‘Black Girl Magic’ by C. Imani Williams

 Last year’s Halloween Party

Fed my spirit and heart

The Ancestors must have convened on our behalf

For he approached majestically

All 6’ 5” of Him

Dressed in Black and white

Inquiring if I’d like a drink

Said he, liked my costume (A tribute to Angela Davis

Complete with a Glorious Fro and Earrings In her honor)

His eyes stayed on my glass of cranberry juice with a twist of lime

Ensuring it was refilled

With a quickness

On my third refill, I accepted his invitation to lunch

Said he wanted to get to know me better

He found me intriguing

“No, rush. Queen, whenever your schedule allows, I’ll make time.”

His follow up game on point I learned much about his tender

Spirit

Over text messages and through phone conversations

When we met for lunch on a Sunny Saturday two weeks later

I listened to the Man

Leaning in and enjoying the energy of the

Beautifully Melanated bartender, artist, and activist

As he shared stories

Taking breaks to ask for my

Input

He’s extra like me, In a good way

I too was intrigued

He’s beautiful, his smile lights up my World

We’ve been dating exclusively for 8 months

During which time I’ve dropped layers of self for him to peruse

Through poems and prose that speak to my unique Halloween gift

Of He and Him and Falling In Love

Our Artist Vibe Be Strong

He unwraps my layers one at a time with precision and care

Earning my love and trust

On a daily

Halloween

Where the Magic of our Black Revolutionary Love

And shared deep Ink

Began

Copyright 2019 by C. Imani Williams. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.


‘Driving While Black, Queer, And Female’ by C. Imani Williams

Public spaces,  including highways and getting from point A to B safely can be challenging for Black women. I am a fellow activist, Sandra Bland, or any one of the other sisters silenced and wiped away. 

I won’t forget Sandra or her voice. Ever. The continual string of police related murders of Black women, men, boys, and girls have pushed me outside of my comfort zone, and into advocating more actively for positive change — out of necessity for survival. Black people are dying from white supremacy and laws that do not protect us. Whether we’re driving, walking, shopping, visiting the library, or in our own homes, we’re dying. 

When we talk about experiences people have with “Driving While Black or Brown, (DWB),” we generally think of men. My shares speak to the reality that there are incidents that go unreported where Black women are targeted because of race, gender, NGC dress, or perceived sexual orientation. I have helped in the under reporting in the past, by not filing. That is over. Sandra Bland’s courage, along with her murder and the questionable deaths of other Black women, won’t allow me the comfort of silence. 

Not all cops are bad; let me be clear on that. However, good cops who remain silent also contribute to the seemingly never ending push to get Black and Brown bodies into the legal system.  

I have been stopped for being both Black and female, and adding the queer twist to the list is too much for some people. I should note that two of the six times I was pulled over, I was dead wrong.

One stop involved a left-hand turn (not my forte). On another occasion, I was rushing to pick my kids up from daycare after work and earned the speeding ticket. My being late was no excuse to put anyone in danger, including myself.

I began to think about the many interspersed unjustified stops and the link between the stress of driving in a police state and perceived death. For me, silence resulted in feelings of anxiety and helplessness from suffering police abuse and electing to “let it go.” Self questioning nagged, “Why didn’t I do more?”

As a Black woman, I pick my battles letting some incidences of human and civil injustice slide. Though, each time a video from #SandySpeaks graced my timeline I saw a determined sisters face. 

I saw a Black woman who knew her rights, and who came across as confident and strong, believing, justice would prevail. Sandra Bland was about life and living, the world in her hands, a new job, and an action plan for returning to Texas to fight injustice. The character assassination and ad nauseam regarding past mental health issues have nothing to do with being pulled violently from a car, or why she was found hanging in a holding cell. 

The truth remains relevant.

#IamSandraBland. For over 35 years, my attire at times has included African clothing, locs, and a nose ring.  Law enforcement had several labels to slap on me if they chose to do so. My appearance was as far from European as I could muster. Along with my pro-black or militant (depending on who was judging) physical appearance, my car and by proxy the driver (me), were labeled as, Q-U-E-E-R, Super Black, and an individual with an expressed affinity for women.

My rear bumper was riddled with progressive messages, in support of any thing, not white and male. They included stickers on, “Keeping Black Families Together,” LGBT stickers with colorful rainbows, and an array of colorful stickers suggesting, “Women Unite Globally!” I don’t think it too far-fetched to assume that these self indulges which lean strongly towards self-love and pride in who one is moved the cops enough to show me favor.

One particular traffic stop stands out

 On a poorly lit and severely unfamiliar suburban street, I was lost. I made a U-turn into a cul-du- sac to find my bearings. Upon pulling out of the exit, cop lights were in my rear-view. At twelve forty-five in the morning, on a back road, the loudspeaker on the squad car blared the voice at the other end, commanding me to pull over.

I hesitated for a few seconds that felt more like an hour. What if they were not real cops? It was dark and eerily quiet. Would anyone hear my screams if they tried anything? I had read that if you felt unsafe as a woman traveling at night to go to the nearest police station if you think you’re being followed.

I wasn’t being followed, but I wasn’t sure I was safe, either. Besides, that may be a set-aside rule for white women. With the light from the taller officer’s flashlight shining in my face, images of Black women being abused by law enforcement and left to find their way home bloodied and traumatized flashed through my mind.

I certainly feared the possibility of physical attack, including rape, and maybe even, death in those minutes. I felt totally alone in that situation, some police officers lie, and may get extra points when a black woman is involved.

My crime that morning was being in an unlit suburban area, in a vehicle that racist media painted as “hot” for drug dealers. My car was down and mother gifted me her older Pontiac 6000, when she purchased a new one. Neither of us aware, that she was “branding” me when I drove in certain areas. That morning I was lost and when I turned around in the dark and unfamiliar area, the cops were sitting duck for me. They pulled me over, questioned me about where I lived, and what I was doing in the neighborhood of Farmington, a suburb of my hometown of Detroit, Michigan.

They had me walk the line (I was sober), searched my vehicle (inside and trunk), without a warrant. I wanted to challenge them, but decided that may not be the wisest decision given the darkness and not particularly black or queer friendly neighborhood. 

As the officers went through my trunk, I explained that I was staying at a friend’s in the neighborhood who was out of town, while my girlfriend moved out of our place. Geesh, I was going through a breakup and now this! The queer newspapers and boxes of conference materials filling my trunk were left over from a Transgender Youth Conference where I had presented earlier in the day. The officers took care to go through each copy.

Finding nothing but queer gear, they continued to detain me. I was handcuffed in the rear of the squad car for almost thirty minutes as they called in my license. My outfit — in case it matters — was a floor length African Boubou (I was covered from head to toe), shoulder length locs, and a nose piercing. 

The only noise, aside from the police radio feedback, were my bangles shaking as I prayed for a quick exit. Prayer works and thankfully, God kept me from harm. The rear door opened. I didn’t receive a citation when my hands were uncuffed. My license, insurance, and registration were returned and the shorter officer decided to play nice cop, telling me to “Get in safely.”

Out of nowhere, with my dignity assaulted, my voice returned. I wanted badge numbers and the names of commanding officers. The “nice-cop” laughed as if I were joking. Still shaken, I committed the two badge numbers to memory, got in my car, and with them watching to make sure I wasn’t going to double back to retrieve or drop off bundles of dope in my “hot” Pontiac 6000, I found my way back to a main street. I say their names because they matter and because I am, AND WE ARE, Sandra Bland, and we must stand strong to call out injustice and stand strong in Demanding Justice.

Copyright 2019 by C. Imani Williams. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.




‘The Golden Time’ by Andrew Bradford

Those were bad times, tough on all and no one could see their way clear for a future hope. Might just as well have considered jumping off a cliff and suddenly flying as expecting any better than what we had then. It was the same damn meal three times a day: cornbread, milk, some dried fruit. And you be thankful for the lot of it, Mama would say.

Up early and to bed early. Hated to see the sun dawn and hated to see it go down even though it meant we could finally head in from the fields and rest for the night. So sore all over, even down into my teeth. I asked my brother Roy one night, Always gonna be this way? He grunted and told me to go to sleep.

Gonna be this way always. The grunting told me so.

Sometimes Daddy drank too much corn liquor and got all mean to Mama and some of us kids. You could hear him raising the devil when he came in from the fields. Roy said Daddy used to lay out naked with black women from the place down the road from our little patch. But he was my papa, and I couldn’t see him doing something so wrong to Mama. He only beat me a couple of times, and when he did he always said he was sorry. He was a pretty good old man in all, I guess.

Then Claude got sick and there was no money for a doctor. Old woman who could heal with herbs and spells came by and brewed up some bad-smelling tea that Claude had to drink. God, he was so tiny! I don’t think he ever ate enough, and he may have been four, but he was small enough to be half that. I used to look at him across the room and wanna go hold him real close, tell him it was all gonna be good in time, but we were supposed to stay clear of him just in case we might catch what he had. I never did know what it was he had. The old healing woman never said a word about that.

Around March, Claude got lots better outta nowhere. No idea what it was made him feel right again. Mama said it was the teas and the prayers of the old healer woman, but Daddy would just shake his head when she went on about that. Roy told me Claude got better because he had no choice. When you got nine kids and one gets sick, the rest gotta pull more weight. Claude knew we couldn’t work any harder than we did, so he set his mind to it and got better for his brothers and sisters. We were counting on him, and that brought the healing. Praise God and all that stuff.

But in April you could tell Claude was feeling bad again. He was spitting blood in the fields and said his chest hurt like there was fire in it. Or maybe Mama said it must feel like fire in his chest. I don’t remember now; it was all a long time ago. Back in the golden times, some folks like to say.

One night I heard Daddy telling Mama that if there weren’t so damn many of us, maybe then he could find his way clear and have a dime to his name. But goddamn, he said as he beat his fist on the table. Goddamn! How’s a man supposed to get even in this world? How? How does anyone ever get even or get ahead? Seems like such a waste of time. That was the first and only time I ever heard my Daddy cry. Cried just like he was a kid or something. Made me feel dead inside to hear him crying and Mama trying to calm him. They didn’t know I had snuck outta bed and was hearing them. They were so good to all of us. They worked so hard. Gotta be a way. Gotta be a way.

When May came, I had my plan, and even now I can see that I just wanted to do what was best for us all. I waited until we were all asleep and walked over to Claude’s bed. I woke him up and told him to come with me to the other room. He never said a word. Claude was always the most agreeable kid in the world.

Got to the big room off the two tiny bedrooms and I kissed Claude’s forehead. I shouldn’t be that close to him, might catch what he had, but I needed him to know I loved him more than anything in the world. He laid his head down on the floor and when he closed his eyes I reached for the pillow I brought with me from the bedroom and put it over his face, held it there, felt him struggle a little bit, but not much. He was so far gone that he was weak. Couple of minutes and he was still, not a sound from him.

I sat there for a long time before I took Claude’s tiny body into my arms and carried him back to his bed. I pulled the covers up on him and went back to my own bed. Closed my eyes and could hear it just as plain as the night air in the room: Connie, not even three yet, was coughing just like Claude had done when he started those months before.

I put my fingers to my ears and tried to scream. Nothing came out but hot tears.

Copyright 2016 and 2019 by Andrew Bradford. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

Reducing The Stigma Around Mental Illness by C. Imani Williams

The efforts to reduce the stigma around mental illness is gaining momentum. With awareness, more people are seeking help. In the U.S., one in five adults lives with mental illness. Mental disorders change how we see and interact with the world. Healthy people.gov reports that untreated mood disorders can cause physical pain that may lead to impairment and sometimes death. Stress and anxiety are mental health disorders affecting thousands of people. Those living with mental health issues have the right to understanding and compassion. When society can view mental health as a treatable condition, the same way that physical illness is seen, individuals and families and communities will fare better.

Mental Health Awareness

Numbers for people living with mental health concerns include young adults trying to navigate the world of work, school, and personal relationships. Death of loved ones is never easy and the grief and loss process is often considerable. Finding and maintaining one’s chosen career path and the desire to keep up with peers doesn’t help. The housing market and just how to afford safe and reasonable housing costs cause anxiety on their own. Make self-care a priority and know that answer does not lie at the bottom of an alcohol bottle or other substances. It doesn’t. Talk to someone.

Don’t Sleep on Community Resources

With the Internet, things changed. There are calls to raise awareness through group discussions, memes, Gifs, articles, and video. Community-based organizations offer workshops which are often free or sliding scale to attend. Meetings on the ground and online provide safe spaces for people to obtain information and get questions answered. Group community meetings are a source of therapy via peer support. You don’t have to talk if you aren’t ready. Just sitting and listening is fine. It can be helpful to listen to others who share similar experiences. It can help people learn to recognize triggers and develop and coping skills for handling situations. Membership with National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), can be had for just five dollars. It gives access to information and the opportunity to attend meetings. They keep up to date stats. NAMI gives numbers and expresses concern over the number of incarcerated youth and adults and homeless people not being treated.

Feeling Out of Sorts?

There are different levels of depression. Catching the blues can happen to anyone at any time. A bad day or series of bad days. An unexpected crisis can spiral downward fast. It may feel like you can’t breathe at times causing anxiety and in more serious cases panic attacks. Not being able to get out of bed, feeling drained and irritable, and not feeling like ourselves means something is going on. We all get down from time to time. That’s normal. Don’t let it get to the point where you become immobilized.

Signs of Depression

Depression contains elements of despair and hopelessness. Loss and grief, a bad memory that won’t go away, concerns over finances, breakups, and family arguments can all trigger emotions and mood, causing a person to shut down. It’s best not to ignore sleeplessness, lack of appetite, and even changes in sex drive, they can all point to an underlying cause.

The other thing that can happen when we aren’t in touch with our feelings or avoid them is to overindulge in things like eating and sex to mask feelings. It’s easy to try and push bad feelings down by medicating, but avoidance comes with a price.

There are different levels of depression. The most serious requires treatment. Talking with a trained professional is helpful for many people. After the initial intake where you answer a lot of questions based on family history, substance abuse and how you handle life’s challenges. Medication may be prescribed to help. It’s important to remember that mental health disorders have to do with how the brain is wired. A person cannot turn off and on because people are concerned or don’t believe you have an issue. It’s real. Be encouraged to seek help. There are certain conditions that are best treated with medication. A trained professional can make that decision.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), terminology for soldiers living with mental illness following tours of duty has company. Studies show that anyone exposed to trauma can develop PTSD. Survivors of childhood sexual assault and other life-altering situations make PTSD possible. It’s listed as a disability and getting treatment is necessary. With the disorder comes nightmares, anxiety, and the inability to sleep or function with loud noises. Hence the call every Independence Day for citizens to be mindful that firecrackers are not fun for everyone. Compassion and understanding for fellow citizens is a good thing.

Healing Arts

Alternative therapy utilizes healing arts including yoga, meditation, massage, Reiki, acupuncture, healthier diet, and getting out of the house. A community art class, journaling and other writing, all help to tap into creativity and can help calm the spirit. Energy work includes crystals, singing bowls and working with a healing artist on breathing techniques and being present and in tune with the body.

Self-Care Matters

We know when we’re off balance. It can be a really scary feeling. If we grew up with mental illness it can really put us at odds. Those feelings have to be addressed for well-being. Comedian Robin Williams lost his battle with depression and committed suicide. So have many others Famed actor Jenifer Lewis is very candidate in her interviews about her battle with mental illness and sex addiction which she also discusses in her memoir, The Mother of Black Hollywood. She’s speaking out because she,” Lived in darkness for decades.” Bipolar disorder can cause one to oversexualize. So can denial. Stay on top of mental health and live your best life.

Copyright 2018 by C. Imani Williams. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Mystical Ms. Mitchell And Sixth-Grade Madness’ by C. Imani Williams

I’m a proud 70s kid who hails from Detroit, Michigan. Teachers play a large part in a child’s academic success. I was blessed with a list of influential elementary teachers: Miss. Shirell in kindergarten was loving and fun, Ms. Johnson 1st /2nd-grade split, handled her classroom with seasoned expertise, Mrs. Porter in 2nd grade was my Shero. I spent a day in her home playing with her two youngest daughters who attended school with me.

Mrs. Bayer 4th grade was different only in that, she was white and fluffy. I adored her. We had extended school that year. Teachers went on strike demanding better pay in late August. Ms. Bayer brought in Wyler’s (I liked it!) not, Kool-Aid mind you, so we wouldn’t melt trying to concentrate in summer weather, without air conditioning.

Ms. Milliken the stately auditorium teacher would be the first person to place a microphone in my hand on the auditorium stage, the first to introduce to me to a life long passion for writing by taking me to Oakland University for a youth creative writing conference. She was significant in my winning a city-wide writing contest and receiving a key to the city for my short story in fifth grade.

I was also sweet for the librarian Ms. Gwendolyn Dudley-Warren. She made me fall in love with books and journeys to far away places. They were all beautiful and serious about the business of educating young people. I enjoyed school and worked to please my teachers. My parents were educators who took pride in their chosen professions. My best was expected.

My absolute favorite, though, was Ms. L. Marie Mitchell. Sixth graders at Mac Dowell Elementary in Northwest Detroit considered themselves lucky to land in her homeroom.

The other choice, Mr. Mitchell, (not related) a by-the-book white male, was voted least favorite by students. I lucked out. I would spend sixth grade in the presence of a black goddess. I vowed to be her favorite. All the girls wanted to be like her, and the boys, well, they simply lusted after her. Smitten, I was on both sides.

Cocoa brown skin, light brown hair with blonde streaks, intense brown eyes, a killer smile with a diastema, that pulled me in on our first meeting. Ms. Mitchell had favorite auntie flavor. The kind of flavor that would chastise you, and hug you up at the same time.

Ms. Mitchell was the first woman I knew to demand “Ms.” be used when greeting her. I was impressed. She never said, “Using “Ms.” was act of colorism, womanism, or feminism.” Still, her insistence on defining herself was empowering for me.

Ms. Mitchell wore the baddest, colorful, form-fitting two piece skirt-suits, and dresses I’d ever seen. My mother was fashionable. Ms. Mitchell with her Pam Grier figure was not only fashionable she was smoking hot.

You wanted to impress her. She was smart and sassy. “Don’t come standing over me if you haven’t brushed your teeth! I will e-m-b-a-r-r-a-s you!” We knew she meant it.

The other teachers on the upper-class wing seemed to keep their distance. I’d spent time in the teacher’s lounge at my mother’s school. Her circle of teacher friends were either popping by the house or we were dropping by their place. I didn’t sense any closeness between Ms. Mitchell and her peers. Was it ownership of her femininity and warrior spirit that threatened them?

On Fridays, if we had completed all our work and not given her problems during the week, Ms. Mitchell allowed us to bring in popcorn. In a corner against the wall, she kept a record player. We students eyed it longingly Monday through Thursday. It was genius really. Using a record player to reinforce good behavior, it worked. If Danny acted out he had to answer to the rest of us. We all wanted music and popcorn after lunch while we completed quiet work.

We’d bring 45’s in and bags filled with popcorn, which Ms. Mitchell would transfer into a large garbage bag. Thirty pairs of grubby sixth-grade hands reached inside placing their fare on brown school issued bathroom paper towel. We lived for Friday!

My classmates and I went home for Christmas vacation that December. During break, our families were informed via US postal mail, that we would be entering Beaubien Middle School at the close of vacation. Had there been a moratorium placed withholding this pertinent news? Why hadn’t anyone told us? Heck, why hadn’t anyone told ME? This was huge, an outrageous, grossly wrong error of magnificent proportion. Ms. Mitchell was my world. Adults and their illogical thinking.

Thankfully, I had the rest of vacation to prepare mentally for what caused me grave concern over my ability to go on. I mean there were abandonment issues to consider. Tweendom is a hard enough stage. You aren’t a baby anymore, but you haven’t quite entered the seemingly awesome zone of teenage years. I doubted that those in charge of Detroit Public Schools ever considered how traumatizing their untimely decision to separate me from Ms. Mitchell was.
Being pulled away from elementary school without warning was a lesson in life. That it happened during puberty makes it that much more significant to me. To excel, students need a sense of self, spirituality, cultural/heritage knowledge, racial pride, a solid foundation in the basics, and to be challenged, academically and creatively.
I could have used those additional months of familiarity with Ms. Mitchell and the rest of the teachers I’d grown to love. My parents divorced the next year. Maybe, Ms. Mitchell was sent to help prepare my spirit for the many changes I’d be facing.
Whatever the reason for her surprise entry and quick exit from my life, I thank her and the beautiful teachers from my early school days. They gifted me a bountiful box of resources.

Women’s Herstory month calls for recognition of all the great women past and present whose shoulders we stand on. I give honor.

Copyright 2018 by C. Imani Williams. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Forgiveness Is A Big Part Of Self-Love’ by C. Imani Williams

Ask someone about forgiveness and you generally get one of two reactions. Either a scowl followed by a rant explaining why forgiveness won’t ever happen, or a person who has figured out that forgiveness opens a door to reclaiming self-love. In cases of the former, that scowl has to be examined.

If left to fester, it can turn to stress and kill you spiritually and physically. The latter option is your best bet.

Forgiveness Matters

Here’s why. That scowl comes with a price. You’re angry. I get it, I really do. You believe in your heart, that you’ve been done wrong, and you’ll be damned if you let that person hurt you again. Your feelings are valid.In an article on forgiveness, Psychology Today reports on just why it’s so easy to hold a grudge. They state, “Being hurt by someone, particularly someone you love and trust, can cause anger sadness and confusion.” As a survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA), I grappled with forgiving my perpetrator. After decades and lots of therapy, I did forgive, but I write about him frequently in conjunction with my advocacy work against CSA and Sexual assault.

Dig, Deeper

Do you know anyone who hasn’t been faced with having to consider forgiveness? Probably not, because as humans we all feel. Factor in that harboring angry emotion against someone who has hurt you ends up hurting you more in the long run. I’m in no way suggesting you break bread and pick up the relationship. We fare better in certain situations if we love from a distance, assess and progress.

Get Your #Glowup On

We sometimes let unforgiveness get in the way of our personal growth. When we can’t forgive, we stunt our progress and in essence, we play ourselves. Deal with it, give yourself permission to process and if you’re mad for a minute, so be it. Don’t stay in that sunken place though. Been there, done that.

Open Your Heart to Self-Love

The best option as mentioned is the route to self-love. It requires that we get fiercely honest with ourselves about wanting to move from a place of pain back into the light. The first key is finding our voice, which leads to understanding our worth and coming into self-love. Some people get it early on. I didn’t. Don’t be like Imani. Save yourself some time and heed the life lessons early.

With Honesty Comes Clarity

Speaking of honesty, I’ve only come into my own over the last seven years. Also true is the fact, that I won’t go back to accepting any less than I deserve. It doesn’t matter whether shade is being thrown from a family member or a love interest. Treat me the way you want to be treated.I protect the peace I worked hard for.

Trauma Is Exhausting, Fight Past It!

My second marriage was short-lived and abusive. Through domestic violence counseling (group and individual), I found my voice. When I ran into him unexpectedly, a few years later, I immediately found a group meeting. I was scared, not of him, but of what I wanted to do to him. Believe me, when I say, I had to dig deep in lending forgiveness his way. In the end, I bet on self-love, by making a conscious decision not to track him down and make him feel pain like he had caused me. I had to love myself and my freedom more than the desire to cause him bodily harm. Growth!

Get Busy With Self-Empowerment

You may have to talk yourself down from doing something that’s irreversible. Do what it takes. Self-help books, empowerment videos, nature walks, find something. Do something that isn’t self-sabotaging and feels good in your soul. I keep it real when I write because many people appreciate transparency when we’re talking about transformation.

I was messed up and going through a divorce when my therapist assigned homework.
“I don’t usually tell patients to do this, but in your case, I’m making an exception. I want you to look in the mirror and say, “I Love You!” I had to do it three times a day. At first, it was awkward. I felt like I was stuck on myself like I thought I was “all that and a bag of chips.”

I even winked at the smiling woman staring back at me in the mirror. The exercise was successful in boosting my confidence. Don’t ever underestimate the power of self-acceptance.

Appreciate and Love of Self

In keeping with that momentum, I also hold an “Imani Appreciation Day!” A monthly celebration which I’ve maintained since my first encounter with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, in 1999. My special appreciation days are about spending solo time doing what I want to do. They’re intentional acts of practicing self-love and don’t cost a fortune, as I’m far from a baller. I have a budget of $25 to $30. I hit the Farmer’s Market, a free outdoor concert or somewhere else artsy where vendors have funky jewelry, or I take my journal and find some water where I sit and write.

More On Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way

The course and book are true life changers,and I hope you’ll check it out and get some of that good energy. I’ve taken the course and I’ve taught it. I continue to refer back to it when I feel depression coming on, or I experience writer’s block. As an author and healing arts therapist, Cameron gets in your face. Either you will get real with the reading and activities which all push towards self-care and self-love, or you toss the book.

Appreciate, and Love on Yourself

The Artist’s Way, is rewarding to do as a solo course, but it’s also very cool to do with a group of folks who are trying to be and live better. We hold each other accountable. You learn about yourself and your fellow classmates over the 8-12 week course. More importantly, you can see your growth from the inside out. Situations requiring forgiveness often cause trauma, and writing through trauma, is a good path to healing.

Give Yourself The Gift of Forgiveness

The gold star is always, “Self-love”.
Forgiveness is what keeps love turning in the world. Agape love, the kind that we’re supposed to have toward each other is expressed most vividly when forgiveness is given. Self-love is when we turn our beef with others into a lesson learned. Yes, it’s about
being the bigger person sometimes. Other times, it’s about freedom. Giving forgiveness humbles us while giving us peace of mind. Forgiveness is mystic in that way. It brings inner peace, which feeds self-love. Karma, has your back, too. Chill.

In truth, the journey to self-love is a spiritual thing. It’s personal. Think of the caterpillar that over time morphs into a beautiful butterfly. Forgiveness allows us a chance to shed old skin that no longer serves as well, and become this other thing of beauty that exudes love. The sentiment that, “We forgive others more for ourselves than the person who hurt us”, is a good type of selfish.”

You Can Plan A Pretty Picnic, But You Can’t Predict The Weather

We either figure out how to get through life’s drama that can pop off at any moment, or we become prey for those who seek out a weakness in others and pounce. Their bad day doesn’t have to be yours. Pre-Internet, if we had words with someone in a public space, it was likely to stay between the parties involved. Today, the interaction will be videotaped and you may find yourself on WorldStar facing criticism from keyboard warriors, whether you were right or wrong.Trust me, you don’t need that.

Self-love Dictates How We Handle Situations.

A lot of people are hurting and this creates an atmosphere of fear in the world. They haven’t done the work. The workaround is to stay on top of your square. It’s about practice, consistency, and staying true to self.

Forgiveness of Self and Others Are Both Needed for Self-Love to Blossom

Hang in there, there’s more. Setbacks happen because self-work is hard. Right? Damn, skippy it is, but you’re investing in self, and there’s no greater cause. Celebrate the good days, know your triggers so you can respond in love.

I don’t care who you are. We carry shame around from the past for things we’ve done, and even for things that may have been out of our control as children. Be gentle with yourself, and kind to your inner child on this journey. Writer him/her a letter and let them know that you’re really working on being your best self and that you’ll do your best to protect yourself now. The art of forgiveness and self-love can be yours. You’ll fly lighter and be less stressed.

Stay the Course, It’s Worth It

Be encouraged, you can do this. Focus on self. Even with life’s drama and mistakes, you’re older and wiser and you’re recognizing your voice. Congratulations. You’re setting the stage for your #glowup of self-love, using forgiveness as a backdrop for your inner peace.

Copyright 2018 by C. Imani Williams. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Sex On The Table: Decoding Black Sexual Politics’ by C. Imani Williams

Black Sexual Politics, have the Black community in a quandary. We’re not sure how to manage some very serious conversations that need to be held in the village. I maintain that many of our struggles over relationships and interpersonal communication stems largely from not having had a collective conversation since slavery ended.

Black People Are Survivors, White Supremacists Hate It
It’s painful to think about the horrors our ancestors lived through with no agency over what happened to their physical bodies. The sexual degradation they faced every single day included the unthinkable. Sons forced to have sex with their Mothers, Fathers unable to keep slave owners from repeatedly raping their wives and daughters. While Black babies born out of rape were not acknowledged by their rapey ass fathers, they also caught hell from white mistresses, torn between their husbands proof of infidelity with enslaved Black women, and their hypersexualization and straight out thirst for Black men.

Revelations Found In Mandingo
As a twelve-year-old, I read Kyle Onstotts’ Antebellum fiction classic, Mandingo, when it hit me where the word “Muthafucka,” I sprinkled conversations with when adults weren’t around, came from. That that word explained what happened between mothers and sons in the book, Mandingo was set in 1857 and can also be categorized as historical fiction that told horrors of sheer evil. Making the connection made me blue. An avid reader, it took me some time to finish the book. I wasn’t allowed to see the movie and had to catch it on VHS as an adult.

Faith, Love, and Sex
Major amounts of wrong were heaped on our people, and we haven’t had a break from white supremacy to heal. With each sexual revolution, (if that’s what we’re in right now), new ideas and expressions are introduced, and old school games get a makeover. The $25 engagement ring debate broke the Internet. While the beauty of honoring traditions like jumping the broom, during wedding ceremonies and its history takes a back seat to clicks and likes. Which brings us to 2018 where community staples – the Black Church, and Black Respectability Politics continue to thrive.

Strong Roots
The world is ever-changing. Staples of yesteryear lessen unless the roots are maintained. Family structures have changed quite a deal. Wouldn’t you agree? Not everyone is Christian which some Black people take offense to, and some religions are more oppressive to women than others. Our story didn’t begin with Christianity, we would do well to remember the ancestor’s way. Religion kind of leaves the door open for judgment unless everyone is of like mind. Regardless of race queers are a minority, and the Black community holds onto a deep disdain for Black Homosexuality. Maybe, embracing spirituality and love would be helpful, while we figure things out.

Male Toxicity Is Dangerous For Everyone
Male toxicity is a curiously dangerous thing. It throws shade and sheer hate towards hetero women, queer women, and especially trans women. It both pokes fun at and threatens male homosexuality. A social construct born out narcissism, male toxicity is so potent that some women support it. With some cis women standing with Black men in denouncing queers and their right to be. Rape apologists are sometimes women protecting men and or the image of men they hold on to. Tragic.

Black people remain behind the 8-ball on many sexuality issues. Call it self-censoring, unless it pertains to satisfying the needs of cis men. We’re more conservative than not, despite the Mandingo and Jezebel stereotypes that exist. There is so much cross-dissension between hetero women and men that queer issues don’t get addressed readily.

When Black queers are diminished to punch lines of jokes, it equates regulating queer folk to the children’s table during holiday dinners. Concerns and pleas to be accepted as part of the community and the adult table are rarely granted. Kids are told to “Sit there with your cousins,” and “Don’t move from that table!” Kids get full for sure, but the children’s table fare never looks as good as the food on the grown-up table. Feel me or not there’s truth to it.

We Are Family!
Black trans women are part of our family. The hospice nurse who cared for my father as he transitioned wasn’t Black but she was a trans woman who carried herself professionally and was one hell of an R.N. Trans women are getting a lot of buzz right now over who they are and their right to hold space. Laverne Cox is a one-woman show serving as PR professional, Activist, Artist, and Speaker of Truth. Trans women are getting more network media roles than lesbians and using the opportunity to advocate for trans rights and sharing the stories of transphobia and discrimination faced by the trans community.

As long as trans women stay “over there,” it’s out of sight out, of mind. You saw “The Crying Game,” and we all struggled with Forest Whitaker’s character as he went through the process of dealing with falling for a trans girl who stole his heart. That’s a movie. In real life, trans women are being murdered. Spelman College will be in the news for a good minute when the prestigious all women Atlanta HBCU, formally admits Trans co-eds this September. It’s an all women space, and a huge move where Black Respectability Politics reign, with a lot of generational legacies and traditions. The governing body of the Divine Nine, known as the Pan- Hellenic Council, has been real quiet. The lion will awaken soon. Hopefully, Spelman administration and Board of Directors are preparing for the good fight. It’s epic.

Fear, Hate, and Black Male Fragility
Once things blow over at Spelman, other HBCU’s will follow suit in breaking down barriers to Black education. We’re going to have to get a handle on male toxicity. From reports and hood gossip, it appears that Black men are responsible for the string of “convenient” murders when they learn their love interest was born a boy. Which begs the question, when is the right time for trans women to disclose that they were not born girls? I think that even those with fragile egos deserve the right to provide a “yes or no,” and to turn down sex if the person is not their cup of tea. Communication is key, and we’re ignoring that fact across the board.

Debating the Disclosure Window
Today’s dating world handles the art of sharing information through texting and hookups. Should trans women disclose through Snapchat or whenever someone slides into a DM on social media, just because someone shows up? I think not. It can be argued, that when married people cheat they should be honest about their status, giving people a chance to decline. Surprise outings can and do lead to violence. It’s possible that disclosure at any point will drive a fragile-minded person to react violently. Regardless, they have a right to know, and safety for trans women and cis women alike is a concern. Both are true.

The Debates Continue As More Trans Women are Murdered
When male toxicity and homophobia are present, it’s neither emotionally or physically safe for trans women to disclose at any point, or for cis men to have friendships or be attracted sexually to trans women. There’s a silent rift between Black cis and trans women, and lesbians and trans women also have their issues. Black people must come to the realization as marginalized and disenfranchised folks, that Black Liberation has to include the entire Black family.

Bottom Line: We Gotta Do Better By One Another
Social media can be beaten like a drum to address issues and find solutions. Addressing Black Sexual Politics is part of the journey in reclaiming our villages. It’s also a multi-generational discussion. If not us then who, and if not now, when?

Copyright 2017 by C Imani Williams. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘A Testimony of Faith and Gratitude’ by C. Imani Williams

“Stop the Nonsense, and Get. Your. Life” is the title of the podcast I did for Bon Bon Break in 2015. A motivational essay turned podcast (new format for me), that made the cut. The message was for me as much as any (Wo)man going, through. When I thought about my testimony today, I didn’t know if I would write a poem, or stick to my usual essay. If you’ve read my book, Reflections Of A Survivor (arranged by Melony HIll), and co-written with five other courageous and conscious writers, you know my journey over the last seven years.

Applying The Lessons
I believed in what I was saying in “Get Your Life.” I was struggling financially and battling depression on a regular basis. But, I had to hang on and know in the depths of my spirit, that if I did what my mother wrote on her deathbed, that I would be okay. “Trust, God!” Her mantra, even as she accepted that her days were numbered on this plane. During my earnest talks with my “Cool Cat,” Daddy explained again, that he made no move to the right, to the left, in front, or behind, without checking in with his Father. A Libra, he balanced things out studiously, before making a decision. The need to practice self-care while parenting myself, and missing my parents is Daddy’s patient spirit showing up to remind me of the necessity of patience. Oh, I’ve learned how to get quiet and listen. Solitude will do that. I got real clear on a lot of things.

Joybells and Gratitude
I proclaim Joybells today. They’re ringing. I will regain doing work I absolutely love, work, that is necessary in my ask of the Creator, to make me of service to community. I want to use my gifts that I know will fulfill my promise to self, to leave this world a better place than I found it.

I’m celebrating, a new opportunity to return love to a community that has enriched my life in so many ways. In all reality, they helped save my life. The. Black. Queer. Community. To the Black Lesbian Community in Los Angeles, and Long Beach, CA, I love you. To my Lil SisTars in Oakland, I love you. To my SisTars in the Detroit Black Lesbian and Arts Community, I love you. To my str8 fam. Queens, I love you. If you’ve stayed this long, heck, you have stories to tell of your own. To my TN SisTars, I’m going to introduce you. I shan’t be selfish.

You all provided salve, for a weary mind and soul. You housed me, fed me, listened and loved on me as I fought to survive. As SisTars, you loved me thicker than blood and continue too. What a blessing for this Detroit born free spirit who was indeed, broken. Broken hearted and the whole nine. Thank you.

Writing Connections
To my Writers-Black Art Connected family. What a mighty long way we’ve come together. I do know we’re going to meet in person. And. It’s going to be lit. We’ve experienced life, death, illnesses, homelessness, and the desire to keep writing. Real. Talk. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to write and grow with so many beautiful creatives across the Diaspora. Connecting with my SisTars here in Las Vegas, is everything. I love ya’ll and what you’re doing is next level. Please understand how full my heart is. Truth. Fam. I’m waiting on the first WBAC wedding. I make couples in my mind all the time. I feel a poem coming on and maybe; a short story, starring you! I love ya’ll. #writeon #8KStrongBlackWriters

Recognizing Gifts
This testimony is also full of gratitude for staying true to my path. It’s been hard. Today I give thanks standing on my purpose. Raising awareness around Mental Health, including Domestic Violence and Childhood Sexual Abuse are my calling. I’m degreed by life and academia. I’m a real deal subject matter expert. I accepted a job offer with a Behavioral Health company here in Las Vegas. I will serve as the LGBT Program Coordinator.

It’s in alignment with the Sex On The Table events I co-host in Detroit where we make intentional space for co-gendered evenings of communication and dialogue. These events have been held with diverse participants and representation across the sexual continuum.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
I never stop talking about the conversations we need to have, haven’t ever had, since slavery ended. We have to first be willing to talk about the issues plaguing Black communities. Openly and honestly. There is so much healing that needs to take place. As a Healing Artist, I think we have to be gentle with ourselves and others throughout this process.

Across social media and in the real world (sometimes the lines blur), we aren’t being respectful to one another. Across the board. The babies are always watching. If you’re grappling with “everything is about being gay! Why?” Let’s talk about it. I return to the work I left formally over a decade ago, but never really left. I can’t break off the queer part of myself, nor do I choose to.

Restoration Through Service
Being a celibate queer bi-attracted woman gives me a special vantage point into, Black Sexual Politics. To do the work full-time is humbling (it points to the need), and rewarding. I live for outreach and connecting people to affordable and accessible resources. I enjoy gathering and writing our stories. So much of what we have gifted the world through Black experiences goes unwritten, and is eventually, forgotten. I say, no to all of that. A studious researcher, I’m archiving #BlackHistory. I know the worth of that. I got my life, and am ringing my joybells loudly and fiercely, with purpose.

Peace, Love, and Blessings,
~Imani #UrbanBushSista
https://www.instagram.com/imaniizlove/
#BlackWomensLivesMatter
#BlackLivesMatter
#BlackTransWomensLivesMatter

Copyright 2017 by C Imani Williams. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

Featured Image Via Tiffany Dillard

‘Why Girl Code Matters’ by C. Imani Williams

I’ve got stories. Girl Code matters. Simply put, it’s the art and tradition of women looking out for each other. There should never be a time it isn’t employed. Sisterhood is about unity and solidarity. It’s about having your sister’s back and not accepting, tolerating, or promoting misogynistic behavior. I don’t care how badly you like seeing your friend smiling and happy because her heart and punany are turned up. Even if she’s married sh*t can go awry. Maintaining Girl Code keeps you in the loop and may help keep her safe should life get crazy. There are guidelines to sisterhood, and the recent and untimely death of Kaneeka Jenkins,19, of Rosemont, Illinois, means we need to revisit the rules.

Kaneeka’s Death Was Preventable
We still don’t know what happened or how Kaneeka ended up in the basement of a hotel where she was celebrating landing a new job with friends. Her body was found frozen in a hotel walk-in freezer almost 24 hours after she attended the party. Hotel video shows that she was severely impaired. The FBI has elected not to pursue her death, and people are making memes about the tragedy. Kaneeka deserves justice. Shame on people. If we learn anything from this senseless loss of life, let it be—that we do our best to protect those we care about and love.

Sister, We’re Two Of A Kind
It’s been said that a special place in hell is reserved for women who won’t help other women. This is true and precisely why Girl Code matters. The covenant of sisterhood should start early. Back in the day, young women venturing out into the dating world were encouraged to always keep “mad money” on hand. A dime in a penny loafer or a coin purse ensured car fare or a phone call home. It’s a bad idea to meet up with people you’ve met online and know nothing about. So, slow your roll. There’s time connect after a few phone conversations and you’ve done some background digging Right? All that glitters is not gold.

A rite of passage into dating should include mandatory Girl Code. A must-do list that needs to be followed to help ensure safety when mingling with the opposite sex. I’ll add, that unsavory situations pop off in same-sex settings as well. This is not specific to clubs and bars either.

Many times, sexual assault takes place at in-home functions. Casual get-togethers and open-house parties both present opportunities to get caught up in madness.

College Coeds Should Practice Girl Code

Sexual assaults on the campus of colleges continue to raise concerns as they are often slow to investigate, and quick to re-victimize women who suffer assault, in an environment where they should be safe. Too often, affluent student and athletes receive a slap on the wrist for rape and assault. Female co-eds have been victimized by school administration and shamed on social media for coming forward about an assault. Whether it’s a campus party, a house party in the hood, or on the cruise you’ve waited eight months to take, Girl Code needs to be in place.

We Come Together, We Leave Together
Form a pack and hold each other accountable. There’s no dipping out with the fine A. F. the person standing in front of you, making your panties wet. Get a phone number. Nope, you can’t stay there with the cutie if we decide to bounce. Take a picture and get a number. You’re leaving with the crew you came in with. Bathroom room runs require pairs. Besides, we like going with a friend anyway.

Tricks Are For Kids
The presence of alcohol makes it easy for fuck boys and narcissistic women to have fun at the expense of others. You’ve seen a Lifetime movie or two. In a nutshell, watch your drink. It’s so easy to slip something into a glass in public spaces. Big Mama, yours and mine both, always made the drink rules clear. Don’t accept one from strangers, don’t drink it if you didn’t see it poured, and once you walk away to the ladies room or dance floor, it’s a wrap. Don’t lift that glass back up to your lips. I don’t care who’s supposed to be watching it, people have short attention spans. Even if cost twenty bucks, or was free. Even if it’s just juice. Leave it.

Alcohol will pretend to be your friend and can give a generally reserved person, “girl of the hour” courage. It lowers inhibitions and can make you feel fabulous and then take you to lowest of lows. Turned up, sexual inhibitions can drop. Fun flirting with the cutie across the room can lead to conversations that turn into physical pleasure, real fast. Most of us have been there.

Designated Drivers, One Person Not Faded
Everybody can’t turn up. Decide on a designated driver before going out. Even if you Uber, at least one person has to be alert. Yes, it’s that serious. Safety reasons present again. In a society where rape culture and misogyny are common and over 64,000 Black women are missing in the U.S., we can’t risk losing another person. Girl Code matters because rape and human trafficking are sad realities.

Adjust Your Crown
Girl Code dictates that women stand for and with each other. Fighting patriarchy, and refusing to be treated as lesser than, are born rights. We have to demand respect from men. Girls, need to know that they have a voice. Boys need to learn respect of women early. Calling a girl a thot and pulling her hair in third grade is not okay. We have to stop brushing those “kids will be kids” moments off. Not addressing it tells a girl that she is not valuable.

The thing is, we’re all valuable. I don’t care how muddy your shoes got while you were in the storm getting the lesson. You’re not alone. Value and honor sisterhood. Let’s entrust each other to stand for that which makes us stronger, and more fierce. The tighter the squad, the higher we can fly. Girl code matters and true sisterhood is priceless.

Copyright 2017 by C. Imani Wiliams. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Burial’ by Art Metzger

When Alice wakes up everything is dark. She is lying, stretched out, on something soft, and there is softness all around her, close. There is also softness above her. She can’t see it, but she knows it is there. She remembers flowers and organ music. People are filing by her, she can’t see them, but she senses they are there. Nor does she really smell the flowers, hear the music.

It occurs to her, lying flat in total silent darkness, imprisoned, that perhaps she is dead. Alice has no memory of dying, of being dead. She doesn’t know what might have happened – automobile accident, heart attack, a disease, but she knows she is dead. There is no other explanation, though she cannot explain her continued consciousness. Is it going to be like this forever, leaving her trapped, buried in a coffin? Or is she wrong? Has she been buried alive? She needs out. She doesn’t know how long she has been trapped here in the darkness, but she can’t allow it to go on. She can’t imagine it going on. She begins to struggle. She begins to scream. And scream.

Alice doesn’t know how long the screaming goes on, struggling and thrashing in the tiny space, but eventually she starts to calm down. She remembers a movie she saw several years before in which a girl, recently buried, suddenly reached a hand up through the graveyard dirt. Everyone in the theater jumped, there were several squeals, a few people screamed. So, she wonders, how did the girl do that? Had she be buried, not only alive, but coffinless, just lowered into a hole in the ground and covered up? Or did coffins have a weak spot that the girl had managed to penetrate, allowing a stream of dirt to rain in until she could force her hand upward, through it, into the light? Alice feels around above her; with her nails she manages to tear the fabric above her, shredding until she feels wood. Then she begins to pound as much as the crowded space will allow. She does this for hours, days, perhaps months. She rests occasionally, then begins again. Finally, lifetimes later, she feels something start to give. She pounds and pushes and suddenly a thin trickle of dirt begins to fall around her. Pushing, up and up, knowing escape from her prison was imminent. Pushing, clawing, resting, then pushing and clawing some more. Dirt cakes under her nails, falls on her face and breasts. She begins to wonder if the coffin was simply going to fill with dirt, leaving her even worse off than before – double buried. She wonders if she should stop for awhile, then she feels her hand burst through into warm sunlight. She flexes her fingers, moves her hand back and forth, waving. Through the earth she hears the people above her screaming; she feels the vibrations of running feet. She tries to wave them back, a single hand beckoning. But no one turns, no one comes back. It is then that Alice begins to wish that she had learned sign language.

Copyright 2017 by Art Metzger. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.