grows intensely quiet. “Get your shit together.”

I can see behind his eyes as he calculates how to respond. Another joke? An angry backlash? He does neither. He looks hurt. He fixes me with a sad stare, milking it just a bit, and then mopes upstairs. When he is five steps away, I call him back. He makes a joke of not wanting to get closer to me. “Come here” I say. He moves an inch. “No HERE.” He moves another. “HERE!” We do our little routine a few times more. We watch a lot of comedy together.

When he is close enough to touch, I reach out and hold him to me like I’ve maybe never held anyone to me in my entire life. I feel his warmth. The narrowness of his bones. The quick beat of his little heart. I bury my face awkwardly in the back of his neck. I choke back tears. I don’t want tears now.

“Dad. Are you alright?” He knows this is the next funny thing to say.

“I love you,” is all I can manage.

I stop before it gets any weirder for him. “I love you too, Dad. You’re a great dad.” And I can tell he means it.

Later they are both in my bed, in jammies, wet and clean from showers, blankets pulled to their chins. I read them two chapters from E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. They are fixated. They laugh hysterically at parts. They sit quietly rapt at others. Good food, good hugs, and good writing. For a second, I think I may have solved all the world’s problems.

She falls asleep after a time, curled like a conch shell in the vastness of my bed. He, as per usual, won’t quit. He begs me to continue. I tell him that it’s not fair to her. He is disappointed but understanding. He turns off the lamp next to my bed, and nestles himself in my blankets, not even pretending that he’s going to his own room, not even pretending that it matters where I sleep.

I read Darren Wilson’s grand jury testimony by the light of my phone.

Two hours later, I’m prepared to try and face the darkness and quiet of night.

I look at them both lying in my bed. They are unbelievably gorgeous children.

The thing about sleeping kids is that, in that moment, you can express your love for them in its complete fullness. I stare at them for a long time and memorize their faces. I allow these faces to be etched into my soul for all of eternity. I do this because I’m afraid I will lose them. I do this because I know I will lose them.

I may have even said “I hope you don’t ever grow up.”

But now, one day later, I’m not sure if I did.

Aha Moment Talking About Race and Gender ~ Karen Fleshman

Two months ago, I commented on How We Label Students Matters, an inspiring LinkedIn post by Dr. Verenice Gutierrez, Ph.D., and we began conversing. Soon thereafter, Verenice introduced me to Dr. Dionne Wright Poulton, Ph.D., whom she had met via LinkedIn.

Verenice is a racial equity educator who, as Principal, turned around a poorly performing urban junior high school serving students of color.  Verenice is Mexican American and has a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. Dionne is also a racial equity educator with tremendous experience teaching adults and youth. She is the author of It’s Not Always Racist, But Sometimes it Is. Dionne is Black-Caribbean-Canadian and has a Ph.D. in Adult Education. I am a White American and have a law degree and experience in community organizing and workforce development. I have come to understand that race is the central issue of our country, and to dedicate myself to helping White people to understand our role in perpetuating systemic racism so we can begin to dismantle it.

Last month, the three of us met in Atlanta, and discussed how we could collaborate to amplify a dialog of racial healing in our country. We named our new venture trispectives 

trispectives principles Verenice Gutierrez Ph.D. – a Mexican American, Dionne Wright Poulton, Ph.D.- a Black Caribbean Canadian, and Karen Fleshman, Esq. – a White American, specialize in facilitating conversations and workshops on racial equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Drawing on their backgrounds as professional women, working mothers, racial equity trainers, educators, and workforce development professionals, trispectives spark culture change at work.

Last night at General Assembly San Francisco we held our first event together, #DiversityinTech: Exploring Intersections of Race and Gender At Work. We’ll be back at General Assembly San Francisco next week to facilitate an interactive workshop on Talking About Race at Work.

We were inspired to organize a panel at General Assembly by Lisa Lee, Senior Diversity Manager at Pandora, who held an awesome event there last spring, Swipe Right for Diversity. So imagine how honored and delighted we were when Lisa agreed to moderate our panel. She is a BOSS!!!! 

At first, registration wasn’t strong. I complained about it to my best friend and she laughed at me, she said “No one wants to volunteer to discuss how race and gender intersect at work, people would only go to something like that if its mandatory!!” But it turns out, she was wrong, we filled the house. And I was really happy to see the diversity in the audience! 

Our conversation last night was rich, Lisa and the audience asked challenging questions and we were open and candid in our answers. My main takeaway came from something Verenice said, how she has come to realize that people’s resistance to talking about racial inequity is because they view it is an attack on their belief system that they developed from observing and listening to their family. So when one brings up racism, it triggers an emotional response because people don’t want to question views they learned from the people they love the most.

To move forward we have to lose the good/bad binary. We may continue to love our parents, and view them as “good” people, while rejecting their racism and trying to educate them about how race affects people in our country. Writing these words now, I am reminded of All In the Family, a show that was tremendously helpful in its accurate depiction of family dynamics around controversial topics. 

Thank you to everyone who joined us last night, and for everyone brave enough to engage in dialog about race and gender. We have to overcome our fear about saying the wrong thing and have these conversations in order to move forward. Last night filled me with hope that we will. 

Karen Fleshman is a Bay Area-based diversity and inclusion strategist, race educator, and connector. With her trispectives partners she consults with companies to help them achieve their business goals by becoming more inclusive. She is also a writer and public speaker. Karen developed cultural competency skills as a community organizer, public official, attorney, and non-profit professional. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, the University of Texas, and New York Law School, Karen is admitted to practice law in New York. Follow her @FleshmanKaren


I Found My Womanist Aesthetic by Embracing Being Large, Black and Female ~ Anitra Winder

“What shall I tell my children who are black? Of what it means to be a captive in this dark skin? What shall I tell my dear ones, fruit of my womb, of how beautiful they are? Where everywhere they are faced with abhorrence of everything that is black…?” — Dr. Margaret Burroughs, 1968.

Growing up it seemed as though race and gender had always been a part of my consciousness. However, at that juncture in life I understood identity in the most simplistic terms. I was poor, black, a girl, a bit rounder than most, but that’s where the observation ended. There was no evaluation of how those identities influenced who I was or who I was going to be. Hence, the multiple social identities of being black, large, and female were always present, but not contextualized. 

Through a simple game of make believe, I would come to understand my expected place in the world. I never cared for the idea of being a princess. In every book I’d read they were either locked away in towers, being abducted, persecuted by evil step-mothers, or simply lying comatose while life raged on. I never wanted any part of that but one day out of boredom I thought it would be interesting to play with a different group of girls during recess. These girls played princess regularly and approached it with an uncanny degree of formality. As a circle of girls clucked on about the hierarchy of princesses, I interjected, “Can I play? I could be a princess, or maybe more like the queen!” The blonde ringleader said, “Okay, you can play, but you can’t be a princess. Princesses are blonde and pretty and you’re black and fat, so you can be a wicked witch.” I decided not to play. 

Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman College, commented in her book Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, “The issues of emerging sexuality and the societal messages about who is sexually desirable leave young black women in a very devalued position.” The initiation into this devaluation was truly an American creation, a methodology that conceptualized a social structure of race and gender based on a sexist, white supremacist model. 

From that playground experience, I began to learn that as a female I should desire to be pretty, and that being black and overweight nullified any possibility of achieving that desire. I became acutely aware that society would attribute every failure or character flaw to my race and size, which would be used as a measure of my inferiority. My experience as a human being would be limited to the restrictive stereotypes paraded within various forms of media. In addition to navigating the difficulty of racial discrimination, I was expected to conform to beauty ideals that shared no cultural resemblance to who I was. Black women who looked like me were at best asexual mammies, muted and stable best friends, or sassy, glorified ghetto cooks who lusted over ham hocks and the men who’d never part their sheets. These grotesque images of black womanhood are starkly juxtaposed with images of blonde bombshells, pale, rail thin supermodels, or simply your typical lily-white, girl next door.
Most media images serve as indicators of social status because one learns what a society values and what it does not through media representation. The black female body has historically been debased by the intersecting atrocities of racism and patriarchal oppression. My black, large, female body was being offered up as a sacrifice to the contemporary “cult of thinness,” which socially sanctioned my body as unfit to truly be feminine. In a grossly sexist and racialized society, a black, fat woman is not valued, and therefore eclipsed. I questioned, as Sojourner had, “Ain’t I a Woman?”  

During my young adulthood, I caved into social pressure. I obsessively straightened my hair and began binging and purging food. I dare say I alternated between states of anorexia and bulimia, which is of course absurd because black women do not have eating disorders, and fat people cannot be anorexic. 

Depressed by years of relentless stigmatization, it was only when I chose a form of self-integration that would take place outside of the confines of white culture, that I began to realize my worth. Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, and Fannie Lou Hamer cast stones against the patriarchal, white supremacist power structure. They strived to enhance the plight of their people, and their black femininity was soundly intact. These remarkable women were the catalyst for the formation of my womanist aesthetic. This womanist aesthetic would guide me to stop demonizing my unique characteristics, and engage in healthy behaviors. 

I no longer chemically processed my hair nor consumed nutrient poor foods that were introduced into the African American palate by oppressive forces. These changes resulted in a healthier physical and mental state. I reclaimed the power to redefine beauty and femininity on my own cultural terms. Just as the warrior women before me did not submit to the prescribed societal notions of their value or existence, I too have chosen a cerebral and substantive beauty to define the majesty that is my black female body.

Anitra Winder is a queer, crafty, Afrofuturistic, writer, and social justice advocate. She has a degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Health Care Administration/Public Health. When she’s not focused on social justice issues, she’s battling her comic book addiction…she’s not winning. Find her on Twitter @donitocarmenito.

See every term the US Census has used to describe black Americans ~ Dara Lind

The US Census has been counting African Americans as a separate race since 1820. But the way it’s categorized African Americans, and what it’s called them, has changed constantly.

census race history

(Joss Fong/Vox; data from Pew Research Center)

Especially notable is that before 1960, Americans didn’t even have the option of picking their own race; it was the census taker’s job to do it for them. Which means that in 1890, for example, census takers were tasked with figuring out whether multiracial families counted as “mulatto,” “quadroon,” or “octoroon.”

It’s another illustration of how our understanding of what race is, and who belongs to which race, keeps shifting over time — even though people of every era are convinced that the racial divisions of their era are just scientific fact.

‘I Have Waited 15 Years For This Moment’ ~ Chris Bodenner

Ta-Nehisi’s acceptance speech for the National Book Award is up:

Here’s an excerpt from Between the World and Me, “A Letter to My Son,” if you haven’t read it yet. Peruse here the nine essays we commissioned related to the book. Constructive criticism from readers herehere, and here. Five varied roundups of reader stories of racism here. And here’s a video of TNC reading from his award-winning book:

The Terrible Tale Of My Racist One-Night Stand ~ Ella Sackville Adjei

This is the tale of how I accidentally slept with a racist, and the laughably horrible things he said to me while I lay in his bed.

In July I travelled around the Cyclades with two friends, reunited after spending a year apart at different universities, and re-learning who we might have become in the time away. We’d met Australian Sam and his friend in Athens and, excited at seeing a familiar face in a Mykonos club, dragged them across the dance floor. What we took for enthusiasm at mutual recognition turned out to be more prosaic; Australian Sam and co had no memory at all of our previous meeting and clearly thought their irresistible physical magnetism was what made us pluck them out of the crowd. When you’re determined to get over an ex – even if it has been the best part of a year since the breakup – and let’s be real, prove that “still got it!” attractiveness to yourself, bad things can happen.

Tom Humberstone for BuzzFeed

Over his shoulder my friends wiggled their eyebrows and smiled encouragingly, knowing I was accomplishing my “mission”. I remember thinking his blue eyes (not my usual) seemed bright and fun, and though I felt very strongly that he was arrogant, his shoulders were the exact right height for me to wrap my arms around. So we ended up at his hotel on the other side of the island. Feel free to insert your chosen comic-book euphemism here.

I am no expert on the details of hookups. There aren’t a lot of notches on my bedpost but I feel certain casual racism isn’t the norm when it comes to postcoital pillow talk. We were sharing vaguely awkward, but perfectly pleasant, small talk about life in the UK and Australia and he had just demonstrated his predictably bad British accent, featuring all those familiar harmless stereotypes.

Tom Humberstone for BuzzFeed

His “Indian” accent (purely the word “curry” repeated over and over) segued neatly into a generic “Asian” one (where he said words such as “noodles”, “massage”, and “ladyboy”).

It started to dawn on me that this good-looking stranger had deeper character flaws than just a tendency to focus all conversation on himself. Somehow, I’d foolishly assumed that everyone everywhere was now aware of how not OK this kind of shit is. Or at the very least that they would keep it between themselves and their white mates. How did I fuck up so monumentally and end up in a room alone with this jerk? The only consolation was the thought of how grimly hilarious a story it would become.

Tom Humberstone for BuzzFeed

When I pointed out the blatant racism of his comments, Australian Sam told me Australians “just don’t care about that stuff”. Dancing about a half-step away from “I don’t see skin colour” territory, he said: “If someone wants to get offended because their skin colour is mentioned, that’s their fault.” I snorted in disbelief. My “racist radar” had experienced a major malfunction and now here I was in bed with a guy who thought his love for Biggie and 50 Cent negated his total inexperience with the existence of black people as actual human beings with whom he could interact. I was tired and tipsy, and even though I wanted to tell him where he was going, he wasn’t worth any more of my time or breath.

Tom Humberstone for BuzzFeed

As it was, I was clinging to the very edge of the mattress with my body contorted to avoid any physical contact with this person who by now was truly repulsive to me, and trying not to cry, and wondering how I could get the fuck out of there.

Weeks later, seeking solace, I asked various women of colour friends if they’d experienced any similar racism from romantic or sexual partners, and so many had stories to tell: One told me how her ex-boyfriend used to mimic her accent as she spoke Tamil on the phone to her mum. Another – of Indian and Pakistani origin – was asked to “like, sing in Indian while I rap” by one sexual partner and told “you’re quite pretty, and not that hairy, for one of your lot” by another. For every story of “casual racism as flirtation” shared, I have no doubt that hundreds more go unreported except among groups of exhausted women torn between grim amusement and despair.

A classmate I spoke to, who is of mixed black and white Southeast African origin, had slept with a white South African who insisted on discussing apartheid, her “tribe”, and his exhilaration at “breaking the rules”. The rhetoric and mentality of colonialism is so often still painfully present for so many of us – and not just in our institutions and systems. And unfortunately, racists don’t tend to wear badges to identify them: It would be a lot easier to work out who to avoid on a sweaty dance floor if they did, and whose bright blue eyes to ignore.

A stroke of genius reminded me I had the only set of keys to the room I was sharing with my friends. I dug them out of my pocket as proof but he’d already immediately offered to take me back. Perhaps he had sensed my discomfort, but more likely he felt I had fulfilled my purpose and was no longer necessary.

Tom Humberstone for BuzzFeed

The grimmest circumstances often yield comedy like nothing else: As the bike plodded painfully up a hill, we realised it had a flat tyre. I would have laughed at the farce of it all if I hadn’t wanted to scream into the night at the thought of being trapped in the middle of nowhere with this foolish racist. By some minor miracle, the bike managed to last until the club, where I hopped off and ran awkwardly in my tight “pulling” skirt away into the crowds. I desperately – childishly – hoped his quad bike would give up entirely, leaving him stranded. I never saw Australian Sam again. I left Mykonos two days later. I don’t imagine I’ll ever return.

Tom Humberstone for BuzzFeed

The happy ending is this: I channelled all my hurt and rage into the first iteration of this piece, and began to feel OK again. This didn’t have to scar me, or change my thoughts about sex, or myself. It could just be one experience of many, one sad night of so many happy ones, a valuable life lesson learnt (that lesson being “try not to sleep with awful racist men”). And frankly, getting a piece of writing internationally published is the biggest and best “fuck you” I could have.