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.
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