Culture Life

The divide within the African diaspora won’t get us anywhere

When I was in elementary school,  another Black student told me that she and her family were simply ‘African’ and not ‘African American’ because her ancestors had never been enslaved. If you thought I, a fellow Black woman, was confused at that moment, imagine how puzzled our predominantly white classmates, who had already mentally grouped this Black girl and me as the same person, were.

I initially failed to understand what this student meant by her separation between recent African immigrants and North American Black descendants of the enslaved. But as I learned more about our history, over time, I began to comprehend what she meant. Throughout my life, this discourse would come up again and again.

Although we look the same in everyone else’s eyes, there’s still an “otherness” in our history and culture that, oftentimes, separates us.

I’ve been told by recent African immigrants that because I am a descendant of slavery, my ancestors and I are weak, whereas Africans are stronger because they had the choice to come to this country. I’ve heard Black slave descendants use coded language when referring to Africans, saying things that allude to them being “unkempt” and “savage”. I’ve seen them question recent immigrants’ intelligence, talk down to them, or insult their beauty.

I’ve felt this divide within our community and I’ve seen it with my own eyes.


But recently, the world has experienced a global reckoning that criticizes the ways in which we approach race, culture, and ethnicity. Since the inhumane death of George Floyd on Memorial Day of this year, industries across all boards have had their historic dirty laundry with racism, colorism, and sexism aired out for the world to see as the public has assertively held them more accountable than ever.

With this, I’ve taken the time to truly question my nationality within this country, and have further understood the power of unity within the African diaspora through identification.

First, it’s important to understand where the ill-feelings between us comes from. The tension and animosity between Africans and descendants of the enslaved in North America are traced back to both group’s individual experiences with migration, slavery, and colonialism. 


The Atlantic slave trade stripped enslaved Africans of our culture and left us to recreate a completely new one, which many present-day Black Americans identify with. And whether we understand it or not, American Black culture today has strong and direct influences from slavery that those who were never enslaved in America may not be familiar with.

African empires and kingdoms have had their own relationships with slavery but with completely different meanings. Writers Daivi Rodima-Taylor and Zadi Zokou describe it as “local socio-cultural patterns of clientage and adoptive kinship rather than a large-scale commercial enterprise.”

Africa, which is the second-largest and oldest continent in the world, has many different unique cultures within it too. Like anywhere, Africa’s complicated history has similarly been processed into a unique modern-day culture that African Americans just may not understand.

Our cultural differences are at the forefront when associating with each other. On both ends, there’s an attitude of othering and criticizing.

And despite completing an ancestry test that told me exactly where in Africa my ancestors are from, I still am confused culturally as to where and who I should identify with. It feels like a bridge that will never be crossed and something that slavery has taken from me forever.

If I’ve learned anything from the recent reignition of civil rights discussion though, it’s that the diaspora’s otherness won’t make us any better as we exist in this country together. When looking at each other internally, we may notice our differences, but to anyone else, we are simply Black.

It isn’t the slave descendants’ fault that they were forced to assimilate. But it also shouldn’t be pushed upon recent African immigrants to assimilate if they do not choose to. There is no blame to be given to those of us that are non-consensual foreigners to this land. We shouldn’t side-eye each other because we are unfamiliar with each other’s culture.

There’s no easy solution and even I don’t have the answers to this age-old discourse in the slightest. But in this introspective time for the world, I’ve rethought my identity and nationality.

For myself, as an American descendant of the enslaved, I hope to only be referred to as Black. I’ve made this decision because of the danger and separation that I think the identification of ‘African American’ holds within our community.

When we separate African Americans from African immigrants, we, in a way, recognize slavery as the qualification to be a *true* Black American. But slavery is not the sole definition of what makes me who I am. It creates a false qualification that is unattainable for African immigrants. ‘African American’ also does not include the entirety of the diaspora. I think of the term as a way to further push this “otherness” narrative and it can separate us from the diversity within our community, rather than embracing it.

So no, the other classmate in my elementary school may not have identified herself as African American, but now I don’t either. I’m Black (with a capital ‘B’) whose ancestors came from Africa. Slavery may have reinterpreted my culture, but it does not define the legitimacy of myself as a Black woman in America.

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LGBTQIA+ Poetry Books Pop Culture

Ariana Brown’s poetry powerfully captures life as a queer person of color

The first thing you should know about Ariana Brown’s debut poetry book, SANA SANA, is that I could not stop crying, from start to finish. She definitely succeeds in holding the reader, and most importantly, holding herself as the author. 

Ariana has been featured in PBS, Huffington Post, For Harriet, Remzcla, Muzzle, and performed in spaces such as the San Antonio Guadalupe Theater, Tucson Poetry Festival, and the San Francisco Opera Theatre. She performs at universities, has curriculum available for specific poems, and she even has a music video out for her poem “Ode to Thrift Stores.”

So it was only natural for her to turn her poetic artwork into a physical collection.

In her poem “Odisea (for Ozuna)” she writes, “It was years before I wrote poems about loving myself, / but they come so easy now.”

SANA SANA is a poetry collection of Black Mexican girlhood, queerness, reclamation of identity and autonomy in a capitalistic and racist world, and self-love. 

Media representation and the plethora of examples of colonization and white supremacy from the beginning of time display a consistent form of erasure of Blackness when depicting Latinx culture.

We as people of color have the absolute right to critique whiteness and how it negatively impacts us.

Brown masterfully highlights the impact of this harm by explaining this in her opening poem “23” in the lines, “I don’t know / how to call myself Black in Spanish / without it being an insult” as well as her poem “Dear White Girls in My Spanish Class” through the lines, “Let me be clear. / Spanish was given to my people / at the end of a sword… Spanish is not my native tongue. / English isn’t either. The languages I speak / are bursting with blood, but they are all I have.” 

Ariana Brown does an amazing job emphasizing resiliency and survival among Black people in her poem “Cumbia.” The root of cumbia is through slaves in Colombia inventing it because of their inability to lift their feet while in chains. There is joy in the act of dancing, and to dance is “to make freedom/where there isn’t one.” 

3 layers Face Mask Virus protection

We as people of color have the absolute right to critique whiteness and how it negatively impacts us. And the author is able to do that without making whiteness the center of her narrative.

In Brown’s poems “Instead” and “Supremacy,” she refuses to make her book more palatable for white readers by making her critique of them the center of the flow of her poems. She talks about the preferential treatment of white women while making sure that the focus is on how Black women’s narratives are to be at the center after not including them for so long. 

Yes, I’m still crying. You’re probably crying too. 

Finding yourself within the context of the color of your skin as a person of color is very different from coming into your sexuality as a queer person, and one of the most precious things that stood out to me in this collection is how this poet learns to love herself as a Black woman because of her love for another Black woman in “Myself, First.”

Everyone’s self-discovery with gender and sexuality varies, and it feels good to read this form of it as a queer non-binary woman. 

Finding yourself within the context of the color of your skin as a person of color is very different from coming into your sexuality as a queer person.

Reading SANA SANA and being exposed to Ariana’s work in general always moves me to tears because I have permission to be comfortable in my skin and in my body. In my Black and Queer body, more specifically.

City Lips Matte

Reading this book will make Black people feel comforted in how amidst living in this shitty world, being with your people will support you in your living and thriving; “I have never needed a country to love me—just Black people.” 

Yes, I’m still crying. You’re probably crying too. 

SANA SANA is released and available to purchase here at Game Over Books.

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The Internet Poetry Books Pop Culture

These Instagram poets aren’t afraid to bring us the authenticity we need

Poetry often bridges a connection between one’s soul and words. It is a form of art, one which women of color are taking by storm on social media with their unique voices. These women are not only spreading universal art but are breaking barriers and spreading awareness with poetry as their weapon of choice.

I consider myself a poet as well and so I resonate with the words of other poets. They inspire me to not only resist injustice but appreciate the flaws and blessings I have within myself. Reading poetry allows me to have a deep connection with the author that goes beyond physicality. I read poetry to reflect on and empower myself.

In honor of the women of color on Instagram who are changing society by words and poetry, here are my top five poets I go to for art.

1. Pavana Reddy

Los Angeles-based writer and author of the book Rangoli, Pavana Reddy first used poetry as therapy to heal the wounds caused by the loss of her sister. Reddy initially began sharing her work anonymously under the handle @mazadohta – consisting of the words ‘Maza’ and ‘Dohta’ from her favorite book, “IQ84” by Haruki Murakami, from Reddy’s understanding the words together refer the relationship between the body and mind. After gaining confidence in her work, Reddy began associating her name with her account and work but decided not to change the Instagram handle as it was a part of her journey. Reddy has since inspired many with her resilient poetry.

“Poetry and writing, in general, have saved my life more than once. When you suffer a loss that sends you into this spiral of depression, it’s easy to cling onto anything that helps you feel better, even if it’s only temporary. When I first reached for writing as a way to deal with this hurricane of emotions I was holding inside, I was forced to face all of my fears head-on. And as long as I wanted to grow as a writer, I had to learn to keep being honest with myself,” she told Bastet Noir in an interview. 

2. Nikita Gill

Nikita Gill is a British-Indian writer and artist living in England. She first began sharing her work on Tumblr and then went on to gain a huge following on her social media handles including Instagram. Having lived in New Delhi at a young age, Gill’s poetry reflects on that experience and depicts her anger and vulnerability.

“There was so much anger inside me. Men would strip me bare with their eyes and comment on my body. My parents wouldn’t let me out past a certain point at night. You literally become caged, because your safety is constantly at risk. And you’re not allowed to be yourself,” Gill told the BookSeller.

Her core readership consists of women in their late teen onwards and Gill writes to these readers as if addressing her younger self.

3. Nayyirah Waheed

Not much is known about author Nayyirah Waheed. She has published two books of poetry, Salt and Nejma, and is active on social media, but she shares her poetry exclusively and nothing personal. The African American poet began writing at a young age which according to some outlets was as young as 11 years old.

Waheed’s work focuses on immigration, self-love and other social issues such as race and identity. She is most well known for her style of writing which makes no use of capitalization or punctuation to reflect her African ancestral tongue.

4. Jasmin Kaur

“Part of the reason why I write and why I choose to render myself very visible through my work, as a Punjabi-Sikh woman, is because I didn’t I grow up seeing women or girls like me ever in a public space,” Jasmine Kaur said.

Kaur is a writer, illustrator, spoken word artist and elementary school teacher. Her writing explores themes of feminism, womanhood, social justice, political oppression, and self-love. In an interview with Women’s March Global, Kaur said a lot of her work is influenced by the oppressive experiences that her people have suffered in her home of Punjab. Her writing reflects the experiences of oppression she has faced growing up as a girl in society.

5. Harpreet M. Dayal

After having lived her whole life in the UK, Harpreet Dayal moved to Canada with her husband. This inspired her to write Svādhyāya (Sanskrit for ‘study of the self’), a collection of poems and musings. She calls it her journey to a better understanding of oneself. Dayal is also the author of another book, a short story for children, and is a spoken word performer.

“I personally think the most important thing is to evoke emotion and really get the listeners to imagine and feel the words. I am learning to use language that will really evoke emotions in the listener,” she told Thirty West Publishing House.

While this list does not do justice to all the creatives out there, it consists of women who inspire me on a daily basis. I hope you find the same peace, love and inspiration you may need in reading these women’s art as I do. I challenge you to read more, learn more, and write more. Poetry is an art of healing for the soul and I invite you to indulge in it.

Editor's Picks Gender & Identity Race Life Inequality

Here’s why I’m done helping you with your white guilt

99% of the time, it is hard being a person of color (POC).

There are days when I am filled with anxiety, self-doubt, and dread because of how stark my skin is. Every time I walk into a classroom where the majority of students are non-POC, my guard goes up. It’s an everyday battle of tackling microaggressions from professors who thought it was okay to ask if I “went to school on a camel” or being forced to listen to my non-POC classmates’ ignorant remarks on how colonization was actually “beneficial for low-income countries.”

During my first year at university, as one of the very few POC on campus, I began to consider it my social responsibility to educate people when they made ignorant remarks. My passion for writing transformed into writing for newspapers and magazines, specifically around the theme of race and gender. After all, wasn’t this my duty to other people of color? To ensure that ignorant people saw the mistakes in their statements? And, if I was in a room, surrounded by Brits, shouldn’t I remind them of their country’s colonial legacy and how the system has created a hierarchy based on race?

But a few months into this routine realized how angry I had become. The act of being woke 24/7 left me exhausted and cynical.

I was tired.

I began to feel as if my identity was being taken away from me. Sure, I was a South Asian/Pakistani/Muslim/woman (a rare-breed at a British uni), but I was so much more than that.

I realized that I didn’t want to be the unofficial spokesperson for my country or for South Asian female experiences.  I didn’t want my university life to focus on my fight against racism/micro-aggressions or my attempts to get people not to perpetuate stereotypes they see about POC in pop culture.

Of course, it goes without saying that I do want to leave my mark during college so that the next South Asian or Muslim girl who comes through those doors, has it a little bit easier. I want to ensure that the next generation of POC takes up all their rightful spaces. But it’s also true that I want to have an enjoyable university experience which is not overly political most of the time.

Simply, I wanted my existence to be enough. I want to be seen as more than the melanin in my skin, Islamic roots or Pakistani nationality. Basically, I don’t want my life to be a “Lecture 101: How to be Woke.”

The first step towards this new outlook was when an 80-year-old in a posh area of London assumed that I was part of the terrorist organization responsible for the September 11th attacks. In his exact words, “Ahh, so you’re a part of the Taliban, then?” a statement in response to an inquiry on my nationality. But instead of explaining how his misconceptions of Pakistanis were blown out of proportion, I chose to take a breath and walk away.

Honestly, I didn’t have the energy to educate people who are already set in their opinions.

This is for all those woke people out there who are tired of being woke all the time. Remember: Put yourself first. It is not your duty or obligation to educate every single person you come across.

You have an identity outside of your race, and, darling, your existence is more than enough for me.

Movies Race Inequality

Dear non-black people of color who are bitter about “Black Panther,” you’re all hypocrites

What can I say about Black Panther that hasn’t been said yet? Unarguably, the most awaited movie of this year is finally out there, and it seems well deserving of all the hype. Critics and fans alike love it, and it really is a movie that needs to be celebrated. However, as we cannot always have good things, there’s a number of “critics” who seem to be disappointed with the film.

Racist comments for a revolutionary movie with a Black superhero, an all-black cast and featuring a thriving African kingdom that celebrates the culture isn’t a surprising thing, to be honest.

Ironically, a lot of the viewers seems to think that the movie is “anti-white and racist” – apparently, that’s an actual thing – because the cast doesn’t have enough white actors. Others claim that the movie was just made to peddle propaganda, and is not based on any quality content. Now, usually, I refrain from letting these comments get into my head, but I was pretty surprised by a certain set of comments that arose on Twitter these past few days.

I am talking, of course, about my fellow non-Black POCs, who seem to have a problem with a superhero movie that primarily features Black people.

Yes, you heard me right.

There are actual POCs out there on Twitter whose problem with the movie transcends to a recent trend that some Asians have developed: finding a problem with Black representation, and citing a lack of Asian representation as the reason.

I saw it happen with the Nike London advert. As a South Asian myself, yes, of course, I would’ve loved to see some Brown people in that ad. But what’s the point in taking the whole conversation in a wrong direction by finding a problem with the fact that the advert contained Black people and not Brown?

In the fight for more representation, if you are targeting another minority, then you’re doing it all wrong.

I am a Desi Brown girl, and I am excited to watch Black Panther. I am excited to watch it because I love Marvel, I love superheroes, I love diversity and I am stoked about what the representation means to all Black people out there and to all POCs in general.

Do I want a superhero movie with a Brown lead or cast? Absolutely. I would sacrifice a limb for a Kamala Khan movie.

But does that mean I am going to be petty and bitter and criticize a movie that features another minority? No, because if I did, I’d be the worst kind of hypocrite.

We all know how important this movie is going to be.

I can just imagine Black kids from all over the world getting inspired by this world and falling in love with characters who look like them. I can picture adults who are finally seeing themselves on screen in a light they’ve always wanted to, and to me, there’s nothing more precious than that. Whatever race or culture we all belong to, all of us POCs know exactly how much it means to see ourselves represented in movies and TV as larger than life characters, so why in the world should we be difficult about this?

A London based photographer recently did a photo shoot where kids recreated the Black Panther posters. I admit, when I saw the pictures, I almost cried. They speak for themselves, and if this doesn’t make you realize how meaningful this movie is, nothing will.

Representation matters. Period.
[Image Description: Two pictures from the photoshoot that re-imagine Black kids as Black Panther characters] Via Geeks of Color
Another popular trend is the comparison of Aquaman and Black Panther.

Fans claim that Aquaman will probably not get as much hype and love as Black Panther. The DC movie, starring Jason Momoa, is another 2018 superhero movie to look forward to, and, except the fact that both movies have badass superheroes who are also kings, there’s no reason to compare the movies. Both movies have diverse leads and are important. We should just celebrate both the movies for their diversity, as POCs together, instead of pitting them against each other in an age-old DC vs Marvel battle.

Being a POC doesn’t give one a free pass to be racist. Sometimes, we need to check in with our racism, and just stop being hypocrites.

Black Panther is a step towards the right direction, and we should look forward to more diversity and more inclusion, instead of nitpicking progress, and just committing a disservice to ourselves.

LGBTQIA+ Gender & Identity Life

Becoming an LGBTQ ally meant challenging my own community – and myself

I arrived as a first-year university student with a less-than-basic understanding of the LGBTQ community. I understood that non-straight men and women existed in theory, but the most exposure I had was to a few people I knew in high school. Keep in mind that I finished high school around 15 years ago with no LGBTQ friends. This was mostly due to the fact that I lived in a conservative South Asian Muslim community in Texas, where this was never uttered. I was so sheltered that the concept of a South Asian LGBTQ individual never occurred to me, much less the concept of an ally.

That is until I took one of my favorite classes as an undergraduate, comparative religion.

I was the youngest student in the class. As I struggled to get through readings and writing a higher-level research paper, one woman helped me through it all. Outside of our classwork though, she helped me look deep into my soul to understand what really mattered to me. She influenced me to think more critically and to question double standards and social norms.

As we became closer friends, and she became my life mentor, I asked her to meet up with me at my first Muslim Students’ Association event. I felt hesitation about joining the organization and could use the company in case I wanted to step out. She accepted my invitation and towards the end of the event, the speakers began discussing homosexuality in Islam. I eventually found myself feeling uncomfortable with the view that floated around: there was no space for homosexuality in Islam. I was conflicted because these students from “my community” were clear in their views, but I disagreed in my heart. Suddenly, my friend asked me whether I agreed with this group.

Between trying to fit in with them and answering her question, I decided on the most diplomatic (and indecisive) answer.

I told her that a person’s sexual orientation was between that person and God. It was not up to me to ever judge anyone. What I really meant was that I just was not sure. She then asked me, “Well, what if I was gay? Then what would you say?”

As I took a moment to think, I told her that I would still hold the same view, but that it would never change our friendship.

The next week, after we finished dinner she asked me if I ever noticed anything “different” about her. I could not understand what she was getting at. Finally, after we stopped beating around the bush, she blurted out, “Saba, I am a lesbian. That is what’s different about me. Can’t you tell by the way I act and dress? That is why I asked you that question the other day at the event. How do you feel about it? Will you be like other South Asians at this university who stopped  hanging out with me?”

As I sat silent, I naively responded, “It still does not matter to me!  No, I do not have any plans to ditch our friendship, but just to make sure – you are not attracted to me, right?”

She laughed and said, “No, I am not.  You are definitely not my type.”

As the mood lightened, I again naively asked, “Really?  Wait!  But why?  I am pretty decent looking aren’t I?” Clearly, I was letting my ego immaturely take over, and needed to shut up.  I was grappling with my naivety of not sensing her sexual orientation. In not wanting to make assumptions, I realized I was not engaging too directly with the topic. I could not call myself an ally just yet.

I was lucky that my mentor gave me the opportunity to be a better ally to her, and later to others. My friendship with her continued to grow over my years as an undergraduate, and we talked openly about our love lives. During this time, I did my best to listen rather than offer advice, reactions, or thoughts.  Every conversation with her taught me empathy in its rawest form. For example, she experienced copious levels of stress around belonging to the South Asian community – and to her family. As a heterosexual female, I could never understand her exact experience. While I did not always feel belonging to the South Asian community, I could never even compare my situation to my lesbian mentor because her exclusion was automatic. It was simply on the basis of who she was, but for me, it was purely out of choice.

Nevertheless, the unapologetic confidence she exhibited in who she was during our conversations perhaps benefitted me more than her mentorship. I would venture to say her fearlessness rubbed off on me in ways that I still attribute to her. Not too long ago, someone close to me in my South Asian community came out. I knew of his sexual orientation deep in my heart, but I always knew only he could decide the right time to share this. This time around, I was able to confidently support someone as an ally. I again listened and remembered that my job was to make sure this person belonged – in my life and in this world. 

Gender & Identity Humor Life

20 experiences minority students at all-white colleges always have

College is a crossroads of sweaty bus rides, desperate club members tabling in the free speech areas, and most importantly, diversity.

It’s where young people on the cusp of self-discovery and innovation come together from all walks of life. Yet somehow, we minorities and people of color at predominately white universities still find ourselves relaying similar complaints and experiences about student life.

You know what I’m talking about:

1. Entering a lecture hall, club meeting, or event and immediately scanning the space for some familiar shades of melanin

[Image Description: A woman looking around in confusion.]
This is especially true when you’re just entering college as a freshman. Meeting new people is what college is about, but it’s a little easier when you can knowingly laugh with someone about the sheer mass of white people that’ll be sharing your class for the next four years.

2. Realizing with a deep melancholy that you’re the only person of color in your massive lecture hall

[Image Description: A man sitting on a bench at a train station while a train moves past them.]
It’s especially off-putting for someone like me, whose high school was the complete opposite. Hey, maybe at least this way the professor will remember you.

3. Reveling in the various ethnic/religious student union general body meetings because of the promise of free food

[Image Description: An anime character feeling overjoyed because of people offering him food.]
It’s not only an excuse to find some familiarity in these new place, but also the biryani at the Bengali Student Association tasted exactly like the kind my mom makes.

4. Simultaneously loathing the dining hall’s attempts at your cultural cuisine

[Image Description: A child feeling disgusted and saying no to the food kept on the table.]
I didn’t think that you could whitewash curry until I realized that the bread I thought I was eating was actually a chicken breast.

5. Having your blood pressure rise and sanity wane when you see Confederate flags and/or any sort of MAGA paraphernalia

[Image Description: A woman getting annoyed because of another woman.]
Seeing a red hat at this point incites an almost Pavlovian response.

6. Being the token representation for your ethnicity/religion/race

[Image description: A woman cringing on camera.]
Not only do you look great for university brochures and tours, but you also bear the weight of representing an entire group of people at all times!

7. Getting confused with other people of color who look absolutely nothing like you

[Image Description: A woman thinking about something.]
Believe it or not, hijab does not indicate familial status, who would’ve thought right? If that were the case, I suppose all y’all with the Guy Harvey fishing shirts, slacks, and chinos are related.

8. “Where are you from?”

[Image Description: A man saying “I am from Bennettsville, South Carolina. So I am what you might call a redneck”]
Even when there’s no “from, from,” I know Tadworth wasn’t asking about me growing up in Orlando.

9. You want to clobber that one POC who has the audacity to say that something insensitive doesn’t bother him/her in a massive lecture hall discussion as if he/she speaks for your culture/race/ethnicity/religion.

[Image Description: A woman throwing her shoe at someone while a man comes and holds her back.]
When a Desi kid declared that Apu from the Simpsons was whimsically misunderstood rather than a harmful perpetuation Indian-American stereotypes, I could almost hear the groans of color emanating throughout the lecture hall.

10. Feeling bad about not attending all the cultural events that apply to you

[Image Description: A woman saying “Oh sorry!”]
Listen, I fully intended on going to the Islam on Campus events, I just let my laziness and sleep deprivation get in the way.

11. Becoming someone’s first [insert race/ethnicity here] friend

[Image Description: Two men staring at each other uncomfortably.]
This is not so much bad, as it is weird. These people are really trying to tell me that they’ve gone they’re entire lives thinking that Starbucks nonsense was legitimate chai??

12. Feeling every eye suddenly hyper-fixate on you when something pertaining to your background comes up in lecture

[Image Description: People staring back at the camera in a bus.]
I am neither a Shia Muslim nor am I Iranian, but please professor, continue to eyeball me as if I have a personal anecdote about this obscure form of theater.

13. Name pronounciation

[Image Description: A woman saying “Then they can learn to say Uzomaka.”]
I am in no way ashamed or embarrassed by my beautiful, elaborately Bengali name, but sometimes it’s just easier to go by Bob when I’m ordering cold brew in a rush.

14. That breath of relief when you realize the white person you’ve been getting along with really well doesn’t partake in the microaggressions you face every day

[Image Description: A woman rejoicing and running up stairs.]
This is the bare minimum of being a decent human being, and yet I continue to be impressed by fellow white students who can understand the nuances of being POC in predominately white spaces.

15. Feeling like issues that majorly affect you and fellow POC are being either brushed over or not treated as strongly by the mostly-white administration and student body

[Image Description: A man saying “So if you take that deal, what you’re telling me is, “Hey man, I don’t hate you. I just don’t care about you.” on a talk show.]
Whether it’s POC admin receiving threats or students feeling unsafe because of un-American government policy, the promise of solidarity from superiors always feels a little forced, and entirely too superficial.

16. Being fetishized.

[Image Description: Two women showing a disgusted puking expression.]
Being curious and asking questions about cultures unfamiliar to you because of genuine interest: okay. Sexualizing and/or fetishizing outdated stereotypes because you have a kink for [insert race/ethnicity here]: not okay.

17. Finding yourself a beautiful group of fellow POC to call a home away from home

Identity GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY
[Image Description: Woman wearing hijab laughing along other women.]
It’s a feeling beyond comprehension to be able to find a niche that you not only feel utterly at ease with but can truly relate to through shared experiences that make you all so unique. You learn to own up to who you are.

18. Introducing white students to the wonders of POC events in a way that works to unify the student body

[Image Description: A boy looking around in confusion.]
Bring white friends to cultural events in an effort to help expose them to an important part of your identity helps dispel any subconscious ignorance they may have not otherwise realized they had.

19. Refusing to allow the feeling of being small affect how hard you fight for issues that pertain to yourself and fellow POC.

[Image Description: A man saying “we must fight for the equality of every man, woman, and child regardless of race, religion, color, creed, and sexual orientation” to a group of people with a mic.]
It doesn’t matter that the march against the travel ban in my college was smaller than my theater appreciation discussion class. It matters that people showed up anyways, and that they cared enough to stand up in the face of an antagonistic or ambivalent majority.

20. Learning to feel emboldened by your experiences and unique culture

[Image Description: A man and woman dancing while sitting at a talk show.]
You learn to own up to who you are.

TV Shows Pop Culture

The absence of this main “Stranger Things” character goes deeper than a promo poster

Last week, while perusing Twitter, I came across a conversation regarding Stranger Things. Because I hadn’t yet started season 2, I almost scrolled through it in fear of catching a spoiler. Instead what I found was a conversation about racism in television and advertising. Specifically in regards to merchandise and promotional products.

The issue was that Target released a nationwide advertisement for the new Stranger Things Funko Pop dolls. Fun right? Wrong. Take a look at the poster and what do you see? Better question is, who do you not see?

Twitter user @mikewheeler calls it out specifically, stating “Miss Barb had 2 minutes of screentime and Lucas was in every episode??”

My sentiments exactly.

Where is  Caleb McLaughlin aka Lucas?!

Not only does Barb appear in the poster (who in my opinion is the worst character on the show), but so does the Demogorgon. THE DEMOGORGON, THE SEASON ONE VILLAN, IS FEATURED ON THE POSTER TOO!

Twitter and Stranger Things fans were not having it. Going down the comments thread on this tweet, you see fans asking the same questions.

At first glance,  it may seem like a very innocent mistake. But, putting together a huge promotional advertisement for a multi-million dollar company like Target, comes with multiple eyes of approval and seats at the table. At least a dozen people had to give an okay for this to be published.  And yet, no one saw an issue with one of the main characters not being prominently featured.

Target eventually made a statement that was pretty much a half-assed acknowledgement of the issue.

Instead of acknowledging the racial sentiment of the issue, they only say that a “character” was left out. Not just a character. But the ONLY black or person of color on the show, who is also a main character.

Seems a little too convenient.

This isn’t the first time this has happened in advertising for tv shows or movies. Similarly the promo poster for NBC’s drama The Night Shift, left out 1 of 2 of it’s black character’s, and its 1 gay character. Both are main characters. When asked why, the network claimed it was an issue with “fit”. They couldn’t fit everyone on the poster. The other black character played by JR Lemon barely makes it in. If you squint really hard you can see his body at the very edge of the right corner. That’s “representation”.

via deadline


Living in a white supremacist culture, white is seen as good, and black, not so much. In the eyes of their marketing team, sharing the black character is an after thought.  Something they can do with the click of a button, only after being called out on a national stage.

What further lends to the narrative that they purposefully left out Lucas’ character is the updated picture. Not only does Lucas perfectly fit into the poster, but it looks as if he had already been there, and a higher power chose to remove him.

When it comes to advertising and making space for black and brown people in the entertainment industry, there is still a long way to go. Throwing communities of color a token black or brown character in a otherwise completely white cast isn’t diversity and it isn’t progression. It’s cliche and obvious.

Do better.


Career Advice Now + Beyond

My school took away my scholarship – because I was an “angry Black girl” to them

I never got the recognition I should’ve gotten while being a part of my school newspaper’s editorial staff because I wasn’t enough to my adviser or to my fellow staff members. 

Being the overachieving, hard-working, helpful leader wasn’t enough. 

Being the one who used her free mornings, always started the class, and pushed writers to reach their best still wasn’t enough. 

Being the peacemaker, a huge contributor during brainstorming ideas and just overall dedicated to having great articles wasn’t enough either. 

Call me bitter all you want, but if you were me, you would be bitter, too.

I used to find myself making a circle back to good old self-blame when I reflected on my time on the paper. I thought I didn’t do enough, I wasn’t much of a leader, or that the whole “big angry Black girl” thing shadowed over all my more likable qualities.

The paper is usually led by white students who obviously don’t extend the conversation outside their perspective. I used the opportunity to write stories that affected me and more than half the school. I was tired of seeing the paper highlighting another common story like about the “newest star athlete.” Why did we have to be hesitant on discussing issues that matter?

I wasn’t afraid to bring something new to the (white) table. While they brought up the newest trend, I was one of the writers who mentioned the most recent events. However, the majority of the white students and the proud members of the “Best Friends of Whites Club” didn’t love that I didn’t focus on insignificant school news.

They didn’t support me when I wrote about why people needed to respect my natural hair. I felt judgment for discussing how Black women’s mental health wasn’t taken seriously. And last year my friend and I got huge backlash when we wrote about how mixed-baby fetishes exist and how disgusting they are. 

My topics ranged from why Black Lives Matter to how much of a joke white feminism is.

The only “negative” outcome from all of this is that it made me become this “loud, big, angry Black girl” to my fellow editors.

During heated discussions on topics like politics, the conversation either died when I opened my mouth or I was told to calm down. Let me point out the fact that I wasn’t one of the 8 AM-screaming editors who loved to waste precious time and allow everything to get stressful. I was either interrupted, ignored, censored, or pressured to sugarcoat what I was writing. 

Yet, I still fought for this paper to be the best. Others don’t understand why and most likely you don’t either.

My reason?  

As much as it wasn’t a safe space for me I knew that at least someone had to create a tiny space for others to freely express themselves until the whole space was for everyone. I did that through my role as the Opinions Section Director, my main responsibility as an editor. Especially for the girls of color in the paper, I opened my doors wide open for whatever they needed to say. 

Just because I didn’t get a chance to write without racist and sexist criticism, didn’t mean someone else had to lose that chance, too.

At the end of the day, knowing that I provided that means a lot more to me than my fellow editors and former advisor kissing my feet. It even means a lot more over the $200 scholarship I received, a scholarship meant for two editors only.

Ever since the first advisor left years ago, he started a scholarship fund and awarded two editors for their hard work. My advisor is the one to nominate two students to receive it. I wouldn’t be the first Black girl editor to receive it, but I knew I had a chance. When the time came, my advisor was supposed to choose only two editors. 

He instead split the money among all five editors because he “couldn’t just choose two” and that”we’re all amazing.”

Oh really?

That’s not what he said when he filled up the second head editor spot with the other rich white girl who only thought of herself.

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“Couldn’t just choose,” my ass –  you knew exactly what you were doing!

I gave my all and as much as I want to state every single person who tore me down in some way, I know that’s not going to change anything.

Being white and mediocre gets you places and gives you opportunities a lot sooner than for people of color. I can work five times harder, but it still won’t matter. 

I’ll still be the Black girl who gets pushed out of the spotlight to make room for Billy and Becky.


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Books Pop Culture

Meet Robyn Smart, groundbreaking children’s book author, mentor, and CEO

Robyn Smart is an incredibly powerful and independent writer living in South London. She is a mother, writer, mentor and CEO for Unlimited You Empowerment Program.

Robyn is currently taking the world by storm with her self-published children’s books, that focus on diversity and the human experience. She is an inspiration for any woman experiencing obstacles in her path and struggling to surpass them.  Her first book was My Magic Scarf published in 2015, and her second is Who Am I? which was published last month. She focuses on children’s books and promoting diversity within the genre. The Tempest spoke with her about her ambitions within the children’s book industry.

The Tempest: Your website mentions that your book was self-published.  Why did you choose to go that route?

I decided to self publish in order to have more control over my books. Quite often books of a diverse nature by diverse authors are not always accepted by the large publishing houses. Having a degree of autonomy enables me to decide when and what to publish, catering for a diverse market.

Your website also mentions that you were planning on attending law school when you decided to become a writer instead. How did you make such a serious decision?

The decision in fact was taken out of my hands by an unknown illness which plagued me during my time at law school. During my third year I completed my dissertation from my hospital bed. Once my degree was completed I continued to be ill, and despite having the offers from top law colleges to complete my [law degree], I had to decline due to continuous admissions to hospital. I asked God to guide me in my next venture and here I am.

What advice would you have for women who also are faced with life-changing decisions, like you went through?

I would say, ask God or whoever you believe in to grant you the serenity to accept the things you cannot change. I would say, have faith in yourself, your capabilities and your fortitude and keep focused on your goals but accept there may be a change in your path, but keep steadfast in the knowledge that you were put on this earth for a reason. To make your imprint, to make your footprint however small.

Why have you decided to write children’s books? What about the genre is important to you?

My decision to write children’s books is to be the voice of children. To help express love, hate, pain, all feelings that children quite often cannot express themselves. The genre of children’s books are profoundly important to raise the profile of our children, future leaders.

Do you have any more books planned yet that you could tell us a bit about?

I do have a number of books planned, however I am giving My Magic Scarf and Who Am I? some time for people to know and understand me and my style of writing.

What would you say to young women looking to get published?

Follow your mind in which avenue you decide to publish through. Whether indie or traditional believe in yourself and your product. Get friends and family to preview your work, although the final decision should be yours based on what your spirit and inner feelings tell you. Be confident in what you do and listen to your inner self.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Gender & Identity Life

We don’t love immigrants for the right reasons

A popular response to anti-immigrant rhetoric and action in the US is the massive ideological effort to prove how valuable immigrants are to our country.

Celebrities proclaim that immigrants get the job done and are the backbone of our industries.

Trendy t-shirts tell us that it is immigrants that make America great.

If you listen to mainstream liberal pundits, like I do, you will be told that immigrants are these angelic citizens who are eager to work selflessly to build our great nation. In response to conservative talking points that immigrants are criminals, you will be told that they commit less crime than the average native citizen. In response to white nationalist claims that immigrants corrupt our culture, you will be told that they have in fact (again, very selflessly) created what we know as modern American heritage.

Even the institution I call home has taken this principled stand. Shortly after Trump’s first travel ban, my college’s museum removed art created by immigrants, as a way to show how much they contribute to our institution, and the rest of the country.

I have few doubts that the act was well-intentioned. But when we center our love for fellow marginalized human beings around their productivity, what status are we truly assigning to immigrants?

Where does this production narrative leave me, and other second-generation immigrant girls making their way through college?

Our museum was well-intentioned, but I cannot help but think that if I do not do the necessary amount of labor to contribute to this society and this country, I will be completely worthless.

Those who are missing from this mainstream, production-oriented immigrant narrative are the migrants killed by vigilantes while crossing the border. Those who disobeyed the state and ended up on the wrong side of a prison wall. Those who reserve their patriotism for their home countries in Central or South America, or for no country at all.

These are the people who do not view their original cultures as a morsel to be melted into a boiling pot, who do not see their exploited labor yield enough money to feed their families even as they work to fill our supermarkets with produce.

What of the immigrants who are not “valuable”, or are indeed “valuable”, so painfully valuable to us that we force them to build a house with a broken leg.

No matter how well-intentioned, efforts to define immigrants by their material accomplishments, such as artwork, legitimize the systems that exploit labor, and our desire to see immigrants become “productive”.

There are better ways to show respect for immigrants. The first step is to understand that human beings are valuable whether or not they contribute to our society in ways we deem acceptable.

The characterization of immigrants as “valuable” to America is a weak argument against white nationalist rhetoric, because the question of immigrant humanity becomes about their level of productivity. The opposition can simply use fake news, or even real instances (however few) of immigrants committing crime or abusing welfare to claim they are unproductive, and therefore subhuman.

When you root a respect for immigrants in their unwavering humanity, productive or no, it becomes much harder to argue for white nationalist policy. What evidence can the opposition use to claim that unconditionally full persons are less than human, rather than pure subjectivity, an approach that would fully expose their racism?

To the Davis Museum: next time there is an anti-immigrant action that requires protest, don’t hide your art. Flaunt it. Conduct a special exhibit on immigrant art, showcasing the real human beings that made these beautiful objects, rather than drawing attention only to the objects themselves.

I genuinely believe that students such as myself have more to learn from immigrants themselves than from their decontextualized labor.

The Tempest Radio Episodes The Expose Show Audio + Visual

THE EXPOSÉ | Episode 32 | “Does White Feminism Actually Exist?”

White women showed up at The Women’s March- but are they still considered feminists if they don’t show up for the minorities, women of color, and transgender women? Join us as we talk about this complicated, intersectional issue of white feminism.

Deerhoof – +81
Blonde Redhead- Misery is a Butterfly

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