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+ Stories Of Hope

 

 

STORIES OF HOPE.

| ladyish | by Elisha Nain — September 3, 2016

I’m easily manipulated. Secluded in houses, incapable of covering my keen eye for manners
Never debated my beliefs, but okay with accepting defeat. Okay to say okay instead of saying I’d rather go the other way. Okay with them using my words for theirs while I sit legs crossed in the background. Lips pressed like silicone breasts. I’d rather be fake to myself to look real for you.

I’m easily manipulated. I feel around for feminism for freedom and equal rights and equal pay, but the more I pick at the problem, there’s more men unemployed today. And more girls looking down at boys and treating them like tools and not teachers or speakers or leaders. Or Am I just an old fashioned wanker who’d rather lay underneath a superior and not be one?

I’m easily manipulated. I’ll do anything to keep a love from slipping into a void, to keep him happy for hopes of a family, build a false foundation to have a baby. But when it came to our futures yours sits over mine in my mind as I stood behind you at the pharmacy line to erase the night before with a morning after. Despite my loyalty I became a killer and a coward.

I’m easily manipulated. Flipping through God’s fables teaching me to be a Mary, treasured and sub missed. Listen to Lilith and you’re dismissed. Point the fables to society because ladies it’s not safe to be selfless in the same hypocrisy where you’re scorned for being selfish.

I’m easily manipulated, yet impossible to tame. So stop force feeding me your feminism and raping me with your misogyny -- Because your factions are inhuman for the suppressed middle heart who whispers for union.

 

 

To The Beautiful Black Girl By Destiny Thomas — August 2, 2016

This is for all of the Beautiful Black Girls whose skin resembles the essence of the sun. This is for all of the Beautiful Black Girls whose heart is made of pure gold and a pinch of fairy dust. This is for all of the Beautiful Black Girls who are coming to know of their power, strength, beauty, and worth. This is for all of the Beautiful Black Girls whose curls and kinks sway with the rhythm of the wind. This is for all of the Beautiful Black Girls who do not let the standards of society define the content of their mind, body, or soul. This is for all of the Beautiful Black Girls who often forget that they're deserving of love. This is for all of the Beautiful Black Girls who are walking the ways of this world with confidence as big as the sky and poise as tall as any mountain. This is for all of the Beautiful Black Girls who are coming to understand this journey we call life. This is for you, my love for you are a being who is full of light and magic. This is for you.

 

This poem was originally published here

 

 

 

To the girls with hair like that of a wild forest by Acquelline K. Wanjiru — July 30, 2016

To the girls with hair like that of a wild forest, Your hair is as dark as the night, and as dry as the desert. For it has swallowed the sun. It doesn't fall straight, nor does it comply with the laws of gravity, but instead it is a wild forest, Where the roots of its trees grow out of the soil that is your scalp, and what a wonder it is, why these trees persistently insist on reaching for the heavens? To the girls with hair like that of a wild forest, ‘Why does it stay up?’ they ask. But these kinds of questions frustrate you, don’t they? Because they do not intend on celebrating its existence, But what they do is to question it. Because peculiar is what they think of it, And for that reason it is rejected and shamed. for its supposed ‘ugliness’ and ‘unusualness’. But don’t fret, child. Ugly is just another word used to describe the miscomprehension of beauty-not the absence of it, and unusual is a term used to forgive whatever is ordinary, boring in hopes of shaming whatever dares to be different, unconventional, and your hair is exactly that. It is a wild, rebellious forest that grows unapologetically, So you mustn’t loathe Or fault it for its refusal to fall, and submit to conformity. To the girls with hair like that of a wild forest, Do not DeForest your curls, kinks, and coils, To comply with the Eurocentric idea of beauty, But instead love and conserve its unique magic. Exhaust the soil that is your scalp With moisturizing, hydrating oils-not lyes. And if you must, Wear a crown of beautiful, blooming flowers because something as majestic as it is, deserves something lovely. 

This poem was originally published on For Harriet.

 

 

 

Blackness In Journalism By Jaylin Paschal — July 12, 2016

It may have been when I found myself on my living room floor crying at the television after Melissa Harris Perry walked away from MSNBC. It may have been when I found myself jumping up and down when Gabrielle Union’s character in Being Mary Jane got the prime time news slot on her station. It may have been when I found myself pretending to be Tamron Hall after I cut my hair short. It may have been when I found myself wanting to shed this skin after watching Don Lemon report on Ferguson; or maybe when I found myself wanting the same after watching Stacey Dash correspond on Fox.

It may have been when I found myself studying Dr. Marc Lamont Hill’s composure on CNN; or maybe when I later found myself trying to embody it. It may have been when I found myself staring at a newsroom photo that was tweeted from a large media outlet; counting on one hand the number of people who looked like me: One. It may have been when I found myself always being asked to cover the “identity politics;” the “black” stories. It may have been when I found myself pitching “black” stories only to be asked, “But who cares? Who’s your audience?”

I’m not sure when exactly it was that I came to terms with my blackness in the journalism industry. I’m not sure if it was a triumphant moment or a disheartening one. I’m not sure if I was crying or jumping up and down. I’m not sure if the “when” matters. What I know for certain is that I’m here, finally, in this head space where my blackness is omnipresent and unapologetic. I’m here, finally, in this space where my blackness shapes my perspective into meaningful articles. I’m here, finally, in this space where I’m not just producing content, but telling stories. I’m here in this space where blackness is neither a hindrance or an asset, but a fact of the matter; an unavoidable skew; a valuable bias; a perspective, in its own right.

 

 

the journey to loving myself by shanna tyler — june 19, 2016

loving myself started at elementary school. when i started noticing that i looked different than everyone else. i was taller. my nose was bigger. my body was shapelier. my hair was curlier. loving myself suffered at high school. when i started believing that i was different than everyone else. i was taller. my nose was bigger. my body was shapelier. my hair was curlier. loving myself began at college. when i started embracing that i was different than everyone else. i was taller. my nose was bigger. my body was shapelier. my hair was curlier. loving myself thrives now in my 20s. when i am loving that i am different than everyone else. i am taller. my nose is bigger. my body is shapelier. my hair is curlier. it has been a journey to truly love myself and to embrace myself. everyone has a story. what is yours? my story is i questioned who i was and how beautiful i was. but today, i fully embrace who i am because of my journey at different ages and stages. my goal of being a social worker and personal trainer is impacted by my path of loving myself. i wish to encourage others to love every part of them that is different. being different is being unique. being unique is being beautiful. are you different? are you unique? if so, you are beautiful.

 

light skin and colorism by christina bolden — May 18, 2016

I remember when my Mother first told about an encounter she had with a black man in a grocery store when I was about 3 years old. “You know while you were growing up black men would say to me, so you went and got yourself a white man huh?” I would reply, “It’s None Of Your Damn Business.” I felt bad for my mother for the fact that she not only had to stick up for me but also had to defend, more so explain her life to people who took offense to how light my skin was growing up. My father was not a white man; he was a black man who happened to be light skin from the state of Louisiana. My mother is also light skin, just a tiny bit darker than I am. When I was younger I never understood why these men felt as though my mother owed them an answer for my skin tone. As if they owned some part of her body or life that they felt she should be held accountable for.

Although, I do not remember this encounter specifically, I do remember all the rest of the encounters I experienced and were affected by because of how people perceived me and my skin tone. I remember getting beat up in elementary school on an almost daily basis by a boy because of how light my skin was and the boy felt as though I should speak Spanish. The boy spoke Spanish as it was his first language, but I did not and almost every day he would give me a test; a test to see if this would be the day I would answer or would reply to him in Spanish. He would say words or sentences in his first language and I would look at him confused or scared and when I didn’t say anything or shrugged my shoulders he would push or hit me as a sign of anger. Angry that I couldn't communicate or speak to him. This was my first experience as a child growing up that my skin tone caused certain reactions from people and that how I perceived myself would always be different from how others perceived me. I realized at a young age that once people saw me, they had already created a narrative for me. 

I remember dating a guy who told me he felt like he was getting his white girl phase out because of how light my skin was, but also because of the things and television shows I liked to watch. I like to drink Starbucks coffee, that’s a white girl thing. I like to watch anime, listen to alternative rock music and watch musicals which are all perceived as “white girl” things. Because of my skin tone, I was less black. Because of my skin tone, I could not identify as being black because I was not the black person that was acceptable. By the time I was in high school I hated my skin tone. I felt as though it made my life more difficult, it caused me to be treated as an outcast. An unwanted stepchild in the family I so longed to be a part of. I hated that my skin tone caused people to create a personality for me that I did not fit. I only liked to do things white people liked to do and I could not relate to the experiences of those a part of the black community because I was not black. My skin tone had its own identity and I hated it. 

It was not until I had graduated college that I started to love myself and the skin I’m in. I became more active on social media and I started to find Twitter users and Tumblr pages that specifically showed pictures of beautiful black women on a constant basis. It was women with all different skin tones, different shades of melanin, but they were all beautiful and for once I felt as though I was included and that I was not alone. Once I became more active on social media I started to have my own voice and I started to speak up more, especially when someone said something regarding how I should be because of my skin tone. “You like to do yoga because you’re light skin, only white people like to do stuff like that.” I would reply, “I actually like to do yoga because it relaxes me and is a good exercise that not only helps you with your physical heath but your mental health as well.” I started to stick up for myself, creating my own identity instead of letting people create their own story for me. 

It has been two years since I discovered many of the blogs and communities I still do love and constantly look at to this day. Society has taught us that lighter is better and that because I am light skin I will experience privilege that my darker skin sisters will not. This idea, that lighter is better has been drilled into black people since we were slaves. For us, it has history, from the moment lighter skinned slaves and mixed children were treated better than dark skinned slaves and children the issue of colorism arose. Colorism, coined by Alice Walker, is discrimination based on skin color, it is a form of prejudice where individuals are treated differently based on the social meanings attached to their skin color. It is now 2016 and the issue of colorism is still rampant within the black community. Men, especially black men actively perpetuate colorism within the black community, turning black women against one another by saying that light skin women are better than dark skin women. It's not only an ignorant statement, but is a statement that shows the effects of White America and their beauty standards in the black community. On Twitter you can see examples of colorism from black men who say things such as, “dark skin women are ugly” or “dark skin women have nappy hair.” Examples of these tweets are just the beginning, believe me, I have seen worse on all platforms of social media.

I hope this mindset is soon erased as it is not only damaging to a black woman's psyche but is causing a rift amongst black women. I have not only seen but experienced where black women will not hang out with a black woman because she’s light skin or a light skin black woman will not hang out with a dark skin woman because she is dark skin. This needs to stop as we have no one, but each other. We, as black women, are already disenfranchised and marginalized to the where America feels as though we disposable, invisible. We shouldn't be hating each other, but instead loving and uplifting one another. It took me years to realize that no matter how I look I am beautiful in the skin I am in because of this mindset that is constantly perpetuated in the black community. And hopefully, eventually, the colorism that affects a black woman's perception of herself and her beauty is gone as Black women of all shades and skin tones are beautiful.

 

City Of Dreams By Gabrielle Cadet — March 15, 2016

From August 2012 - June 2014, I attended Penn State. Within those two years, I transitioned from an accounting major to a health policy and administration major. Neither of these academic routes were in the direction of what I wanted to do. I was appeasing my parents and their ideology of practicality/safety being the route to success. My parents knew that I wanted to be in the fashion industry but they never knew how immense my desire was to be there. There was a day of my spring semester within my freshman year where I broke down because I was miserable. I was in the midst of my transition to deciding my change in major, so I called my mother in tears and I told her "mom, you know this is not what I want to do". She is Caribbean and unconvinced so we found a resolution in favor of my parents: health policy and administration major. This was my mother’s profession and she highly recommended it. I was not exactly content but I dealt with change because my parents continuously instilled the importance of practicality yet again.

The second semester of my sophomore year at Penn State was the winter of my life. The unhappiness of not loving what I studied overwhelmed me more immensely than ever. In the midst of this unhappiness, I was dealing with a living situation where people did not quite understand my thirst to be happy and follow my dreams. Then, tragedy made its way into my friends' and family's lives when we lost a friend. I was really lonely at this point of my life and I felt like there was an avalanche of devastation making its way to me. I asked God daily "why are you giving me all this at once?". After an overwhelming day of classes, I went to my room and spoke to my mother on the phone. My parents gave in to me pursuing a career in the fashion industry and I immediately began applying to fashion schools in NYC the day of their permission.

After that long semester of unfortunate events, an unbearable loss and overall excruciating pain, I went home for the summer and anxiously awaited for the decisions of NYC's biggest fashion schools. One day, my mother and I returned from shopping and I entered my room to see this large envelope on my bed. It was an acceptance letter to a fashion school in Manhattan, LIM College. I recall screaming & jumping on my mother. It was the most emotional and euphoric moment I have ever shared with Her. She held me and exclaimed "You did it, you went through it all, but you did it baby!". That was the first time in a very long time that I was happy.

So I moved to NYC and I enrolled as a fashion merchandising major at LIM College. I was finally studying what I loved. After completing my first semester at LIM, I received the opportunity to intern at ELLE Magazine as a fashion closet intern for my spring 2015 semester. After my time at ELLE, I interned at Married to the Mob for a bit of the summer then went off to study abroad in Paris,France for a French Fashion Analysis Program. While in Paris, I studied, indulged in the culture and applied for internships for when I returned in NYC for my fall 2015 semester. I received an internship at BCBG Max Azria as a PR intern. I attended my first fashion week, where I sat second row at the Herve Leger SS’16 show as 'work' as a PR intern. I was so grateful and happy. I am currently a wholesale intern at Jimmy Choo for my spring 2016 semester. I am gaining so much experience and I love what I do. Fashion is my first love and I am never not working towards what I love.

It is insane to me that 2 years ago, the life I currently live of passion and love for fashion was unimaginable but I am so grateful, blessed and happy to be where I am. I want to continue to travel and gain experience in the fashion field and life. I plan to change the world of fashion as we know it. I am still growing, still learning and I never desire to stop progressing. My advice for everyone: Love yourself so much, focus on yourself, do what you love and a lot of it, be selfish but generous, always allow yourself to grow, send love into the universe, ask a million questions, & respect your passion. My name is Gabrielle Cadet, I am still growing and this is my story. Thank you so much for reading, much love!

 

WARNING: This next story contains graphic and mature content. Please, take caution before reading. We are in no way condoning the circumstances that are listed below, but more so celebrating the beauty of overcoming struggles in order for one to grow. 

 

Not Your Average By DJ V.  March 16, 2016

What's crackin'? My name is Dj-V. I'm an independent rap artist that can probably talk to you while holding the perfect rhyme scheme and sound like Dr. Seuss with a crooked smile and a dope flow. I am not normal whatsoever. I never wanted to be. Ya know, back in the day I used to be so ashamed of myself due to the fact that I was weird, antisocial, and most of all...black. See, I didn't have the picket fence outside with the bright green yard, imagine having your water cut off and buying gallons of water, using the stove as a source for hot water, and only having the use of a rag and soap as the only form of a shower. Or watching your father call your mother a b*tch and many other names in front of you. Still not enough???

Well then, imagine being put under so much mental/verbal abuse from crooked family members to false friends. But no, you don't consider that as struggle unless I was selling a brick or coming up in a very rough environment. But hey, I won't be vulgar to anyone, just not yet. Maybe not as vulgar as those Kentucky kids that would call me a nigger behind my back and draw pictures of my face and write nigger across the forehead. My personal favorite would be the confederate flag that I seen on my locker, now that was something worth laughing at, or being crucially depressed over because my skin and social status determined how I would be treated at school or out in the world. Crazy huh?

Maybe you'll say, "Dj-V, how could you sleep through all this and become the dope rapper you are today?". Well kids, once upon a time when I used to have such a sensitive shell, I used to let everything get to me and mentally crush me from when a person called me stupid to when a girl called me ugly. Lord... I was a little b*tch. Too many people I was a straight lame, square, and such a plain person because I didn't want to smoke or drink. Did it a couple times and decided it wasn't for me. I barely had friends, like dude I remember sitting at lunch by myself and people looking and staring at me like I was a college experiment waiting to be examined with a scalpel.

People would call me some of the most messed up things from a walking piece of shit to a accident on purpose. Scary huh? Or my favorite memory is when a girl I liked so damn much told me that I would never have a chance and I had a better chance of doing suicide. Ouch. Every day I would wake up and feel like nothing. Worthless. I didn't have the luxurious life with the big group of friends, the party invites, hell, I didn't even go to prom because of a 10 Hr. studio session my father promised that I never even f*cking got. Imagine having everything crumble in front of you, burning in thin air.

I contemplated suicide because of so many things. I felt like a failure, because they always over looked me, I was a straight nobody. I stayed so isolated from the world. Rap was the only thing I had to turn to. The only option I had in life. Oh my, you might be saying, "Rap is not a option, everyone wants to be a rapper, go to college, do a actual career.". Pfft, yeah and everyone doesn't have the true talent for it. Just because everyone wants to be a lawyer doesn't mean they'll win every case or have the bravery to finish all those years in the most expensive college. Me, I have been putting in work since 4th grade, 5 mixtapes in, pushing my own cds, promoting myself and doing so much on my own. I built myself from my mental/verbal abuse, the racist remarks I've gotten as a young teen, and every f*cked up memory possible.

I rap the way I rap because of what I've been through. I don't brag about the money I don't have, don't go around telling people I shot someone (I didn't by the way, don't worry.), or telling people I have the fanciest car. I rap. Bars. Metaphorical sentences. Punchlines. Real stories. Concepts. Ya know? What most of these wanna be rap stars lack. So now you're probably wondering how does rap and everything I dripped from the heart relate together? Because without those mental pushes I would never have the talent I have today. Without those white people shaming me for being black, I wouldn't have that aggression. Without that girl telling me to do suicide I wouldn't have that rage. That power that you hear in my voice. I rose up through every doubt they gave me and still I stand. All I can do is grow from what people say.

I am nothing regular or normal. I'm proud to be this way. I'm proud to be the one they call weird. I am very damn proud to be the one they will never be able to understand. I am proud to be a young, black artist with talent and power that'll shatter your brain. I am proud of who I am. That MANIAC you know and love, Dj-V. I am f*ckin' awesome in the skin I'm in.  

 

- Dj-V

 

WARNING: This next story contains graphic and mature content. Please, take caution before reading. We are in no way condoning the circumstances that are listed below, but more so celebrating the beauty of overcoming struggles in order for one to grow. 

 

 The Warrior In Me By Key March 19, 2016

My name is Key, I was born with sickle cell disease and after birth the doctors told my mother I would not live longer than four months. 26 years later, I am alive and well. I grew up smaller than the others, health less in tact than the others, mostly less fortunate than the others but never instinctively feeling that I deserved less than the others. At an early age I was molested by my babysitter, it was a woman, or a teen rather. My mom never knew therefore I carried that with me for years as a stain on my character, chains from sexual trauma and questioning my identity until three years ago. I shared the story and promised myself I'd heal myself from the incident. I am still healing.

Along side of that I grew up with the typical insecurities of an African American girl, but I questioned much of my womanhood due to my early childhood. not embracing my hair, wondering if I was good enough for a guy or wondering how to make and keep friends. I struggled with my health off and on growing up and many things my mother in her nurturing and protective mindset tried to protect me from. I moved for the majority of my childhood and had difficulties adjusting sometimes. I was awkward and shy at times, but people that took the time to know me found a true friend. I was labeled, and teased in high school, but the brunt of it was since I was sheltered so much, strangers I paid no mind to their harsh words and criticisms because I resided in my own world mostly. The harsh criticisms of the ones I loved always hit me harder. I still experienced the ups and downs of life that most would. Reduced lunch, hand me downs, sharing a one bedroom with my mom and sister, assisted living and taking public transportation everywhere since a teen. Plus trips in and out of the hospital for an incurable disease.

These are all elements that some of us may have encountered and as I've grown older I have recognized that some of these experiences were damaging to my self-image and greatly hindered the way I perceived myself. Others built an ambitious, young woman that wouldn't let her circumstances define her abilities. I choose to share these moments of my life so that you understand exactly where I come from. So that you understand we all have a story, I choose daily to live above mine, and to remind myself just how strong I am. I always had a mind of my own. I have my stories of terrible relationships and broken friendships but through it all I managed to stay true to me in whatever shape form or fashion. Staying true to myself sometimes meant ignoring myself too, which I  later came to terms with, and found was totally unhealthy.

Fast forward into my early twenties, I'm in college battling depression considering suicide and searching vigorously for my identity. Barely holding on and cycling in and out of toxic relationships I stumble upon the brink of an awakening! I learned that yes, my circumstances shaped me into who I am today but with them I can help shape myself and help others into recognizing their own power, just as I've done for myself! I have embraced and relinquished the bad things that happened in my past for they were moments that occurred but moments that don't have to stop me from embracing my true potential.

I don't want people to believe my whole life was terrible, I had happy times but early on life was life.. Now that I'm even more aware and understanding and mature I see that life will always be just that, what you choose to make of it is what truly matters. This is not to dismiss the terrible things I experienced but to say that I understand them for what they were. Someone recently asked me concerning my career choice what have I done that makes me the most proud. At 26, All I could say was that me trusting my intuition and my heart to pursue Key Perspective LLC which is my creative company is THE accomplishment I'm most proud of. I've managed to build something I am proud of that has allowed me to learn many valuable lessons, meet many people and grow as an entrepreneur and individual.

At a young age I knew I wanted to be a photographer but I didn't know exactly what that would look like and what it could unfold to be. I stuck with it. Even when my parents were a little on the fence about it, because who pursues a career in "art" . Haha it sounds like the lazy way out, but I proved that I had a great eye for it and proved I could stick to it. I've had a chance to meet many industry related people and uncover more gifts lying dormant within myself. I've even been able to inspire and motivate people through my art and that is simply priceless!

I discovered my life purpose in actively pursuing my career in photography. My life and business motto is "perspective is key" and I live by that. this statement transcends deeper into my own spiritual growth as I take a journey into self and challenge myself to be a better, healthier and wiser me. I've been blessed with the opportunities to experience  life in a new way and am on a journey to show others how they can too have a fulfilling experience. We are not where we came from, that is only a piece of us. We are who we want to be, we are. I'm on a path to embracing every bit of who i am, my past, the present and my bright future!