Category Archives: about a. kenyatta parks

Approaching 40 Without Fear

Years ago I decided that I didn’t want a mundane life of a 9 to 5. For years that’s how I lived. I’d worked for Hidden Beach Recordings at the rise of Jill Scott. I’d traveled to SXSW with Cornerstone Promotions. Exciting times. I was in the midst of it. I had great ideas, but I didn’t know how to be loud.

Maybe my presence was loud enough. I was a masculine of center woman. I always thought my masculine presence was always judged. I didn’t want to extra attention for my appearance. I wanted my creativity and work to shine through. Therefore, I dimmed my light.

By dimming my light I denied myself the life I deserved and dreamed of living. Time doesn’t want wait on anyone. I remembered waking up realizing that I was 35 and hadn’t accomplished anything.

Don’t get me wrong I traveled. I shopped. I loved. There was a semblance of freedom where I moved how I want without boundaries and barriers. I could pick and leave as I did to DC and then to New York. I loved that freedom, but I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t living that life I wanted. And then I moved back home again believing I failed again.

I looked around, and my friends were leaving me behind. I realized that I didn’t own my dream house. I wasn’t in a relationship. And maybe it was time to settle down. Maybe it was time to get that 9 to 5 that I desperately didn’t want. Just maybe.

being fearlessI looked around me and realized that I didn’t own my house. I wasn’t in a relationship. Maybe it was time to get settled. Maybe it was time to get that 9 to 5 that I desperately didn’t want. Just maybe.

Or maybe NOT. Maybe I hadn’t believed in myself this whole time. I did enough to get by, but my soul knew that wasn’t enough. I could have it all. I could be creative, make money, have a relationship and that house I dreamed of. If only, I could get out of my own way.

In August I will be 40. Yes, the big 4-0. I am finally figuring out that I was scared. I was scared that I wasn’t enough. I had to heal the past wounds of body-shaming, not being the typical beauty, or bullying. I never dealt with how they affected me. I have to let go of the negative thoughts in my head that say:

“I will always be fat.”

“I am crazy to think I can revolutionize the world.”

“I am not praise-worthy.”

I have to combat that with affirmations of how awesome I am. I have to speak up to be heard. I cannot allow this fear to stagnate me. I am not living the life I’m supposed to live. I’ve simply existing.  It is time to live in my truth. It’s time to be fearless.

2016 has to be the year I shed my fear. It’s the year that I create and make money. It’s time to travel the world. It’s like 50 said, it’s time to ‘get rich or die tryin’. My riches are loving myself and believing in my path called life. My path is not like anyone else. And as J. Cole said we have to ‘Love Yourz’ as I am learning to love mine.

It’s time to take off these layers of fat and uncertainty. It’s time to do Insanity again. It’s time to get fit to be healthy because I have shit to do. It’s time to acknowledge the past to heal.

In the year of my 40, it’s time to dance like no one’s watching. It’s time to make my dreams come true. It’s time to be free. It’s time to be me. No more words. Just watch.

What I’ve Learned about Relationships

Lately, I’ve been seeing these memes about relationship goals. Maybe it’s me, but I thought relationship goals shouldn’t be the obvious. Maybe society is too jaded that we haven’t figured out that what’s best for us individually is not what’s always promoted. Maybe I am old school. I don’t know, but I’ve seen long-term relationships work. I believe in cultivating a relationship.

Lately, I’ve talked to a few friends about what we all want in relationships. We’ve talked about the nitty gritty of relationships which require hard work, patience and trust. We’ve talked about how our past relationships and experiences sometimes affect our present and future if we allow it. But what I’ve learned there are no easy ways to maintaining and growing as individuals and as a couple. Relationships Are

I am fortunate to see my maternal grandparents happily married for 46 years until my grandfather died in ’90. I have an aunt & uncle close to that mark with celebrating 45 years of marriage this past August. Another aunt & uncle will be celebrating 39 years of marriage in November. And the youngest aunt on my maternal side has been married to her husband over 25 years, and I remember when they were just dating. So I have great examples of what long-term relationships can be.

In my 39 years on this earth I’ve realized that nothing is perfect. And nothing worth having is easy. This includes a loving, sustainable relationship. Two years ago I met an incredible woman who is perfect for me. That doesn’t mean we don’t argue or we don’t have our problems. We do, but every day we wake up, we choose each other. We choose this life together. For love is a choice. It’s not something that just happen to you. It’s something that the both of you decide to cultivate.

I’ve come up with a list to help you (the ones who say they want a good relationship) to not only maintain but grow a loving relationship:

  1. Pay attention to your relationship with yourself. You have to take time out for yourself. You’re an individual first. Before you can love anyone else, you have to love yourself. That person you want this relationship with should a person you can be your true self:. It doesn’t matter if you’re goofy, silly, honest, passionate, emotional, educated and/or lovable. Whomever you are that person will love your authentic self.
  2. Communication is key. Be honest and clear. You have to talk about everything not just the good but the bad, uncomfortable and down-right ugly. This is the best way to build trust and know if you can deal with each other. You also have to communicate to determine if you are compatible. Do you both want to get married? Do you both want kids? Do you both want to live in the city or in the suburbs? Are you both financially stable? You have to be honest with yourself if you can deal with a ‘no’.
  3. No one likes a bag lady. It’s time to leave your past in the past including your ex’s (girlfriends, boyfriends, lovers, booty buddies, etc) and the baggage that goes with it. You should definitely learn from your past, but don’t keep bringing up your ex in conversation. If you want a relationship to grow, you have to include her (your current) in your future.
  4. You cannot have a relationship without any fights, but you can make your relationship worth the fight. Please know that the honeymoon period fades. Yes, your partner will get on your nerves. (I’ve told my girlfriend that I always love her, but I don’t always like her. She responded with “That works both ways” with an devilish grin.) Let me tell you a little secret: love is not always “happily ever after”.
  5. You can never stop trying to show her how much she means to you even after you have her. My grandfather told me once, “It’s easy to get her. The real work starts when you have her.” You cannot forget to continue to date your lady. When’s the last time you took out pen and paper and wrote her a letter of how you feel about her? When’s the last time you surprised her with a home-cooked dinner? When the last time you wrote her a poem? ‘Roses are red/Violets are blue’ will still get a smile. Don’t get comfortable if she’s worth it.
  6. You have to love that person for who they are not the potential. You cannot fall in love with potential. Live in reality. You have to accept them just the way they are.
  7. Relationships last longer when everybody doesn’t know your business. I am not saying that you should hide your relationship, but intimate details, good or bad shouldn’t be on social media or shared with your friends. The only folks who should be in your relationship are you and your partner.
  8. There are no right or wrong way for a relationship. It’s what work for the two of you. Your relationship have to fit the needs of you and your partner not society, family or social media.

Again, love is choosing that special someone everyday as is. Choose wisely. Everyone deserves love, but are you willing to ask for what you want and then work for it when you have it? 

 

I am black. I am a woman. I am a lesbian. My black life matters.

alicia_patrisse_opal_tumblrI am black. I am a woman. I am a lesbian. Some would say those are three strikes in a hetero-patriarchal white society. But I am proud to be ME. I love my blackness. I love being a woman. I love that I love a beautiful woman. Everybody doesn’t like that I take pride in all of my intersections. And it hurts when I am judged based off of my appearance, a masculine-identified black woman especially by the persons I defend and fight for.

For example, I was approached by a black man who was offended that I put the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on a Instagram post about marriage equality. In the comments section of the picture I posted, I stated that while we celebrate the SCOTUS decision on marriage equality, but there are many other issues we have to address which included LGBTQ job discrimination, police brutality, poverty, trans lives and ending white supremacy. This black man that #BlackLivesMatter didn’t have anything to with who I slept with. 

Yes, it does because I am black, I am a woman and I am a lesbian. Most times we often talk about race, gender, sexual orientation, and other social aspects. We tend to focus on them one at a time as if they are separate from each other. Intersectionality acknowledges that race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, education, citizenship status, and your geographic location all interact with one another.

We cannot talk and think about race, gender and sexual orientation separately because we minimize diversity and deny complexity of our lived experiences. This is what the black man on Twitter tried to minimize my voice as a black lesbian. He argued with me about how my intersectionality didn’t warrant a celebration for marriage equality. He only wanted to focus his energies and consequently, my energies on the Mother Emanuel Massacre.

This black man could not understand that I was more than black. His statement of #BlackLivesMatter does not have anything with whom I sleep with is problematic. He only sees my relationship as sexual. He voids the love and the authentic connection I have with my girlfriend. He probably would rather see us in a porn flick getting it on instead of being free to marry (if we want). But he probably doesn’t see his homophobia or patriarchy in that statement either. Maybe he doesn’t care that his statement is homophobia and patriarchal because he’s only focused on blackness and its oppression.

My life is often politicized and policed. I refuse to allow this black man, a stranger to marginalize my other identities because it doesn’t serve his purpose. He’s no different than white LGBTQ members who think I shouldn’t bring up so-called black issues. I refuse to allow anyone minimize who I am. While I can fight against white supremacy with this black man, that is not the only fight I am fighting against. I am fighting multiple battles for my right to live.

I am tired of fighting battles with folks I battle with for some issues and battle against for others. I am tired fighting with black men about humanity as a black woman. I am tired fighting with black folk about humanity as a black lesbian. I do not like how white LGBTQ folk want me to choose between LGBTQ or blackness. Like activist, poet Red Summer eloquently said on Facebook, “I am not picking a side. I am not taking up one struggle as at the detriment of the other. I stand in the intersection of (at least) two polarized communities. I am not one or the other. I am both (actually all). My life matters, too.” She illustrated this with a picture of both red, black and green for black unity and the rainbow for marriage equality.Red Summer

Yes, my black lesbian life matters as well. To this black man, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter must mean only heterosexual black lives even though two of the founders of the hashtag, Alicia Garza and Patrice Cullers are queer women of color (QWOC). Guess what? This is not the first time the black LGBTQ stood up for black freedom. And it won’t be the last. We are part of the black community. Some notables are Angela Davis, Lorraine Hansberry, Alice Walker and Bayard Rustin.

I guess this young man haven’t heard of Bayard Rustin. Who is Bayard Rustin? Rustin served as Martin Luther King, Jr’s strategic advisor during the Montgomery Bus Boycott as well as one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was also the chief organizer of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Yes, he was an openly black gay man. If you haven’t heard of him, it’s probably because he’s gay.

The Harlem Renaissance is one of the major highlights of black excellence in America. As much of that excellence was black it was also gay. Langston Hughes is considered one of the prolific writers and also led a double life. Bruce Nugent wrote the first published gay short story. This list includes writer Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God), lyricist James Weldon Johnson (“Lift Every Voice and Sing), poet Countee Cullen, Wallace Thurman, Claude McKay, and Angelina Weld Grimké. These luminaries of the Harlem Renaissance ranged between openly gay to sexually ambiguous to down low. In other words, there wouldn’t be a Harlem Renaissance without the young, gifted, black and gay.

But we are marginalized not only in the black community but in the LGBT community as well. Many times black LGBTQ icons are erased from the LGBTQ history book even though they have been at the heart of the LGBTQ struggle for rights and inclusion. I suspect it is the same reason that there is the invisibility of and discriminatory practices against people of color: racism. Racial issues in the LGBTQ community only reflect what happens in the dominant society. Sometimes QPOC are only needed when the LGBTQ wants use the QPOC in their ‘growing’ number.

If you’re a part of the LGBTQ community, it behoove you to know about the Stonewall riots. On June 28, 1969 at Stonewall Inn, one of the few bars in Manhattan people the LGBTQ community could dance with each other without police harassment, New York Police Department raided. This time the patrons fought back which was fundamental in sparking the LGBTQ rights movement in the United States. But do you know the names Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Miss Major? These black transgender women were the first Stonewall instigators. But their contributions at Stonewall were whitewashed. As the LGBTQ movement gained steam it was for a primarily white gay men while people of color, women and trans people were marginalized.

I am outsider in every identity that I am. For some in the black community I am not black enough, for gayness is some ‘white shit’. The LGBTQ community thinks I am too black. Or maybe it’s I am too masculine? Maybe that means I’m not woman enough. But all my identities make me who I am. Through my intersectionality I am able to be both empathetic and sympathetic to others, for I know it is hard to be yourself when society wants to place you in a box.  I am black. I am a woman. I am lesbian. I am me. I am the diversity that America claimed it wants wrapped in blackness, womanhood and lesbianism. I will continue to fight to freedom. The question is ‘Who will allow me to be me as we fight side-by-side?”