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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.

Kinfolk Kollective avatar

Storytime: The Time My Neighbor Told My Mother I Wanted in Him Sexually…

Get y’all popcorn because I got a story.

Back in 2006, my job paid for me to start learning Spanish. If I became fluent enough to speak to callers who needed translation, it would more money and a promotion. I took those classes seriously because in addition to the fact that they were helping me obtain a marketable skill, I enjoyed them and the instructors praised how quickly I was picking up the language.

One Saturday I was doing homework. I’ve always been like somebody’s old auntie because I cannot stand a lot of loud noise. It was enough that my upstairs neighbors seemed to stomp through their apartment and the wood floors hid none of that sound. But that day, I’m focusing on writing a letter about my summer vacation to my imaginary friend Luis and I start to hear somebody playing bongos upstairs.

Yes, nigga, I said bongos in a fucking apartment.

Now if you’re from DC or have spent any significant time here, you’ll know that the bongos are a staple in go-go music. I recognized the sound immediately and had it not been so absurd, it would’ve been a bop because the nigga could play. But if I wanted a groove, I knew how to go to the go-go. I was not having that shit.

I go upstairs and knock on the door. Now I’m knocking hard because I need this nigga to know I’m serious. He comes to the door in the kufi I’d never seen him without and says, “Hey, what’s up?” Now mind you, my car and his had been broken into the year before, and while we were in the parking lot waiting for the police to make reports, he, his woman, my boyfriend and I talked. After that, we were pretty friendly for a while, but hadn’t talked in months. Still, we didn’t have any animus, so I didn’t see any problems with asking him to turn down the music.

“I’m studying and I can’t focus with the noise,” I said. “Oh, no problem, shorty,” he replied. I said, “Thanks,” and headed back downstairs. He stopped and that was that.

I forgot all about until a couple of weekends later, I was watching TV on a Sunday and once again, this nigga was playing the bongos. I’m thinking, “Did this nigga think I meant the noise was just unacceptable that day?” I hike up the stairs and knock. He ignores me this time. I go back downstairs and bang on the ceiling with the broom. He continues.

Monday morning, I hit the property manager who loved me and tell her, “Ms. Thelma, this motherfucker was paying bongos upstairs twice.” She said, “Who?” I tell her and she informs me — because you know older Black women always fucking spilling tea — that ain’t no man on the lease. It’s just his woman.

Me finding out this nigga ain’t even a tenant.

Manager calls a meeting with me, the leaseholder and their next door neighbor since she had apparently complained about his ridiculous ass as well. His woman brings him anyway. Now I neglected to tell y’all that in addition to that kufi which was well past its glory days, this nigga always had on a pair of sweat pants that hit just below the shin. He had a beard that showed all the signs of neglect and I’d never seen him without beads of sweat dripping down his oily ass face. He wasn’t particularly ugly, but he was a hot fucking mess.

We get into the meeting and I say plainly that it is ridiculous for him to believe that he can play drums inside an apartment. She says, “They’re bongos.” I say, “They’re fucking percussion instruments, and this ain’t no music festival.” The meeting devolved into arguing and I left. He never played the bongos again and they moved out a few months later.

Well, I also forgot to tell y’all that this man was around my mother’s age and one day when my mother came to visit, she saw him and they figured out they knew each other in passing from the neighborhood they’d grown up in. So years later, maybe 7, my mother calls me and says, “Shay, I saw Mustafa at the casino. He kept staring at me from the other table, so I waved.” I’m listening like, “Why she telling me about this nigga?”

BITCH! She drops the bombshell continuing, “Do you know he walked over and asked, ‘You the girl who used to live downstairs mother, right?'” Now y’all don’t know my mother, but just know I get my clapback skills and take-no-shit attitude from her. “You know that’s my damn baby.” This nigga proceeds to tell my mother, the woman who spent 66 hours in labor to push out my 9-pound, chocolate, cute ass, the woman who knows me better than anyone, “You know your daughter wanted me.” My mother replies, “Wanted you how?” Ol’ oily culotte sweats says, “Sexually.”

Baby, now I wasn’t there, but my mother told me and I believe she went in. From what I recall — and I called her before typing this to confirm my memory served me as well as it usually does — she told that nigga, “Motherfucker, my daughter wouldn’t touch you with somebody else’s pussy. She had a boyfriend then and he was her age and fine. The fuck she want witcho old bamma ass? Get the fuck on, Mustafa!”

Kinfolk Kollective avatar

Black People Adopt, So Stop Blaming Us for White People Being Allowed to Adopt Black Children

One night in November 1989, I woke to a baby screaming in my house. I was only 7, and thought I had to have been dreaming since the only children who lived in my house were me and my 9-year-old sister. But the screaming persisted.

I rolled over and saw that my sister was not in her bed sleeping. I saw light coming from my mother’s room and heard her barking orders as only she does. “Go bring me a plastic bag to tie this diaper up in,” she instructed. I realized there was a baby in our house.

I remember looking at the clock as I stumbled confused and sleepy into my mother’s room. It was 12:09 AM. I stood in my mother’s doorway watching her try to soothe a pale baby with a head full of black curls. She looked up and said, “Hey, boo,” as if she didn’t need to explain why a newborn suddenly appeared in our home.

I learned that the baby belonged to a friend of my mother’s, one I’d never even met. She was a crack addict who was in prison. When the baby was born, her mother refused to take the child and social services had been called to come place the newborn in foster care. His mother called my mother begging her to take the baby because she did not want her son with strangers.

My mother obliged, deciding to completely change her life and the lives of her two children by bringing home a two-day-old baby to stay with us indefinitely.

That baby is now a man who turned 29 last year. He was neither the first nor the last child to come live with us. My sister and both of my parents have told me the story of how a toddler came to stay with us for months because her parents were sleeping outside with her and my mother asked if they needed help. Our downstairs neighbor was strung out on crack and her daughter came to live with us for two years. A god sister stayed with us for several months while her mother got back on her feet. The daughter of a friend of the family lived with us for an entire year when her home was not the safest place.

My mother taking in children, often without any financial support, and always without any state knowledge or approval, was the norm. Whether she realized it or not, she has always had a motivating sense of community, an extraordinary empathy for children that made her decisions to step in and care for them when their parents could not easy. And she was not exactly an anomaly in my community.

I recall several classmates who lived with grandparents, cousins or non-blood related loved ones. In my own neighborhood, there was a woman whose home served as an informal group home, housing several children whose parents had fallen victim to the crack epidemic that wreaked havoc on Black families in the 80s. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Black family without a story of a grandmother who took on the task of raising her own grandchild as her own because the mother was too young, irresponsible and unstable to take care of the child.

So when I hear that Black people formally adopting Black children is the solution to the very real problem of Black children being adopted by white families whose motives can never be fully trusted and are too often revealed to be duplicitous, I know that the anti-Black conditioning that white supremacy so desperately depends on is working just as it is intended. 

White people do whatever they want. These systems, social, financial and political, are not only owned by them but constructed for their exclusive benefit. Not only do they have the means to decide the fate of Black children, but they have the systemic power behind their decisions. 

Accordingly Black people attempting to formally adopt children won’t solve the issue of white women like the Harts murdering the Black children they’re allowed to adopt and abuse or white couples who adopt a Black toddler and leave her to die in a sweltering car because the problem is not one of the availability of eager, adequate Black foster or adoptive parents but one of the insidious, exploitive, relentless, systemic and systematic methods of white supremacy. 

If we acknowledge that white people are privileged in all systems, why then, would we assume that they are not privileged in the adoption/foster care system? How can we be sure that white people receive preferential treatment in hiring, college admissions and the justice system, but then allow anti-Blackness to make us believe that Black children are being adopted by white people who minimally are too ignorant, too idealistic and too fucking white to ever raise Black children who have the self-awareness crucial to navigate their Black existence and at most covert racists who use their unchecked access to Black children to punish and torture the most vulnerable members of our community because Black people aren’t stepping up to raise abandoned or orphaned Black children? Let us dig deep and question why we ignore our experiences having watched our mothers, aunts and grandparents raise other people’s children to spout anti-Black bullshit about how if Black people are sick of white people adopting Black children we should do it.

By the very nature of the community we were forced into first as the subjects and victims of chattel slavery and now as the descendants of the enslaved and the victims of the afterlife of slavery, Black people have always had to take collective responsibility for the children in the community without the sanction of the white supremacist government which most often is the reason families are broken and children left without parents. When mothers and fathers of were sold off to other plantations, forced to leave behind their children, it was other Black women and men who become surrogate parents, guiding, feeding and caring for these children. It was this same sense of community that got Black people through the financially wretched 20thcentury as we fed hungry children whether we knew them or not, passed down clothing and allowed children we may never even have met to come live with us because all we knew is that they were too young to take care of themselves and had no one else.

And it was the same breed of white people who some of us are now foolishly and coonishly praising for adopting Black children who retreated to the safety of their communities knowing that Black children were in need. And it was from that same breed of white people who we learned that our informal adoption of our community’s children was insufficient despite centuries of it sustaining and protecting our children. And it the same white people who still create and maintain systems that are inspired by and somewhat mimic chattel slavery who we are looking to with the expectation that they be fair in deciding whether Black people are fit stand-ins for parentless children.

Never mind all of the school secretary who knows that a student’s mother is strung out and his father is in jail, and that he lives with his aunt who doesn’t want the state knowing because they will come in and disrupt the child’s life unnecessarily and potentially remove him from the family he is safest with, so she guides auntie through alternative paperwork she can accept to register the child for school. Let’s forget about all the barely legal sisters and brothers who give up their own apartments to go live in the homes of their mothers and take care of their siblings when their mothers are unavailable or unfit. Who cares if Black mothers are taking in the friends of their children whose own parents cannot or will not properly care for them?

Where’s the formal adoption, right? Because that de jure adoption where the state and a for-profit agency (which charges you fees well into the thousands of dollars) and not the de facto adoptions which are absent the paperwork and government approval but not the love, affection and guidance needed to care for a child is all that matters, right? The only way Black people can stop white people from adopting Black children they do not have the means, ability or interest to raise is for us to go through a system that routinely and perpetually discriminates against us and that will surely continue to operate from the belief that white parents are always a better fit for Black children than Black parents, right?

Black people adopt. We always have. We will certainly continue to take in children who need us formally or not.

Now instead of simple, anti-Black, myopic retorts about us adopting our own as a means to stop white people from adopting our children, how about we start examining the business of Black children and how there is an entire industry which depends on our children being forced into a system? And how about we start assisting Black people fostering Black children? And how about we leave the blame for white people’s racist adoption motivations where it belongs? And that’s with their white asses and their systems.

Kinfolk Kollective avatar

Getting My Eyebrows Waxed Convinced Me to Leave an Abusive Reationship

For years, I walked around with my eyebrows on caterpillar: furry, wild and seemingly creeping across my face. I didn’t start going for manicures and pedicures regularly until I was 20, so part of the reason was I just never realized having your brows arched was a thing. The other part, the more relevant part, is that I had watched too many women have theirs waxed and was certain the pain wasn’t worth it.

Then one day, I went with a friend who’d been badgering me to have my brows waxed for years. “You got nice brows naturally, so I know when you get them waxed, it’ll set it off.” Well, a compliment will motivate, so I finally decided to do it.

I sat down in the chair and tried to play it cool. I’d watched many women having theirs done and they didn’t cry or indicate they were in pain, so it couldn’t be that bad, right? Wrong. THAT SHIT HURT!

Each time she slathered that hot wax on my brows and gently pressed down the strips, I frowned up my face. “You have to relax, baby,” she said. I would relax and she would yank it off, quickly pressing her finger on the place where she’d just ripped the hair from its roots. After six rounds of wax and rip, she used a brush to smooth out my brows and I loosened my clenched butt cheeks because it was finally over.

Or was it? She then used tweezers to pluck away those stubborn, wayward hairs that the wax didn’t catch. Though it wasn’t as painful as the waxing, each hair pulled annoyed me and had me wondering if this shit would ever end.

Finally, she brushed each brow once more, sat down the brush and picked up a mirror. She held it in front of me and said, “You like?” I opened my eyes to examine her work. I finally understood why women tolerate the pain of waxing because that short procedure was like cosmetic surgery. My brows were perfect and I looked gorgeous. From that day, I was in that chair at least once a month, every three weeks if necessary.

Just a few months later, leaving the salon after having my brows arched – looking and feeling especially pretty – a man approached me in the parking lot. “You are so gorgeous,” he said. I typically would’ve thanked him and rushed to my car, but today, his compliment affirmed me and he wasn’t bad on the eyes, so I smiled and said, “Am I?” He chuckled and sparked a conversation that ended with us exchanging numbers.

We began dating quickly and each time I’d get my brows done, he’d gush over how gorgeous I looked. He was usually complimentary anyway, but those times when I’d see him right after an appointment, he made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. It was blissful.

And then it wasn’t. Just three months into our relationship, he said something to annoy me, and I began playing on my phone ignoring him. “LaSha, you don’t hear me talking to you?” he asked with the kind of base in his voice that told me he believed I owed him a response. I continued ignoring him as he ranted about being disrespected. Before I knew it, he was standing over me.

It was threatening, so I attempted to stand up from the couch when he immediately pushed me back down and started choking me. I only remember punching at him to get him to stop because I couldn’t breathe. He let up after maybe 10 seconds, but I didn’t. I couldn’t believe this man had just choked me. I kept punching him and he grabbed both hands. I wiggled loose and headed straight for my kitchen to find a knife to stab him because I couldn’t beat him, but he was going to learn. He ran out of my front door before I could come back and leave him with a permanent reminder of why he could never put his hands on me again.

A few days passed with no communication. I didn’t tell anyone, not my mother or any of my friends. I was embarrassed and hurt. But more than anything, I was mourning the loss of what I thought would be true love.

On the fifth day, he called me. I ignored the call but hurriedly listened to the voicemail he left apologizing. “Please, baby,” he ended his plea. I listened to the message a dozen times. His seeming loving appeal to me to give him another chance and understand that he would never make that mistake again incinerated the anger and hurt I’d been consumed with since the fight.

And after a couple more calls begging, I took him back. For three weeks, it was once again blissful. I had all but forgotten the manic look in his eyes as he stood over me constricting my air way, violently squeezing my throat. We were back where we started.

Then one day, we had an argument in Target. I had driven my car, so I angrily left to walk to my car, leaving my full basket. He followed behind me saying nothing. We got in the car and I drove off in silence. I turned on the music. He began talking about how I didn’t have to storm out and I turned up the music to max volume to tune him out. He reached over and turned down the music and told me I was being disrespectful. I told him not to touch shit in my car and turned the music back to the max. He then ejected my CD and threw it out of the window. I pulled over and told him to get out and we had a full fight in my car.

He eventually exited my vehicle and I drove home trembling with anger. And days passed. More days than the first time. Then he called again and began the same song. This time I didn’t answer for days because I was done. But by the second week when the calls went from several per day to one a day, I answered. I forgave and we were right back to dating. It felt like before.

The cycle continued. At first we would fight and breakup every month or so. Then every two weeks. And the reconciliation was the same almost every time.

One day right after we had made up from a fight that ended with him taking and throwing my house keys in the woods, he accompanied me to have my brows waxed. There was a sister there having a manicure. She and I began chatting and she said, “I don’t know how y’all take that,” as the tech was applying the third coat of wax.” I replied, “Girl, I used to be like that, too, but I got used to the pain. It’s not so bad now. Plus I get so many compliments for weeks after I get them waxed.”

And a light bulb went off in that salon. And when I was done, I looked at that nigga who came with me to have my brows wax a few days after he had disregarded my safety and peace of mind for the 10th time, and I wanted to vomit. After I was done, I asked him to run down the liquor store and buy me a scratch ticket. When he was out of view, I crept to my car pulled off and blocked his number.

I couldn’t stop running through my mind how for years before I couldn’t imagine the pain of enduring eyebrow waxing much like I could never have imagined laying in bed with a man who physically abused me. I pondered how much like I began to crave the pain of having my brows waxed because I knew after I would love how I looked, I began to crave the next time he would hit me because I knew that a week or so later he would be on best behavior to win me back. I loved how the compliments strangers heaped on me when my brows were fresh made me feel much like I loved how this man’s begging me to take him back after he’d choked or slapped me, or destroyed some piece of my property made me feel. I was willing, eager even, to take the pain of both because I needed what was on the other side.

But unlike how freely I discussed my eyebrows and the process I went through to bring them to their perfectly arched glory, I never told a soul about the abuse I suffered in order to have a boyfriend who doted on and pedestaled me publicly. I alway fought that motherfucker back. I had bloodied his lip, bitten him, pulled back his finger until it screamed for me to let it go, threw shit at him, and physically defended myself from a man. I was not a victim because I protected myself. And being a victim was something to be ashamed of, so I massaged my ego and lulled myself with he knowledge that I didn’t just let him beat my ass. I came from strong women. How could I tell them that I’d been weak enough to not only not stab that nigga the first time like I was taught, but also keep letting him come back to abuse me more and more?

And until this very moment, I hadn’t told of the abuse in this relationship. I just told those who knew we were together that I tired of him. Once he realized I’d left him, he called me 40 times. He left so many messages that it filled my voicemail. I never listened. I was done. Now I’m done with being ashamed about it. I’m as strong as any woman I know, but strength ain’t a vaccine. Any of us can fall victim but rise survivor.

But unlike that relationship that I abandoned once I realized what I was giving up for a two or three weeks of what I believed was happiness, I ain’t giving up my brow waxing. That pain is necessary, a minor inconvenience which produces results far outweighing its cost. And besides, I probably owe my life to these brows because that epiphany from the waxing chair quite possibly saved my life.

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On RHOA: Being a Good Friend Does Not Mean Allowing Yourself to Be Abused

Porsha Williams, Andy Cohen and Nene Leakes on pt 1 of the RHOA reunion

I’ve been watching Real Housewives of Atlanta for 11 seasons now. Over the years, as cast members have rotated in and out, gotten divorced, changed wigs, had babies, gotten married and had a number of cosmetic procedures, the one constant on the show has been Nene Leakes abusive form of “friendship.” From her allegedly choking fellow cast member Kim Zolciak (a well-earned fate considering Kim’s racist, disrespectful bullshit) to her decade-long manipulation and abuse of her alleged good girlfriend Cynthia Bailey to her violent argument with her “little sister” Porsha Williams, Leakes has spent the past 11 years demonstrating that emotional abuse is not a phenomenon reserved only for romantic or parental relationships.

This season, Leakes turned up her gaslighting, verbally abusive antics to the max as she consistently used the fact that her husband is battling colon cancer to demand that her friends accept her violent, obnoxious, self-centering toxic behavior. Earlier in the season we saw her curse out new cast member Tanya Sam because Tanya, who Nene introduced as her friend, dared to call a pair of glasses she’d purchased from Nene’s boutique “low fashion.” After telling Tanya she couldn’t stand “ignorant shit” and spending several segments of her confessional insulting Tanya, Nene pretended she had no problems with her alleged friend when Tanya confronted her. At least two more times in the season Nene berated and humiliated Tanya who seemed eager to please her and maintain a friendship.

After last season’s epic argument with Porsha where Nene opportunistically defended Kandi — for the first time suspiciously in the same season Nene was set to serve as the MC on Kandi’s tour with Xscape — Nene and Porsha seemed to be back on track. That is until Porsha and Kandi entered Nene’s bedroom closet against her repeated objection and the situation reportedly ended with Nene making threats to both women. After both Kandi and Porsha accepted responsibility for their part in the matter and apologized, it seemed as if all was forgotten. Then Nene opted out of attending Porsha’s gender reveal party using the excuse that Porsha never supports her, despite the fact that Porsha was at Nene’s house for a dinner party, surprised her in Miami by coming to her comedy show and attended the Destin trip Nene hosted. When confronted by Porsha about why she didn’t show up to her baby shower, Nene first said it was because she was in Vancouver filming a TV show, then that Porsha didn’t support her only to continue deflecting when Porsha named all the times she’d shown support to Nene. 

Even Nene’s supposed closest friends, Marlo and Cynthia, did not escape her abuse. After Marlo left a hair appointment and drove frantically to Nene’s house an hour away at the request of Nene’s husband Greg who was in the hospital and asked Marlo to check on his wife because she was crying and extremely upset, Nene refused to even open the door for Marlo. When Marlo showed up to a party at Nene’s house the next day, Nene first insulted her outfit before telling Marlo not to fight with her about why she didn’t open the door and just be there for her. She burst into tears after being insulting and disrespectful to a friend who cared enough to drop everything and drive an hour to be with her. 

Cynthia, who has been the most loyal and consistent to Nene out of all the castmates over the past 10 seasons, was accused of setting Nene up because Cynthia decided to have Kenya Moore, whom Nene no longer likes and tried desperately to bait into an argument,  to an event. Nene all but demanded Cynthia explain why she didn’t clear it with Nene that a woman she was no longer friends with was invited to Cynthia’s event. Nene also threw shade at Cynthia’s relationship and continued to state that she was allowed to have an opinion about Cynthia’s relationship when asked why she said Cynthia’s social media display with her man seemed “insecure.”

Nene Leakes is exhausting. She takes no accountability for anything and hides behind “I can do what I want” whenever she’s confronted about her behavior. To make matters worse, Leakes is rarely if ever given the kind of blunt, brutal reads she deserves. Yes, she’s probably strapped with the financial, emotional and physical burdens of taking care of an ill spouse. That is certainly nothing to minimize or trivialize. But the fact that she is in a space where she needs love and support from friends does not give her license to say and do whatever she wants while requiring her friends to endure her repugnant behavior, saying nothing, under the guise of being there for her. And it certainly should require her to demonstrate the kind of kindness and gentleness she expects to receive.

Being there for a friend in such a situation is reaching out daily to see what they need. Being there for a friend is bringing over meals because you know they’re too tired to cook. Being there for a friend is sitting with her in the hospital waiting room while her husband is in surgery. Being there for a friend is coming over to help her clean, take care of her sick partner or just sit and shoot the shit. Being there for a friend is defending your friend against slander. Being there for a friend is showing up to your friend’s events when the invitation is extended.

But being there for a friend, even one going through such a traumatic life experience as having a partner battling an often fatal disease, does not require you to sit and take that friend mocking you. It does not require you to repeatedly ignore or forgive that friend’s mistreatment because she’s going through so much. It does not require you to constantly apologize every time that friend falls back on her husband’s condition to play the victim despite her aggressions. It does not require you to always be the bigger person as that friend immaturely posts barely veiled insults about you on social media. It does not require you to bite your tongue, shrink and kiss ass.

Nene has been allowed to run amok on that show, always pretending she is above reproach, feigning innocence or outright lying when confronted about her bullshit and using her reputation to force her opponents into submission. I’ve watched her take full advantage of Cynthia’s emotions and Porsha’s fondness for her. She’s been free to center herself in important moments in the lives of others like Eva’s wedding and Cynthia’s launch party. I’ve seen her endear herself to women on that show by being kind to them, providing a shoulder to cry on when they need it most and giving them advice, only to turn around and betray their trust, talk greasy about them and align herself with their enemies. And I’ve watched too many of the ladies on that show take her bullshit because they’ve fallen for her lies about demanding loyalty or allowed her guilt trips about all she’s done for them make them feel like she has enough redeeming qualities to be worth all the crushing negative energy she brings. (I suspect this is why she and Kandi have never been too close because Kandi has always refused to be her whipping post.)

But the truth is she is obsessed with being exalted and lionized. The adoration, absolute obedience and constant defense of her from her castmates is an intoxicant. She needs it. She craves it. She employs whatever methods to extract it. Nene Leakes waves her “friendship” around like its gold, threatening to take it away or downgrade it at the slightest inkling that a friend is not always prepared to lie down and allow her to step on them.

Friendship is not supposed to be that much work. You choose your friends. You should most often leave interactions with them feeling good. You should not always be putting their feelings before your own. You should not be willing to be humiliated for the sake of saving a friendship. You should not be willing to be a constant target of a friend’s anger and venom. Friendship should not exhaust you.

And friends don’t keep their tragedy, trials and tribulations in their pocket always ready to pull them out to escape accountability for their immoral, disloyal or inappropriate actions. So if being there for any friend means that you can’t ever express how their behavior is hurting you because you always have to prioritize how that friend’s situation may be driving her to be a mean, disrespectful, envious, hateful bitch, perhaps you should evaluate the purpose of friendship. It should be enjoyable and fulfilling but most of all mutual.

Abuse is not normal nor is it acceptable to overlook in the interest of the abuser. Take stock of your friendships. Weigh the costs and benefits. Then ask yourself if any friendship is worth your dignity and peace.

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Rachel Dolezal and the Edges Karma Destroyed

Getting braids is a rite of passage for Black women. Most of us can remember the excitement of having our hair braided with synthetic hair for the first time. For some of us, we get our first set of cornrows in a cute little style at 7-years-old. Others of us first get box braids for our middle school promotional ceremony. Still some of us reach early adulthood before we first sit in that chair until our butts are numb for a a braided hairstyle that is heavy in both weight and cultural significance.

For as much as society attempts to change the narrative, braids belong to Black people. We are the only appropriate models for braids, the rightful owners, the proper wearers. And among Black people, Black women are the experts, the preservers, progressors, innovators, presenters, inspirers, adorners and guards of the cultural phenomenon of hair braiding. Box braids, cornrows, twists, crochets and all other styles of braiding created and connected to Africa are synonymous with Black women.

And for the past few years, Black women, the vanguards of braiding, have been forced to watch as a charlatan in Blackface profits from and disrespects our culture. Rachel Dolezal spent years stealing employment and other opportunities from actual Black women. Since being exposed, she’s continued to receive publicity and opportunities that should be reserved for Black women. The most notable of these revolve around some branding her as an authority on Black hair.

“She is an expert in black hair, both as a practical matter and as a subject of academic inquiry,” a Vanity Fair article ludicrously contended just a month after she was revealed to be pretending to be Black. Yes, a Black woman penned an article for a white publication affirming that a white woman who made a living pretending to be a Black woman is an expert on the Black hair that will never grow from her roots. The qualifications and applications of her expertise? “…Dolezal says she is surviving on one of the skills she perfected as she attempted to build a black identity. At Eastern Washington University, she lectured on the politics and history of black hair, and she says she developed a passion for taking care of and styling black hair while in college in Mississippi. That passion is now what brings in income in the home she shares with Franklin. She says she has appointments for braids and weaves about three times a week.”

And it doesn’t end there. In 2016, Isis Brantley, a Dallas-based braider who fought a two-decade long legal battle to “deregulate the hair braiding industry in Texas,” booked Dolezal to headline a natural hair rally. In February of this year, legendary Black hair care company Bronner Bros. reposted a video of Dolezal giving a “tutorial” showing a “method for thin/fine ends to keep ends in the braid” to their Instagram account saying Dolezal was displaying an excellent use of one of their products despite the fact that Dolezal was instructing people to use lip balm to keep their hair from slipping.

Now after much uproar from the Black women who buy their products, Bronner Bros. deleted the post. But the larger issue is the very Black women who built up these brands and braiders being completely discarded to endorse this white woman masquerading as one of us. And until now, it seemed that there would be no redemption for Black women disgusted with the embrace and continued promotion of this white woman who believes she has a place in any conversation about our hair.

But this week, as a photo of Dolezal in court facing charges of welfare fraud surfaced, – Here is your welfare queen, America! – we were redeemed. Dolezal stood before the court in braids, still refusing to stop appropriating Black culture. Her middle finger to Black women would have been infuriating had not the biggest baddest bitch of us all had the last laugh.

That’s right, karma taught her the lesson none of us could, as she stood there looking like a Klingon, her hairline starting at her ears because despite her delusional claims of metaphysical and spiritual Blackness, she ain’t one of us. Black girls not only learn early about the importance of protecting our edges, but we also learn about how the tension of braids will pull your edges out. We also have hair that is quite literally built for this shit!

Is it Rachel? Is it a Klingon? The word may never know.

The reason white hair falls out with braids is because braiding was developed by Africans for Black hair. Our ancestors crafted this art for our kinks and coils. These are our crowns. And crowns don’t fit heads they weren’t made for.

She can imitate Black people all she wants. She can try to darken her skin, wear Black hairstyles, imitate Black speak and employ whatever other means she believes will legitimize her “spiritual” Blackness. What she cannot imitate, recreate or produce is our hair. She cannot manipulate her DNA to produce the texture of hair meant to hold braids. She cannot change force her hair to not be too oily to hold onto a box braid. She won’t ever have the fucking range.

And for now, that will have to be our consolation. We can’t stop the coons from welcoming her and bestowing some ridiculous notion of honorary Blackness on her. We can’t stop Netflix from documenting her scamming ass. We can’t stop her from making a mockery of Black oppression, pain, tradition and existence. But we can and damn sure will laugh our asses off as her hairline recedes further and further.

Take solace in the fact that she is in edge purgatory and headed straight for baldness.

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Press Record: Nipsey Hussle and Desensitizing Black Death

Courtesy IG

One night when I was about 6, I couldn’t sleep. My older sister and I shared a room. My bed was next to the wall with the windows and something told to look out the window. That night, I watched three men rob and murder a man directly in front of our building.

There were five gunshots. Petrified and paralyzed, I didn’t scream or jump. I just watched as the man’s body was pierced with bullets. The blood poured out of him as hit the ground. The shots woke my sister and parents. I pretended they had jolted me awake as well. I’ve never told my mother or sister what I witnessed that night. In fact, I’ve only told two of my closest friends.

Thankfully, I never witnessed another murder, but I saw a half dozen more dead bodies. A dead Black body.

I lived in the projects for the first 12 years of my life, most of that during the height of the crack epidemic. Scorched in my retina are the images of dead bloodied bodies in the grass, on the sidewalk and in the street. The police never considered shielding Black communities, even innocent children, from the horror of Black death exhibited, demonstrated and memorialized by mutilated, bullet-riddled Black bodies.

I suppose one of the most covert yet essential ways in which racism functions is to normalize our suffering and remind us that our deaths are as meaningless as our lives. What more powerful way to impress this lesson on the most irrefutable subjects of this deadly 400-year-experiment than to force us to watch as rigor mortis sets in Black bodies and blood drys on cement?

But now, in the age where a camera is always in arm’s reach, we don’t have to wait for the next body to drop in the poorest, most crime-ridden of our communities to convene at the site of the tragedy and watch up close. Now, we can open our laptops or unlock our phones to view Black death. This weekend, LA rapper Nipsey Hussle became the latest cast member in the saga.

The rapper was gunned down outside his Los Angeles store Sunday afternoon. Before an announcement that he had succumbed to his injuries, a video began to circulate online of paramedics attending to an unresponsive Nipsey. I watched the video because a follower deciding to post it in the comments section of a post I made about him without a trigger warning and FB auto-played the triggering video.

What does it say that even in the greatest times of tragedy, our first instinct is not to mourn or stand solemn but to record and upload footage of a person dying? How are we served by watching EMTs try to revive this man? Why have we become so obsessed with the fleeting fame of social media that trauma does not trigger our sympathy or tears but urges us to pull out our phone and permanently preserve the monstrous memory of a man’s life slipping away?

A simple google search using the appropriate keywords will bring up pictures of Mike Brown’s dead, bloody body baking in the August sun. Another search will yield clear, nauseating photos of Philando Castille’s lifeless body in the passenger of a car, and if you’re feeling especially apathetic, the full video of his murder is readily accessible online, having been catalogued for no other reason than to remind Black people that we are never more than a traffic stop away from death. And now, a scroll on Twitter or IG may offer video of Nipsey’s Hussle’s last moments.

The problem with the kind of racist and intracommunal violence we suffer is not one of disbelief. Without pictures or video of Black people being murdered or dead Black bodies, the accounts are no less believable. The internet’s shrine to violent Black death is not necessary to legitimize our suffering. We know the results of this system’s genocidal plan of action.

The singular impetus for capturing and releasing these images into the world forever is to ensure that all people are desensitized to Black death and trauma. Now these images are at the fingertips of most of the world to make certain that at all times, it is clear that Black people, bodies and life are so worthless, such fit recipients of painful, violent expiration, such appropriate subjects for dehumanization, degradation and humiliation that us meeting our ultimate demise is worthy click bait. We are not even allowed the respect in death.

And too often the cameramen and directors behind this trauma porn are our own. We are the ones posting this nightmarish media to our profiles without even enough regard to post a trigger warning. It is Black people assaulting the psyches and morale of other Black people with visible impressions of slaughter.

So if we cannot even be gentle with and mindful of our own emotional health, enough so that even if we do not abandon the urge to record these moments, we think enough of one another not to post, share and promote them, then it is certain that the task of convincing not just everyone else but also Black people that neither our lives nor our deaths matter is complete.