2015 was a piece of shit

2015 was a piece of shit, truly. But I told myself that I would do an inventory of my year and I’m sticking to it, because despite how shitty this year was for me, my loved ones, and the world…good, funny, and strange shit happened too. For example, I went to three weddings this year of friends I have known since either middle school or high school. However, the theme that permeates all four seasons has been crippling depression and persistent anxiety. I’ve dealt with mild depression all my life, but never has it taken away my agency in such a way that made me feel so powerless. I have never felt so low or helpless in my life, which is one of the reasons I wanted to reflect on what 2015 really looked like.

In no particular order, here is what came of 2015:

Continue reading 2015 was a piece of shit

The Facebook Chronicles

Reposted from my Facebook status on Thursday, November 12th, 2015. I’m mainly reposting this to document it for myself.
Long long long post.

 

A few days ago I had around 1330 friends, then I cut it down to 1074. Now it’s at 423. I unfriended folks of all genders, all races. There’s no way for this not to sound dramatic, so let me just embrace it.
My life has dramatically changed in the last two years and in the last year in particular. I share a lot of Facebook, even when I don’t share much. So I’m retooling my FB, as I’ve been doing all year. I ended up deleted people I’ve known for a LONG time, and people who I still consider friends. If you’re one of those people and I deleted you, your feelings are probably hurt. And understandably so. I’d be hurt. You might be pissed, too, frankly. Or you might not care at all.

 

But I realized that the way that I use this space…I only want certain people to have access to my private (as opposed to public, like this) posts. I don’t want to further censor what I write, instead I decided to censor my audience. So instead of talking about the people I deleted–if we’re really cool offline, you probably have my number, and if not you can message me for it–I want to discuss the folks I kept. This shit sounds really elitist, and maybe it is. But it’s about creating as “safe” a space as is possible for myself. It’s real simple.

 

I kept folks who I’ve met in person and built with or can see myself building with. It’s not just folks who talk about uplifting marginalized lives, but act on it. These are folks who call me or text me every once in a while because they know I’m dealing with depression. Folks who I have been with at direct actions. Folks who are serious about making the world a better place. This isn’t to say that others *aren’t* serious about it, but this is to say that I’ve built with them and I’ve seen it firsthand.

 

So folks that have sent me personal messages or that have helped me out on here: I love you and I appreciate you. We’re still cool. But I’m sick of hypervisibility and hyperconsumption. I’m google for a lot of y’all, not a person. Of the folks I deleted: you might care about me and probably do, but I haven’t seen it expressed. Or I know that I don’t have the capacity to express how much I care about you. So in the spirit of building toward liberation for ALL, my Facebook is a space where I feel comfortable speaking my truth to folks who will support me and also call me on my shit without belittling me.

 

My blog is public (anthoknees.wordpress.com), I write on medium (@anthoknees), and my twitter (@anthoknees) is public as well. And you don’t need an account to view any of these networks.

 

For those who want to truly stay in contact [as opposed to using me as NPR, which isn’t a bad thing for some, but something that is not sustainable or desirable for me anymore], hit me for my email or phone number via message and we can connect. In person. I’m around, but meeting requires active participation on both ends and not passive “likes” from either end. At some point I began to use Facebook to “collect” friends, yet who is really active in my life? Very few folks. So I’m modifying this particular online presence to regulate some more complicated aspects of my life.

 

P.S. If you know me, you know I do a lot of things for other people, not for myself. This is for myself. Y’all can think whatever you wanna think, but this is for me, and it makes me feel better. And if you know me, you know I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Facebook for a long long time, so this is nothing new.

 

Thanks for reading.
Ant

i write a lot because i feel a lot

November 4th, 2015
other cities
other countries
other incidents
 
I’m tired, y’all. I write a lot because I feel a lot. I write a lot to connect a lot; to remember that this shitty shitty shitty world of ours occurs on beautiful land, inhabited by some beautiful people, doing beautiful things to combat all that is shittiness.
Please go out and do beautiful things. Celebrate each other while we’re living. Spread love.
I‘m tired of living in a world where I have to second guess
  1. not using my turning signal
  2. going to my college campus
  3. going to movie theatres
  4. wearing a hoodie
  5. carrying skittles and an iced tea
  6. riding BART
  7. any interaction with the cops
  8. walking anywhere while Black
  9. doing anything while Black and queer
  10.  fill in the motherfucking blank.

If you see that a friend’s mental health is deteriorating, reach out to them. If you have a hateful friend, call them on their -isms and -phobias. If you see something fucked up happening, assess the situation and figure out what you can do to help. If you see the cops getting rowdy with someone, pull out your phone and record them (it is perfectly legal to do this). We really don’t even have to like each, I’m just sick of crying. I’m sick of being angry. I’m sick of people not standing up for other people. And I’m not exempt from any of this. Let’s all do better, y’all.

Please.

on Claudia Rankine’s Citizen (an extended poem)

no exaggeration to state that my body quakes
my eyes the amateur boxer
versus
experienced tears the reigning champion
the internal awakening is incomparable

the way I feel when I read my people

truth sucked from my soul onto the page
size 14 black font
white paper
Arial?

Rankine’s, Baldwin’s, Jordan’s words
yet the truth is mine

the avid reader I am
since childhood:
leaping from cliffhangers
hiding from the shadows
burying in the pages of fantasy

but only these Black voices evoke
quakes
gentle caresses validating previous thoughts
unearthing my Blackness under the weight of hooded spectres
tectonic plates of Black theory colliding creating new matter

page 14: I stop to write
this brink
this precipice
feeling like a citizen

page 17: forced to pick up my phone at 2:53pm
my black pen testifies to
“newly found uncles and brothers”
and Eve Ewing, Chicago summer 2015 speaks through
the brother who walked past
chimed in later with an are-you-alright to the group
the group who went out to meet the woman
the woman who the group hadn’t met in person
Mellon Mays and @ signs tying a string around our color
the woman who live tweeted
the campus police
the city police
the campus police and the city police
inhabiting four large sports utility vehicles
apprehending three young men
three young Black men pulled over for biking
while Black

one supposedly stole a phone
Eve questioned
can police question
can police hold kids without their parents
‘Curfew’
the group
the group who went out to meet the woman
containing only male: me
the group of many sisters
one brother to protect these young brothers
to meet up with this sister
yet it was too late
police took the kids
their bikes
‘away’
vehicles remained

afraid of the fate of Sandra Bland
the woman cried in her car
helpless in the face of hapless cops
the young woman
a hero stood yet
in the face of the slave patrol
a single Black woman is never safe

page 18: tears
when the new therapist yells at the author like a dog
“When he door finally opens, the woman standing there yells, at the top of her lungs,
Get away from my house!
What are you doing in my yard?”
“I am sorry. I am so sorry, so, so sorry.”
I have no patience for whiteness.

page 25: “what does a victorious or defeated black woman’s body in a historically white space look like?”
all I can think is: where in the U.S. do those spaces exist.
the Black church the result of, the mark of, settler colonialism
the Black _______ tainted by ________
the Black hair salon may be one of the only spaces
unless one wants to venture into
domestic work
the Black launderer
the Jezebel
what is a historically black space?
where is a historically black space?
why does she not capitalize the b?

this poem becomes a note to self: look up Patricia Willians’ Alchemy of Race and Rights, as cited on page 34

page 36: ignored as I view

page 37: a white blonde woman tennis player whose name is irrelevant
stuffed bra
stuffed ass
skirt with the adidas logo embossed
underneath the logo in the designer’s name:
stella mccartney
all lowercase letters
elbow pointy
hair frizzy
glossed nails pointing
cupping
her fake ass
yet not making contact
don’t forget
teeth-baring smile
she knows what she is doing.

I must ask myself:
how do white people move through life in such an ahistorical manner?
I tweet about this I move back to

page 36: disassociation
Beyoncé as Sasha Fierce to perform
the claim that Serena Williams “has had to split herself off from herself and create different personae.”
survival strategies

Page 41: section III reminds me that I fly through this book because it is my truth
“What did you say? You ask, though you have heard every word.”
as familiar to me as my first name
as if I am reading theatre directions that embodies the director’s intents
the author’s intent
down to the syllable.

Blackness is creation: reverberations of #SpringValleyHigh

Do not read this unless you’re ready for a long read (almost 2,100 autobiographical words) on Blackness and the necessity of creation. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Today is Tuesday, October 27th, 2015 and I had a revelation today that I didn’t think I would have: Blackness is creation, but not just Blackness; marginalization is creation. And not on some bullshit intangible wavelength, but on a very real level. And for anyone outside of myself to understand what I mean and to not write my very personal words as idealistic ramblings, I think some personal context is necessary:

  1. Yesterday I was tweeting about what #BlacknessIs and what Blackness isn’t.
  2. Today I was tweeting about humanity, dehumanization, and cops.
  3. Tomorrow I’ll probably be tweeting about anti-Blackness, transphobia, or maybe even s’more about Drake.
The point is that for me, writing is thinking. It wasn’t until Alisa, the writing coordinator for my research fellowship, said this that it clicked that most of us process through writing. What I mean by that is that writing is thinking. Many of the members of my cohort have found that our undergrad career is more draining and stressful than advertised. Speaking for myself and my positionality, I’m a non-traditional student, a first-generation student, a military brat, an INFJ, a Leo sun with a Pisces moon, an empath, a highly sensitive person, a queer person, a Black person, an unfortunately disassociated Afrikan, a Native person, the great-grandson of a white grandmother, a cisgender man from a two-parent working-class home. I’m the second oldest of four kids but I was the quintessential middle child until I turned 13 and a week later, my little brother was born. I give you this mini-biography not because I’m obsessed with labels—although I’m a sociology, so I might be—and the deconstruction of them, but because they are important in understanding where I come from in what I write, how I think and what this is all about. Recognizing these different parts of me helps me see why undergrad—at 26 years old—produces more stress and anxiety than I could have ever predicted.

So back to writing: writing is thinking. Since the end of 2014 I became very active on twitter, despite having an account for years and tweeting about acting. And I think for much of 2015 I’ve been trying to find reasons to justify or explain away my social media addiction/co-dependence/reliance. There is no way to separate my social media consciousness raising from my need to share from my constant refreshing and composing on Twitter. One aspect is that I have been a natural student and teacher—or know-it-all in some cases—since I was young. I’ve always questioned and I’ve always taught as soon as I learned new information. While Facebook and Tumblr can also be sources of information and sharing, Twitter fits in a very particular space. Facebook is personal, but limited. Tumblr can be personal and broad, but it is easy to get lost. The same could be said of Twitter, but for me it is a space where I learn something new everyday and often influence at least one person’s thinking. Twitter is a space where I can actually ensure that what I’m giving and what I’m receiving is heard.

The second aspect is that I’ve gone through many life changes in the last year: studying abroad, moving multiple times, moving in with a partner for the first time, a breakup, housing insecurities, overextending myself, serious depression, and academic stress & anxiety. Twitter is a place for me to share what I’ve learned from this as a sort of online journal, especially because up until my last month in Cape Town I kept a physical journal that I haven’t written in since December 2014.

The third aspect is that Twitter, for me, is a space for theorizing. Writing is thinking, right? And I need to write, I always have, even when I didn’t realize it. Sometimes I don’t know how I feel about something until I process it through speaking aloud or writing it down. When writing a first draft of an academic paper, the point I’m trying to make doesn’t actually emerge until the end of the paragraph and then I go back to revise the whole paragraph for clarity. Sometimes I intend to write one or two tweets and then the rest flows out into a series of 10, 20, 30 tweets. I know, what’s the point of a character limit when I choose to write a series of tweets? It serves as an intentional stream of consciousness that shoots from my thumbs to the internet and allows my brain to theorize and make sense of the world in a more casual way than sitting down to blog, write a paper, or even journal for myself. These three aspects—teaching & education, life lessons, and live theorizing—cannot be separate from the fact that I just like twitter, regardless of the truth of this paragraph or my efforts to justify why I tweet so much.

In the spirit of writing to process, I have a few people in my life with who processing comes through iMessage decompression, escalation, and affirmation. When some bullshit goes on, like with the Spring Valley High case, someone will inevitably text me, I will inevitably rant to someone else, or else the information rots away our insides. Knowing too much about the sicknesses of the world makes me and other sick. I know that I am only one person and I believe in the power of the individual, but I’m only one person. Ingesting too much of the evil byproducts of white supremacy, capitalistic greed, misogyny, transphobia, or homophobia doesn’t actually solve anything except throw me into a cycle of depression at the mere scope of the reality we live in. So when these events occur and I know about there, you’d best believe that there is a flurry of iMessages shooting back and forth from me to my friends. This is a ritual for me, a healthy form of self-care that allows me to preach to the choir, praise another’s testimony, and realize that it’s going to be okay. These text messages with folks like Luna, Reggie, Celeste, Joel, Emon, Colin, Chayanne, my mom, and others are a lifeline. Which brings me to the point of this particular piece of writing…

Marginalization is creation. What I mean by this is really not too hard to grasp. I need to create to live. People of color, queer people, differently abled people, trans folk, and more all need to create. It’s honestly what keeps us alive. To put it into a binary, I often live in two headspaces. The first is “this world is a piece of shit and no matter how much we protest, share ourselves, or try to unite our people, little change has come and I won’t see much by the end of my life.” The second is “one person has and will change the world and just by existing in this body that is not defined by marginalization but is indeed marginalized, is an act of beautiful resistance.” My revelation came when I was simultaneously texting Chayanne and Reggie about two things related to the dehumanization of Blackness. With Reggie I was discussing a link that I refused to open from the title alone: “Sheriff says Spring Valley cop Ben Fields id sating a Black woman not racist.” The second was an article by a young white woman whose heart hurts when she reads that a cop is slain, but clearly does not care about when a human that isn’t a cop or her father (a white cop) is slain. At one point the two conversations with two people who are important to me, but have never met, converged. I sent Chayanne a screenshot of something I had said to Reggie in response to us both being utterly THROUGH. The text read:

     “I’m right there with you. And overtime I dream of traveling somewhere else or self-segregation I remember the problems within our own communities. And then I sigh. Because it’s all so fucked”
     What I mean is that these interlocking systems of oppression work within and outside of our communities, and they often feel so impossible to dismantle that not existing seems like the way to go. Or moving. Or just going to bed and thinking that oppression will be gone by the time we wake up. Because at the end of the day I don’t feel like it’s that hard to treat each other like humans. It really isn’t. Yet time and time again I’m proven incorrect. And that’s when I get cynical. Just when I think #NotAllWhitePeople I see the white devil rear it’s ugly head. Just when I think people are really learning to trans folks as humans, I read about someone like #ZellaZiona.

     But tonight was different. Tonight is one of those nights where I have a paper due tomorrow that I just barely started—due to typical procrastination & senioritis, intensified by deep depression and unnecessary-for-undergrad academic anxiety—and I decided to write anyway. I realized that yes, it’s 10:35PM and I need to—and will—write this paper. I want to get good grades in order to get into a good grad school, and so far I have. Tonight is one of those nights where I give up sleep so that I can write what my soul is telling me to write so that I am able to focus on what the academy tells me is necessary.

The reason tonight is different is my conversation with Chayanne where I felt both of my camps: pessimism and optimism. I reminded myself and my thought partner that creation is necessary. Telling our stories is necessary. Telling our stories is not only important, but vital for keeping us alive. Some people, including myself, may read this and go “I know.” But often…I don’t. Sometimes I wonder what the use of “telling and sharing our stories” is in a world that is constantly trying to destroy us. And then I realize in this decompression iMessages, or at 1am as I scroll through Twitter, or whenever I’m talking to my mom about the fucked up things live hands us, even with out immense amount of privilege…in this moments I realize that this is how I stay alive. Not “bitching” about oppression or defining ourselves through the eyes of the oppressor, but being reacting as a form of proactivity in remaking and reclaiming who we are.

As Chayanne said, “its a way of producing SELF-KNOWLEDGE.” I need to create for myself and for others. I need to see the creations of others to remember that I’m alive, they’re alive, and we’re all making it. It’s not something that we can choose to “not have the time for,” it’s something that we need to do in order to keep living. Blackness is creation, Blackness is the act of staying alive and thriving, even in the various cages that trap us. Blackness is painting, drawing, singing, writing, tweeting, doodling, conversing, theorizing, composing and more. If you find yourself saying that you don’t have the time to create a collage, listen to music, or dance then my response to you is “you can’t do that to yourself.” I’m not saying the creations always need to be shared. I’m not saying the creations need much time put into them. But I am saying that creating, producing—but not being bogged down by the obligation to produce but instead of the gift of inspiration when it strikes—is life.

Marginalization is not anything I would wish onto anyone. Being Othered is one of the worst things in the world. But through this struggle—and not because of this struggle: this distinction is important—we must do more. Do not create solely for others if there is no joy for yourself. Find whichever avenue of creation works for you, and then pursue it in order to not only survive, but thrive. This act of making, of using the whole of our bodies/spirits/minds, is necessary for living in a world that predicts and foreshadows your death on a daily basis. And to prove my point: this theory of mine would not have occurred if I hadn’t tweeted tonight, if I hadn’t talked to Reggie, if I hadn’t talked to Chayanne. This piece is a direct result Twitter—both the isolation and the international connection of it—and Blackness in the form of Chayanne and Reggie. Art is life.

Now stop messing with me, I got a paper to write!

Peace, love, and creation y’all.

rest in power, Bryson Young.

Life is so precious, y’all. I was just ranting to my play brother about how life is a hamster wheel. What are we doing and why are we doing it?

But then tonight I saw that same play brother in a one minute play festival. Two years ago after that year’s one minute play festival, a fellow company member emailed me to get feedback on her play “Black Man Walking.” We exhanged emails and discussed the complexity of her writing this, as a white womxn. And of reaching out to me, a Black man. I recently thought about that conversation after a white womxn gasped at the sight of me around a blind corner. I also remembered that this womxn, the playwright, who I had only talked to less than four times had been moved by my acting and my comments on her script. And I remember being touched by her tenacity.

And then I come home to find three of my housemates in various states of exhaustion. A friend of my housemates passed tonight. I had seen him on campus many times but hadn’t spoken to him until earlier this week when he stopped by. I was busy doing my bibliography and didn’t spend much time with him. But I still observed that he laughed at everything, his spirit was infectious, he was a polyglot, and he planned on becoming a doctor.

I don’t even know how to feel except hurt. Hurt for him, hurt for the fact that another human is gone and that he was so long. Hurt for my housemates who are hurting.

And not that everything is connected to the movement, but it is. We’re out here dying of natural causes already. We’re out here hurting and mourning. And yet we have five Black church arsons in six days? And some of you are too afraid to call out white supremacy for fear of losing a racist cousin?

I get it, precisely because life is precious. But I’m just so tired.

Go hug your loved ones. Tell them you love them. Give a friend a compliment. Call your mom. Think about how you can give love, receive love, and appreciate those people who are still alive. This includes men, too. Don’t let the fragile construction of masculinity stop you from expressing your feelings, thoughts, or emotions with those who are important in your life.

Rest in power, fam.

(reposted from my FB so that it doesn’t get lost in the feed. Bryson’s spirit is too live to let die).

Financial Aid – Restarting College at 24

Yo,

I. Have. Been. Stressin’. Let me just tell you.

Let me break it down for you, this is my cost of attendance for my first/junior year at UC Berkeley:

Books and supplies: 1, 226

Tuition and Fees: 12, 864

Health Insurance: 2,014

Living Expenses: 12,754

Total: 28,858

My Gift Aid: 15,401

My Net Cost: 13,457

I kept wondering how I did not have to pay any fees for my undergraduate education. I thought that working full-time and being an independent student would screw me over. So this whole time I’ve been thinking that the financial aid office would recheck my aid and take some of it away, which would be tragic. I was wondering where this magic $15,401 number came from. By my calculations, that covers my tuition and fees, health insurance, and some of my books and supplies. There is $703 of those essential expenses that it looks like I have to cough up myself, as well as my living expenses that they estimate to be $12,754.

The reason I’m being covered is a lovely UC program called Blue and Gold. I’m writing this post to put my thoughts on paper, but also to let my friends who have not finished their undergraduate education that if you get into a UC and fork up the money to live and pay your bills, the UC will have your back and cover your tuition. The link for UC Berkeley’s specific program is here, but it is the same the general one linked above. In short, if you keep up your grades, apply for a cal grant, and make under $80,000 as a household (independent or dependent students), you’re automatically eligible for help. No excess paperwork, no essays, just pure help.

Now this did not relieve me of all of my stress. I still have to find a way to pay my rent, car payment, groceries, etc…with no job. The catch-22 is that getting a job reduces the amount of potential aid (which, in my case is irrelevant because I was not given any aid for living expenses). But I am filing a Student Contribution Appeal to update my status. Currently they think I make a certain amount, but I do not. I quit my job in the beginning of August to become a full-time student. I don’t want to work if I do not have to, that way I can for once just be a student. So my SC should go from what it is now to $0, as that is what I am making. But until I finish this form and until it is processed, I am paying for all of my expenses with no consistent income stream.

So…what’s the only other option? Loans? Oh hell no, I thought. But I need to keep what I have in my savings for emergencies, yet I need to pay my bills. So I did my research. Private loans can start low, around 2.5%, but that is a variable rate that can change and very few qualify for. Most of them really start around 6%-9%, and that is with excellent-to-good credit. Then I realized that part of my financial aid package is a Federal Unsubsidized Loan. I had to look up the difference, and this handy website helped. Then I read these sexy words:

Congress has passed and the President has signed the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013, which ties federal student loan interest rates to financial markets. Under this Act, interest rates will be determined each June for new loans being made for the upcoming award year, which runs from July 1 to the following June 30. Each loan will have a fixed interest rate for the life of the loan.

The following table provides the interest rates for new Direct Loans made on or after July 1, 2013, and before July 1, 2014. These rates will apply to all new Direct Loans made during this time, even loans already disbursed before the passage of the Act.

While I would prefer a subsidized loan, as the interest does not start accruing until six months after separation from the university, the going rate of 3.86% for both unsubsidized and subsidized federal loans is pretty attractive when compared to private loans. I also learned in a Cal financial workshop yesterday that I can wait to accept these loans and therefore not rush into any decisions. I can see if I can hack it until October and then decide I need the $12,500, or chose a partial amount, that they are offering me and go along my merry well.

Basically, what I am saying is that I am a lot more informed now and I lot more comfortable with this whole “student loan” option. Hopefully I can get more gift aid because I am not working, but even so, $25,000 over two years in loans is a lot less than if I had attended Cal for all four years.

P.S. In 2014 this bad boy kicks in: Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act