on cultural appropriation and self-love

Last Thursday night I drove to LA to take a couple of dance classes. On my way to class I was walking up Hollywood Boulevard when I crossed paths with two Asian girls who had Senegalese Twists in their hair. Like, with synthetic kinky hair and shells adorning them. I had never seen this in my life; non-black non-celebrity individuals wearing a very Black hairstyle–with kinky hair at that. After witnessing this I experienced negative emotions but the fact that I was late to class ended up overriding those initial negative thoughts and I bypassed them and kept walking speedily to class focused on my tardiness. As I speedily walked up the stairs to the studio, on my way to sign in to class I crossed paths with a White girl with blonde synthetic-kinky-hair cornrows in her hair. “what?!” I thought to myself. “Is this a thing?!?” I went on to dance class 15 minutes late and it was the most amazing experience; I cried in one class. over-comer tears. On my way home I was blasting my music while singing and dancing along still on an emotional high from the experience I just had when the image of those three girls I saw before class came to my mind mid song and I burst into laughter. I thought to myself ”Their hair is as long as the synthetic hair, probably longer! Use your own hair boo you’re defeating the whole purpose!” and “They wanna be us so bad” also came to mind. But as I let the experience sink in, I was reminded of the defensiveness that my community gifts anyone who we perceive is attempting to invalidate us and our experience with. Given our experience here in the US defensiveness is totally understandable. But inevitably the defensiveness is filled with historical baggage that needs addressing and healing.

White is a color. I repeat, white is a color. Being ‘colored’ isn’t about skin tone its about which skin color society decides to exploit in order to make one people group feel better than another. Being one color versus another does not make one right or wrong good or bad—more melanin obviously is not bad since everybody is trying to be tan with a big but, big lips, big ass and now they even want to have nappy hair too!—it just makes us different. When each and everyone one of us makes an attempt to be beautiful we are emulating what ever image that we believe will give us the best opportunity to feel desired, wanted, fulfilled, complete and loved. People of all ethnic backgrounds are emulating the whole BlackQueen-BoxBraids-Cornrolls-TanSkin-BigAss-BigLips-BontuBuns trend because Black Women are just as capable of reflecting beauty as the next person. Everyone else recognizes this, but when will us Black women realize this? Wear it. When will we realize that we are just as able to be beautiful and attract love as the next? When we get upset at these cultural appropriators our messaging is “This is my only opportunity to feel pretty and be considered beautiful and you’re taking it away from me!” and that is not true. This is not our only opportunity to feel beautiful and be considered beautiful. Physical beauty might get you some attention from men but it sure as hell wont make your relationship work. It sure as hell wont make you feel fulfilled. It sure as hell wont make you feel complete and happy. Our beauty is eternal Queens. Our beauty comes from a place of peace when we realize our completion. This is true beauty and no one can take that opportunity to be beautiful away from us and everyone is attracted to it!

All anyone can do is take responsibility for ones starting point in life and play to win. I don’t want to carry historical baggage with me anymore but its not going to be shed overnight. Today I have decided to realize my equality in beauty, to take imitation for the compliment that it is and decide that what I think of me is all that matters and everything else is just a reflection of that. Today I am beautiful because I am and no one can take that opportunity away from me…except me. Today I declare that this is my truth.

-Amber B

on self-care

Last May 2015 I decided to be single for a while. I had just gotten out of a relationship that was on and off for three years and going nowhere fast at extreme speeds. It wasn’t my first dance with romantic love. Prior to this relationship I was in a 1.5 year long relationship with my first love that came to a mutually confusing and painful ending. After my second relationship ended for the trillionth time, I was done. I wanted to heal and deal with the baggage that I gained from the relationship and somehow move on. I say somehow because at the relationships end I was still very much in love and was unsure of how I would move on and love again, but I was committed and that’s all you really need. Since then, I’ve been infatuated and even felt very strongly about some but nothing has “gotten off the ground” if you will, and I’m really thankful for that. I’m not one who dates a ton, or entertains dudes for fun. If I give you my attention, I’m really digging you. I’m a wanderer, I travel alone and eat at romantic restaurants only accompanied by a good book, a journal and maybe a glass of wine if I rode my bike. I’ve been a girls-girl basically my whole life and am satisfied by being obsessed with my girlfriends, dance and dreaming. I’m hopelessly romantic and simultaneously prefer to be single…unless I’m really digging someone. The difference between the last 15 months of being single and the vast majority of my life that was spent being single is that this time around there are no illusions. Back in February 2015 I stopped going to church. It was not my first time leaving the church…it was actually my third. Being single and leaving church gave way to so many illusions in my subconscious: A false sense of security, a false sense of superiority and a false sense of completion. My last relationship didn’t work because I didn’t have my own identity, my own confidence, my own opinions, my own acceptance, my own assurance, my own love and my own spirituality. I wanted my significant other to make me feel complete, I always needed assurance from him, I wanted his approval and I looked to him for an identity and confidence. I quickly realized after that relationship ended almost a year and a half ago that I needed to learn how to take care of myself, accept myself, love myself, assure myself, believe in myself and find my happiness. I had to find myself in God and use Gods Divine Super-Powers to heal myself. I had to make God my source of love and out of that abundance give love to others. Without that I was just desperately trying to take love and power from others. Take take take. But you can’t really take anything from anyone, that’s an illusion too. When you try to take love or power from another person you’re really attacking yourself. In my last relationship, being in love was a sedative that only worked for three weeks to a month. After that it went straight to hell and only came back to heaven every blue moon. Back then, I used to be so desperate for the company of others to make me fell “ok” that I would tolerate oversized-insecure egos, the constant yet subtle discounting of my opinion and an overall lack of support. I wanted to please everyone in an effort to feel loved and complete but ended up abandoning myself in the process. Once I realized my own abundance and learned how to begin loving myself I stopped being desperate for the company of others and stopped entertaining shitty relationships. When you’re alone your trauma comes out. If you can’t handle it you’ll do anything to get away from yourself and your “loneliness”. You might even run right into the arms of a friend or a lover that is not equipped to love you. These days, quite a few of the people I used to associate with are no longer with me. But when I’m alone now, I’m not “lonely” I’m enjoying myself. Even when I do feel loneliness creep in I know that it’s a false belief or trauma and I know how to cope. These days I am not generous and forgiving and accommodating because I want to please my significant other, now I love because I am loved by God first. I can tangibly see the ways God loves me and fully take responsibility for my actions. It is out of feeling so abundantly loved by God that I can give love. That’s the only time I give love. Love too looks a lot different for me these days. What I used to call love was enabling. Now taking care of myself is the way that I take care of others. Being loved by God and loving myself is the medium through with I love others

So, I’m single. I’m following my dreams, I’m honestly not ready to share my life with someone right now, I don’t want to just yet. But if it happens even so…

Fuck it.

-Amber B

on turning twenty-six

I have never had to consider how I felt about aging until recently as my 26th birthday approaches. Turning 25 was a bit nerve wrecking but I didn’t have to come to terms with it in the same way that I have 26. As of October 24th this year, I will be in my late twenties. It started to hit me in July and the realization has not left me since. I had mixed feelings about it initially until one day a few weeks ago, I came home from work crawled under my covers and begged God to make time stop; I felt as if I’d rather disappear than turn 26. But like everything, things get really bad right before they begin to get better. It was after having this moment that I realized that I have to decide for myself what aging means for me and what my response to aging will be. I think our first natural reaction to aging is hopelessness and maybe cynicism. We all feel as if we’ve made countless unredeemable mistakes and punish ourselves for them with harsh self-judgement and condemnation. We value youth as if “being youthful” has only to do with the amount of years our bodies have existed on earth. Then I began to remember all of the Queens that lye all over the age spectrum that continue to follow their dreams, dress stylishly, are silly and happy, have deep relational bonds and some that are mothers and have children on top of that. From fashion guru June Ambrose or Jada Pinkett who are in their forties and fifties and doing the damn thing, to Beyonce and Multi-Media Artist Vashtie who are in their mid thirties and continue to create and do not let the desire to follow their dreams be affected by their age, then theres Rihanna who is twenty eight and the coolest thing you ever saw. After reflecting about aging not only have I come to terms with it, but I’m kind of excited to be 26! I’ve done good for myself. Today, I’ll be taking a trip to Hawaii with one of my closest girlfriends…for the fuck of it. I live in a cute ass studio apartment, I have an epic job with an amazing boss, I dance everywhere and sing at open mics, I’m proud of who I am and continue to become, I’m following my dreams and most importantly

I’m happy.

And that’s an inside job that none of the activities above has allowed me to experience. For me, I will follow in the footsteps of these queens who’s being alone is essentially timeless. My upcoming birthday has given me an urge to make some of the dreams I have yet to make come true, true. I feel lucky for that urge.

26. I’m turning 26. And I’m excited about it.

-Amber B

unfair loss

I’m at the Association of African American Museums conference observing a panel titled, ‘from Interpretation to Inspiration’ and an older Caucasian gentleman in his late 50’s begins the panel. He is seated next to two Black-American women. The Black American woman to his left is seated next to Black American male and the Black American woman to his right is seated next to a caucasian male. All that separates the audience from the panel, is the table sitting directly in front of the panel. The older Caucasian gentleman beginning the panel, pulls out a red sox base-ball cap, and places it on top of his salt and pepper—mostly salt—short hair. He then asks the audience to shout out words that they would assign to the baseball cap. The hat looks as if it has seen the sun more than God Himself. ‘Run-down’ ‘gray green’ ‘raggedy’ are some of the words that were ascribed to the baseball cap by audience members. After the interpretations of the hat trickle down, he then goes on to tell the audience a story. “I was married for four years until my wife passed away after battling cancer for one year. This is her hat. How many baseball fans are there in the audience?” two out of fifty audience members raised their hands. “so you two know how many baseball games there are in a season, and you also know how long they are. My Wife never missed a baseball game. Not one. And she would watch the entire game, some red sox games last around 4 hours. Once we started dating I learned quickly that I would have to learn how to enjoy baseball. She never made it to Dodgers Stadium, but her ultimate dream was to watch a red sox vs dodgers game at the dodgers stadium. It just so happens that this weekend that I’m in Southern California working, the dodgers and the Red Sox are playing at dodgers Stadium and I’m going to go and wear this hat and fulfill that dream for her” at this point his white face has red blotches all over it and he’s crying. He can barely get his words out. Many in the audience are crying along with him. All are affected emotionally. He then asks yet again, “now, what words come to mind when you look at this hat?” someone in the audience, overcome with emotion shouts ‘love’ and another shouts ‘fulfilling a dream’ and another ‘never ending love’. He went on to speak about the inherent meaning of an object. The duration of the panel was completely thought provoking, but what stuck with me was everyones reaction to his story as well as the utter tragedy of the story itself. Homeboy got married for the first time in his late fifties and was married for only four years until his wife who he was madly in love with—lost a battle to cancer. How tragic! As I scanned the audiences reaction to his story and noticed that most everyone was in tears or somehow affected by his loss, and as I acknowledge my own relating his loss that felt completely unfair, It became clear to me that that’s just how life is. Everyones reaction confirmed that to be true for themselves as well. Life can feel so unfair. You can have honest intentions and put your all into a thing…and it will still fail. Feeling as if your intentions are honest and yet love still does not win can make one feel, well, crazy!

Our life experiences will meddle with and taunt our sanity until we finally embrace that everything in life is temporary, including experiencing ‘life’ in this dimension. Impermanence.

Whenever my sanity gets away from me, the park is where I go to find it again. I’ll follow the ripples in the lake with my eyes, cut bright flowers from ordinary bushes, collect perfectly palated crunchy leaves and gray rocks with silver linings in them. Doing so brings my mind totally to the present, and there is never any threat that exist in the now. Accepting the present as it is—not as i wish it were—and taking complete responsibility for the contributions that my actions have played in making the present what it is. And remembering impermanence. always always always. Puts my soul at ease.

-Amber B