Rape Culture

Allow me to get something off my chest. In light of the recent ‘Me Too’ hashtag raising awareness about sexual assault/harassment and the need to call out rape culture. I’ve recently lost a lot of ‘friends’ because of this. I called out a supposed ‘friend’ who had spent months and months harassing a girl for not going out with him. He would call and text this girl nonstop harassing and trying to pressure her into dating him. This included comments like, ‘I’m going to kill myself cause you won’t go out with me.’ He claimed it was love. I witnessed this horrid behavior for almost a year. I am guilty of trying to rationalize this behavior as ‘oh he’s in love and doesn’t know how to handle it’, ‘oh he’s a good person with an issue he needs to handle’, oh this, oh that. It took me actually witnessing this man assaulting this woman, in my own home no less, when he forcibly detained this girl in his room and tried to pressure her about why she wouldn’t go out with him. This girl had to force her way out of the room and out of the house, where he proceeded to follow her and block the path of her car so she couldn’t leave. When asked about his behavior his response to me was, “I don’t like being denied.” This infuriated me. His blasé response, as if women were candy bars or toys for his enjoyment. As if his needs would always supersede any woman’s, as if all women were objects for male consumption and pleasure.

I began to reflect over all of my interactions in the past with this person. I started to remember the times he would talk about violence against women who didn’t want to date him. How they were bitches and what he wished he could do to them. Then I thought about the suicide threats and how I knew he did in fact have a gun. I worried about what he might do with that gun since he was so obsessed and kept bringing up how he was going to harm himself if this girl wouldn’t go out with him. Would he hurt her, would he hurt himself? I was angry at myself for the allowances I gave him, chalking it up to him just being upset. But it doesn’t matter how upset you are. I began cutting this person out of my life and I thought that other people would understand. This wasn’t the case. A lot of mutual friends took his side, couldn’t understand what I was so upset about, said he’s just in love, he’s just hurting, you have to forgive people, he’s from the south, excuses, excuses, excuses. I was told to get over it. To make matter’s worse this man still tries to contact me even though he has been explicitly told never to do so again. He has used my girlfriend and others in my inner circle to try to get to me. He called my phone last night using a different number to get around the phone block. I hung up immediately and blocked the new number.

The point of this isn’t to point fingers, isn’t to name names. It wasn’t about the girl, I don’t like that girl and I am not friends with her. It’s about the principle of these matters. It’s about having standards. It’s about enforcing those standards instead of just paying lip service to the idea and in practice ignoring these actions. People wonder why rape culture exists. It is because we allow it. We can make statements all day about what we believe, but if your actions don’t match your words then this behavior continues to thrive in the shadows, it continues to damage innocent people, IT CONTINUES. PERIOD. I lost friends because I refused to stand by this behavior anymore and I refuse to associate with people who condone and make excuses for it. As for me, I apologize for having made those excuses in the past. I realize now I was a fool and I promise to never make those allowances again.

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A Bonfire For My Broken Heart

If I could burn every last vestige of you
I would.
I’d build a bonfire to the gods
I’d fill it with every cursed memory
Every heartbreak
Everything I wanted to say but didn’t
Because I spent too much loving you
Gave too much protecting you
If I could beg the gods, the saints, the angels
To get back everything I gave you, every sacrifice, myself
I would.

This is about love
and art
and girls
and cigarettes and classic cool
like James Dean and Miles Davis
breezing down highways in drop tops,
once upon a time,
head full of dreams
like maybe yours is now.

Summer Was Forever

The summer breeze makes these neon skies heavy and electric.
Magic happens in the summer time. When everyone is a child again,
full of hope, full of whimsy.
The fire flies become fairies.
Ice cream trucks become sirens.
Everywhere has an adventure
just waiting around the corner.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Friday, January 27, 2017

If it wasn’t for a certain stroke of so-called luck 50 years before my birth I would never have known my great-grandmother, affectionately called Oma because of her German heritage. This particular ‘luck’ struck my great-grandfather while he was walking home from work on a fall night in Germany, November 9th, 1938. My great-grandfather passed long before my birth so I don’t know what it was like for him, in an environment of ever-growing suspicion and hatred. I know that he was well off and can only imagine the added injury that would have invoked from other citizens, his supposed peers. At the time he would have been in his late thirties, with a wife and a 1-year-old daughter waiting for him at home. As he walked through the roads of his city he was stopped by SA officers. SA stood for Sturmabteilung, translated to Storm Detachment, the original soldiers of the Nazi party. These soldiers were sent to round up Juden and Opa happened to be the first on their list.

The stroke of luck is that this particular officer happened to be more concerned with money than murder. He was perfectly happy to take every cent my great-grandfather had in every bank account, all the money from his furniture store, every cent and walk away with his life, and more importantly to Opa, the lives of his wife and daughter. The officer told him who to talk to and what to say. Opa collected Oma and my infant grandmother and walked for three days to a ship that would carry them to America, to New York City, where they would become a butler and a cook, and start their lives from scratch, refugees in a new world. Decades later I visited Ellis Island with my brother and tried to imagine was it fear or hope that overwhelmed my family as they passed into this great nation? Were the people loving and kind or did they hurry them through their port as quickly as possible? Did my family feel relief as they looked over the New York harbor out into a skyline they hoped would welcome them with an open embrace?

Kristallnacht means shattered glass. Shattered glass littering the streets of a nation, the world transformed for millions, from a warm home to a reckless, violent dystopia. The rest of Oma and Opa’s family did not fair so well. The details are fuzzy as they’ve been passed down through the hands of time, but what we do know is that he ended up in Auschwitz sometime in the 40s. We don’t know what they did to him but that Josef Mengele did do something. Something heinous, that perhaps, for Oma’s sake, was best left unknown. He miraculously escaped when his bunkmate found money in a foreign account that hadn’t been seized to bribe the guards. Their original arrangement was for him and his brother, but his brother died before the money arrived. This Nazi guard told him to choose someone else. By happenstance, that someone else was Oma’s brother. He ended up in Israel, devout in his faith and grateful for a new life in Zion.

During these years Oma and Opa had saved enough money to buy a dairy farm in North Carolina where they raised their daughter and grew old tending to their new home. I wonder how often she wondered of her family’s ultimate fate. How many years did she go not knowing? She passed when I was 11 years old never having told me those stories. I had to hear these second-hand, passed down to me, the legacy left behind. Perhaps she never told me because of my age, and had she lived a little longer she may have. Or maybe not. Maybe she never wanted to reflect upon the painful memories of a world given into its darkest most irrational nature. It’s fears and prejudice. Maybe she thought that sharing kindness and faith was the better path. That those horrors were over and would never again come to pass.

While I miss my great-grandmother every day, wish she had been around to see me grow into the woman I’ve become, part of me is grateful she never had to live to see the disgrace and despair of the new America we find ourselves in. As a refugee, she found herself in a new country, with no friends, no family aside from her daughter and husband, no money, not even a suitcase, but she was able to build herself a new life and a new family to nourish her heart. She was lucky. She got here before anyone thought to ban Jews from the US. The United States did, however, issue a ban later. It costs thousands their lives. It prevented my great-grandmother from ever seeing her brothers and sisters, her mother and father again. Her father passed in the concentration camp her brother had escaped from. His name was Bernhardt, a name my brother now carries, a marking of a family legacy. Coming to an open and accepting nation made the difference between life and death for my family. I wouldn’t be able to exist without that. I have almost no relatives left on that side of the family. We were fortunate to be able to build anew after almost everything had been lost. What will happen to those today who never get the chance? Will they suffer and die at the hands of despots and dictators? Will they be left in no man’s land until eventually, they wink out of existence? Will they remain no one’s problem until it’s too late? Will fear and suspicion mar our lives and lead us down the path of injustice? Or will we learn from the mistakes of the past? Leave the specter of hate deep in our histories, an antiquated relic from centuries gone by. For the world sake, I hope we move beyond it and realize that our lives are far too short and meaningful to let this happen to any person, regardless of religion, regardless of race. That every person on this Earth deserves a chance at happiness, and they deserve a second chance too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Why We Fight

I am going to take a stand because my ancestors did the same for me. The least I can do is be a stalwart fighter, beat back oppression for the next generation.

I am going to take a stand because my great-grandparent’s survived the holocaust. They sacrificed everything they owned, everything they had ever known on the night of Kristnacht and walked for 3 days and nights to a boat, to go to a nation they had never seen to protect their daughter, my grandmother. They passed through Ellis Island and built new lives in a new city. Meanwhile, every member of our family suffered at the hands of Nazi’s and their ‘charismatic’ leader. I will take a stand because when I see suffering, I see the eyes of my great grandmother watching me, I see her kindness and strength.

I am going to take a stand because my grandmother, born in the Philippines, came of age in the heart of World War 2. Because my grandmother watched occupying Japanese forces murder her baby brother before her very eyes. I will fight, because my grandmother, as a teenager, was a guerilla fighter in the war. Because, at great risk to herself, she chose to fight back and protect her home and her family.

I will take a stand, because my first-generation American mother grew up interracial in 1950s inner city Baltimore, because she battled through segregation, through misogyny, she marched with Dr. King in DC. My mother raised a family and attended school so she could become the first black female public defender in the state of Maryland, a position that enabled her to keep fighting for justice for all.

I will fight because generations before this, my African ancestors were enslaved and fought against all odds, fought despite great loss, fought despite the pain and suffering, fought when they had no rights and were considered another man’s property. They fought against greater odds and still they won.

I will stand and I will fight, defiant till the end, because my indigenous ancestors fought and they lost, they fought against a system that still seeks to erase them from history, denigrate their customs, diminish their very lives and existence.

I will stand and fight, because even thousands of years ago, my Jewish ancestors walked their way out of Egypt, out of slavery, into a desert unknown to find their way.

I will stand and I will fight, defiant till the end. I am the resistance and the resistance is me. It is ingrained in my bones, pumping through me in every last drop of blood. It is every generation standing behind me, their spirits my encouragement, their legacy my guide.

The Love in my Heart

finding myself at the end of this chapter,

 terrified and uncertain and confronted with an ugliness 

that feels as if it purveys the entirety of my soul 

I find myself surrounded by spirits that prove the love in my heart 

that makes me human,

 makes me closer to God, 

makes my life complete 

in every way 

and make me a better person 

just for loving you oh so much.

composing letters

read these things and know my life
no love songs describe the sense of peace and calm you create in me
I spend a lot of time composing letters in my head. of things I want to tell you and things I never will
I don’t know what your eyes look like when you smile
me…I’m just a girl who’s crazy about you and every conversation makes me want you more.

Like Fire

satisfaction makes you complacent. 

you’re stuck in place, 

sinking so slowly that you don’t notice.

 Until you’re swallowed up 

cause you’re too stupid to see the changing landscape 

and the things on the horizon 

raging like fire.