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BLACK + WOMAN: The Complications Of Courtesy, Femininity, & Taking Up Space

Aint I - STruth

Sometimes, their faces are nonchalant because they truly couldn’t care less. Sometimes they’re tinged red, signaling the irrational anger bubbling underneath the skin. Sometimes, the redness is from embarrassment – but it’s rare that I hear an apology escape their lips. All of these faces are the ones I see by the people who commit microaggressions against me every day, and I remember each one of them. I saw a couple of those faces today when the people around me reminded me that being a 6ft tall Black woman places me on the lowest rung of their femininity scales.

As the train lurched to my stop this morning, those of us prepping to exit shuffled closer to the double doors, waiting for them to slide open. The White man beside me smiled at the White women around us, then graciously allowed them to exit ahead of him. As I started to walk through the doors as well, he made a great effort to push ahead of me, knocking me off balance in the process. That was one of the red faces, seemingly angry that I assumed his kindness would be extended my way.

Walking through the train station to the doors that led to my office building, I saw another White man holding the door open chivalrously for the White and Asian women walking through. As he saw me coming, he made eye contact, slid through the door, and let it slam in my face. His was one of the nonchalant faces, completely unconcerned with the fact that he purposely chose not to help a woman who had her hands full. The older White woman beside me shook her head and opened the door for me, then chided the man for choosing to rush than to be polite. I thanked her for her help, but didn’t bother to tell her the issue wasn’t his time constraint – it was that he didn’t deem me, a Black woman who towered over him in her heels – worthy of the courtesy he offered to the other women in his midst.

The embarrassed red faces were the ones at the grocery store recently – once, a cashier, once the White woman ahead of me whose child was being rambunctious in the line – who took quick glances at me then referred to me as “Sir” and “him.” Height + dark skin = ‘man’ more often than not, which is why I’ve been described with masculine terms until the person realizes that I’m in fact a woman.

The creation of the construct of Blackness through slavery matched with colonialism, colourism, and pandering to the perceived fragility of White women (whether they’re actually fragile or not) have greatly impacted the perception of Black women and Black femininity. Slavery saw Black men and women working side-by-side in cotton and sugar cane fields, expected to do the same labour. Because slavery denied us our humanity on a base level, you definitely couldn’t expect concepts like masculinity and femininity to be recognized, except for the biological purposes of childbearing. Black women serving as wet nurses and domestics in White homes throughout history were occupations still rooted in a denial of humanity, plus an acceptance of Black womanhood and femininity solely for the benefits it provided White families – particularly White women. Colourism has affected these perceptions as well, where lighter-skinned Black women have often been regarded with more value than darker-skinned women, both inter- and intra-racially. We see how this plays out in media today – how often do we see romantic couples represented with a dark-skinned Black man and a light-skinned Black woman? How often do we see darker-skinned Black men play “comedic” and cartoonish tropes of Black women? Darkness has been matched with masculinity, and lightness with femininity – so for me, it’s no surprise that my brown tone becomes equated with being “him” or presumes me unworthy of chivalrous courtesy in predominantly White spaces.

The flip side is when I am the benefactor of courtesy. When I am the one holding the door or making space for others, that action is expected. Where the corporate-suited White men in my office building bound onto the elevator and stand, legs spread, in the middle of the space, they look at me with the silent expectation that I will make myself smaller to accommodate them. I notice that sometimes my height is seen as a challenge to their masculinity. Where I’ve always joked that shorter men are almost insufferable in their attempts to make up for lack of height in my presence, I’ve come to realize that White men who are my height equals can be worse. The process is usually the following:

  1. White man ends up standing beside me in a public space.
  2. He realizes we’re eye-to-eye.
  3. He looks down to see if I’m wearing heels or flats.
  4. Either way (but especially when I’m in flats), he’ll place his hands on his hips or shift until his legs are hip-width apart, in a challenge to take up even more space.
  5. I laugh internally. And sometimes out loud.

There’s really no final thought to wrap this up with a nice bow. I have no words of advice, no thoughts on educating those who let this deep-rooted consciousness colour their interactions with me on a daily basis. Nothing else to add except to bring these microaggressions to light in hopes that it may make someone more aware, or at least make me feel like I’m not crazy. Even while writing this piece I’ve thought “Am I being too sensitive? Were these situations as bad as they seem? Am I just blowing things out of proportion?” But that’s exactly what microaggressions do – they make us question and second guess ourselves, siphoning time and energy from the victim, keeping us silent when we really need to promptly check a motherfucker.

So, as I head back out into the world for lunch, let me fluff my hair, apply some more lipstick, stand tall, and take up space. It won’t stop the microaggressions from attempting to chip away at my armour, but it’ll help me honour my brand of womanhood, femininity, Blackness, and worth. I’ll always honour it, regardless of who thinks otherwise.

IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU: Broadening Canada’s Media Landscape

Back in 2013, with some incredible Black Canadian women in media

Back in 2014, with some incredible Black Canadian women in media

It’s always entertaining to watch the reactions of someone who realizes something isn’t about them, when they’re used to everything being about them. Similarly, it’s hilarious to watch what happens when someone is forced to share, especially when it’s clear that sharing is the most unnatural thing to them.

Those two points being said: my popcorn has been popped and buttered for the scores of Ontarians upset that a slice of media has attempted to become more representative of the diversity in our particular province.

The Agenda is a current-affairs program on TVO, a provincially-funded television station. Its summer edition is being hosted by the incomparable Nam Kiwanuka, while regular host Steve Paikin is on hiatus. The Agenda is no stranger to controversies around diversity – this article notes that “The Agenda is self-admittedly too white: only 17 per cent of its guests last year were visible minorities (about 25 per cent of Ontarians identified as visible minorities in the 2011 census)”, and I was actually a guest on the show after a debacle over the lack of women panelists on the show, which aims to represent the demographics of Ontario.

Efforts have been made by the show to exercise more diversity across topic choices and panelist selections, and I’ve enjoyed much of what the show has offered so far in its summer session. I’ve seen more people from a variety of societal intersections featured on the show – discussing topics that are relevant, enlightening, and entertaining – than I remember seeing in the past, and I hope this continues even once the regular season picks up again in the fall.

While I’m enjoying the fresh faces and topics, it seems not everyone is so enthusiastic. A quick glance at comments on The Agenda’s social media accounts show that some feel any topic highlighting the lived experience of non-white people is a red flag that the show has become some far-left demon spawn, spewing propaganda aimed at making white people feel guilty for their privilege.

I just want to know: why do those people think everything is about them?

I mean, on one hand, I get it. Nothing makes the majority feel more victimized than realizing that they have to give up some of their space to the minority. A shifting landscape can be scary. Their territory is being encroached upon by people who they don’t relate to on some level, and the thought that their narrative is not the only one being shared – and not the only one that matters – is a threatening idea. In their eyes, something that they feel rightfully belongs to them (in this case, space in media) is being siphoned from them by people that don’t deserve it, and it’s a cause for panic.

This phenomenon isn’t unique to The Agenda or any particular media outlet – here in Canadian media, we continue to have a huge problem with the inability to make space for diverse faces and diverse narratives, and the efforts to remedy the problem seem to take an incredible amount of time. Because of this, when space is finally made for someone non-white (add to that being a woman, and/or disabled, and/or LGBTQ, etc.), it’s taken as a personal affront by those who are used to seeing their faces and their faces only. Cue panic. Cue paranoia. Cue “Why are we talking about this? It doesn’t matter!” Cue nasty comments online from people with fake names and dog/flag/egg avis – comments designed to put the minority back in their place and restore balance in their tiny, tiny worlds.

It’s a clear sign of an insecurity issue when someone feels their personhood is threatened by the presence of someone else, and I smell a stench of ignorance tinged with arrogance when people feel that a story doesn’t matter simply because it is not one they identify with. These are people who would seek to push those voices back into the margins, only to be called out when they deem necessary (usually when they’re looking for a “new” cultural idea to appropriate, or when we’re pretending that Canada is a multicultural utopia). What I would hope for the offended to understand is that while they are used to being status quo, the presence of “other” isn’t a reactionary one. A non-white person taking up space in media is not there simply to be an antagonist to whiteness. We are there to tell our truths, share our expertise, and make our money just like anyone else. Basically, stop thinking everything is about you.

I have admittedly had to work to undo the thought processes that made me overly concerned with what white people thought of me. As a Black woman, I’ve practiced the habit of running myself through various filters, hoping that whatever diluted product was left at the end was enough to get my idea across efficiently without being “too much” of anything.  The problem with that is, I filtered out myself in the act – so what’s really the point? Yes – I still aim to be professional, entertaining, intelligent, and whatever else is needed in the moment. However, worrying about what any one particular group thinks of me based on a paradigm that was created to make me inherently feel less than is not a good use of my energy. The space I take up in media as a Black woman, whether I’m talking about Blackness or anything else (another topic for another day: Canadian media, you can call on Black folks to discuss things other than Black issues), is valid and worthy and necessary.

That same validity, worth, and necessity is relevant to all of the diverse stories that can and should be told in our media. Until the Canadian industry catches up with what we all have to offer, I’ll continue to appreciate the entities that work to make room for us. Unfortunately for those who feel threatened by our presence: all I have to say is, get used to it. It really isn’t about you.  

FORGIVE/FORGET: Living Through The Process Of Forgiveness



I needed a reminder that I was still a good person.

You see, last week I found myself months-deep in my email inbox, looking for a document for the ever-dreaded tax season. I typed some keywords into the search bar, hit enter, and watched the results populate. The first thing I saw, however, wasn’t the email I was looking for – it was one I never really wanted to see again, but there it was.

I should have deleted that email long ago. To be honest, I think I only kept it to refer to in moments where I wondered, “Did that REALLY happen? Did this person REALLY speak to me that way? Did this person REALLY blindside me like that and make me wonder if I was as horrible as they wrote?” When I needed the reminder that, yes, those things were all true, there sat that email to give me the proof I needed. It probably isn’t a healthy practice to revisit, even subconsciously, a moment that causes you great pain – but I think I was in such disbelief for so long that it was part of my process of acceptance, moving on, and forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a tricky, tricky thing – and in this particular situation, the work of forgiveness made me angry. It’s one thing to be wronged by someone and have them come to you, arms wide and heart apologetic as they lay down the acknowledgement of what they’ve done to you. You, as the forgiver, still bear the weight of working through your emotions and granting forgiveness when and how you see fit, but you’re not the only person in the conversation. An entirely different level of effort is required when you have nothing from the other person but the pain they’ve left you with – no apologies, no contrition, no acknowledgement, no agreement to sit down and talk it out – but in order to save yourself, you still have to find forgiveness on your own. It’s exhausting. It’s unfair. It’s anger-inducing. That exhaustion and unfairness and anger wrapped up in the process of forgiveness can make the whole thing implode from the inside out – but as I’ve learned, the process is largely inevitable, so you’ve got to push through.

I’ve had to question how effective the act of forgetting is in relation to forgiveness. Forgetting feels good, and when you remember that you’ve forgotten, it can feel like a step towards being able to forgive. When you forget, and move on, and start living your life outside of whatever connections you had with that person – when you do those things, you start to fill your life with new experiences that can soften the blow of the hurt you felt before. But inevitably, you remember. Something reminds you of that person or that situation, and one of two things happen. Either you remember and it doesn’t hurt as much (or at all), and you’re able to smile at your growth and perhaps even look up to the sky and wish that person well, wherever they are. Or, an uncomfortable pressure builds up in your chest and tries to bubble out of your eyes, and you swallow it down, convincing yourself you didn’t feel it. In one situation, forgetting moves you towards forgiving. In the other, forgetting is a flimsy mask for the forgiveness process. I’ve been on both sides, but I know which one feels better.

When I came across that old email the other day, I felt enough of that pressure building to concern me. In the past, I’d been able to smile and nod to the sky, so hadn’t I reached forgiveness? Hadn’t I actually stated out loud in the past that I’ve forgiven this person? So why was I now feeling like I had taken a step back? What I’ve learned here is that forgiveness can be a straightforward process, or it can come in and out like the tide. Maybe I haven’t fully reached the destination yet, or perhaps it’ll be a cyclical thing where the biggest goal will be to make sure each low moment is higher than the last. Then eventually, maybe one day it’ll all even out.

In writing this post, I can say that my biggest win has been taking the lens of forgiveness from the external to the internal. What I mean by this is that I’ve moved from wondering why, wondering what I did to make this person act the way they did, wondering what was and is going through their head – I’ve stopped caring. I know I’ll never get those answers, and even if I did at this point, they’ve lost the impact they could have on my forgiveness process. I’ve moved that lens internally, where it should be. I’ve learned to focus on what I need to do to feel good, what I can do to be a better person in the future, what I can do to accept what was and move on to what will be in my life. Forgiveness is a process for me, not for anyone else. Once I realized that, the process started to flow more authentically without cliched expectations of how it should feel.

So, I’m still on the journey of this and other paths of forgiveness in my life. Being able to forgive – or more realistically, dedicate myself to the process of forgiveness – reminds me that I’m still a good person, and I’m getting better every day.

CHANGING SEASONS: The Art of Letting Things Go

protect passions

When I started writing this post, I searched “letting things go” on my blog to make sure I hadn’t used the title before.

It felt like something I’ve felt before – and if it’s something I’ve felt before, I’ve probably said it before. And if I’ve said it before, I’ve surely written it before, so my thoughts were that I’d be repeating a sentiment with this piece.

The good news? I hadn’t used those three words in a previous blog post title. The not-so-good news? I’ve definitely expressed this sentiment before: here, here, and here.

I had a bit of a breakdown recently, where I tearfully admitted that “Nothing feels fun anymore.” This blog has led to an incredible amount of awesome opportunities doing things that I’ve really enjoyed. Sure, there have been downsides to it too – chasing freelance publications for monies owed, uncomfortable clashes between online/offline life, battling my own insecurities and imposter syndrome symptoms – but even the crappy moments have become wonderful teachable moments that may not have felt great, but served important purpose. The major lesson I’m learning now is that I’ve hit a wall, and instead of trying to find my way under/over/through it, I need to just sit there for a while with my back against its firmness, and just…be.

At my annual physical, my doctor noted that some of my bloodwork results looked a bit off, and sent me back for a do-over. I’m awaiting those results now, but made the poor decision to find my way down a rabbit hole of WebMD and Mayo Clinic websites, getting more stressed and worried with every click. I’m sure that – as has always been the case – I’m fine, and the majority of my concerns are related to stress that I don’t manage well. In those posts I mentioned before, I’m sure I acknowledged my issues with control, stress, worry, taking on too much, not finding a good balance or taking a break when needed, but I clearly didn’t do a good job of remedying them. I feel like this is the moment where I need to really work on those things and find a way to a healthier and happier me, and I need to be serious about it this time.

I always start out excited about things. Sometimes I’m giddy and passionate about an idea I’ve come up with, or I’m honoured to be approached by someone else who wants to work with me. Sometimes I see a posting for an opportunity that I know I’d be perfect for. Other times I say yes to something because of what I hope it will lead to. The FOMO (fear of missing out) hit me not as a fear of missing out on social media, but a fear of missing out on some incredible opportunity. I’d say “yes” then find myself in the midst of emails and meetings and drafts and rehearsals and busyness with nothing but good intention, ready to grow as a multi-faceted person who’s aware that she’s cultivating a personal brand at the same time. Some of the things I was excited about recently have left me feeling anything but. Chasing entities for thousands of dollars owed, being asked to work for compensation below my worth, consistently showing up for others and noting that reciprocity isn’t in everyone’s vocabulary – these things have been draining me lately, but I’ve kept pressing on.  Other things I remain excited about, but I feel burned out to the point where I have nothing left to give them right now. I miss things like Sunday mornings before anyone else is awake – just me, a cup of tea, and my blog. I miss feeling like I’m not always behind or chasing an ever-lengthening to-do list. I miss taking the time to enjoy life and be inspired by it. The work is fun until it’s not – and it happens so rarely that when I feel it as strongly as I do now, I need to heed the message.

All of the things I do are supposed to compliment each other and give me outlets that other parts of my life don’t provide. When my outlets start feeling like burdens, it’s the most frustrating thing – where do you turn next? During a Twitter chat about making your side hustle a full-time entrepreneurial pursuit, I tweeted that it was crucial to protect your passions – just because your passion becomes your full-time gig, that doesn’t mean you won’t ever end up disillusioned by it like any other job. My passions need to be protected right now. My health needs to be protected right now. My desire to be and do and create needs to be protected right now. All of these things need to be tended to, cared for, nurtured back to a place of fruitfulness and rejuvenation, otherwise nothing that I am or do will ever be where I want and need it to be.

It’s a new season, and we always joke about the cold weather being our sign that it’s time to make like bears and hibernate from the social scene. Instead of thinking of it as hibernation, I’ll take my cue from the trees. There’s something beautiful about the way trees shift, change, and let go, taking time to be still before flourishing again. Maybe that’s what I need. Maybe that’s what more of us need. There’s much to be said about the doing of life, but none of us can afford to miss out on the being. This is the season to pick and choose; to be careful and intentional about what I do and how I do it. I’m sure that soon enough the balance, inspiration, passion, and fun will all return for me, and until then, I’ll just take my time.

#WFC2015: The 2015 Women’s Freedom Conference Is Coming!


Life has been hectic, but it’s generally been the kind of good hectic that keeps butterflies in my tummy and gives life the sort of exciting, out-of-control feeling that I thrive on at times.

A lot of wonderful new things are in the works, and one of those things is the 1st Women’s Freedom Conference, which I am SO proud to be a part of! If you’re a dope woman of colour, or know a dope woman of colour – keep reading.

While I believe that those of us who are “other” can and should find ways to burrow ourselves into the mainstream, I’m a huge advocate of creating your own space – space to exist, to shine, to share, to be. It’s no secret that marginalized people don’t have red carpets rolled out in their honour, with escorts at the ready to usher them to spaces where they are positively centered. With the Women’s Freedom Conference, intersectional women of colour are creating that space for other intersectional women of colour, to share their stories, their expertise, and their perspectives on life and liberation.

Our Leadership Team and Advisory Board are made up of incredible women like Feminista Jones, Reagan Gomez-Preston, Jamilah Lemieux, Linda Sarsour, and many others who represent the spectrum of women we hope to hear speak on October 25th.

Here’s a bit from our press release:

“On October 25, 2015, the Women’s Freedom Conference will center and amplify the unique voices and experiences of underrepresented women who have been disenfranchised beyond gender alone– women of color whose identities are intersectional and whose womanhood is shaped and defined along those intersections.

Last year, three close friends were having a conversation and one raised the idea of hosting an action that would bring together women of color from around the world together in one space. She asked the other two women if they would be interested in working to make it happen and they enthusiastically agreed. Initially conceived as a “freedom march” that would convene thousands of women in one American city, the women later decided that the platform would be more widely accessible to more people if it was a digital conference that could be accessed from anywhere in the world.”

My favourite thing about this conference is that it’s all digital – no need to travel across states and borders to attend. Find an internet connection, and you’re in there. As the International Marketing & Promotion Committee Leader, this is HUGE for me in encouraging women outside of the U.S. to attend and participate, and eliminates a lot of obstacles that women would face otherwise.

“The mission of the conference is to center Women of Color– our success, our concerns, our work, our activism, and our existence as vital contributors to making the world a better place. We want to make sure that women of color from around the world have a space to speak out and be heard, to teach others and to learn from each other, and to inform people of the work that they are doing in their respective communities.

Our goals include providing practical, real-world information from a diverse group of women, many of whom are actively working to improve the lives of women of color around the world. We want to make this information available to as many people as possible and we believe that utilizing modern technology is the best way to do so. Participants will engage in conversations, seminars, and direct actions focused on the empowerment of women of color by building solidarity and promoting sisterhood.”

Our Call for Submissions is now LIVE! If you are a woman of colour who has something to say or to share with the world, here is your chance.  Please review our submission details, and throw your brilliant hat in the ring!

Perhaps you don’t want to speak, but you want to attend virtually – stay tuned for more info as we get ready to launch the Women’s Freedom Conference on October 25th from 9am-9pm EST! Watch by yourself or organize a “watch party” with some friends, and take in all the amazing things we’ll have to offer! There may be opportunities to attend official watch parties in your city or town (Toronto, I’ve gotchu), so feel free to reach out to me if you’d like to know if someone is hosting in your area, or if you’re interested in doing so yourself!

So, what am I looking for?

I hope you’re as excited for the Women’s Freedom Conference as I am! More good things are on the way!

UNAPOLOGETIC: Focusing On The “Self” In Self-Care

SelfCareRevolutionarySelf-care has been a topic of much discussion in my various circles these days. Whether at work, with friends and family, or on social media, many of us – mostly women – are in the process of prioritizing ourselves in order to preserve ourselves.

Just yesterday, I commented on a Facebook posting on the topic with the following:

I have to be very mindful about my own needs and really have to train myself to stop, say no, relax, and rejuvenate. The two biggest things I’ve realized are: 1) for me, self-care doesn’t have to be a huge action – it can be as small as going inside a bathroom stall and doing some deep breathing, or going for a 10 min walk – and 2) getting over the guilt of practicing self-care is crucial – we need to take care of us so we can take care of everything else.

As soon as I hit send, I had an epiphany and quickly added the following:

Actually – though women have tons to take care of, the validity of our self-care still doesn’t need to be contingent on being able to take care of others. We have to take care of ourselves because we owe it to ourselves. That just popped into my head, so I wanted to add on :)

When we tell people – especially women who carry a multitude of concurrent roles and responsibilities – that their need for self-care is valid because it helps them care for others, is that truly self-care?

At the root of it all is the understanding that we need to create space in our lives to rejuvenate and replenish ourselves. It may look like booking a spa treatment. Or taking a walk on a beautiful day. Or buying ourselves something nice. Or saying no to every hot Friday night plan in favor of Netflix & wine after a tough work week. We can honour ourselves and our immediate needs in a way that no one else can, but we often feel guilt around the practice.

If we need to take a day off from work, we feel like we’re letting our team down. If we tell our families that we’re taking an hour to ourselves to unwind with a bubble bath, we feel bad about not being there for their needs. If we disclose our self-care practices to people who mock us for our “indulgence,” we feel like maybe we’re truly being selfish. A method that’s been used to curb this guilt and second-guessing (and to encourage us to continue along the path of self-care) is the phrase “Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others” – and while that’s undoubtedly a valuable asset to making ourselves priorities, it shouldn’t be the only reason we do.

We juggle so many different hats. Parent. Lover. Friend. Coworker. Caregiver. Financial Advisor. Student. Homemaker. We could be wearing any combination of hats at any given time, and self-care is crucial if we’re going to be any good to the people who depend on us. I definitely believe that in order to be there for others, we first have to be there for ourselves. They say you can’t give from an empty cup, so self-care helps us give to others from a place of abundance, not a place of martydom.


It still isn’t enough to value self-care solely for the ability it lends us to take care of others.

Isn’t the reverence we have for ourselves enough of a validation for self-care? Isn’t it OK to just say, “I’m doing this for myself” without further explanation? I’ll admit, when I thought about this while writing the aforementioned Facebook comment, I was hit with a nervous flutter in my stomach that signaled the guilt I thought I had swept away. It takes effort as a woman with multiple people depending on her to say “This is for me” instead of “This is for me so that I can be for you.” For those of us who fall prey to the fallacy of the Strong Black Woman trope, it takes effort to separate ourselves from the value we earn by keeping things going. We are prided on our ability to take everything the world throws at us without missing a beat, and we often aren’t afforded the opportunity to drop bits and pieces or the whole load to focus on ourselves, even for a short while. We give ourselves permission for self-care by equating it back to the asset we’ll be to those that need us, and that helps to make it OK. The benefit to others is the easiest defense against cries of indulgence of selfishness, so we grab at it quickly. Forcing myself to move beyond that, and allowing myself to care for myself because I care for myself is a revolutionary act.

As I said on Twitter:

Now, I just need to remember that.

SAVE ROOM: Learning How To Make Space For Life


I get dramatic about birthdays. I love my birthday, and a personal goal is to accomplish something so incredible in life that May 10th becomes a national (or international!) holiday.

I know I’m dramatic. Luckily for the people who are forced to put up with me, I can step outside of myself and see how ridiculously extravagant I get about each new rotation around the sun.  That being said, this year feels even more profound than usual. I initially chalked it up to needing some positive anticipation – last year was an overwhelming whirlwind of amazing highs and troubling lows, and this year I know I need more stability and growth. But as I thought about it more, I realized this birthday felt so profound because I finally learned a crucial lesson:

I need to make room in my life to let life happen. 

Things have been severely crowded for too long. Moving + baby + work + side hustles + bills + friends + trying not to forget about Bee = a life so stuffed that some days felt downright paralyzing. The most crippling thing was the fact that everything I had gotten myself into, I had chosen to do – so I had no one to blame but myself, and it seemed like no one could help me but myself. Nothing felt optional. I had to go to work. I had to take care of my daughter. I had to pay bills and take care of home repairs. I had to keep up with my freelancing. I had to keep working with the film festivals and magazines and youth groups and projects I was tied to. Everything linked to something else: I kept taking on cool projects because maybe something would pop off and I wouldn’t have to go back to my day job after mat leave. I forced myself to do daily social media management for clients because I needed the extra money to help with diapers and daycare. I felt obligated to try to plan events because I thought I had fallen off and wasn’t “on the scene” anymore like I used to be. Everything seemed indispensable, so while I started feeling stifled, I told myself I couldn’t drop any of it. If I was feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I convinced myself that the problem wasn’t the amount of things I tasked myself with, it was my work ethic. I had to find ways to focus, to be more efficient, to make sure I got things done and done well – in short, I wasn’t kind to myself at all.

Yes – I have an amazing partner in life who shares many of the responsibilities I named above, but when it came down to the things I do outside of home and baby, he wasn’t with me shooting in the gym. The writing, the events, the projects, the work – the choice to do them and the reason why I was doing them lived solely in my head and heart. The pressure I was putting on myself to do them lived there too, so I knew that while HomieLuva is an incredible sounding board, I’d have to initiate any change I wanted in my life on my own.

I started off by doing a basic time audit of my life. My days were full of things to do, but I soon realized that a lot of these things weren’t serving me well anymore. There were things I was doing simply because I told myself I had to, and further – I told myself that to not do them was to be a quitter or a failure. When I was honest about what some of these things were doing for me, I realized they weren’t doing a gotdamn thing except stressing me out. I could barely stand things that used to fill me with excitement, and it was downright depressing. My next realization was that there was a constant, nagging feeling of some awesome opportunity just within my grasp, but my life was so cluttered that there was no room for it. I felt things passing me by and though I couldn’t definitely state what it was that I missed out on, I knew that I literally had no space for anything new – so good things were undoubtedly floating away.

Next, I thought about my current priorities. Taking care of my family, my finances, and investing in myself topped the list. Comparing my priorities to my audit, I realized that a lot of the things I felt obligated to do didn’t fall in line with any of my priorities. They may have had a place at one point in time, but things changed and I was now just forcing a square peg into a round hole. There were things I knew I’d have to say goodbye to, say “not now but maybe later” to, say a firm no to – and I had to say it all immediately. Over the last couple of weeks, emails have gone out, calls have been made, and the things that I needed to say have been said. I’ve finally reclaimed a bit of freedom. I have room to breathe and to just be without having to do, and it’s the best birthday present I could have asked for.

I’ve given myself the gift of leaving room for life. I’m trading in excessive guilt and undue self-imposed pressures for the space to find things to enjoy, inspire me, and help me grow. I’m letting go of things that put some dollars in my bank account, and believing that things are coming that will give me even greater prosperity. I’m clearing things out and making a new foundation, and it feels like I have nowhere to go from here but up.

Let’s toast to fresh starts and swift, sustained ascents. Happy birthday to me.

MISSING IN ACTION: The Silence of Black Organizations That Serve Us



It’s often said that silence is golden. Contrasting with the clamour and din of the world we live in, there’s a beauty in silence; a special solitude in the space that it gives us.

Then, there’s an aspect of silence that stuns in another way. When the world’s noise begs for a voice to respond, that revered solitude festers into neglect and the golden beauty of silence tarnishes into ugliness.

For marginalized people in this city, this country, this world – things aren’t just noisy, they’re deafening. Individual voices raised in retort have done amazing things, but when voices combine in effort, even more impressive things ensue. That’s why for me, at this time, it’s distressing to feel the crushing silence emanating from long-standing Black institutions who have failed to add their voice to our current struggles.

This past weekend, I passed on an invitation to one of Toronto’s – if not Canada’s – premiere Black events. I looked forward to the opportunity to get dolled up and connect with old friends and new people. What I didn’t look forward to was the nausea of watching Toronto’s mayor grace the event with grandiloquent comments celebrating the same demographic victimized by the carding policy he supported a week prior. The cognitive dissonance is unsurprising, yet it’s hard to shake the feelings of frustration and disappointment.

Even more disappointing is the fact that organizations that purport to advocate for Black community/communities and support their advancement have failed to take their place at the current tables of discussion on the issues affecting the people they claim to serve. No representatives at police board meetings. No participation in or organization of town halls. Poor outreach to the community in favour of more insular, self-congratulatory efforts. Refusal to engage in the conversations that community members are asking – no, begging – for. I guess you can chalk some initial silence up to lack of awareness. Then, you can say, “Well, maybe they’ll be present at the next meeting/will have a quote in the next round of media coverage/will issue a statement of their own.” Then, you wait and wait and grasp at nothing but empty silence and realize that their silence is their statement.

The Star’s “Searching for Toronto’s next generation of Black leaders” covers a spate of perspectives on issues affecting advocacy and activism in the city. Why do older leaders hesitate to pass the baton on to younger generations? Is there a misunderstanding of new waves of activism? How do we increase community involvement in various initiatives? This article asks questions and attempts to answer them, highlighting some of the very issues that I feel compound on the function of Black organizations in our communities.

Far too many Black organizations uphold narrow paradigms of respectability, putting an asterisk beside the definition of the demographic they represent. Far too many ascribe to the modus operandi of “Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps” without acknowledging that sometimes those very bootstraps are given to us, already frayed and deliberately unable to support our weight. Far too many think that their presence is effort enough, failing to actively engage the individuals and communities around them. Far too many cry that there’s no one new to helm the ship when their white-knuckled clutches on power impede their ability to let new blood in. What we need are organizations that understand, as Audre Lorde said, that “the Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house.” We cannot build an empowered Black identity using the sociopolitical tools that were created to work against us. We need organizations that are truly open to new voices and new ways of doing things; ones that are accessible in a myriad of forms; ones that aren’t afraid to speak up when and where it matters; ones that don’t value photo ops over true progress.

Perhaps some of these organizations are misunderstood. If that’s the case, I truly hope that they do the necessary work to make change and align their internal missions with external perception. Maybe a redefinition of who they serve or a revamp of the hows and whys of doing what they do is needed. Additionally, a reminder needs to be given that there isn’t much room for ego in community work. All critique and criticism isn’t cruel – more often, it’s a sign that your community is invested in what you do and wants you to do even better, so disparaging that response isn’t always a smart move.

Then again, maybe I’m the one who is looking at this all wrong. Maybe I’m expecting things of people and executives and institutions that they aren’t meant to deliver. When it comes to carding or police brutality or fighting for higher minimum wage or support for Black women, maybe I’m waiting for people to speak when they truly have nothing to say. What I do know is this: your silence speaks volumes, and I hear you loud and clear.

FULL OF YOURSELF: The Audacity of Self-Confidence



“You can’t wake up looking for the recession.” – Jenifer Lewis

While doing some research, I came across an episode of Black Actress featuring the incomparable Jenifer Lewis. As soon as I heard that quote, I internalized it in a way that told me something I needed to hear that day: “Bee – stop looking at the things you lack. Stop claiming your deficits and ignoring your gifts.” It’s easy to fall into a self-confidence recession, and sometimes I have to ensure that I don’t fall into that hole.

There’s an air of audacity around self-confidence in women. From birth, it’s drilled into us that it’s more noble to minimize compliments and to not toot our own horns. We’re taught that it’s preferable to be more sugar than spice. We try to embody “everything nice” until we see that the jig is up – “everything nice” usually serves others at our expense, and that realization sometimes comes too late. To buck those trends – to accept compliments, to celebrate ourselves, to stop worrying about being nice and start busying ourselves with being authentic –  breaks the mold of what “good girls” do, thereby fragmenting the view of what a “lady” is.

You’re more malleable when you aren’t self-aware. You’re easier to predict and control when you aren’t self-assured. People know what to expect of you and how much space you’ll take up when your words and actions show that the answer is “not much.” I realized I didn’t want to be malleable, predictable, or controllable. I wanted more than the basics and more than the small space I allowed myself, and the key to that is through self-confidence.

There’s levels to this, though. For me, self-confidence is rooted in the fact that there ain’t nobody else out there like me. No one with my skills, laugh, height, skin tone, hair texture, voice. No one with my past. No one awaiting the gifts that are coming specifically for me in the future. There’s no one who possesses all these things the way I do – and for that fact alone, how can I not revel in the fact that I’m a 1 of 1?

I work damn hard, too. If someone compliments something I’ve done, I’d be a gotdamn fool to act like my merits are minuscule. And trust me – I’ve been that gotdamn fool. I’ve said “Oh, that was just a thing I did,” or “Gosh, it’s nothing big” when I’ve actually wanted to heartily say “Thank you!” and bask in the fact that yes, I did that.

I love me. I didn’t always – I didn’t hate myself, but I was indifferent – but I do more and more as the years pass. I love me enough to bounce back when someone else doesn’t. Or when I’ve failed and had to remind myself I’m worth the effort to try again. I love me enough to say “I want more” and follow up with “You deserve it. Go get it.” I love me, so it makes bouncing back from “I’m not feeling me” to “I’m dope as a muhfucka” a bit easier.

When did we start to believe that any step into self-confidence equated to arrogance? When did we start to believe that it was more important to make others comfortable than to take up our rightful space in the world? When did we decide to wait for someone else to confirm the things we already saw in ourselves? When did it begin to matter that other people sometimes don’t like the fact that you like yourself?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: low self-esteem is an epidemic of massive proportions. Playing yourself small under the guise of “being humble,” denying yourself the opportunity to be enriched by others, not celebrating the things that make you you – I don’t know about y’all, but acting like this starves me. I like feeling full, and when someone tells me it’s bad to be full of myself, I remember another necessary quote from Nikki Giovanni:

and he said: you pretty full of yourself ain’t chu
so she replied: show me someone not full of herself
    and i’ll show you a hungry person
Fight the recession. Be full.

MONDAY RANDOMS: A Mish-Mash Of Thoughts

aye fam

So, I’ve started this post about 3 or 4 different times, erasing and re-crafting new opening statements that speak to whatever particular topic I feel should be my go-to for this week. The problem is, my mind is so all over the place that I want to equally speak on 3 or 4 different things, and I figure I’ll just do them all instead of trying to choose one.

Bee The Yogi

Last week was a really rough week for a few different reasons. I had a particularly tough day on Thursday but found solace in an unlikely spot – my neighbourhood yoga studio.

I’ve always been a sporadic yogi, mainly due to cost and the fact that yoga studios were often too far out of the way to make them easy for me to attend. I’ve always loved how yoga made me feel, so when we moved into our new ‘hood over the summer and I realized that a yoga studio was within walking distance from my house, I was curious about the possibilities of signing up. Instead of doing my usual investigative process before attending any fitness class, I simply Googled the studio, found a class starting in 30 minutes, grabbed my mat, a towel, and a bottle of water, and showed up.

I’m so glad I did. Moving my body, sweating, challenging myself, and focusing on something other than my problems worked like magic. After a day where I felt like I could do absolutely nothing right, the “Good job!” I earned from the instructor as I held the eagle pose meant everything. At the end of the class, I cried all through Savasana to release my remaining stress, then signed up for the newcomer special. Let’s see how this goes…

Sights Set On Spring

I’m not sure what it is, but winter 2015 is feeling like some ole bullshit for myself and a number of people I’ve spoken with. It seems like a lot of us welcomed this year in the midst of major flux – people are looking for new jobs, searching for new places to live, dealing with health issues, managing family issues, assessing current relationships, and are generally trying to just figure things out.

I’m calling it now: spring/summer 2015 is about to be amazing. With all of the trials and tribulations people are experiencing right now, I’m clinging to the belief that all of this chaos is just shifting the best parts of our lives thus far into place.

One of the quotes I live by in times like these is from Pearl Cleage:

The Buddhists believe that sometimes when everything is in turmoil, it’s because something wonderful is ready to be born and that thing is distracting you so it can have some privacy during the birthing process.

Here’s hoping that springtime gives birth to wonderful things.

Accountability Is Key

Are you working on something? Trying to achieve a goal? If you don’t have an accountability partner, do yourself a favour and get one.

I have accountability partners for various things. A group of veritable strangers on Twitter make up one group – if you follow the #GetCreative2015 hashtag there, you’ll find a gang of creatives who are using Twitter to keep each other working, learning, and growing, and it’s been SO helpful in these first few weeks of the year. I have a girlfriend who lives in Texas who keeps me in check and inspires me on various levels, including my goal to be more physically active (she was super proud when she heard of my yoga adventure the other day). Having even one person that you can check in with and who keeps you on track with whatever it is you’re trying to achieve makes a huge difference in productivity.

I’ve talked about mentorship and sponsorhip (two practices I wholly believe in), but having someone who keeps you accountable is another piece of the puzzle. Try to find that person for yourself, or offer to be that person for someone else – it’s truly a gamechanger.


Whew. It feels good to get those mini-thoughts out. At this point, I’m just hoping for a week better than the last – and I wish the same for you.

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