My Holiday Wishlist – Gifts Under $100

As adults, the holidays are more about spending time with family, friends, and loved ones than receiving gifts. In fact, in my family, we do a Secret Santa gift-exchange so that the focus isn’t on fighting through the massive crowds at the mall and stressing out, trying to find the perfect present for each and every family member. So, because of this, I usually don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what I want for the holidays.

But this year, I decided to go old-school, if even just for myself, and make a holiday wishlist just like when I was a kid. All but one item is under $100 and there’s a good mix of practical and fun stuff too. So if you’re still stuck trying to find the perfect gift for your impossible-to-buy-for loved one or if you’re looking for a holiday gift for yourself, check out my list!

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Melanin Poppin’ – Afropunk Brooklyn 2017 with My Girls

For those of you who don’t know what Afropunk is, in just a few words, it’s a two-day alternative music festival that incorporates fashion, art, food, activism and other creative expressions of blackness. It originated in Brooklyn but now has festivals in Paris, London, Atlanta and Johannesburg, South Africa. Afropunk is a huge event that is a convergence of many different interests, but for me, the dress-up aspect is the most exciting part. Just do a Google search for “Afropunk fashion” or “Afropunk street style” to see what I mean. Or better yet, continue reading!

Last year was my first time going to Afropunk, although I had been wanting to go for several years. When I finally made it there, I ended up having so much fun and decided that I would definitely go again next year. This year rolled around and I was able to get my ticket early, thank goodness because the prices go up as it gets closer to the date. This is an issue for some since prior to 2015, the concert was free of charge. But one thing to note, whether you consider it a good or bad thing, once it stopped being free, the acts moved closer and closer to being mainstream. The concert still features alternative acts, but I think one difference is that Black alternative music is becoming more popular, as I mentioned in my post, “Is Alt-R&B a Thing? (What I’m Listening to These Days & a Review of Ravyn Lenae).”

Anyway, I was super excited about this year’s show, which would have, among other acts, a Saint Heron Stage that included performers curated by Solange herself. So I got a group of 6 of my closest friends and family together to go with me. We were going to have a mini girls trip! I even created a What’s App group chat for us to plan. For weeks, the seven of us chatted and laughed about what outfits and hairstyles we would be rocking for the big event. We sent each other Pinterest pictures for inspiration and thought of DIY ideas for accessories and anything else we could think of.

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“Chill out, it was Just a Joke.” – Is America Getting too Sensitive?

 

I get so annoyed when people complain that America is “getting too sensitive”. What does that even mean? Is it wrong to respect humanity so much that we get upset if anyone commits mental and emotional violence on others with their words and actions? Is it wrong to be concerned that negative ideologies, beliefs, and stereotypes are being reinforced by the media or people who simply like to hear themselves talk?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy fun and “ratchet” music and TV or a (thoughtful) satire or a sarcastic joke as much as the next person but sometimes humor and entertainment value are used as excuses to continue to cast a blind eye on how marginalized groups are treated and viewed in this country. Sadly, the unwillingness to learn about others takes precedence over understanding others’ experiences in order to simply treat people better. And it doesn’t stop at entertainment and social media. There are many offensive things that take place in our everyday lives that have been so accepted that it is hard to convince people of their harmful nature. Things like work and school micro-aggressions, exclusionary practices, and cultural and ethnic erasure and homogenization are just a few ways we have ingrained ignorance into our existence.

 

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Black TV: “Unrealistic” Black Excellence vs. The “Relatable” Stereotype (Part II – The Black Woman)

Just like the Black family, Black women have had a similar struggle to be represented positively and accurately on TV. It’s important that Black women are not only given more roles but that these roles are accurate and positive, thereby making them for us, not just about us.

But throughout the years, it has seemed like too much to ask to see TV shows that were both about Black women and also made for Black women. Black women have been awkwardly inserted into TV shows as the token on mostly white shows or as incidental characters on shows with Black ensemble casts (e.g. if the star of the show is a Black man, he will most likely have to have a Black girlfriend, wife, mother, etc.) These characters don’t always necessarily speak to our real experiences as Black women and that is usually not the purpose that they were created for.

I believe that for these shows and characters to be not only about us as Black women, but for us, the shows must be created by Black women, or at least feature our writing or direction so that we can have more control over how we are portrayed. Then we can create characters that exemplify attainable #BlackGirlMagic as well as the relatable girl-next-door persona. We don’t need any more characters who represent the gamut of negative stereotypes; from being fetishized to being the best friend with no love life to being the angry Black woman. In addition, it’s important to note that depending on the era, the face of the Black woman and how we want to be portrayed on television changes.

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Is Alt-R&B a Thing? (What I’m Listening to These Days & a Review of Ravyn Lenae)

One thing you should know about me is that I like listening to a variety of music depending on my mood – from 90’s-00’s R&B, to Indie-Pop, to Trap Hip-Hop. So I’ve been wanting to write a music blog post for awhile now. One of my favorite genres to listen to these days is what music know-it-alls are calling Alt-R&B, despite whether the artists themselves want to be labeled as such. Pretty much if the artist sings, their production has Hip-hop or R&B influences, and they aren’t mainstream, then they’ll probably be considered Alt-R&B. I feel like it should be deeper than that but that’s pretty much the trend I’ve noticed. Sometimes, these artists are characterized as Neo-Soul but, although I love the Neo-Soul of the early 2000’s, I don’t 100% agree with that characterization of the music today. I’ve even heard Electronic Soul or Future Soul as labels. I’m not sure about those either.

Anyway, some of the non-mainstream-R&B artists I’m listening to now are Sampha, FKA Twigs, Banks, Hiatus Kaiyote, The Internet (and Syd), Little Dragon, Kelela, Abra, Kilo Kish, Nao, and Xavier Omar (fka SPZRKT) – just to name a few. And I haven’t even gotten to the producers and DJ’s like Sango and Kaytrynada. These singers do vary from more of a jazz-funk sound to more electro pop and sometimes right there in the R&B lane. But what is most important to me is not the label, it’s that it’s not the stuff you hear on the radio (no shade) and it always gives me good vibes. To get an idea of the sound, think of the songs and artists you would hear in a coffee shop in Brooklyn, on the Insecure or Atlanta soundtracks, or at AfroPunk.

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You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover: The Urban Novel

 

Something that I have been wanting to write about for awhile is the plight of the urban novel. I love a good urban romance or street lit book, but there are so many nowadays that it’s a challenge to find ones that are written up to a certain standard. Even so, there’s the common misconception that poorly written hood fiction is a direct result of the skill level of the authors who write them, but this isn’t necessarily true.

Urban novels often get a bad rap, not only because of their “hood” content but because some of them are not written well. As I have been toying with the idea of self-publishing my own books, I’ve realized that much of this has nothing to do with whether an urban novelist is less capable of forming a grammatically correct sentence than a mainstream fiction writer. Instead, it has very much to do with the self-publishing process or, in the alternative, with underfunded publishing companies who sometimes can’t afford to hire a good editor.

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Black TV: “Unrealistic” Black Excellence vs. The “Relatable” Stereotype (Part I – The Black Family)

 

Everyone can agree that representation of Black people in the media is a huge issue, but our reactions to the attempts made to be more inclusive vary depending on each of our own experiences. It’s obvious that there is not enough representation of Black people on TV in general, but the other concern is that the representation that we do have is not always positive or accurate. The argument over what positive and accurate representation looks like is an argument that we have been having for decades, especially when it comes to the portrayal of the Black family and the Black woman.

Often the argument comes down to whether we as Black people disagree with the constant barrage of stories with a slave or house servant narrative or whether we are annoyed by stories featuring characters with almost superhuman qualities or “unrealistic” excellence. Do we feel alienated by upper-middle class Black families on TV or do we feel offended by the stereotype of poor Black families on TV?

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#MillennialGirlMagic

As far as I’m concerned, people in my generation are the only true millennials. I mean, I graduated from high school in the year 2000, the beginning of the new millennium (by popular opinion, if not the actual beginning). They said that those in my class represented the future. It was an honor, yes, but it also came with very high expectations. Apparently, now there are two decades of people, most of whom are younger than us, who have been dubbed millennials and for whatever their reasons, older generations look down on millennials as a whole today. I guess things have changed.

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The Top 10 Books on My Holiday Wish List

 

As I have said before, I used to be an avid reader growing up. Even now, I absolutely love reading. But, as I got older I’ve had less and less time to read. Or maybe I just wasn’t making the time. Either way, adulting definitely distracted me from my favorite hobby. Thankfully, I have started to get back into it.

Here’s a list of books that I have on my Christmas wish list. Some of them I have been hearing great buzz about lately and others are books I have known about the past few years but I haven’t gotten around to reading them. This holiday season, I hope to get all of the books on this list, and more!

1.

Another Brooklyn, By Jacquline Woodson

This book speaks to me because I remember when I was younger there were so many coming-of-age stories for white children and not many for young women of color. So when I did come across any, I would be so excited to read them. Another Brooklyn is about a woman reflecting back on her experience as a young Black girl growing up in Brooklyn during the 70’s. This seems like the perfect adult coming-of-age story and I can’t wait to read it. 

2.

Purple Hibiscus, By Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

This is the debut novel by acclaimed author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, so I’m a bit late. But better late than never. I knew this book had to be on my list because I really enjoyed reading Adiche’s other work and the story, about a young Nigerian woman’s internal struggle for autonomy from her family, was something I think many people can relate to. 

3.

Underground Railroad, By Colson Whitehead

I read a lot of historical fiction when I was younger but, as an adult, I haven’t found any that sparked my interest. What struck me about this book was that not only is it set in pre-civil war America, but Colson added his own spin – the underground railroad is an actual railroad and not just a metaphor. It tells the story of a courageous young woman who escapes slavery via the railroad and all of the adventures that come with that voyage. I’m sure this book will be just as heartbreaking as it is exciting but I’m looking forward to the entire experience. 

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My Feminine Experience

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My Feminine Experience, for She Cult

My feminine experience is characterized by my pride in being a woman. As a woman I can express myself and my femininity however I want, no matter what anyone else thinks. I express my femininity in little things like changing my hairstyle at random and trying to enhance my novice make-up skills. I express my femininity in the broader sense by being multi-dimensional and representing brown, queer, womanhood.

I represent the fight and the struggle and the magic and the glory that is being a woman. My mother, my grandmother, and even my little sister taught me how these important ingredients work together to make women so unique and powerful. Feminine of center people all share these characteristics because presenting as feminine has always been seen as a weakness and we have always had to defy the odds – both actual and presumed. I take pride in defying the stereotype of being unable to withstand or survive. When I am loud, when I am opinionated, and when I am a fighter I am proudly embracing my femininity. When I cry, when I am quiet, and when I am vulnerable I am proudly embracing my femininity. I proudly embrace my femininity while I am actively taking a stand against gender norms because I know that gender is a spectrum and therefore so is femininity. Anyone who falls anywhere on the panorama of the feminine identity should be respected for who they are and not judged on who they are assumed to be.

My queer feminine identity is what some people would call a “femme” identity. I do present physically as a femme but I reject the stereotypes that come with it. Being petite and an introvert, I have always had to surprise people with myself. My identity has been no different. Having once identified as bisexual, I’ve had to reject all the categorizations that coincide with sexual orientation too. I’ve been stuffed into the boxes of passive, delicate, confused, and unsure of myself when, in fact, I have always known who I am. I just never knew the person others thought I was. And although I tried to get to know this person, she has remained a stranger to me. I only know the woman who appreciates women and all things feminine; the softness, the strength, the beauty, and the courage – the things I see in myself and the things I love in others.

I may like to dress up, cover my eyes at the scary parts of movies, and am pretty bad at most sports but I am not afraid to work hard or get dirty, I am more than capable of standing up for myself, fighting for what’s right, and having fortitude in the face of adversity. Every day I become more and more comfortable with having the unpopular opinion, the unexpected identity, and standing on my own two feet when people tell me I am not who I know that I am. I may be reserved and quiet at first glance but I know what I want and I am not afraid to say it. I am 100% feminine and, despite popular opinion, this femininity is evidence that I am capable to withstand anything the world throws my way because without this capacity, people like me with a feminine experience wouldn’t even exist. Our survival is what makes us unique and also what gives us our infinite power. I am proud that as a brown, queer, feminine woman, I have inherited and earned this strength and can share my unique experience with others of the femme persuasion.

This essay was written for She Cult’s Fall 2016 E-zine. She Cult is a collective for feminine-of-center queer people based out of Emerson College.

 

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