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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#100toWatch: My Selection as a 100 Black LGBTQ/SGL Emerging Leaders to Watch!

I am excited and honoured to announce that I have been selected as one of the National Black Justice Coalition‘s 100 Black LGBT/SGL Emerging Leaders to Watch! Over the past year, I have used my platform as a gay Black writer to be a voice for injustices and marginalisations throughout the world, and I am so happy to have the support of NBJC behind me! This announcement comes at a time where speaking out against injustices is more important to me than ever. From the injustice served to the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner to the 42 missing Mexican students who disappeared after staging protests targeting corrupt government officials, the only way I can find peace is if I stand up for the world I deserve to live in. Thank you to all who have supported me in creating a better world for us all. I can’t wait to meet my fellow leaders working to build a brighter future where justice and equality are granted to all.

To learn more about this campaign, click here.

Revolutionary Thoughts

“[My message is to] own your imperfections and all the things that make you interesting, because I refuse to allow someone to put me in anybody’s box.” –Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

We are always learning in this world. Whether that means you’re a student in a classroom, a professional navigating your career, or a child who has had to grow up at a young age because of circumstances you are unable to control, we are always learning. Learning equals growth, and regardless of the way you have learned what you know, it’s important to own your experience in new conversations with others.

Storytelling is a form of education that goes deeper to our core than any textbook.

This past year has been a journey for me of liberating myself. What started out as reconnecting with the energy of Nelson Mandela through his autobiography shortly after his passing has led me to authors whom, I have always known to be great, but never had the chance to read their work myself. Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Chimamanda Adichie, Janet Mock—the list goes on. I can easily say that this year has been the first of many more to come that reading became one of my favourite things to do.

Words have power, and though I never needed to read any of the books I have read over the year to know this, it’s important that I speak this into the universe. Whether it is written or spoken, words invoke meaning, emotion, and most importantly, force us to think about situations we may never have thought of before. It is from this understanding of the power of words that brought me to start this blog.

Recently, I have entered a state of transitional employment, and while I stay positive that my calling will reveal itself to me soon, I have had to fight with sources of negative energy in my mind that try to steer me off course. As a gay Black male who is conscious of the white, patriarchal, and heteronormative society I live in, it seems like there is so much out there that is trying to silence me.

For my entire life, I have been used to being one of few people of colour in rooms, but as I have been liberating myself this year, I find that I am always second-guessing whether I want to be that minority or not. Why? Because I am tired of white faces pretending to care when I advocate for my marginalised communities only to forget it five minutes later and follow their own personal agenda. I know this is not the case for every white person I speak with, but from my experiences over the past year, this is my truth.

When applying to jobs, I find myself debating whether I should water down my mission of being a voice for the Black community and Black LGBTQ community. My fear is that my prospective employer may write me off as another angry Black person who will only bring “unwanted drama” in the workspace. And as hard as many of you would like to think that this doesn’t happen, it does. But what’s important for me to remember—and sometimes I forget this—is that employers who might think this of me just aren’t for me. My words are my truth, and I refuse to lie about it in order to get a job.

My thoughts are revolutionary, and I speak truth into this world so that others can hear about the world I want to live in.

If people can’t handle it, that’s fine, because I’m going to keep being me. I’m grateful for the strong support system of friends in the movement for racial and social justice I’ve created. Even without a conversation between us, seeing the revolutionary work they have dedicated themselves to reminds me of the power that lies in being truthful to yourself.

I recently was at an event at the Centre for Social Innovation where they asked all of us to write down one thing that can make New York a better place. My answer was conversation. So much of who I am and what I love in life has come from conversations with others. When we talk to one another, we are sharing our stories, and whether we support these stories or not, it’s important that we keep an open mind to listening to others so that we can better understand ourselves.

Don’t be afraid to start a conversation with someone new. You never know just what kind of connection the universe has in store for you.

We Are One Beloved Community

Last week I was in Washington, DC to attend/volunteer for the National Black Justice Coalition’s OUT on the Hill Black LGBT Leadership Summit, a four-day long summit that convened key stakeholders in the Black LGBT community, including elected officials, policy advocates, activists, and emerging leaders. To say it was an amazing experience would be an understatement—it was beautiful, uplifting, and most of all, empowering.

For the first time in my life, I was around people who both looked like me and identified in the same community, who I could reach out and talk to with open arms.

From the moment I walked in on the first day, I was embraced with a “hello” and a “Yasss honey, WERKK!” (in reference to my Beyoncé pin I adorned all week). From that moment on, I felt around family. Continue reading

Thank You, Long Island

I want to share some of my story of where I come from. As I continue on the path to liberate myself from external factors and stand completely in my truth, I think it’s important for me to be willing to reflect on how my past has shaped the way I view and think of our world today.

I grew up on Long Island, a little island that’s home to the start of suburban America. It sits in the shadow of the biggest (and greatest) city in the country, New York, and yet, living there is nothing like living in the city. Almost everything about me can be traced back to my childhood on Long Island—and I love it!—but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t see it for what it is through adult eyes. Unfortunately, this makes me sadder than I would like.

Though Long Island is known as the suburbs, it’s home to more people than some states in America has alone! Comprised up by two counties, Nassau and Suffolk, LI is home to some 2.8 million people throughout 195 hamlets, 96 villages, and 2 cities—all of which have their own unique identities. As a child growing up in a mostly single mother household, I was afforded the opportunity of living and going to three different school districts there. I’m grateful for the moving around we had to do now because I consider these experiences to be some of the first that allowed me to see the world with larger eyes than people expected.

My story begins in the 6th grade.

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Investing in the Invisible: My Pledge to Empower the Black LGBT Community

Today, I saw a magazine cover targeted to the LGBTQ community (this time, it was specifically towards the men having sex with men spectrum), and there was one very obvious thing to me: there were no men of colour. You can argue the colour scheme chosen for said cover eliminates the ability to view race, but I’d have to call bullshit on that.

As soon as I saw it, I just put my head down, shook my head, and sighed. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but to me, it is so much more than a magazine cover. It’s the overwhelming feeling that I, as a gay Black man, am invisible to the greater LGBTQ community. And this is not the first cover to do this. In fact, if you Google image search “gay magazine covers,” you’ll see the same thing: an alarming number of white men. Now don’t think I am against white gay males (I’m known for being down with the swirl myself), but how am I supposed to feel included with the marginalized community I belong to, if I can never see any fair representations of myself?

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Redefining Realness: How Janet Mock Is Teaching Me To Be A Better Trans Ally

The following is a repost of a piece I wrote three months ago for Believe Out Loud about trans activist Janet Mock’s book Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More.

Be sure to check out my thoughts at the end on what this piece has meant to me since publishing, and a reflection on where we are today as a society in protecting our trans brothers and sisters.

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It Will Always Come From The Heart

So I am venturing on a new little journey for myself. WRITING! The skill has always kind of been there, but I have decided to turn it into a piece of what I represent as “fighter for social justice.” So to begin this new adventure, I asked myself:

What do you want to write about?

Well, that’s a loaded question. I could write about anything couldn’t I? But no, I want it to mean something. I want it to influence thought in others. The thing I loved the most about college was reading new text that made me really think about what the hell I understood in life. Call me a nerd, but it’s so exciting to learn and think about new things!

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