Black Womxn Are More Than Their Strength

Black Womxn Are More Than Their Strength

Calling a Black womxn strong is not a compliment. That might sound strange because ‘strong’ is such a positive adjective. Most would be grateful to hear others use that term to describe them. But for Black Womxn the term makes us feel exhausted. It’s a term that is often used to diminish our struggles and fears. 

According to Dr. Erica Martin Richards, “There’s a feeling in a lot of black communities that women have to be strong and stoic.”

Now don’t get me wrong; Black womxn are strong. We undergo unimaginable trauma and still come out on the other side handling business. However, our ability to bounce back more resilient than before is often taken advantage of. “Women are so busy taking care of everyone else — their partners, their elderly parents and their children — they don’t take care of themselves,” says Dr. Richards.

When you say ‘strong’ to describe a Black womxn, it usually is through a well known saying: “Strong Black womxn don’t need no help, no man/partner.” When in actuality we need a support system and love just as much as the next person. We’re taught from an early age that we shouldn’t need anyone or want to need anyone. We’re told to carry the weight of our own issues and others because of our “strength”. 

“Women are so busy taking care of everyone else — their partners, their elderly parents and their children — they don’t take care of themselves”

Carrying so much on our souls comes with many drawbacks. We don’t make our mental health a priority. “Women are at least twice as likely to experience an episode of major depression as men,” Richards reports. And, compared to their Caucasian counterparts, African-American women are only half as likely to seek help.” There is a stigma within the Black community, that therapy and taking care of mental illness is taboo. A study done in 2008 found that [Black womxn] “believed that an individual develops depression due to having a “weak mind, poor health, a troubled spirit, and lack of self-love.”

We’re taught from a young age that depression or anxiety is something to be ashamed of. It’s a generational curse that we must fight to break every day. 

The womxn who participated in that 2008 study also believed “they were not susceptible to depression. So that talk of strength was so ingrained that they didn’t think they could develop a mental illness. Of course, we also face the issue of access. Location, transportation and poverty are just a few barriers that keep Black women from seeking the proper treatment. Mistrust of the medical system is another thing that plagues our community. Pregnancy mortality rates among Black women are constantly higher than white women. And our babies aren’t safe either. “Black infants just make up 15% of all births in the United States but are counting for 29% of all deaths.”

So Black womxn go from being ashamed of mental illness, to not having access to the treatment, to worrying about their lives once they get there. But only thing you can do is call them strong? Tell a Black woman you care, that you will be a shoulder to cry on and that their struggles and pain matters.

And to my Black women who have a hard time letting their walls down, it’s okay to be vulnerable. Prioritizing your space and mental health is nothing to be ashamed of.

Please take care of yourself.  

About Brianna Milon

Brianna is local media professional who loves writing, watching Netflix, and playing with her dog, Weenie and her cat, Fancy. She studied Journalism and Broadcasting at SUNY Brockport and was heavily involved in the campus radio station. Brianna also co-hosts a radio show, “Fat, Black, and Femme”, on 100.9 WXIR. You can find out more on Facebook and Blogspot.

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Do’s and Don’ts for This Unprecedented Pandemic Holiday Season

Do’s and Don’ts for This Unprecedented Pandemic Holiday Season 

DON’T go to your family’s house if you can help it

I know it’s Thanksgiving and we want to share the day with those who mean the most to us. However, we are also in the midst of a pandemic. Normal doesn’t exist anymore. We now have to operate differently to stay safe and keep our family safe.

DO wear a mask

Wherever you do choose to spend the holiday, if it’s around other people, be sure to wear a mask and be socially distant. This rise in cases is honestly nerve racking. I personally didn’t know anyone with COVID during the first wave. Now, I have had several family members and co-workers test positive. This second wave is tougher and stronger and we really have to look out for each other. 

DON’T embarrass plus sized/fat loved ones

It takes 0% energy to mind your business. Let fat people enjoy the holiday just like you will. Getting a second plate, or eating at all, is not something fat people should feel ashamed about. Many of us feel anxiety leading up to holidays, especially Thanksgiving. Even on days when people are encouraged to eat, fat people are still shamed and mistreated. Give people the respect they deserve no matter their size. 

DO bring up politics and social justice. 

Now, some wouldn’t classify politics as acceptable dinner table conversation. I say otherwise. Bring up how terrible Trump is, bring up Black Lives Matter and how trans individuals need to fall under that umbrella and be protected. Bring up how anti-masking is the new anti-vaxxing and shouldn’t be tolerated. Bring this all up because if you’re in the right circle, everyone will join in on how to dismantle these racist and unjust systems. If you’re not, you need to be doing your part to make racists and transphobes feel uncomfortable. Challenge their ignorance and stand your ground for those who can’t do it themselves. 

DON’T feel obligated to go see family

Seeing family can be mentally draining. I remember my freshman year of college, I was so homesick I couldn’t wait to go back for Thanksgiving break. I missed my mom, my nieces and nephews. Then I went back and remembered why I was so eager to leave in the first place. Every family has drama. Some more than others, but drama nonetheless can really drain you. Especially, as a fat, bisexual women because I get comments about how I look like I’ve lost weight or how I should lose weight. And comments about my sexuality. I love my family, but not enough to disrupt my peace. Do what’s best for you. Find your chosen family or enjoy the day watching Christmas movies alone. Just don’t feel like you have to put yourself through  unnecessary trauma. 

DO respect pronouns

There are a lot of trans folk who won’t be spending the holiday with their family because they refuse to accept pronouns. Respect people’s pronouns, their names, and their bodies. Period.

Enjoy the holiday and be safe. 

About Brianna Milon

Brianna is local media professional who loves writing, watching Netflix, and playing with her dog, Weenie and her cat, Fancy. She studied Journalism and Broadcasting at SUNY Brockport and was heavily involved in the campus radio station. Brianna also co-hosts a radio show, “Fat, Black, and Femme”, on 100.9 WXIR. You can find out more on Facebook and Blogspot.

Still thinking about how you can practice antiracism in your every day life? 

Your support goes directly to providing new, dynamic & affordable class content, the planning of a rigorous antiracism facilitation training program, and the hiring of a grant writer.

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Don’t Kill My Vibe: On Letting Folks Have Small Wins

Don’t Kill My Vibe: On Letting Folks Have Small Wins 

The election is (somewhat) over. It took nearly a week to determine some states, and despite the recounts and the sitting president’s own denial, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be next President and Vice President of the U.S. respectively. Everyone remembers when the Associated Press called it, and even after they did, even more votes came in, solidifying Biden’s already popular lead. My Twitter and Instagram feeds were filled with live videos of friends from DC to LA, from London to Paris celebrating in the streets. A huge weight of anxiety was lifted off everyone’s shoulders. Locally, I celebrated at Liberty Pole until my feet were sore, and then I went to bed, got up, and celebrated again outside the next afternoon. I feel good. So I implore you one thing: 

“LET US BE HAPPY! DAMN!”

This is request is not addressed to the thousands of trump supporters and QAnon conspiracists who are threatening violence and demanding that ballot counters either keep counting or stop counting depending on which state they are in. This is not for the hardcore Trump zealots who would only accept a Trump win as the truth, who think Newsmax and OANN are “balanced” news sources, and anything left of them is “fake news” or “mainstream media”.  truly, how far right must one go that they think FOX NEWS is too liberal biased? Were Biden to win, I expected complaints and tirades from them. Their sorrow means we are doing something right. They are one sheet away from their true forms. 

My request is of the “allies” who saw all the joy and celebration and stoically asked, “Why are you all celebrating”? Their implications are that Biden is not the candidate for progress. His 1990s crime bill has devastated the communities it was supposed to protect by putting more Black non-violent drug offenders in jail with felony sentences. His VP-elect was a state prosecutor who enforced jailing hundreds of Black Californians for drug offenses before she became a US senator who voted for FOSTA/SESTA, a paternalistic anti-sex traffic bill that did more to criminalize independent sex workers than it did to punish those who forced people into sex work. We are well aware of that. But this is still a victory, and we deserve to celebrate. Pretending that nothing has changed is flippant. This is a victory, and we deserve to celebrate. 

We can celebrate that the person who openly and brazenly bathed in racism, transphobia, and misogyny will no longer be in office come January 20th. He spent his entire campaign dog whistling and dog loudspeaking, emboldening folks to commit more hate crimes against those who are different. And instead of admonishing those who committed the hate crimes, he went on a tirade about “Law and Order”. He tear gassed peaceful protesters for a photo op with a holy book he never opened. With him gone, that emboldening will subside. Biden may have been friends with some of the senators who are as racist as Trump, but he was also the Vice President of our first Black President, and we can hope that he will listen to all Black leaders, not just the ones who parrot the racist dog whistle rhetoric that may as well have come from Lee Atwater or Don Black themselves. And if he doesn’t listen, we know what to do to make him listen. 

We can celebrate that our new Vice President is not only Black and Indian, but that she is a member of the country’s oldest Black sorority, a graduate of the country’s second best Historically Black University (Sorry Howard grads. MORGAN FOREVER). We can pick apart her enforcement of the law all day, and I plan to do so. We can also look at her activist roots. A lot of her law enforcement stances, both as a district attorney and a senator, have a whiff of the respectability politics that Black communities clung to in order to assimilate. Now that we know a lot of that is outdated thinking, perhaps Harris is aware of that as well and willing to change her stances after much discussion with today’s leaders. 

No matter what obstacles loom, we deserve happiness. Joy and celebration themselves are forms of resistance. Black Joy is rebellion. We have the power to sing and dance about a victory while keeping our eye on the road ahead. Expecting us to always be on edge and continually fighting in the streets and town halls, every day, unhindered, is an unfair burden to put on us. We already had an entire Civil War about placing unfair burdens on us. We are not having it. Don’t mistake our partying for laziness. 

People who chide the mirth either are forever miserable or think that we are unaware of the work to be done, like we are going to stop fighting for what is right and roll over. When in the history of the United States has that been the case? If we just rolled over, then Jim Crow would still be in place. There would be no Americans with Disability Act. The Civil Rights Act would never have come to fruition. The 19th Amendment would never have been signed. LGBTQ people would still be criminalized in several states. Even with all those accomplishments, we still keep working, because the other side keeps trying to chip away at the progress already made. We are not stopping. The celebrations over the weekend were less a block party and more a parade toward justice. I look forward to taking Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and my local officials to task for their policies. Until then, PLEASE let me enjoy this repeat playing of “You About to Lose Your Job”. 

About Chris Thompson

(he/his/him) Chris Thompson is an engineer, writer, comedian, and activist who made Rochester, New York his home in 2008. In addition to his role as Contributor for 540Blog he currently writes and regularly posts on his own on Instagram and Twitter at @ChronsOfNon. Chris is also a regular contributor for Rochester City Newspaper. His blog is http://www.chroniclesofnonesense.com

Still thinking about how you can practice antiracism in your every day life? 

Your support goes directly to providing new, dynamic & affordable class content, the planning of a rigorous antiracism facilitation training program, and costs associated with maikng all of our classes Deaf accessible with ASL interpreters. 

1) Join our growing membership base at patreon.com/540wmain
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  1. Visit our blog for over 700 social justice focused posts from our Founding Director, contributing writer Chris Thompson, and various guest writers.
  2. Check out our on-demand class library to learn about structural racism, environmental justice, and more.

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Elitist Thinking Will Not Save Poor People

Elitist Thinking Will Not Save Poor People

Keke Palmer is the latest celebrity to be dragged by Black Twitter. 

Palmer recently took to twitter with this message, “Imagine if your EBT card could only work on healthy items…

The tweet crosses a line that makes me (and millions of other Twitter users) uncomfortable. Let’s break down why this is problematic. 

Keke has been in show business for most of her life. She’s been booking roles since she was 9-years-old. You may remember her from Barbershop 2, Akeelah and the Bee, and Madea’s Family Reunion. She also comes from a secure two parent home. Her father works at a polyurethane company and her mother is a teacher. Both were professional actors before stepping into their current careers. When she starred on Nickelodeon’s True Jackson VP she was one the highest paid child actors in the country.

So it’s safe to say that Keke hasn’t been on the other side of the poverty line in a very long time, if ever. 

She spent the day defending her thinking in oblivion. Believing that this argument is happening because people don’t want to eat healthy. 

It goes deeper than that. One tweeter replied with:

Fresh food markets are hard to find in some urban areas. So making fruits and veggies free doesn’t fix the issue that fruit intake declines the more impoverished people are. 

Because what good is that if they don’t have actual access?

Propose real solutions. Why go after EBT card purchases? This is a celebrity who has broken barriers in Hollywood and has the money to prove it. Why not invest in community gardens, or support farmers, or create an initiative to help get fresh fruit and vegetables to those who need it. 

She also tried to backtrack and rephrase that the solution was actually to provide free veggies to those with EBT cards. While this is a noble thought, as I mentioned before, people accessing will always be an issue. 

This also assumes that poverty only exists when you qualify for public assistance. There are millions of people who live on the cusp of food stamps, but make just a few dollars too much.

Keke then asked that twitter forget that she is rich and to consider the whole context of the conversation. But her income is what makes this tweet and thought process so privileged. You sit on millions and speak about what poor people should do with the already limited resources and have the nerve to ask what the public considers “rich”

This also feels like erasing the work Black people, especially Black women, who are doing what they can to feed and keep their communities healthy. 

“You sit on millions and speak about what poor people should do with the already limited resources and have the nerve to ask what the public considers “rich”

Community organizations like Roc Food, Not Bombs and ROC Food Relief aren’t getting the recognition they deserve. They are already doing the work Keke proposes.

Support the organizations that are truly looking out for the community, because celebrities will never be the voice that leads the charge to change.

About Brianna Milon

Brianna is local media professional who loves writing, watching Netflix, and playing with her dog, Weenie and her cat, Fancy. She studied Journalism and Broadcasting at SUNY Brockport and was heavily involved in the campus radio station. Brianna also co-hosts a radio show, “Fat, Black, and Femme”, on 100.9 WXIR. You can find out more on Facebook and Blogspot.

Still thinking about how you can practice antiracism in your every day life? 

Your support goes directly to providing new, dynamic & affordable class content, the planning of a rigorous antiracism facilitation training program, and the hiring of a grant writer.

1) Join our growing membership base at patreon.com/540wmain
2) Contribute to our ongoing annual fund at rally.org/540wmain

  1. Visit our blog for over 700 social justice focused posts from our Founding Director, contributing writer Chris Thompson, and various guest writers.
  2. Morethanisms podcast a series created by Calvin Eaton that unpacks social and cultural issues that impact black and non-black millennials of color.
  3. Check out our free on-demand class library to learn about structural racism, environmental justice, and more.

Knowledge is power, educate yourself with 540WMain

What to Expect When Expecting (a Contentious Election)

What to Expect When Expecting (a Contentious Election)

2020 is the year that is lasting a decade. So it is only fitting that 2020, a year mired in a global pandemic, the exposure of the lethal flaws in our economy and health system, and a summer of unrest over years-long racial injustice, we have a presidential election to decide. Even more fitting is that the two main candidates not in any way palatable. We have Trump, the old white male carnival barker with a record of (alleged) sexual assault and racist business practices, or Joe Biden, the old white male carnival barker with a record of sexual creepiness and racist legislative policies. To his credit, Biden’s policies were endorsed by a lot of prominent Black leaders at the time as a way to reduce crime, but we all know how Good Intentions can lead to hell. His crime bill only hurt Black people, especially ones below a certain economic threshold. The choice for president of the United States has not looked so unappealing yet so dire in my 22 years of voting. Voting in a pandemic makes exercising my right feel a little bit more like a pioneering mission. Early and mail-in voting is more controversial than ever this year, as our current president has spread lies about the veracity of voting in such a way. This, of course, gave many states an excuse to try to curtail these methods. They found a new way to suppress Black and Brown voting, even if it also hurts disabled and homebound citizens. Based on the last for years dog whistling and dog loudspeaking he has been doing since January 20th, 2017, nothing the president does and tacitly OKs should be a surprise. He can’t even flatly disavow white supremacists when asked directly. Regardless, The election is under way. At least in New York State, we don’t have armed civilian militias (white terrorists) roaming around polling sites attempting to intimidate people. In fact, despite obstacles around the nation, 82 million people have cast their votes early. It is just a matter of if they’ll be counted now. 

I am one of the 82 million. I cast my ballot the second day that New York State opened polls for early voting. I was lucky enough to experience a 10-minute line, though I’m aware of a lot of people around the state waiting two to three hours to cast their votes. I didn’t have anyone try to intimidate me at the polls. I only got brow beaten when I was a foot too close to someone to adhere to the social distancing standards that we all should be following. Now I wait. By the end of Tuesday, November 3rd, we will know what to expect for the next 4 years…or not. There is no law that says that Presidential election results must be announced the night of the election day, and it seems unreasonable to make such a demand, especially in such a contentious election. The results of this election will determine how I will move about in the world for the next four years. Barring an upset win from the Green or Libertarian parties, It is going to be Trump or Biden. Neither option looks good. 

To be honest, my lack of enthusiasm for this election isn’t just because of my national choices, but for my lack of local choices. None of the city councilors who voted to give the Rochester Police Department a $100 million budget days after they used that money to beat, tear gas, and pepper spray peaceful protesters are up for re-election. The mayor who maintained a 6-month cover up of the murder of a man in a mental crisis, naked and suffocating in the street, is not on the ballot. The district attorney who has yet to file charges against the officers involved in this man’s murder, yet has dozens of cases against the protesters of that murder, is not up for re-election. There are perhaps two local and state seats for which I enthusiastically voted. The presidential election was a second priority. After all, it is the local officials we elect who gain prominence enough to think they deserve a national platform. Voter apathy has yielded a lot of the wrong people gaining that spotlight. 

Should Trump win this election, I am bracing myself for more division, and much more grass roots activism. We will have to protect our communities more, as no doubt the white supremacists that he winks to when he speaks will be more emboldened than ever. The last few years, I have had more threats on my safety and life than previous 10, so I should be ready for more. His policies have done nothing but cripple the fragile system we already have. 

Should Biden win this election, I know there will be a big sigh of relief from many of my friends, but we will still need to dig in our heels and continue to work for our rights. Between November and January, the lame duck Donald would still have the power to appoint more judges, write more executive orders, and foment discord in any way he sees fit. He did a lot right after his sparsely attended inauguration, and he can do it again. Even after Biden would be inaugurated, that is not a time to rest. Laws and rules are still in place from previous administrations, including Biden’s own crime bill. Were Biden to win, I just imagine having a mix of relief and dread. Something like of a person fled North to escape slavery, but they were aware that the Fugitive Slave Act is still on the books. Yes, we’ve accomplished something in our favor, but we are nowhere near out of the woods. 

I truly hope that everyone who can vote does so. Relatives up to the 20th Century died so that I could cast a ballot. I hope that the same people who turn out this year continue to turn out in those odd years, because the 2021, 2022, 2023 candidates will be the ones who shape our community more than the national leader. 

About Chris Thompson

(he/his/him) Chris Thompson is an engineer, writer, comedian, and activist who made Rochester, New York his home in 2008. In addition to his role as Contributor for 540Blog he currently writes and regularly posts on his own on Instagram and Twitter at @ChronsOfNon. Chris is also a regular contributor for Rochester City Newspaper. His blog is http://www.chroniclesofnonesense.com

Still thinking about how you can practice antiracism in your every day life? 

Your support goes directly to providing new, dynamic & affordable class content, the planning of a rigorous antiracism facilitation training program, and the hiring of a grant writer.

1) Join our growing membership base at patreon.com/540wmain
2) Contribute to our ongoing annual fund at rally.org/540wmain

  1. Visit our blog for over 700 social justice focused posts from our Founding Director, contributing writer Chris Thompson, and various guest writers.
  2. Morethanisms podcast a series created by Calvin Eaton that unpacks social and cultural issues that impact black and non-black millennials of color.
  3. Check out our on-demand class library to learn about structural racism, environmental justice, and more.

Knowledge is power, educate yourself with 540WMain