Octavia Butler and a Reading goal for 2018

As a book nerd who loves sci-fi/fantasy novels and tries to actively pursue literature with protagonists of color, I’m ashamed to say I only finished my first novel by Octavia Butler last month. I’d like to think I finished out 2017 strong with Fledgling.

*Spoilers* Fledgling tells the story of a dark-skinned vampire or Ina as they are referred to in the novel. Shori was genetically engineered to have darker skin which gives her some immunity from the sun’s harmful rays. The novel opens with her recovering from a brutal attack that killed most of her family and left her with amnesia. Eventually we learn that the attack is not random but a result of other Ina upset at the genetic engineering her family has done with a dash of good ole racism. There is a “trial/council of judgement” for the Ina responsible for the attack on Shori and her family and we see several groups excuse and minimize the racism because of their relationships with the guilty party. It felt so real to see characters go “Yes what they did was bad but…” because I’ve seen it happen in my life too.  

I finished the book and immediately wanted to read anything and everything Octavia Butler has ever written. I feel like every bibliophile has that moment after they read a GREAT book where they’ve fallen in love with the characters so much that they check to see if there are other books in the series. You want to see the characters grow and develop. I wanted to see Shori, a fairly young Ina, grow into maturity and start a family. I wanted to watch her learn more about Ina history and culture that she lost through her amnesia. I wanted to see how the relationship ships between her symbiotes evolved. I especially wanted to watch her piss more racists off by helping make more dark-skinned sun resistant vampires/Ina. I wanted MORE… And I believe that is the mark of talented writer.

In researching Octavia Butler my respect for her grows and grows. In 1995 she was the first Science Fiction writer to be awarded the MacArthur Genius Grant. To be the first in a genre dominated by white men and women that’s an accomplishment in itself. Recent recipients of the grant include Ta-Nehisi Coates and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Also the random fact that when she moved she had 300 boxes of books, speaks to me on a spiritual level. I will be moving soon and I’m trying to pare down some of my books and it’s Sooooooo hard. I’ll mention 300 boxes of books to my husband when he complains about my 5-6 totes. Also, I love that Butler seemed unapologetic in her discussion of the need for representation of POC in literature.

Yes, the fact that Shori, is a black vampire is integral to the story. But Butler makes Shori a complete and fleshed out character. Not a one-dimensional caricature meant only to advance the plot or hit some sort of diversity quota. So many books especially in my favorite genres of fantasy/science fiction I spend time playing “Spot the POC” when reading the books. Even then they are usually background supporting characters with not much time on on the page. I want to be more conscious of choosing books with not only POC characters but POC authors as well.

Unfortunately the only book my library has is Fledgeling, which is actually the last book that Butler wrote before her death in 2006. However I am making it my 2018 goal to read Octavia Butler’s catalog and if I can not read everything at the very least Kindred, The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents
1st Book Goal of 2018 set. 

A Quick PSA for White People

Public Service Announcement – If you are white you benefit from white supremacy and white normalcy.

Let me be VERY clear. That does not mean that you are a white supremacist. Or that you want these benefits. Or that your life is all rainbows. This does not mean you don’t have struggles or have not experienced prejudice. 

This means that you BENEFIT from the current society that upholds whiteness as superior or normative. You cant help dismantle something if you don’t acknowledge it. You can’t be an ally without realizing what advantages you have.

If you don’t like it, work towards a society without marginalization of POC, women, LGTBQIAA, disabled persons, etc.

Believe women…

Why are Bill Cosby’s accusers telling the truth but not Donald Trump’s?

Why should we support George Takei & R. Kelly but not Harvey Weinstein? 

Why is it okay to accept Louis C.K.’s apology but not Kevin Spacey’s?

How is Anthony Weiner a sexual predator but Roy Moore a viable senatorial candidate?

The answer is ALL of these men should be held accountable for their actions. Sexual assault and harassment go beyond race, class, and  political affiliation. We shouldn’t jump to defend someone’s predatory behavior towards women because we are from the same political party, profession, or ethnic background. 

So we can talk about men needing to do better and we can share our #metoo stories but until we are ready to hold those we put on pedestals and those who are closest to us accountable this will continue to happen. Until we start BELIEVING the women who we may not like “good guys” will continue to harass, assault, and rape confident that we will believe them over their accusers.

So don’t be that person. The person questioning “why” a woman waited until now to come forward as if it was an easy decision for her. That person who blames the woman for not coming forward sooner and “letting” other women be victimized as if it is the fault of anyone else but the abuser. Don’t let your race or political leanings get in the way of your humanity. 




Pence & Performative Patriotism: A Twitter Thread

So people including the president are applauding @VP for leaving the football game today and “standing up for the flag”. Well I’m calling BS

Pence knew he was gonna leave before he stepped foot in that stadium. The press were told he may be leaving early. AKA premediation

So he knew there would be protests but went anyway to feign outrage. Let me give you an example I told my MIL of what this would be like:

Let’s say I’m a passionate Animal Rights Activist. I don’t eat meat and won’t attend functions where meat is served. On Easter I decide to go to my in-laws house knowing that she’s serving ham. But when she brings out dinner. I get up make a fuss & leave At that point it’s not even about the ham. I specifically wanted to put on a show about how righteous I am and how eating meat is “wrong” I could have invited her over my house and we had tofurkey or whatever it is vegans eat on holidays. Then I could have tried to engage her But nope. It’s more fun to make a scene, widen the divide and prove my point. She’s not the asshole in this example I am

Just like the NFL players #TakeaKnee aren’t the ones being divisive. It’s @mike_pence wasting the taxpayers money for a political ploy Well I ain’t falling for it it dude. Not to mention you and @realDonaldTrump seem to be more concerned with the NFL than the Nazis marching In #Charlottesville AGAIN. But they’re not black. So white supremacy is A-OK in your book. When you start condemning Richard Spencer

I’m not very Twitter savvy but you can follow me here.

Teal Reading Nook

Players, Patriotism, & Puerto Rico

I’ve got a lot on my mind and I’m having trouble putting it in a cohesive blog so we’re gonna do this bullet style this time.

  • Ever since Colin Kaepernick started his protest last year I’ve supported him. Why? Because he was doing it for the right reasons. To shine a light on police brutality and racial inequity in this country.
  • People who say that the protests are about disrespecting veterans ignore the fact that Kap started sitting not kneeling and only started kneeling when he spoke to veterans who told them they prefer kneeling to sitting. So he took the feedback given to specifically show he was not doing it to disrespect the people who serve/d in the military. 
  • The flipping of this narrative since the man who is President called NFL athletes who joined in the protest SOBs is disturbing. Despite saying over and over and over again. “This is about police brutality this is about racial justice!” Trump changed the protest into something about patriotism and respect. 
  • I will never be what you call a patriotic person(3 weeks of the Olympic Games every 2 years aside). I don’t even believe America is the greatest country in the world. Now before you say “why don’t you leave if you hate the USA”. Let me say I appreciate and value the freedoms I enjoy. I just don’t believe that America can do no wrong. I acknowledge this bloody history of people of color here and the continued systemic ways they are devalued. I think America is “aight” but we can definitely do better. It is only by calling these wrongs out and not glossing over them that we can address and rectify these ills.
  • It annoys me that many of these players didn’t feel the need to kneel or join in these protests until Trump said something. Where was the solidarity for Kaepernick last year? Not to mention some of these displays seem like they’re for show only disregarding the reason behind why Kaepernick was protesting. *looking at you Jerry Jones & Dallas Cowboys*
  • In the midst of all this controversy Trump still has done squat for Puerto Rico. The mom of the best man in our wedding lives there. While the president was worried about NFL players people there don’t have electricity or clean drinking water.
  • When he finally deigned to tweet about PR and Hurricane Maria he mentioned the billions in debt PR owes Wall St. If that is not a blatant disrespect and lack of compassion to brown people I don’t know what is. “Texas and Florida we are sending help. Puerto Rico you owe us money. Good luck with that natural disaster recovery”.

So in summation. 

  1. #TakeaKnee is about combating police brutality and racial injustice not patriotism.
  2. Puerto Rico is an US territory with American citizens and needs help NOW.
  3. Donald Trump is still trash.

Coded Language & Casual Racism

Let’s take a moment to discuss coded language. In the wake of the Anthony Lamar Smith/Jason Stockley verdict (and really after any verdict involving a police shooting and the resulting protests) I’m seeing people refer to protestors as “thugs”, “animals”, “paid protestors” and “agitators”. Ask any POC and we see these words used in place of the N-word and other racial slurs. 
I even interacted with someone upset that Missouri was trying to limit animal rights protestors but did not make the same connection or want to be associated with BLM protestors cause animal rights activists are “peaceful and follow the law”.

Yt people when you allow your friends and family to use this kind of language unchecked POC see it. We see that you aren’t challenging the idea that all black people are criminals. We see that you think as long as people aren’t flinging slurs at us that that things are getting better. Well they’re not. Your klansmen have changed out their hoods and white robes for red MAGA hats and khakis. They’ve changed their chants from “Heil Hitler” to “Build a Wall”. And they’ve stopped Lynching people in favor of a war on drugs to funnel black people into the industrial prison pipeline.

So the next time someone talks about protestors in this kind of coded language. Engage them. Make them question why these people are thugs but not white women in pussy hats. Why do they defend the rights of white supremacists to keep Confederate monuments but not Colin Kaepernick to peacefully kneel during the anthem? Rip away the polite veneer of their casual racism.

Why I don’t defend the police anymore…

Yesterday morning a friend tagged me in a video on FB, an updated version of Where is the Love by the Black Eyed Peas featuring several other artists and addressing Syria refugee crisis and police brutality.

Where is The Love 2016
Before I even had time to finish the video someone had commented that they didn’t like it because of rappers not taking “responsibility for thugs” and then proceeded to say that they didn’t like artists trying to make money off of racism. Now anytime anyone makes an argument about rappers, violence, and “thug” culture I’m reminded of Cam’ron taking Bill O’Reilly down several years ago on the same issue.

When I disagreed with this commenter and stated “I’m more comfortable around thugs than the police” they got so upset telling me they were a Law Enforcement Officers wife and I shouldn’t call the police then. The implication being that if I’m wary or distrustful of the police I have no right to call them in an emergency. This reaction is not uncommon. I’ve seen it again and again. Someone has a loved one who is a cop or in law enforcement, so any critique of the Justice system is an attack on them and thus the person should not call 911. Or next time they need help they “should call Black Lives Matter instead of the police”.

I have several issues with this:

  1. People are upset because the cops are not appreciated. I get that it hurts when someone doesn’t value your work. However if a police officer is doing their job for appreciation they are in the wrong field. If you want adoration become an actor.
  2. The implication that certain people should not recieve help based on their views. Critiquing police responses in minority communities does not mean that I relinquish my right to get help in an emergency.
  3. That any critique is automatically on par with Fuck Da Police mentality. That critique can not be in hope of improving relationships and saving black and brown lives. How we do improve if we do not critique what is wrong with the system?

By lunch time I’d heard about the verdict in the Anthony Lamar Smith/Jason Stockley. I racked my brain cause I couldn’t remember hearing about this shooting. Which sadly didn’t surprise me because the killing of unarmed black men is so commonplace that it’s hard to keep track of the hash tags. In this case it was because it had happened almost 6 years ago. Anthony Lamar Smith was shot and killed by police officer Jason Stockely in 2011.  Stockley was not charged until August 2016. It took almost 5 years to even charge him with murder. Today the judge found him not guilty on all counts. Stockley is ON VIDEO saying “were gonna kill this motherfucker” and then shooting Smith five times less than a minute later. And was still found not guilty. I now question what is the criteria for finding a police officer guilty if not this premediation.

After the police officers who killed Terence Crutcher and Philando Castile were not found guilty this was just one more reason for me to be disenfranchised with police and the Justice system.

So I can respect the police for difficult job they have. I can appreciate that they put their lives in danger everyday. But I refuse to become a law enforcement apologist everytime another black body is dead on the ground. They have enough Blue Lives Matter supporters lining up to tell us what the victim did to deserve their fate. I don’t need to add my voice to the din. The Justice system continually prioritizes their lives and voices over those who are slain. 

Instead I will listen to the voices that are mourning, the voices who are tired, frustrated and angry. I will advocate for the “thugs who had it coming” and the people who’d be alive “if they’d only complied”. Because those are voices that are ignored by LEO defenders and Back the Blue supporters. Those are the voices we NEED to listen to if our police departments have any hope of building a bridge to communities who view them with foreboding and distrust. I for one will listen and not dismiss. Engage and not ignore.

Black Breastfeeding Week 2017

I’ve been pregnant or nursing for about the last 7 years of my life. My breastfeeding journey as a mother has spanned 3 daughters, pumping while working in 3 different positions, wet-nursing a friend’s daughter and clogged ducts. I’ve been blessed to have extended nursing relationships with all 3 girls. Zoey nursed til almost 2. Zahara until about 28 months or so. Zira is still nursing at 18 months. I could not find shots of me nursing my two oldest. I think because I was not comfortable with photos of inmate moments as a new mom. But now I’ve become more comfortable with sharing my journey. If only to normalize breastfeeding. So in honor of Black Breastfeeding Week 2017 : Bet on Black I share these…

Collage I made of nursing moments during Zira’s 1st Year from Birth to her 1st birthday.
Milk naps
Toddler nursing = Gymnurstics