Hey 2016: Hello From The Other Side

It’s the end of the year. The end of 2015! 2016 is just a few hours away, depending on where in the world you are. That last line I feel the most right now. I’m reminded how I get to see nonstop celebrations about the new year on social media because of my friends all over the world — old and, especially after this year, new. Shout out to the Philippines!

Sempre um intercambista 

Where has this year gone? I’ve done so much. Been to so many places. So many things. And yet I still have a lot to learn.

I have NO idea what 2016 has in store for me. It shall be one hell of an adventure though, I’m sure.

Positive energy for that one.

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The Word of the Day Is: Intersectionality

I can remember the first time I was introduced to the term “intersectionality.” I was in my sophomore year of undergrad, and I was coming up with ideas on what I wanted my first programme to be focused on for my LGBTQ student leadership group. I wanted to use my experience of feeling like I could only live either in the “Black world” or the “gay world,” never both at the same time, to bring a new understanding to my peers. I called the programme “Intersections” and thought I was the first person to use the term. I never thought this programme would foreshadow a future speaking out on intersectionality. Fast-forward five years later, and I am still passionate about speaking to the intersections of my life and others around me.

Now in my adulthood, I allow myself to walk in my intersectional truths without choosing to live in only one community our systematic society tries to keep me in.

There are many terms I can use to identify myself: Black, gay, male, cisgender, feminist, traveller, writer, New Yorker, American, Brasileiro no coração (Brazilian at heart), space nerd, global citizen, a Beyoncé stan—all of these, plus more, represent me. My being is a product of my lived experiences throughout the many places I’ve been fortunate to see, and it is because of these experiences that I am able to speak so truthfully from the heart. What sits on my heart today is how narratives of communities I hold close to my heart continue to be erased. As a fighter for social justice, I understand the importance of people’s intersecting identities and how these intersections affect my work.

By denying or not purposely spreading narratives that speak to the multiple intersections of individuals, you are assisting in the erasure of others’ narratives.

My heart is thinking of Black women and trans women of colour—two communities who often face silence of their narratives more than any other group. Not only are the achievements of my Black and brown sisters often questioned in ways that never exist for men, the crimes against them face an abhorrent silence. As feminism continues to rid itself of the “dirty” narratives popularly associated with it, Black women have been firm in addressing the need for specific conversations on Black feminism and the erasure of Black women in the main feminist narrative. Black feminism in itself is an example of intersectionality. As race and gender professor Kimberlé Crenshaw explains it, Black feminism “argues the experience of being a Black female [that] cannot be understood in terms of being Black, and of being female, considered independently, but must include the interactions, which frequently reinforce each other.” A bit of some theory to wrap your head around, but it’s this simple: Black women face more marginalisations and injustices than women not of colour. Before considering yourself a feminist, search within yourself about what this fact means to you first. If you need some help, go and google #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen.

My heart also calls out for my trans sisters of colour. While the country has come to organise around the unjust deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner this year, 12 trans women of colour were brutally murdered in a 6-month span. Where have the rallying crowds been to call justice for these women? Many of these murders have been at the hands of other Black or brown people, a fact that forces us to see the continuing divisions within our own communities. We live in a world where almost every Black person has to feel the fear of dying just for being Black in America—this is an undeniable truth. When you are calling out Black lives matter, make sure you are not only just speaking out for the cisgender male lives we’ve lost. The unjust murder of Islan Nettles, a 21-year old trans woman who was brutally beat in front of a NYC police station, makes my heart weep just as much as Mike Brown’s. If the same is not true for you, then I ask you to re-examine how much Black lives really matter to you.

Trans-activist and goddess Lourdes Hunter so fiercely says, “My name is all the Trans women being murdered. I speak for all of them.”

It is bold and truthful statements like this that must continue to be disseminated across the public screens around the world. I refuse to have the narratives of women of colour further erased. I am writing these words today to help create a reality that doesn’t continue to disallow Black women’s stories from being told. The only way we can achieve the change we want in this world is for everyone to join in solidarity to call out the diverse forms of injustices and marginalisations every single person faces. For me, it has been my ability to see the complex intersections that lie within myself that makes my heart open up for those suffering wounds I may not have to deal with. My heart smiles at the images of activism that seem to have been rebirth around racial justice this year, but let’s make sure we are honestly standing up for ALL those who face injustice.

Understand your truth, own it, and keep yourself open to continue learning more about what others face. It is a tiresome fight, but believe me when I say it is worth it. Listen to others and accept their intersectional experiences as anecdotes that you can use to empower you to speak out for justice.

Stand up in true solidarity!

Raven-Symoné: “I’m An American, Not An African-American”

I love Raven-Symoné. I always have. As Olivia, she was my favourite character on The Cosby Show (until the adult me realized the legendary-ness of Mrs. Claire Huxtable), I shared middle and high school years with her as Raven Baxter on That’s So Raven, and I even have some of her discography on my iTunes. But all of those things aside, I have loved Raven-Symoné as an individual who has always held a strong head on her shoulders despite whatever madness may be going on around her in celebrity culture.

So when I found out she sat down with Oprah for a “Where Are They Now?” segment, I knew I’d be all about it.

In this recently aired special, Raven stirred the waters when she said, “I’m an American, not an African-American.” Now before I dive into this loaded statement, I want to make sure you all understand the context in which she says it. In this case, Raven was answering a question Oprah was posing to her in regards to her sexual identity—since August 2013 when she made a tweet saying she could marry whomever she loves with the support of the government, Raven’s sexuality has been a question people have been dying to have an answer to.

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Black Lives Matter: An American Call to Action

“I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” –Nelson Mandela

Where has August gone? I mean, really—where has it gone? I celebrated my one-year anniversary of moving back home to New York, and around the same time, I worked myself into a beginning stage of burning out. This is unsurprisingly common for young New Yorkers, but in my case, it came at a time where the rest of my world seemed to be set on fire.

The recent protests out of Ferguson, Missouri—stemming from the murder of unarmed 18-year old, Michael Brown, by police officer Darren Wilson—has shaken the ground of which we all walk on, and I stand in support with those protesting around the nation.

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