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    Sunday
    Mar092014

    Dear Sebastian: [an open letter] 

    *this is our attempt to publicly name an incident that may impact other people and communities down the line.

    Dear Sebastian, 

    We're writing you an open letter because it's important for us to vocalize the ways we've been mistreated by you over the last several months. Silence, the desire to appear perfect or flat out pretending like things are okay when they aren't are not the way bklyn boihood has ever rolled through anything. So, we're taking a huge risk by publicly articulating where we're at with all of this because call out cultures are so damn messy. But then, so is life.
    Everyone deserves the opportunity to let their light shine. We're grateful bklyn boihood was that space for you. We're also sad (really more disappointed) that you shitted on our space and work for your own gain. This note is our attempt to be transparent about an experience that could impact other people and groups down the line.

    You stole (a lot of) money from us and that sucks.

    The money we use to travel, make merch, support other orgs/people's work, to feed volunteers, to deposit venues, keep our web presence going, to give honorariums to collaborators (notice how none of this involves our personal pockets)--all of it--gone.
    It wasn't until we tried to use our money that we found out it was all gone. Yes, you paid it back--mostly. But guess what? It wasn't a loan so the story CAN'T end there. 
    None of us are wealthy (or even stable half the time). We all "work" for bklyn boihood without getting paid and none of us are confused about how much energy, effort and time it takes to drive something that isn't built for profit--it's built because we all need to feel human, present, visible and not alone.
     
    We've talked a LOT in closed spaces with you. Together we shared our love, shared our disappointment and tried to make plans with you to correct your actions. You clearly didn't give a damn as you decided to not show up to the ONLY thing we asked you to do for free.
    So here we are. After the frustration, tears, efforts to cover your absence and our lack of resources, we give up. We'd rather struggle through the present with integrity than continue to try to excuse your actions in silence. 

    With that we'll say: Good luck Black man. May you course-correct, embody the REAL tenets of self-care outside of the clothes and bags of weed our money bought you. Most of all, we hope you learn to love yourself into being worth struggling honestly for.

    With love + a clear line drawn in the sand, 
    the bois
    Saturday
    Mar012014

    Bad Ass Bois: Meet X Powers

    One of the most important things we can do is uplift and share the word and presence of bois of color all around us. Meet X Powers. 

    I would like the world to know that the best is yet to come from me and that I plan to make history and make this world a better day every day of my life. -X Powers

     

    To be a boi to me is to be a woman who is a fighter, and, she may also be attracted to other women. She is a warrior at all times. She is a chief.  She is in touch with both her masculine and feminine side. She loves the motherland and tries to maintain family bonds. She is bold, black, beautiful and fierce. She is unapologetic but can smiultaneously admit wrong and apologize if necessary. She is true to herself.  A mother, father, sister, brother in one. She loves her people. She is a rebel. She is swag. She is a genius. She is love and brute at the same time. She is spiritual. She is powerful. She is human.

    Bois are complex, beautiful people with stories. So we thought it was important to continue sharing individuals who are redefining what it means to be a boi.

    About X Powers

    My life is in a very interesting time right now. I am evolving from a very life changing event and feel like this chapter in my life will be one of the best. Right now, I am a Business Development Associate for an independent film business that specializes in African American short films called CEI Media Partners which is affiliated with Clarendon Entertainment. 

    Film is my life goal and I am very fortunate  to work with a group of talented superviors who believe in me.  When I am not working on those projects work a variety of jobs to fill in when the projects are over. At this moment I am a consultant at the Sauti Center for African Women. For much of my life I have been active in organizations that promote the rights of people of color and members of the LGBTQ community.  As an activist, I have been involved in many different movements as a marcher but mostly documenting the  Occupy Wall Street movement, Stop Stop and Frisk, The New Jim Crow End to Mass Incarceration and Think Outside the Cell and I have attended actions for Ramarley Graham, Slutwalk and other actions regarding law enforcement.

    I am a member of the People's Survival Program, African Ancestral Lesbians United for Societal Change, Black Women's Blueprint and the Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai International as a Young Women's Division member. I am a friend to many activist organizations including People's Justice for Community Control and Police Accountability and the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition  ( A. N. S. W. E. R. ) and Women Organized to Resist and Defend (W.O.R.D.) Last year I organized a LGBT stop and frisk discussion at City college.

    My desire for social justice is my passion and my poetry-much of it that deals with social justice will be featured in the October 2014 publication Sinister Wisdom Lesbians in Exile thanks to Joan Nestle, the co-founder of the Lesbian Herstory archives. My work can also be found in a book published in December of last year called No Limits: A Book of Poems on Life's Lessons, Changing the World, Love, Loss, Spirituality and Self Esteem and my photos have been recently covered by photographer Kristy Boyce and will be featured in her What Dyke Look Like portrait anthology exhibit and book. 

    Having a supportive community means the world to me. I have found that the organizations that I have teamed up with in the fight for the liberation of disenfranchised people have very supportive. I especially thankful for the support of The A.N.S.W.E.R.  Coalition, A.A.L.U.S.C. and People's Justice. The members of all of those organizations have been very supportive of me. Additionally, my mother and father have always been supportive. Protective of me, but supportive. I have a wonderful family that has my back and for that I am very fortunate and thankful. --

    We're so grateful to have met with X Powers, to work with them on our 2014 bklyn boihood calendar and to be a part of such a dope-ass community of bois. 

    Know someone who should be featured here? Email us: info@bklynboihood.com.

    Saturday
    Mar012014

    Our L.O.C.S Symposium Presentation

    For the 3rd year, bklyn boihood went up to Harvard Law School to participate in the LOCS Symposium (Lesbians of Color Symposium). Since our first presentation there, our work and vision has tremendously expanded. This year our focus is on sharing the work we're involved in shaping, including our ideas of masculinity, self-care and personal redefinition. Check out our prezi below. 

     

     

    Wednesday
    Feb122014

    Check out a summary of our 2014 retreat!

    Every year since 2012 the bois have gathered in a retreat to prepare for the year ahead, spend quality time together and dream big for the year (and years) to come. 

    Check out this quick Prezi that breaks down what we focused on this year, including ideas, media projects and priorities. 

    Viva la bois!

     

     

     

    Wednesday
    Jan222014

    From the Love Files -- The necessity of affirmation and self love

    bklyn boihood is on a love spree! we're featuring writing, bois and events for the next few weeks that really embody l-o-v-e. 

    --

    by Mercy

    If there is one thing I could say to my 13 year old self it would be this:

    “…one day you’ll wake up and you’ll no longer have the world at your feet…”

    Instead, little Mercy*, you’ll have the world in your hands. It will be yours to shape and mould into something you and your fellow beings can inhabit harmoniously. Obviously I wouldn’t be quite so poetic. I’d keep it real, tell my 13 year old self to get the hell back down to earth and keep her head down until the major storms had passed. It’s interesting to me (a constant observer of not only others but also myself) that I am perfectly okay with referring to younger self using a pronoun I am currently not affirmed by/comfortable with. I guess I just have a lot of respect for the many me’s that have been in existence in the past. I would never want to take anything away from my past experiences; the fact that I’ve lived my life only ever searching for and trying to uphold my own personal truth is something I respect deeply and would never want to trivialize. In the same breath there are some things about my past selves that I am nothing short of fully relieved to be finally rid of.

    Like my names, god dammit my names. The names my biological parents gave me. Hideous reminders of so many instances in which my agency was taken from me, my dignity was infringed, my personality defamed, my heart and soul bruised by harsh words, sneers and cruelty. Reminders also of old selves I am not particularly proud to have been. These are names that have never really felt right on my tongue, in my ears, in my brain. I’ve employed pseudonyms for as long as I can remember. I have searched for affirmation in my identity for my entire life, not realizing until very recently that I am fully entitled to affirm my own damn self in any shape or form. Using any pronoun, title or name; employing as many various physical expressions and performances as I please. While my names have played a very vital role in the actualization of my identity affirmation; they are hardly the starting point of the evolution of me. In many ways I feel like my re-christening has been a closing of a circle.

    If that is the case then where did it all begin?

    I guess it began 21 odd years ago. Between two young adults who weren’t ready for me. Two young adults who weren’t ready for one another, and would ultimately grow tired of waiting to be. This may only be a truth I learned off after the fact, but I believe that once it was established on my page of the universe’s vast history that I was “unwanted” I was already placed on the frontlines of a battle of sorts. It was the start of a struggle for affirmation; a fight for a validation of my existence that my creators had cheated me of. That I wasn’t given up for adoption, placed in a trash can and left for dead or thrown in a veld, as an infant is not indicative of the fact that my existence was something which was celebrated from day one. I was kept out of religious duty and “sound” morals. I’ve been fed and clothed and schooled. This, according to my remaining in-house parent, meant that I had incurred a life-long debt to her, for taking up space in her world, her home, her life. I was nothing more than a burden, really.

    I was an infant assigned a specific gender (female), identity (legal names, birth certificate, nationality) and status (bastard kid –they had me out of wedlock- of unwed young Christian couple, unwanted inconvenience) which I had absolutely no control over. These assignments however, would inform much of what I would subsequently become in the next 20 or so years of my existence. By the time I hit the early toddler years, there were other parts of me that begun to surface, new notches to add onto my already half-filled identity belt. This little one could sing and draw things and speak so well. This little one has a big mouth, big personality. Not only is this little one an inconvenience with the world’s worst timing, but this little one is so determined to ruin everything, she insists on being precocious too. Teachers –from crèche and Sunday school alike- gushed often about how bright I was much to the chagrin of my parents. My parents –I believe- felt that because they couldn’t get rid of me, they would do whatever it took to make sure I was seen but never heard.

    They employed terror tactics to silence me. They employed violence to make me afraid of speaking out, finding a voice, questioning things, being alive. The violence was a manifestation of how utterly overwhelmed they were by my existence. Many of those hidings overwhelmed me too, mind you. Being hit when you are small and defenceless feels tantamount to experiences people refer to as “near-death”. Your vulnerability, mortality, fragility become all too apparent and there is very little comfort/therapy in the world that can make a growing mind forget the feel of that terror and helplessness. I survived the violence because I didn’t think I had any other options (suicide would only occur to my brain much, much later. When it was much, much too late). My sense of self worth didn’t really stand a chance however. And allegedly there are people who are able to pick up on this. People who are able to pick up on that energy a little kid puts out, that “I ain’t worth shit, you can get away with hurting me” type of vibe. Bullies on the school yard picked up on my non-existent self-respect.

    Cis-male transport drivers picked up on it too, sensed it was hidden somewhere beneath my school skirts, between my thighs. A step brotherly figure picked up on it under a table in church, all over and all inside my four year old body. Writing about abuse and violence, sexual abuse and molestation doesn’t get easier. The wounds run too deep. However, I am committed to telling my story, all of it, as many times as possible. Anything to cement my existence as real, my presence as valid, my resilience as worth something.

    This is going to be as disjointed as my memories are.

    I’ve alternated between being a glorified outcast and repulsive deviant, in spaces inhabited by humans. In school I was accused of being a feminist before I’d ever even heard of bell hooks. I was accused of being a dyke before I ever kissed another girl for the first time. Somehow the brutality of my very early childhood had not snuffed out entirely my big mouth personality. I acted the fool often, to fit in, made people laugh. But the moment I got smart and deep again; I’d learn a little more what it means to be alone in a world filled with 6 billion+ people. I used to think I could validate my existence by pleasing people. I believed that without attention, admiration, and attraction from other human beings my being here was invalid. I felt that if I could just reverse my status of being unwanted I would finally be a human being worthy of space on this earth. I sought validation everywhere. Mostly in external places. It got so that I often missed the moments in which I was personally and internally validated by my art (performing in plays, on stage, in concert, singing, acting, presenting my writing in speeches and creative writing tests and contests).

    I’d been performing for crowds on stage since I was three years old. I barely remember those incidents; but so sharp and clear to me are memories of my first beatings, first instances of playground bullying, being pinched, teased. I’d been wanted and adored by my maternal great-grand-momma, but I only grasped the magnitude of her love after she had died just before I hit my teens. I’d been toying, flirting with and sometimes fully making love to physical presentations of masculinity years before the word “tomboy” registered with me; yet I spent years denying myself the pleasure of affirming my identity because it just wasn’t what people expected of me. I donned clothing that made me feel decidedly uncomfortable, accepted harassment and allowed myself to be overpowered by people from whom I sought, only, love and acceptance. For too long, far too many external voices dictated and I adhered. For too long I handed out chunks of my agency to people who barely had a handle of themselves and expected that at some point I would start to feel like I belonged here.

    Whenever I learned that certain expectations of me existed within a space, I scrambled to live up to them, to surpass them and keep people impressed.

    Sad truth? A lot of the nastiness persisted. That I was painfully obedient and docile around the house didn’t stop my biological mother from hurling monstrous insults at me on a whim. That I was overtly friendly and kissed ass for a living didn’t stop a whole grade of high school class mates from ostracizing me at the instruction of a best friend. That I femme’d it up so an aggressive lover could have free reign over my body, didn’t stop her from “playing” me as a means of humiliating me. That I remained smart and bright and bubbly in the company of a rapidly disappearing father didn’t stop him from finally vanishing altogether. That I was a supportive, accountable, understanding older-sibling/co-parent didn’t stop my siblings from further perpetuating the ill-treatment meted out to me in the household. That I was an eager bright-eyed activist dyke in the making didn’t stop my so-called close-knit community of fellow queer kids from turning their backs on me when an opportunity for all of us to shine collectively presented itself.

    That I was loving and kind and passionate and generous didn’t stop a lover from hurting deserting possibly hating me for the times when I needed them too much or asked that they respect me by not triggering self-harmful thoughts and suicide ideation in me.

    I just couldn’t win. Not even school would redeem me. Having my academic confidence crushed in elitist law school because it was taking too long and too much money for me to get a degree was a cherry, on top of a very bitter cake.

    There are still days when my brain poses the question “how dare you still think you are worthy of being here?”

    Well, for starters, I no longer look to a colonialist god for answers regarding the hows and whys of my existence. I have learned to detach myself from my idealistic yearning for a wanting in my parents that would be too many years too late if it came, anyway. In little ways I have managed to put together the tools necessary to keep me alive. I seek affirmation, in everything that I do. I allow myself to explore the depths of my identity; rejecting all the stuff that doesn’t serve me or anyone else, but still retaining the dark radiance that makes me who I am. I am out here learning to flip the switch at every turn. I am out here getting free. Accepting myself is an act tantamount to unlocking shackles, loosening a noose. I am out here being deliberate in how I take up space. I am out here learning more than I have ever learned about myself by seeking out people whose life paths are similar to my own, whose minds are open and hearts are oft too big for the physical vessels they reside in.

    So far my story has been a very painful, very difficult, very interesting one. I am allowing myself a fresh start. I am allowing myself the sweetness of dreaming and writing into existence a me I can be proud of every step of the way. I’ve spent far too much time attempting to erase myself, my past selves for fear that they may usurp the current me and drag me back into a past I’d never voluntarily revisit. I am learning to reconcile my many selves, past, present and future. I am learning that each and every one of me is worthy of taking up space. Learning that I am necessary, wanted, needed here. With all my desires for a countenance ambiguous in gender presentation –a full chin of hair and full chest of tits could totally coexist harmoniously in a single body, yes?- my hopes for a revolution that sees every marginalized group and person flourish in a lush pool of affirmation, self love, love of the multiplicity of our many narratives and so, so much twerking and laughing and radiant darkness.

    In my most socio-politically optimistic days in High School I walked around scribbling the following message in people’s homework diaries and notebooks:

    “You are worthy of love and life simply because you are.”

    And, yes you are. We all are.

     

     

    Bio: I have several names, Mercy Medusa Mahogany Immanuel Thokozane and my last name is Minah. I’m a self-identified feminist and queer scholar. I read more than I breathe; I write, sing, draw, act and try to learn as much as possible about people along the way. I identify as pansexual and gender-non-conforming. My preferred pronouns are they/their/them. Feel free to connect with me elsewhere, with questions, marriage or friendship proposals, anything.

     

    Email: blacqqueer@gmail.com 

    Facebook: Mercy Medusa-Mahogany Immanuel-Thokozane Minah

    Twitter: @blacqqueer