Announcement: Concerned Students United Inc.

Those of you who I have spoken to about what ignited my passion for activism and the advocacy work I do already know about the trauma I experienced my senior year of high school.
 
For those of you who do not know, here is a brief retelling of that trauma. The entirety of my senior year of high school was consumed by experiences of racism, sexism, harassment and discrimination and organizing to combat discrimination within my high school as the lead organizer of the Concerned Students of GNB Voc-Tech High School (@Change4GNBVT on Twitter).
 
This student group was birthed out of a small group of students appalled at the complacency of the sitting administration in combatting discrimination and harassment of marginalized populations attending and working at GNBVT and of an ever-growing fear that the racist, sexist, homomisic, transmisic, classist, and ableist violence perpetuated at the student and faculty level would escalate – especially after the murder of nine black churchgoers in Charleston in 2015.
 
My peers and I organized a student forum at which we aired our grievances and I made a list of demands to improve the school climate. These demands, made on September 18, 2015, have not been implemented and the climate at GNBVT continues to worsen.
 
Following the forum what was left of the original members of CSGNBVT were on the recieving end of retaliation and harassment. My best friend was assaulted based on her gender identity and expression and her assaulters went unpunished. A peer called me racial epithets in class. This student went unpunished until he bought me toilet paper with Barack Obama’s face on it as a “Christmas gift”. I was told he received a one day suspension. The son of the vocational principal threatened me and my father on social media. Teachers referred to me as a “bitch” in conversations with one another and colluded together numerous times to get me into trouble with the school security office.
 
This retaliation was not limited to myself or my best friend. My father, an administrator and one of the (maybe) 6 or 7 black employees working at GNBVT, was harassed by his co-workers. In April of 2016 he was fired in retaliation for his decision to hire an attorney and his refusal to stand in the way of my decision to fight the bigotry at GNBVT.
 
As traumatic and as difficult as my senior year was and as some aspects of my life continue to be as a result of these experiences, I did not and do not intend to give up activism. I want to do this for as long as this work needs to be done, which is why I’ve founded Concerned Students United Inc.
 
Concerned Students United is a non-profit organization working to address the marginalization of underrepresented populations and the resulting disparities in education within the United States. Through public advocacy, cultural competency training and our efforts to protect and defend marginalized classes, we hope to brighten the future for all of America’s students.
 
I’m still working on the foundational work and on setting up an account so that funds can be donated to Concerned Students United Inc. However, if you want to support me personally (separate from my organization), here’s my Cash App link
 
Thanks for reading, y’all!!
FYI: I talk about my senior year of high school extensively in “I Burnt Out Because We Keep Pretending Black Activists Are Made of Steel“, a piece I wrote for Affinity Mag!!!
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Let’s Talk – #NotMySecondAmendment

From The Hofstra Chronicle

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

When it comes to the Second Amendment, some argue the individual rights theory, which suggests the Second Amendment creates an individual constitutional right for U.S. citizens, thus making it unconstitutional to restrict firearm possession.

Others argue the collective rights theory, which suggests the Second Amendment only forbids Congress from infringing upon the state’s right to self-defense.

Those who are indigenous to North America and/or are the descendants of slaves understand that regardless of which theory is most widely believed, the Second Amendment is an enabler and justification of white violence and is an impediment to black liberation in America.

Your response to my articulation of the reality of the Second Amendment might be, “You make everything about race” or, “But now the Constitution applies to you people so the past is irrelevant.”

To address your first hypothetical response, everything is about race. That fact persists not because I continue to address racism, but rather because whites have racialized people of color and reduced our existence to what their definitions of blackness, brownness, etc. mean socially, politically and economically.

To address your second hypothetical response, I want to make myself abundantly clear. To suggest that a document that stated black bodies were three-fifths of a whole person can ever protect black people and people of color the way it protects white people and white supremacy is asinine.

It is intellectually lazy to interpret the Second Amendment outside of the context that it was written. The Second Amendment was written to further the white agenda, which was and still remains to be the exploitation of vulnerable populations made vulnerable through colonization, enslavement and other abuses.

Let’s begin with the genocide of the Native Americans. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of “Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment,” writes, “The violent appropriation of Native land by white settlers was seen as an individual right in the Second Amendment … Settler-militias and armed households were institutionalized for the destruction and control of Native peoples, communities, and nations.”

The Second Amendment and its language was not written to be the foundation for “common-sense gun legislation”; the Second Amendment and its language was formulated to grant white colonists permission to use whatever violence necessary to seize land, turning Natives into collateral damage.

Let’s move on to the 19th Century. After the passage of the 13th Amendment, many states adopted “Black Codes,” which disarmed both freed and enslaved blacks because as the late poet Langston Hughes wrote, “Negroes, sweet and docile, meek, humble, and kind: beware the day they change their minds.”

Let’s transition to the 1960s, specifically 1967 and 1968. After the Black Panther Party, a leftist, pro-black political party, stood visibly armed in front of the California capitol building to protect their communities from police, then-Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the 1967 Mulford Act prohibiting open carry of weapons in public places. In 1968, Gov. Reagan signed the Gun Control Act of 1968 which explicitly barred felons and the mentally ill from owning firearms and banned cheaply-made, easily accessible handguns known as “Saturday Night Specials” completely.

The history of gun legislation runs through the blood of indigenous peoples and one that has historically punished black people for attempting to free ourselves from the oppressive state. America’s decision to ignore this context reveals that America is a country not interested in “common sense gun laws” at all.

Let’s Talk – Dear White Feminists:

From Hofstra Chronicle

Nothing you do at this point surprises me in the slightest, yet I often times find myself disappointed and enraged by just how apathetic and oblivious you are to literally everything. When I say “literally everything,” I really do mean literally everything.

Let’s take the #MeToo campaign for example. Are you all really going to pretend your organizing power did that? I would ask that you Google Tarana Burke, but the majority of you already know who she is. Burke founded the “Me Too” movement in 2006, more than 10 years ago, to uplift girls and women of color who experienced sexual assault and to provide them with the level of support she, as a sexual assault survivor, knows that they need.

Unsurprisingly, I haven’t seen Burke credited once. I also did not see her name attached to actress Alyssa Milano’s call to action via Twitter. I do, however, see Burke doing all that she can to make sure white feminists do not co-opt yet another movement birthed from black women, with hundreds of black women standing by her because what’s being done to Burke has been done to us as well.

And then, you have the nerve to say: “We’re all women fighting for the same thing. Where the credit goes doesn’t matter.” Doesn’t matter? Really?

Have you ever worked on a group project? There’s always that one kid who doesn’t pull their weight. There’s always that one kid who you try your hardest to delegate the smallest tasks to because you know that they likely will do a mediocre job, you know, assuming they do the task at all. Then when grading comes around, they get an A+ just like you do when all they did was send “OK” and “sounds good” to the GroupMe for your project a few times. Everyone in the group, and maybe even the professor, knows that kid has a poor work ethic and didn’t deserve an A+. That kid is you. White feminists are the kids who don’t pull their weight in group projects, but still get an A+.

So whenever I hear a white feminist suggest that black women are divisive for demanding our names be attached to our work and for refusing to let you all just parade our concepts around without clarifying that they do not belong to you, I laugh and I tell them, “That’s cute.”

It’s cute that you’re running around with your big hoops, your thick, drawn-on brows and your cornrows – or as you know them, Kim Kardashian braids – yelling “Cash Me Ousside,” as if you don’t call black women monkeys and clowns for having the same features you try to emulate or call us ghetto or hoodrats for wearing the same things you pay hundreds for.

It’s cute that you bat your eyelashes at me and tell me that you’re not one of the over 50 percent of white women who voted for Donald Trump and recite the definition of intersectionality to me, yet when I ask you about the feminist scholar who birthed that concept you can’t even tell me her name.

It’s cute that you really think if you say something blatantly false and clearly outrageous enough that it becomes true, simply because you as a white woman are afforded the space to say it.

It’s cute that you think your attempts to erase black women from feminist history and to spread the lie that the movement for liberation is where it is today because of women like you, will change reality. It won’t.

Regardless of how many times you declare your so-called feminism to be the epitome of female empowerment and to be revolutionary, it will always be white supremacy lite.

Let’s Talk – Despacito: The Legacy of Colonialism in Puerto Rico

From the Hofstra Chronicle

While white Americans throw tantrums over African-American athletes kneeling during the National Anthem to protest law enforcement treating black bodies as target practice, Puerto Ricans are reaping the full benefits of being second-class U.S. citizens.

What are the benefits of being under the sovereign jurisdiction of the United States, you ask? As a territory, the United States federal government controls all of Puerto Rico’s commerce, trade, immigration and naturalization, military affairs, mail, highways, natural resources, Social Security, federal taxation and maritime law. Debatably the greatest honor afforded to Puerto Ricans living on the island is not being able to vote in any U.S. congressional or presidential elections, but still having to fight in every single one of this nation’s wars. Who needs self-determination? Certainly not black and brown people.

You may be wondering what Puerto Ricans did to deserve the privilege of being stripped of their agency in the “land of the free.” Originally, Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony. Spanish colonizers invaded the island around 1508 and quickly transformed it into a major military post, enslaved the Taino people and forced them to work gold mines and kidnapped and sexually exploited the island’s women.

During the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rican revolutionaries began to correspond with U.S. President William McKinley in hopes that, in exchange for details about Spanish military operation, he would consider including Puerto Rico in the intervention planned for Cuba. The United States included Puerto Rico in their intervention plan and took it one step further. In December, the Treaty of Paris was signed, ending the Spanish-American War and officially approving the cession of Puerto Rico to the United States.

Before the ink had even dried, the United States began to colonize the island in its image and installed a government closely resembling its own. Since 1898, the United States has been robbing Puerto Rico of its resources and any opportunity for independence from the colonizers who have plagued the island since the early 1500s.

These centuries of exploitation are why long before the devastation brought on by these most recent natural disasters, Puerto Rico was battling a financial crisis years in the making. Puerto Rico is currently without electricity, access to clean, fresh water and nearly $123 billion in debt. One of the saddest parts is that under the U.S. Constitution’s Territorial Clause (Article IV, Section 3), once the United States deems the island too large of a burden to bear, Congress could trade Puerto Rico to whomever it wanted without Puerto Rican approval as if it were a Pokémon card.

So, while many laugh at the videos of the president of the U.S. throwing rolls of paper towel at Puerto Ricans as if he were at a pep rally or use Donald Trump’s poor address of the situation to prop up their case for Bernie Sanders 2020, I fear for my people on the island every single day. I fear and ache for them because I am acutely aware of the United States’ long history of attempting to exterminate groups of people once they prove themselves to be an inconvenience. I am also aware that when these populations push back, the U.S. government pushes harder until they collapse underneath the pressure.

Let’s Talk – Your Complacency is Violence

From The Hofstra Chronicle

This semester I’m enrolled in a Jewish Studies course focused on racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. One would assume the class would be occupied by students who have a working understanding of these concepts or minimally acknowledge that racism exists. Believe it or not, that is not the case. I often find myself sitting in my class feeling as though white people are incapable of empathy and feeling as though it’s somehow my responsibility to teach them empathy.

The most recent instance of these feelings resurfacing was last week. The topic of discussion was the Holocaust. The professor said, “Let’s talk about the person whose job was to get Jewish people on the trains that ultimately brought them to the concentration camps … Is this man guilty?”

For me, this was a no-brainer. For my white counterparts, it was not.

One student suggested that many of the Nazi soldiers probably weren’t anti-Semitic and their role in the Holocaust was self-preservation. Another student exclaimed, “No … if he didn’t follow orders he likely would’ve been shot and killed himself!” There were some nods.

I remember turning to my friend and whispering, “Getting shot or participating in genocide? Decisions, decisions.”

As the discussion went on I felt myself becoming more and more frustrated and more and more aware of why it has been so easy for neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups to enact terror on marginalized groups post-election. White people truly do not see how dangerous complacency is and I firmly believe it is because they are white. The centuries of violence and terror perpetrated against black and brown people has granted us the ability to demonstrate empathy and to understand that neutrality is nefarious and pugnacious.

People either cooperate with injustice or they fight against injustice. There is no sexy, non-political third option. Neutrality is fake.

The discussion became too much and I finally raised my hand. I cleared my throat and said, “Complacency is wrong.” I wish I wasn’t so overwhelmed by the conversation and said more.

I wish I explained that those who claim neutrality are as great of a threat to social justice as active participants in injustice. To quote Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Those who wear neutrality as some sort of badge are only admitting that they are as morally bankrupt as men like Hitler and are either too lazy or too afraid to make moves.

Above all else, I wish that I could have explained how terrifying it is to hear that my counterparts are so comfortable and accustomed to sitting in silence and seeing injustice as something that just happens.

I wish I could have broken down how infuriating it is to know that white people feel no sense of responsibility to destroy the very institutions that allow them to sit silently, to never have to acknowledge that genocide, enslavement and war crimes have been committed in the name of building a society in which they exclusively have endless opportunities, to never have to acknowledge the lengths societal institutions go to secure white supremacy, to opt out of ever having to look at the ugly truths I never had a choice in whether or not I wished to see.

I wish that the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. could have made their way from my subconscious to my mouth, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

Opinion: What Separates Charlottesville and Hofstra

From The Hofstra Chronicle

I’ve learned to separate white people into three categories: white people with a working understanding of systems of oppression who consistently come to bat for marginalized people, white people who still tweet #Hillary2016 and respond to #BlackGirlMagic with “all girls are magic” and finally, the white people our institutionally racist society has promised to call “alt-right” because referring to them as white supremacists is totally rude and the desire for the genocide of my race is merely a political opinion.

Despite the fact that I have had this working three-category system established for the last five years, the act of domestic terrorism that took place in Charlottesville revealed to me just how thin the line separating the second and third categories, respectively, truly is.

Immediately following the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and the murder of Heather Heyer, the President of the United States released the following statement: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.” The president’s comments were met with praise from white supremacists. The Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin stated in a blog post, “He didn’t attack us…[He] implied that there was hate … on both sides. So, he implied the antifa are haters. There was virtually no counter-signaling of us all.”

While white Americans listened to POTUS’ statement in disbelief and wrote long, tone-deaf pieces along the lines of, “I cannot believe [insert incident of racism that I’ve experienced all my life, but white people are just now noticing] is happening in MY America,” I and most people of color were unsurprised and simply exhausted. I’ve found that the only thing worse than white America’s think pieces expressing shock over the events in Charlottesville, and the legacy of racism in our society, are the statements released by America’s educational institutions, including Hofstra University. You know, since college campus are becoming some of the largest breeding grounds of white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

I remember rolling my eyes as I read in President Rabinowitz’s email, “There is no room for hatred and violence here; a university represents the best of a democratic and free society, where respect, acceptance, and open dialogues are paramount.” I thought back to the RTVF class I took my first semester at Hofstra. I thought back to the time I advocated for my right to take up space while my professor watched and practically salivated over the exchange between a white female classmate and myself. I remember the anger I felt as this white female student explained that her “economic anxiety,” a dog whistle term for a fear of black and brown people, took precedence over the rights of people of color, LGBTQIA identifying Americans, low-income families, immigrants, disabled Americans and every vulnerable and marginalized population in the United States.

As if this statement couldn’t be any more predictable of liberal white America, the final line reads, “As we honor our country’s commitment to free speech, Hofstra University encourages speech that is respectful and peaceful and does not impinge on the rights of others to live without persecution or harassment.” Afterwards, there were two notable thoughts that ran through my head- the first went back to the first presidential debate. Protestors were discouraged from organizing outside of issue alley and related spaces. I remember being told by peers that the University would not respond kindly to protesters who organized outside of those designated spaces that were visible on camera.

Punishment? For exercising our constitutional rights? At MY University? The second thought includes too many expletives to explain in depth, but can be summarized as a desperate desire for an end to intellectual dishonesty and gaslighting. It is intellectually dishonest to make this a matter of “free speech” or to imply that any radical response to white supremacy and Nazism is violent or on equal standing to the agenda of neo-Nazis and white supremacists. It is also abusive to ask that the speech of those, who are the most vulnerable or at risk of neo-Nazi or white supremacist violence, to respond in a manner that looks more like silence and complacency than it does anything else. This includes making performative gestures, like the statements being released by institutions across the country, look like the “I Have a Dream” address given by Dr. King. What institutions must emphasize is that free speech means that one’s disapproval of their government will not result in that individual being murdered, imprisoned or retaliated against by their government- that it does not grant students the right to use their college campus as to recruit for a genocidal, neo-Nazi army.

The events in Charlottesville and America’s response have revealed to me that category two is not any less guilty than category three. Category three explicitly and proudly brutalizes and lynches communities and bodies of color, while category two sometimes chooses to subtly, and often still proudly, brutalize and lynch communities and bodies of color. However, it’s worth noting that the most irreparable damage done by category two and “liberal college campuses” do is through the means of complacency and empty activism. Navigating on this campus as a woman of color is mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting. I find my spirit being crushed under the weight of the racism that goes unchecked on this campus and under the amount of disappointment when this is all my campus offers to remedy my wounds. Navigating on this campus as a woman of color requires one to constantly advocate for yourself and the communities that you belong to, while pleading for someone on this campus to have your back, only to be ignored. Navigating on this campus as a woman of color is to consistently be told that Hofstra is still learning and that Hofstra is doing its best with diversity, when you know damn well that someone on this campus only knows what diversity looks like because there are more people who look like you on the display on the Unispan, which is more than in any of your classes or in positions of leadership. Navigating on this campus as a woman of color is to wish that people of color were as valued in times like this as we are when we’re being used to sell the Hofstra brand.

I Burnt Out Because We Keep Pretending Black Activists Are Made Of Steel

From Affinity Magazine

Trigger Warning: There is discussion surrounding mental illness, specifically depression, anxiety and PTSD. There’s also mention of racist and transphobic violence. Please practice self care.

When it was first announced that the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, widely known as the DSM – 5, contained changes in the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that would allow for better recognition of race-based trauma many mental health professionals of color were floored by this development. Other professionals and general members of society, most not of color, felt much differently. There was an outpour of commentary opposed to these changes. Most of the commentary sounded like, “How could the experience of a racial or ethnic minority even compare to that of a soldier fighting in a foreign nation?” I ask the same question all the time. How is it that anti-blackness and all of its manifestations are so emotionally, mentally, and physically taxing that I and many other Black people are being diagnosed with a disorder traditionally associated with returning from war? Unfortunately, when most people ask themselves that question it is with the intent of invalidating black people and minimizing the extent to which experiencing racism can impact a person.

Given the amount of racism and misogynoir that remains unconfronted within the psychology field, it’s unsurprising that the tone has not shifted very much from then to PTSD Awareness Day earlier this week. It’s even more unsurprising that the response many, including myself, have when receiving such a diagnosis is to invalidate our own experiences because PTSD is a diagnosis that is “off-limits” and “exclusively for veterans”. Black people, especially black women and black queer and trans people, are taught that the trauma comes with the territory, so to speak. For many people, that message is broadcasted by both the racist psychology field and their own communities. The subliminal (and sometimes not-so subliminal) messages that only white people have mental health issues, that depression is something rich people make up because they wish they had problems, and that PTSD is a diagnosis that you must “earn” the rights to.

One of these reasons is that when you are told and shown how little your humanity and your identity are perceived to be worth on so many separate occasions, you begin to perceive your identities, your experiences, and all aspects of your being to be worth little as well. You begin to adopt the “it comes with the territory” mentality, too. You begin to believe that when you’re called a n*gger, when white men threatened to beat and abuse you, when that abuse trickles down to the most important people in your life, when the white women who wear the label of feminist refuse to defend you and take on a role of complacency, when people tell you to shut up about race, when you run out of fingers to count how many people walk out of your life, that it’s something you are responsible for and should have anticipated and prepared for long before it happened.

My experience with PTSD began in 2016 close to the time I graduated high school. My senior year began with a student forum organized by myself and a few my peers to address a series of racist incidents, namely a now former teacher taking to Facebook to communicate violently racist beliefs about the Black Lives Matter movement and those protesting, as well as issues of misogyny, transphobia, ableism, racial profiling, and sexual harassment. At this student forum I read aloud a list of demands that I continue to firmly believe would greatly improve the culture of the building and are echoed by a study completed through Brown University. My peers and I made the assumption that after airing our grievances in front of hundreds of people, some of which were government officials, educators, parents and our high school administration, that action would be taken to alleviate the pain students of color, students with disabilities, students who are trans and queer identifiers, and women felt each day they came into the building. We were wrong. That same month a teacher fabricated an incident in an attempt to discredit me and provoke disciplinary action to be taken against me in retaliation for my decision to lead the charge against discrimination at my high school. Unsuccessful in that attempt, this same teacher decided to go after me once again and this time she chose to involve my father. She began to ignore me in class, to scream at me in front of other students, to make passive aggressive statements about me during lessons, and to attempt to isolate from my friends. After a parent meeting with my father, an eleven year administrator, she chose to report him to human resources claiming him to be “intimidating” and playing off of the historically deadly “protect the white woman from the scary black man” trope. Long story short, I arranged a co-op opportunity for myself so that I would not have to deal with this teacher and would only come to my vocational high school to take my academic classes. Being in my school for only 50% of the time did not alleviate any of the retaliation. Not long after this incident I was referred to as an ape during a class. The white male who did this was not disciplined. I was told he received a long, hard talking to though. I uninstalled the Twitter app from my phone repeatedly since the harassment was not limited to school.

The harassment was also not limited to students. Teachers regularly would speak negatively about me to each other and even remain silent while students did it in the classroom. An English teacher told another administrator that I was a “f*cking b*tch” and that I was ruining the school. One of the students who participated in the forum was verbally harassed by a group of students while in class. I was referred to as a b*tch and a cult leader. My best friend, a transgender woman, was the punchline of a number of transmisogynistic jokes and the cis students expressed anger over having to use her pronouns and be “politically correct” aka decent human beings. We reported those students to our guidance counselors and to the oh-so helpful security office. The resolution? A phone call made to my mother stating that the incident was a “fall-out between friends”. My friends and I stopped reporting after that incident until December came. Though I know longer participated in the vocational part of my education, one of the girls who remained my friend throughout all of this wanted to include me in Christmas festivities. By some random coincidence the same white male student who referred to me as an ape, was given the task of buying me a secret santa gift. My gift? Toilet paper with President Barack Obama’s face on it. My mother came into school the following Monday. To my knowledge the student was sent home for the remainder of that day and was no longer in the classes I was in. That punishment did little as the harassment continued and eventually the administration became so complacent with those who harassed my peers and I that my parents demanded something be done to protect me. By this time the principal’s son had even threatened me on social media. The response was to send me home for the remainder of the year and have me email my teachers my completed work. The administration refused to protect me. I had hoped that once I was removed what was left of my friend group would be safer. They weren’t.

My best friend was assaulted in February, about three or four weeks after I left. When she reported the incident to security and explained the retaliation and harassment she’d been on the receiving end of since she came out as a trans women in September of 2015. The security office did not discipline the boys who did this. The office deemed it an accident. Another student became the victim of sexual harassment by a teacher. This teacher had reportedly been pursuing female students for years. He’d been matching with female students on Tinder and hitting on them during the classes he taught. One student informed me that the administration had been aware and actually put a cap on the amount of student he could have because of his predatory tendencies. Another student became the victim of another predator. He has a history of grooming, the predatory act of maneuvering another individual into a position that makes them more isolated, dependent, likely to trust, and more vulnerable to abusive behavior, female students and abusing them. This teacher backhanded a girl in his class and because he’d groomed so many girls and incited fear in so many others, no one spoke up and he’s managed to keep his job.

Incident after incident occurred. Each reported to me. I championed the cause from home utilizing social media, local media, and the ears of any activists who would give me the time of day. I’d hoped that at some point that something I told the mayor, the city council, the local NAACP, and other local organizations and high profile people who claimed to care about education and protecting students would be vile enough that they would step up. That time never came even after the administration unjustly fired my father in April of 2016. My father, while the predators and bigots I mentioned received little to no punishment for their actions, was escorted out of the building in the middle of the day as if he were a criminal and told that he couldn’t return to the school’s property without an escort.

Of all of the low points my senior year brought, the firing of my father was definitely among the lowest. At that point, I’d felt that not only had I made my closest friends targets through association, not only had I been unable to be there when my best friend was assaulted, not only had I not been to provoke enough outrage for the predatory men in that building to be disciplined, not only had I not been able to motivate the school committee, the city council, or the mayor’s office to step in, not only had I failed to make the story sexy enough for father reaching media outlets to pick it up, not only had it been months since the student forum and none of our demands had been met, but I’d caused my father’s career to be stolen from him and the little advocacy group I started had put a target on my, my family’s and my friends’ backs rather than a movement. I just wanted to fix it all for everyone in my life and for the 2,000 other students attending. My mother told me that it was impossible for me to singlehandedly stop a building that’d been burning for decades from crumbling before me, but I didn’t care. I had to fix it. I ended up burning myself out trying to put out that fire and support everyone else. I’d burned myself out posting everyday, sending emails begging for intervention, speaking to lawyers two and three times a week, waking up before the rest of my family did so I could cry in peace, putting on a smile as the white liberals in my town sat by and did nothing while offering me hugs and “keep up the good fight” whenever they’d see me, pretending that I was made of steel and that this work was prettier than it was taxing.

It wasn’t until prom and graduation came closer and until my therapist all but begged for me to show some type of emotional response to the things happening around and to me that I finally broke. Probably assuming I was going to just say I’m fine or give a sarcastic response my therapist asked me how I was and I felt tears form in my eyes and I just stared at her and let them fall and like those annoying Just Girly Things posts I cried harder when I tried telling her that I was okay. Then I decided to just give up trying to stop crying and tell her I was okay and to just tell her what’s up. I remember just looking at her and saying “I’m tired. My joints hurt constantly. I feel sick. I can’t sleep. I’m angry all the time. I can’t do my homework. I haven’t answered my teachers in two weeks. My hair is falling out. Whenever I go outside of my house I’m angry. I keep cancelling my plans or wanting to cry twenty minutes into them. I don’t want to go to college. I ruined everything. I should’ve shut my mouth and graduated like everyone else. It was all a mistake. I hate myself” I remember her asking me if I really believed that and really wish I said nothing. I shrugged. She told me how worried she’d be when I’d leave our sessions and when I’d come back with more to tell her. She told me that it was okay that I was angry. That session was the first time I recall her ever explicitly saying that I endured a series of traumatic events. It could be because I’ve attempted to suppress the entirety of my senior year, but I also remember this being the first time we really talked about depression, anxiety, and acute stress disorder, a term which was foreign to me at the time. I did research when I went home and remember rolling my eyes at “PTSD”, taking the suggestion of such a diagnosis as an insult, feeling as though if I were to embrace it and to begin making a real effort to heal as a cop-out, taking that session as further motivation to work harder and to ignore my body begging me to stop.

Senior Awards Night came and went. I did not attend. Prom came and went. I did not attend. Graduation came and went. I did not attend. I received my yearbook and my diploma, which I’ve buried deep in a storage bin somewhere in my closet, from my guidance counselor after almost half an hour of the security team pretending to have no idea who I was and informing me that I was prohibited from entering the building without an escort. I had to dump out my backpack in the middle of the foyer to return my textbooks and borrowed supplies to the school. Still, I did not stop. I continued pushing. I pushed until I completely exhausted myself and didn’t even have the energy to finish meals, to shower daily, or to take care of myself overall.

So, when I read about how “silly” it seems to people to say that racism can cause depression, anxiety or PTSD, it takes me back to that ten month or so period in my life and I relive all of it. When I read your comments about how “black people don’t get depression” and how “that’s some white people shit”, it makes me want to pretend all over again and to throw away all of the progress and healing I’ve done. When I reflect on the amount of white folx who want to talk to me about my experiences and my work in comparison to the amount that financially or emotionally support it, I become enraged. Each time I refuse to preform emotional labor and am told I’m a b*tch, selfish, or a threat to progress, I want to slap whoever’s suggesting that in the face and explain that the real threat to progress is asking black people to preform emotional labor for you until we can’t find enough energy to get up in the morning and to carry every social movement on our backs until our bodies break underneath the weight.

We need to stop pretending that black activists are made of steel. We need to stop dismissing depression, anxiety, or PTSD and regarding them the same way we do the sniffles. We need to stop making activists feel that if they take a break that they are too weak to do this work and should step aside. We need to be advocates for ourselves before we are advocates for any of the causes we claim to champion.