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Kinfolk Kollective avatar

Black People, It’s Past Time to Accept the Obamas Ain’t Here for Us

His journey was inspiring. His presence is commanding. His competence was reassuring. And none of this was even most impressive about the man and his time in office. He was the best president this country has ever seen.

That, however, is no compliment. 

If ever a president lead America in the most American way possible, Barack Hussein Obama was that man. A brilliant orator from humble beginnings whose meteoric political rise forever changed history, every aspect of Obama’s story and public persona was like a page out of the American dream handbook. He was built for this shit.

Obama ruled this empire employing the same racist, tyrannical, murderous tactics here and abroad as his predecessors while convincing much of the American public that he was different. And no faction of his constituency was more easily, more willingly, more collectively convinced that Obama was a different kind of president than Black people. No portion of the U.S. citizenry pledged its loyalty to and deified the Obamas like Black people, all while Obama and his First Lady have engaged in and spewed the damning rhetoric of anti-Blackness.

Like in 2014 when Black folks’ beloved first Black president stood before Black Chicagoans and urged them to “find Cousin Pookie” who was sitting on the couch and hadn’t voted in five years and “tell him to go vote.” Yes, the people’s champ stood before a group representing his most loyal voting block, Black folks who had voted for him at a nearly unanimous 93% two years prior, that the onus was on us to drag our lazy family to the polls for mid-term elections to get him the democratic Congress he needed. Meanwhile, no word on Obama standing before a roomful of white Americans lambasting them about doing their part to end voter suppression.

Or remember when Michelle Obama famously quipped that “when they go low, we go high” to wild applause as a response to racist propaganda? The “forever First Lady” was lauded for promoting grace and class in the face of disgustingly violent racism, the kind which marred her husband’s entire presidency and from which not even her minor children had been spared. Black Americans were starry-eyed at Mrs. Obama’s ability to maintain herself and commit to enduring racist abuse with poise, as if encouraging victims of racism to be the bigger persons is some revolutionary act and not the kind of bullshit America has tried to brainwash us to accept for 4 years.

But in 2015, her husband did not offer Black teens in Baltimore rioting to protest the murder of Freddie Gray that grace. He did not go high with them and be clear that I do not think tearing down a city that doesn’t give a fuck about you is going low –  instead unabashedly calling them “thugs” and doubling down on the term when called to task for it. Perhaps though, by the end of his two-term historic presidency, one made possible by Black voters in cities like Baltimore, he had adopted his wife’s policy of going high when he responded to white supremacists violent rioting in Charlottesville, VA. That violence only warranted a tweet of a Mandela quote assuring us that “no one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion…”

Barack Obama has no smoke for white supremacy. Maybe that Flint water he sipped to convince the most Black residents of the city which intentionally poisoned the water supply that the water that was making them ill was safe softened him up on thugs.

And now, Mrs. Obama, whose husband did nothing to earn, groom or show his appreciation for the loyalty of Black voters, is disappointed in Black people. The woman who counts George W. Bush among her best friends can “understand people who voted for Trump,” but believes that Barack Obama “didn’t get the Congress he needed” because “our folks didn’t show up.” Never mind that our folks showed up and showed out for her husband twice.

Yet, Black people still collectively refuse to recognize the Obamas as who they are: members of the oligarchy fully protected from the fatal dangers of anti-Blackness that the Black collective is subject to. Even further, Black people required nothing of the Obamas in exchange for our loyalty. 

We did not require evidence of a commitment to our interests. We did not demand that Obama outline a specific Black agenda. We have not insisted that they confront white America over racism. We do not pay them the dust they’ve paid us and instead rush to their defense anytime they are rightfully criticized.

The Obamas are not ours, Black people. We do not owe them anything and as they have made clear, they feel no indebtedness to us. We are not the same. Brown skin and a playlist with some hip hop do not make them our people.

Let them go. Barack and Michelle Obama do not care about us. They are not interested in reciprocating our love. They have no incentive to ride for us the way we ride for them. They do not fuck with us.

And the sooner we abandon this unearned adoration we have for them and stop idolizing them and stop ignoring the fact that Obama sang a little Al Green and paraded his brown-skinned wife with the Black girl booty in front of us because he like Biden, Clinton and all the others believe that the Black populace needs nothing more than simple engagement in well-known pieces of our culture to earn our loyalty, the sooner we can understand that Black folks can’t be good for us and them at the same time. And whenever the Obamas are presented with the choice to serve Black people or white people, they make their choice crystal clear.

Kinfolk Kollective avatar

‘Game of Thrones’ Has Everything to Do With Black People

In high school, I took a required world history course. As with most teachers at my high school, the teacher did a phenomenal job with the course material. How we packed history of people all over the world into nine months of class is still a mystery to me, but I left that class feeling like I had true sense of the major events in human history that brought us to the end of the 20th century.

Still, for as much as I enjoyed that class, I hated the times we learned about pre-colonial Europe. Hell, I also hated the period we spent on post-colonial Europe. Even as a teen, without the language to properly articulate or experience to fully understand why, I did not enjoy learning about white people’s history. I now realize that is because I have never been able to view white people outside the white supremacist lens.

And that is probably why I resisted watching Game of Thrones for 8 years and seasons despite everybody and they mama talking about it. After finally becoming fed up with being left out, three weeks ago, I decided to give the show a try. Since, I’ve watched more than 80 episodes of that show about white people an their fuckery.

Except, Game of Thrones ain’t about white people, or rather it ain’t just about white people’s legendary fuckery.

Game of Thrones is about family bonds forged outside bloodlines. It’s about parents using children as devices. It’s about children deciding for themselves who they want to be. It’s about the dangers of clinging to the fights and plights of our fathers. It’s about limitless love for our children. It’s about the parental egos that kill our children. It’s about the human desire to belong. It’s about defining and finding family. It’s about keeping family secrets and exposing family truths.

It’s about power absolutely needs concession. It’s about the masses looking for a good, kind leader instead of questioning why they need a leader. It’s about liberators who believe liberation is theirs to give. It’s about honest motives being easily corrupted by the intoxicating power of exaltation. It is about the lesser of two evils still being evil. It is about loyalty as obligation rather than repayment and reciprocation.

It is about white women playing both victim and victimizer. It is about white womanhood

It is about manhood unchallenged by sexuality and gender without regard to genitals. It is about polyamory and bisexuality. It is about sex work as a choice and the men who inevitably take advantage of it. It is about those engaged in the most immoral and repulsive sexual acts judging sex workers (think the way Cersei says “whore”. It’s about rape culture and women taking control of their sexual pleasure.

It’s about the two types of white women and how they wield their power: one who is hateful, spiteful, deceitful, divisive, dishonest, evil, selfish and power-crazed, and how the other is the same hiding behind a smile and a few seemingly good deeds. It’s about how there is no noble quest for power. It’s about how betrayal becomes necessary when we’ve misplaced our loyalty. It’s about how birthright and inherent power are societal constructs which do nothing but guard classism, racism and elitism.

It’s about how capitalism is built on war and slavery. It’s about class warfare and infighting. It’s about how banks have money to lend because they bet on war, murder and tyranny. It’s about depriving the poor of necessities as strategy. It’s about how cash is king and morals can be bought and sold. It’s about reputations as currency.

It’s about the wisdom of women and the men who ignore the women who’ve proven themselves loyal. It’s about how women are fit to lead, but men aren’t fit to follow. It’s about how women play the background, making all the tough decisions and saving the fucking day, only to have a man heralded for a woman’s accomplishments.

It’s about liberation from physical chains without liberation from the mental chains that bind. It’s about the formerly enslaved looking to a member of the power majority for our liberation. It’s about praising a white liberator for giving the freedom that was not hers to give. It’s about being freed only to choose another master. It’s about confusing strategy and benevolence.

It’s about how quickly the able-bodied can become disabled. It’s about how we foolishly discount the mental fitness of those with physical disabilities. It’s about how we mark the disabled for ridicule, isolation and bigotry from birth. It’s about how we make jokes of the disabled when they are sometimes the most worthy of us all.

It’s about clinging to tradition because it is tradition. It’s about a refusal to question why. It’s about accepting that power rests with those who usurp it.

It’s about wars built on lies (I see you Dubya). It’s about how there are no innocent soldiers and “following orders” must you no less responsible for the carnage. It’s about how there are no winners in war. It’s about how people are sent to die for causes that will never benefit them. It’s about military strategy. It’s about commanders happy to send their troops to certain death while cowering at the thought of their own deaths.

It’s about the difference in nice and kind. It’s about people can smile and speak warmly while plotting your demise. It’s about how those who will feed, shelter and even save you don’t need to be smiling. It’s about redemption.

It’s about accepting death. It’s about understanding that life is never promised. It’s about having something you’re willing to die for. It’s about how memories and spirits live on. It’s about promises that survive death. It’s about how death doesn’t discriminate or keep scorecards. It’s about how you can’t kill enemies because our loved ones carry on our beefs. It’s about death as the great equalizer.

It’s about how the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree. It’s about how we feed our children vengeance. It’s about how even when we’ve accepted that our loved ones were monsters who wreaked havoc on innocent people, we still believe that their death should be avenged. It’s about destroying what we can’t have. It’s about the mania of revenge. It’s about how often our quest for redemption ends with us destroying all we said we wanted.

It’s about gentrification and colonialism. It’s about stepping into foreign spaces with the arrogance xenophobia and ethnocentrism. It’s about attempting to roll over centuries of tradition. It’s about white people believing that Black and brown people need saving, and that their white asses are the rightful saviors.

It’s about how children see the truth and ignoring them has fatal consequences. It’s about the bravery of children. It’s about how children’s kindness, loyalty and love is often betrayed by the adults they trust most. It’s about how listening to children can save us.

It’s about how our sanctimonious adherence to religious dogma will be our ultimate demise. It’s about how the homophobia that religion drives kills. It’s about how religious leaders are usually just power-crazed, arrogant manipulators intent not on adhering to the tenets they preach, but on commanding a flock that lauds them as the one truly fit to lead.

It’s about anarchy and how government is inherently corrupt. It’s about how the government will see us all starved to death, slaughtered or in chains. It’s about the dangers of nationalism and how an unwillingness to compromise will lead to the end of the world. It’s about how leaders aren’t elected by the populous but chosen by the powerful.

But above all else, Game of Thrones res about the limitless limitations of the white imagination because for all their fantasy about fire breathing dragons flying through the sky, of a woman emerging from fire unscathed, of faceless teams of assassins and cheating death over and over, the white writers could not imagine a world where Black and brown people are fit for anything more than slaves, plot devices or servants unquestioningly loyal to white power.

There is no story about white people that is not also about Black people. Whiteness only exists in opposition to Blackness, as such, their stories are our stories. Game of Thrones ain’t about white people, it’s about the tyranny and doom they visit on the world. And when it comes to the consequences of their evil, we are always the main cast.

Kinfolk Kollective avatar

Reality Check: On The Obsession With ‘Snapping Back’ After Pregnancy

Yesterday, I was getting ready to pick my son up from school. I turned on the TV and some celebrity new program was playing. I don’t remember or care to try to remember which one it was, but predictably, they were talking about the birth of Meghan Markle’s baby with Prince Harry.

They showed a clip of them walking out with Harry holding the baby, as Meghan, in a white dress clutched his arm and smiled. Tied at the waist, the dress hid none of Meghan’s still swollen belly, She looked exhausted and at least still six months pregnant.

Now I’ve delivered two babies, so I know that the swelling usually takes at least a couple of weeks to start going down significantly. And the exhaustion…well, that takes at least a couple of years to start subsiding. So was uninvested as I am in that damn royal wedding, remain in that damn marriage and the baby, I am thoroughly invested in stopping the harmful trend of new mothers being charged with proving how quickly they can physically bounce back from the most necessary and one of the most physically grueling processes known to humans.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry

From Teyana Taylor being lauded for having amazing abs less than a week after her baby was delivered at home on her bathroom floor to Meghan Markle walking out in a designer dress and full face of makeup with her hair done just 48 hours after having a baby to IG models showing their “snapback” days after they had whole human beings removed from their wombs, this shit is out of control. Besides the fact that it treats pregnancy as some easy process that women just go through and have no after effects or complications from, it also teaches women that their main focus shouldn’t be bonding with and caring for their babies, but worrying about whether they’re able to return their baby to pre-pregnancy form to prove they’re still attractive. It devalues women’s essential contribution to the world while reducing our value to our conformity to unrealistic physical ideals.

Never mind the fact that we’re being presented images of women who are naturally slim or whose bodies are naturally athletic to compare our own naturally chubbier or less athletic bodies to. Let’s ignore that most women are regular ass women without a team of servants to and staff to do our hair and makeup for our first look after delivery. Who cares that women are delivering babies and following up the life-threatening process of delivery with an immediate tummy tuck. Yes, the snapback is real and we should all aspire to it.

Fuck that! My son is nearly 11 and my daughter is almost 16 months. I ain’t snapped back yet, but I have been the mother I should be. I have made bonding, loving and caring for my children my priority. I have been able to adjust to life with a newborn, figure out a schedule that allowed me to get enough rest to be able to enjoy motherhood, and managed to to keep my children healthy and happy. I’ve managed to snapback from the postpartum depression that so many of us mothers endure.

I’m tired of this glamorous ass picture of new motherhood we’re being sold by privileged celebrities. The last thing on your mind after safely delivering a child should be whether you’re snatched. A big ass belly is normal. Showing the effects of not sleeping like you did pre-pregnancy is normal. Staying home with your child is normal. A raggedy pair of sweatpants with your hair in a bun or your fro pushed back is normal.

And to be completely honest, this thing where women flaunt them being in pre-pregnancy form and done up right after having a baby is all for men. It’s all to keep up men’s fantasy about how women should always look attractive and be sexually attractive to them. It’s nothing but internalized misogyny saying, “I did it. Why can’t your woman?”

The only snapback I want new mothers to be worried about is the one they wear on their head because taking care of a screaming newborn has left them no time to do their hair and cabin fever has set in so they still need to get out the house even if it’s just to run to the grocery store. Part of your self-care after having a baby, the most important part in fact, is being kind to yourself and appreciating your body including the bulge and stretch marks that are the battle scars of the war you fought to make a healthy human.

Kinfolk Kollective avatar

Mayochella: Black Twitter Dragged Taylor Swift For Gentrifying Once

Back in 2017, human matchstick and goat harmonizer Taylor Swift had the unmitigated gall to try to imitate Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter in a video for her song Look. Now if you ain’t see that light mayo shit, you won’t see it here either, so google. But basically she tried and failed, as anyone could have predicted, miserably.

After Twitter got in her ass, or I guess I should say her high thigh, I thought she would never muster up the nerve to bite the queen again. But alas, white women never cease to amaze me. Last night, ol’ white taste took to the stage of the Billboard Music Awards to perform some song (I ain’t watch that shit), complete with a marching band and set much too reminiscent of Beychella. A fucking hot steaming, rotten mess it looked.

And Black Twitter did their thing and dragged her Becky With the Bad Moves for filth. And I love y’all enough to archive this Twitter fade for ya!

Denarii Grace avatar

‘Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong With You!’: Anti-Blackness, Credibility, and Who Gets to Be Disabled

One of the things that I’m most grateful for learning over the years is the power of not giving a fuck what oppressors think.

In my case, that means not caring about the opinions of: white people, light-skinned people, straight people, gay people (yeah I said it), cis people, binary gender people, thin/skinny/slim thick people, rich people, middle class people (hell yeah I said it), men, masculine of center folk, and yes, able-bodied and -minded people. That’s a lot of people to not give a shit about.

And you know what? No one’s perfect. As a significantly multiply marginalized person, I’m constantly contending with messaging – from family, friends, acquaintances, comrades, and social institutions – that would have me believe the many falsehoods about who I am and what I’m worth. Sometimes, despite my tremendous growth over the years, I still stumble.

One of the things I’ve found hardest to break from is the idea that disabled people are supposed to look, act, or live a certain way to be truly disabled. It’s particularly hard to adjust to considering I haven’t been disabled for most of my life. My disabilities have manifested in my life at different points, some well into adulthood. But beyond that, I’ve only been identifying as disabled for the last six years or so.

I sometimes find myself pivoting depending on my environment, including, but not limited to: bringing my cane with me even when I don’t really need it, limping a little more than necessary, not always sharing the moments when I’m happy (as someone with seasonal depression and PTSD) – all so that I’m more likely to be believed. And, of course, that’s still not guaranteed, especially as someone who’s also Black and fat.

When I don’t pivot, I worry that not being believed will deprive me of the accommodations that I need. I worry that my reality as a multiply disabled person will be denied, even by those my fat Black ass is supposed to entrust with my care. ((I’m lookin’ atch’all, doctors, nurses, therapists, psychiatrists, and physicians’ assistants.)

Over the last few years, I’ve come to realize that this experience is not unique to the experiences of disabled folk. In fact, when you actually analyze the histories (and presents) of any marginalized group – Native Americans, Black folk, immigrants, fat people, women, poor people, trans and non-binary people, queer folk (especiallybi+ [plus] folk), young people, the list goes on – there is a pattern of assumed untrustworthiness.

We are scammers. We are freeloaders We are deceivers. We are liars. By default in fact.

It’s part of what makes the colonized U.S. criminal “justice” system so corrupt and laughable. How can groups of people who lawmakers, judges, cops, witnesses, and jurors are less likely to see as honest possibly get a fair shake? Especially when the system was deliberately designed to deny us equity.

So this is something that I want folk, especially Black folk, and especially Black folk who claim to be pro-Black, to consider when they make assumptions about who is and isn’t really disabled.

What you’re claiming is that disabled folk can’t possibly know our experiences, even though we live in these bodies every day. What you’re claiming is that disabled people all have the exact same experiences, even though my previous column made clear that the thousands upon thousands of disabilities that exist make that literally impossible. What you’re claiming is that you know our limits better than we do, even though you’ve never taken a stroll in our shoes, wheelchairs, walkers, or with our canes.

There are people who have mobility issues who don’t use any kind of mobility aid; they’re still disabled. There are depressed people who go to work on time every day. There are wheelchair users who can stand and even walk. Most disabled people are notmurderers or rapists, despite what shows like the Law & Order franchise and Criminal Minds might sell you. You might think you do, but you don’t know what “crazy” looks like. Most of the time it looks exactly like you. Tuh…y’all are playin’ yourselves and I’m tired of it.

Disability and Blackness, while intimately intertwined, especially in the U.S., are not the same. I don’t believe in the white supremacist one-drop rule and all that other bullshit. I know a Black person when I see one. And if I don’t see it, then they ain’t Black. Simple as that. Disability, on the other hand, is much more complex. Five people can live with PTSD and it manifests in five different ways.

As disabled people, all of our experiences are valid. When you declare otherwise, you’re being ableist and buying into the white supremacist idea that marginalized people are inherently untrustworthy.

Believe disabled people, especially disabled Black folk, or get the fuck on. It’s as simple as that.

Jo'el Santiago avatar

Supporting Your Queer Child Is Not Revolutionary

15-year-old Nigel Shelby

“You better sing, boy!” The cry rang out from a hat-wearing sister in the crowd as she held up her hands in euphoria. An older deacon followed up her exhortation, “Take your time now!” Others in the crowd chimed in with enthusiastic fervor. The deserving recipient of these hurled praises? Demetrius. 

He and his mother visited our church annually during those interminable summer conferences Black churches love. As well as I remember him singing his ass off, I remember Demetrius as one of the few adults who spoke to me, a child, as an actual person. Exceptional in those days as most ascribed to the “children should be seen and not heard” mentality and unheard of in church, where quiet, obedient children are coveted. Demetrius was different, always greeting me with a genuine smile coupled with a wave or handshake. I remember our brief interactions and treasure them as they are some of my earliest memories of validation. 

But I also remember the whispers. Conversations held at low volumes about Demetrius “living that lifestyle” along with the side-eyes and standoffishness. I was old enough to infer that they thought he was doing something wrong but young enough not to know what any of it meant. I just knew that nice people should be treated nicely, and he wasn’t being treated as such, in church of all places. 

By the time things ramped up to full sermons with the topic of the abomination of homosexuality, I was a little older and more well-read. I knew “abominable” meant something utterly awful and quickly pieced together that Demetrius was one of the intended targets of these fiery indictments from the pulpit. The pastor never uttered his name, after all, there’s a cowardice that contradicts the boldly damning conviction with which violently homophobic sermons are delivered.  

Eventually, though his mother continued her annual visits, he stopped coming. A few years later, I heard that he’d passed away. Crushed, I wondered aloud how someone so young could be snatched away (as he was only in his 20s). Instead of commiseration or comfort, my query was met with “Well, had he not been gay…”

All these years later, I think about the ways Demetrius’ life would have been different had the people closest to him loved his whole personhood rather than just his talent. I think of Nigel Shelby, the 15-year-old 9th grader from Huntsville, Alabama who took his own life because of homophobic bullying. I wrestle with how utterly alone they must have felt and the ways they would’ve flourished had they been embraced rather than cast away. I ponder how if adults are scorched by the hate for their queerness, how much more oppressive that heat must feel for a child with little if any agency or control over their environment. 

And the most damning thing in all of this? We’ve grown so accustomed to the narrative of queer individuals, especially children, being shunned by their families, their churches, and their communities that when it doesn’thappen, we’re surprised. Imagine NOT being abusive toward your children being the exception rather than the rule. 

We’ve seen headlines and stories commending the likes of Magic Johnson, Dwyane Wade and their respective families for openly supporting their queer children. But isn’t that what they should be doing anyway? You can almost sense the amazement in coded questions like “How did you come to terms with your child’s sexuality?” 

Simply put: You’re willing to love, support, and be seen publicly with your queer child? How brave! No, as a parent, that’s not only your duty but something I would assume you would delight in. I’m sure any good parent would echo that sentiment.

Loving your child is not revolutionary. But in our othering of queer people, we’ve made it so. And we’ve taught queer people that they are difficult to love, so much so that those who love and support them deserve our praise for undertaking the formidable task.

Love “in spite of”instead of just love. I’m so glad that not every queer person has to go through what so many have but excuse me if I hold my applause and accolades. That valuable energy can be used to make sure we are a place in which our children can find refuge, encouragement and affirmation. They deserve that, to be able to sing, learn and grow without being ostracized. 

Like Nigel, like Demetrius and countless others.

Kinfolk Kollective avatar

Sis, Stop Playing House and Playing Yourself: Any Man Who Really Loves You Will Want to Marry You

Last year, I made a Facebook post that was shared more than 9K times (and copied without credit at least a few hundred more). I ruffled a lot of feathers talking about why marriage is important from a legal and consequently financial standpoint. Surprisingly, it was Black women, who seemed to give the most pushback about marriage, insisting that they didn’t need to be married to secure the financial benefits that marriage provides. The post:

Sis, yes, a marriage certificate is just a piece of paper. So are: *Birth certificates
*Social security cards
*Car titles
*Insurance cards
*Wills But I bet you can’t convince them he don’t need any of those pieces of paper to benefit him like he’s convinced you that you don’t need that “piece of paper” known as a marriage license to benefit you.

The phenomenon of considering marriage merely a commitment based on love is a fairly new one. Marriage has always been intended to be a contract with financial stipulations. The best evidence of this is the dowry men would typically pay to the family of their bride. Men were demonstrating the they could provide for the woman they expected to care for and love them.

This new shit, though? Nah.

Men have convinced so many women that they don’t need to be married to solidify their relationship, but the same women are calling these men their husbands, proving that they really do know that the title matters. No, legal marriage does not automatically translate to a loving, caring, committed relationship. What it does is signify that both partners are making the minimum commitment to securing each other financially.

How can a man convince a woman he loves her, give her multiple children and then not marry her to ensure that minimally she is entitled to social security benefits that will help her make up for his income in the event of his death? How can any man who truly loves a woman not want to provide for her in life and death? How can a man tell you that he doesn’t need the government in his business when it comes to the marriage that will make you eligible for all kinds of health, retirement and legal benefits but have no problem involving the government in his business when he wants an income tax refund?

I’m calling bullshit and I want you to, sis.

If you’ve given your mind, body and soul to a man, and he won’t make sure that you are the one to make any love decisions for him if and when he’s incapacitated and unable to make such decisions for himself, there was no fair exchange. Imagine your man in a coma and you standing at the hospital arguing with his mama about his care when she kindly tells the hospital staff she wants you removed and unable to see the man you’ve spent 10 years nurturing, supporting and loving. And you can’t do shit about it.

Imagine the man you’ve spent energy prepping for interviews, pushed to take classes to increase his earning potential, and nursed back to health when he was sick suddenly dying and his adult daughter brings that same government he told you didn’t need to be involved in your relationship to collect the car that was in his name solely but used by both of you to commute, grocery shop and otherwise handle the business of running the home, leaving you to get on the bus with the three kids he left you to care for alone. And because you were willing to accept less than you deserved, not giving him the ultimatum to either marry you or lose you, you have no legal recourse because his property goes to his next of kin. And, yeah, his grown ass daughter, who never liked you, is that next of kin because y’all spent decades playing house.

Imagine being with a man 30 years and never bothering to get married. Now you’re 65 with a boyfriend who doesn’t take his health seriously and dies suddenly from a heart attack. You’re devastated and call about his life insurance to make the funeral arrangements and his pension of which he named you beneficiary. Then his still legal wife rolls up and shuts all that shit down, sliding off with that hefty insurance check, a monthly pension check (because she’s the beneficiary of that pension legally) and bars you from the funeral.

Now let me nip in the bud the common and delusional defense that one doesn’t need to be married to receive certain benefits because those benefits can be secured by wills. To begin, the average man who ain’t willing to marry a woman he’s spent years with ain’t making a will. And even if he is, that will first contradicts the reasoning of not needing the government in his business since that same government is the entity he’s relying on to enforce that will, and second can easily be contested. Even further, there are certain benefits that cannot be willed away, such as spousal social security benefits which the government administers to legal spouses and retirement benefits which must go to the spouse unless the spouse signs a notarized waiver of their rights to that benefit.

But what about common law marriage, sis? WHAT ABOUT THAT, SMART ASS?

I guess y’all got me there. There are a dozen or so states that recognize common law marriage. But even in those states, you need that same government to declare your relationship a marriage, thus giving it any legal status. And if you’re going to jump through the hoops to have your 15-year cohabitation recognized as a common law marriage, why wouldn’t you just get married?

Just do better for yourself, sis. You think same-sex couples were protesting and fighting for their right to marry and be recognized as legal spouses because it was about love? Nah, they know that piece of paper holds weight and makes them each others’ proxy, beneficiaries and next of kin. Get that piece of paper.

Jessica Louise avatar

Bey More Black: Revisiting Beychella Through the Lens of an HBCU Graduate

“This do in remembrance of me.” -Beyonce, during Holy Week, reminding all y’all knee grows that your HBCU Homecomings now belong to her.

I made the right choice 15 years ago and attended Kentucky State University, home of the Mighty Marching Thorobreds, one of 106 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), to study Political Science and Spanish. Imagine attending a school and the entire student body isthe Black Student Union. Four years on the yard did me good, and in the midst of littering the campus with flyers in protest of a shortage in student housing, organizing clothing drives for Hurricane Katrina survivors, and assuring the President of the University that a sit-in could happen on her front lawn, I joined (AND led AND choreographed) the dance team, the Golden Girlz.

Beyonce performed at Coachella like she was one of us. Like she knew what home was, intimately. Gisele brought her Black ass on one of the largest, whitest platforms and said, “Y’all gon get this Blackness today.” Beyonce had to have gone to K-State with me. 

She swag surfed like it was homecoming week and she had just taken her last midterm without caring how she did. Had the Bug-A-Boo’s lined up like she had studied Greek probates on YouTube after seeing the real deal on campus and wondering how she could be down. Had Coachella smelling like Fried Chicken Wednesdays during campaign week and she had paid out of pocket for the mixed CD that her boyfriend told her he needed to win President of the Student Government Association.

The pride. The work ethic. 

Who else but an alum could perform the way she did? How else could you explain having the vision to curate a show months in advance and convince everyone else to buy in? She danced like she wanted us to remember, like she wanted me and my teammates specifically to remember that our performances happened on land that was bestowed via a land grant. As if she knew my beloved university was atop a hill so that we could enjoy our shows, our education, our rest, hell, our fried chicken, and still keep an eye on any unusual whiteness that might approach us from below.

Beychella was a reminder of what’s waiting for us in the homes if we are intentional about building. That tradition is necessary, and through our shared experiences there is community. Of sisterhood and leadership.

I saw the spirit of Beychella in my teammate who sacrificed her food stamps so the team could have enough items for a bake sale because we needed new uniforms. Beychella reminded us that the Black National Anthem is the only one worth standing for at school, and that we can and will reclaim even the most problematic of anthems and words. That even though our schools, our villages, and our families are surrounded and informed by whiteness, we steer and navigate the mainstream.

And with the accolades and praise, Beychella’s Homecoming triggered the memories that only therapy and prayer could fix. Memories of waking up at 5 am for conditioning when there was a Latin exam at 8 am and the accompanying body-shaming that came with losing enough weight to make cuts. Of homophobia that reared its head when the members of an athletic team assaulted a gay student, and how colorism and respectability lent a hand in the campaign for the university’s queen to rise to her position instead of her court.

Beychella challenged us, a year later, to let go of talking about reparations. To stop being impressed that predominantly-white institutions (PWIs) take surveys on service fees for anticipated and alleged restorative purposes. That we still owe our hearts to Bennett College. That Flint and Puerto Rico deserve our heartache and action. That there is room, on the same stage and in the same body, for Nina Simone and Juvenile. For the Freak List and the Dean’s List. 

With Homecoming, Beyonce tasked us to keep Blackness as a both a guide and a litmus test, holding up the torch that illuminates HBCUs as essential to the soul and the culture.

Kinfolk Kollective avatar

We Don’t Need No Water Let the Motherfucker Burn: On Notre Dame and Mourning Imperialsm

In 10thgrade, my humanities teacher had us read Beloved. After we had read and thoroughly discussed the masterpiece, we took a written test to assess what we’d learned. The test gave five topics for essay questions based on themes in the book. We were to pick and respond to three of the questions.

One of the questions I selected asked us to explore the significance of the house as its own entity. Now this was 22 years ago, and I still vividly remember my teacher lauding that essay because I had mastered how places hold and give life to memories and experiences. Sethe’s house insulated, trapped and stored all of the trauma she had experienced. It was as important a character in the story as anyone else.

Yesterday, as word that Notre Dame was burning spread around the world, I watched some Black people mourn the loss of the monument. A friend remarked how she’d had the opportunity to visit the church a few times on trip’s to Paris and was sad to see it ablaze. Another offered that contrary to a popular critique, one could care about both a fire at Notre Dame and the series of Black churches burned down in Louisiana last week. These two friends are usually keen on racism and colonialism, so I suppose they had separated the church from France’s racist, colonial past and present.

But as with the shack in Beloved, you cannot separate the place and the memories.

Notre Dame is an institution of white supremacy. It has stood for more than 800 years because France has used the same tyrannical, imperialist, destructive tactics as the U.S. to protect its land and monuments while destroying the land and monuments of Black and brown people around the globe. It is the same church where Napoleon Bonaparte, France’s legendary racist emperor was coronated. And that church sits in the capital of the country that nearly two centuries ago bullied Haiti into paying former French slave owners, who following the revolution had “submitted detailed tabulations of their losses to the French government,” for the loss of profits resulting from the successful revolt. Surely Notre Dame has received its fair share of that illegal and immoral payment.

So despite the inclination to appreciate the beauty of the structure and its centuries’ long history independent from the evil it represent, you cannot. Notre Dame is no less a symbol of imperialism than the White House or the Washington Monument. And Black people forging sentimental ties to white supremacist institutions cannot consider themselves anything other than willing agents of white supremacy.

Fruit from the poisoned tree is just as poisoned, even when it pleases us aesthetically. There is no way to detangle the legacy of Notre Dame and all it has endorsed by way of Catholicism and its allegiance to France from the building itself. It’s no different than a victim never again being able to enter the place where they raped. The walls of Notre Dame house all the byproducts of white supremacy.

As Notre Dame burns so do the French soldiers sent to the Central African Republic, a former colony of France – because France was the greatest victor in the Scramble for Africa – on a peacekeeping mission, who instead of restoring peace used their power to sexually abuse Black childrenand escaped any punishment. That cathedral engulfed in flames is tantamount to the Catholic missionaries, revering Notre Dame as a symbol of their faith, who enter Black and brown countries under the guise of helping the poor only to aid and enable the catastrophic pilfering of their land and natural resources by European superpowers. Burn, baby, burn because Notre Dame’s destruction represents the destruction of same institution that protects, coddles and emboldens child molesters.

Ain’t no half revolution. If y’all really want an end to the global white supremacist regime, all this shit is going to have to burn to the fucking ground. And if y’all plan to be standing in the ashes mourning the brick and mortar manifestations of your oppression, then you might as well be honest with yourself and accept that you are endeared to the physical embodiments of white supremacy and thus, assisting in your own demise.

Kinfolk Kollective avatar

Georgetown University: Conversations About Reparations Are Useless

I cannot remember how old I was the first time I heard “40 acres and a mule.” When experiences or expressions are so common in our lives, we often don’t remember ever not knowing them. My current memory tells me that I’ve know the phrase and what it meant for the vast majority of my reading life. But while I don’t remember when I first heard it, I do remember my mother explaining the significance and origins of the saying to me.

I guess, no, I know, that the conversation of reparations is one that I’ve been having since before I was old enough to understand what exactly America was supposed to be repairing. And my experience observing and cataloging, from an early age, the ways in which chattel slavery and all of the systems derived from it mandated this country to make amends to Black people in the only way that it understands, the transfer of assets, is not a unique one. Black people, even Black children, whether we are cognizant of it or not, and whether we have the intellectual capacity and resources to articulate it or not, are always involved in conversations about reparations. Some idea of the debt we are owed and an unequivocal understanding of the debtors is paramount to navigating our existence in this anti-Black world.

So while white and Black-but-white-aligned politicians, liberals and institutions believe that conversations about America paying restitution for its perpetual crimes against Black people as if it is a new topic, or as if Black people’s claim to payment as the capital in the American capitalism are negotiable, I’m tired of talking. Conversation without any clear and direct path to resolution is worthless. America collectively is stalling and pandering, pretending that the logistics are difficult to figure out or that there must be some consensus or that cash payments to the descendants of the enslaved Africans whose hands built America are unrealistic or that the debtors and not the Black people they owe are the appropriate deciders of what reparations looks like.

And there is no better exemplifier of just how America, specifically white liberal America which avoids indication in its complicity in and profiting from the prolific racism it purports to fight, is prepared to have fruitless conversation about reparations for as long as Black people can be lulled by it than Georgetown University. Three years ago, the university admitted that it exists today as a renowned educational institution because of the 1838 sale of 272 enslaved Africans. The sale was organized and sanctioned by “two of Georgetown’s early presidents, both Jesuit priests.” Prior to the sale, the school “relied on Jesuit plantations in Maryland to help finance its operations.” Plainly, Georgetown began, sustained itself as and remains an institution of slavery.

There is definitive, verifiable, archived evidence that the inflated $3.3 million the sale brought in saved the university from financial ruin and logically, closure. But for the irony of priests facilitating the morally reprehensible sale of human beings, the university not only would never have achieved the prominence it now does boasting graduates such as former President Bill Clinton, former SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia, the CEO of JP Morgan and a host of other capitalists groomed there, it would not be at all. Georgetown quite literally owes its existence directly to the institution of slavery.

Here there is no need for debate. A roll of each person sold exists along with the amount profited collectively and individually. Georgetown’s administration has fully admitted that the sale happened and that the profits went to pay off the school’s debts. The university has even issued an apology with a promise to atone.

And still, three full trips around the sun after the admission and verbal acceptance of responsibility, Georgetown has not remunerated the people of the people whose suffering and labor are responsible for their existence. Instead, it met the demands of a group of Black students by having students vote on a $27 per semester tuition increasewhich would go to the descendants of those sold in the sale. The students 58% vote in favor of the increase may be an optical win, perhaps an indication that a majority of the student body is willing to endure minimal sacrifice in the name of what is right, but it is no win when the university still has to mull over whether $27 is too much for nearly two century’s worth of principal and interest on Black bodies.

“With this strong indication from our students, I will engage key leaders in our Georgetown, Descendant, and Jesuit communities and our faculty, board, and student leadership to chart a path forward,” the university’s President’s statementreads. The statement concludes, “Through our work together, with members of our campus community, with Descendants, and with the Society of Jesus, may we find the moral imagination to respond in the best way in which we are capable.”

So then, why was the vote necessary? If Georgetown will only pay reparations and make any plan for those reparations as its administration and gatekeepers see fit, why mimic the American political process and pretend to give the people a say? Why pacify Black students with “engagement” that leads nowhere? What “moral imagination” is required to pay what you owe? When does Georgetown enter collaborative discussions and negotiations with the students, staff and Jesuits to decide whether it should pay its utilities bills or invoices for its office supplies or the salaries of its professors?

It is only when the conversation turns to the obligation to pay for its crimes of dealing in the flesh of Africans that votes, conversations and diplomacy become essential. Only when descendants of those sold are not satisfied with the legacy admission offered as pseudo indemnification – Never mind the fact that telling the descendants of people you sold to save your school that they may enroll and engage in the same capitalist, elitist, racist system that makes reparations necessary in the first place is not reparation! – and expect to be compensated with cash does the university see meetings to deepen “relationships, listen, and seek together a path forward towards reconciliation” fair payment. 

America seems to believe that its acknowledgement of slavery and how it forged an economic empire from it is reparations. Black people are neither enriched nor redeemed by America conceding to what we already know. Reparation is only the transfer of the tangible assets and resources America hoards as a part of its legacy and afterlife of chattel slavery. 

Conversations are for friends, or at least between parties with mutual intentions. Black people and America wholly but white America explicitly and especially ain’t never been friends. And we’ve been having conversations about collecting all 40 acres and our mules since Reconstruction. We don’t want to talk no more. 

Cut the check.