Bookworms

To finish off Black History Month, I wanted to do something I’ve been looking forward to for a while now:

Welcome to my new page called Bookworms!

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So what is Bookworms you ask? Well, this site is called kwilliamsbooks after all, so I thought it would only be fitting if I started doing book reviews along with what I already do. Every month I will do a book review for you all of one or more books I’ve read that month!

And since this the end of Black History Month, the book I read has everything to do with the theme: Without further ado…

Here is Black No More by George Schuyler

Rating: 7.3/10

Originally published back in 1931, the entirety of the book is bathed in the Harlem Renaissance. Though I usually read fiction, fantasy, or sometimes SiFi, this time I got into something new. Black No More is strictly the satire venue of fiction. Let me explain why.

“What would happen to the race problem in America if black people turned white?”

This is the first sentence on the back of the book and if that sounds interesting, trust me, it is. Consider how black people were seen in the 30’s and what was going on back then; this satire addresses the entirety of what people considered to be the black identity and how that identity intersected with racism. When a

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black scientist somehow comprised a way to turn black people white, their society turned inside out.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but let me just say that if you’re looking for someone who critiques the societal norms of black vs white and directly addresses race with a funny, entertaining, to the point, and often sarcastic voice, Schuyler is your guy.

Since this was a new kind of fiction for me to get into, it took me a little time to get into and it wouldn’t be my first choice in a room full of books. But a 7.3/10 isn’t because it wasn’t a good book. It was. In holding so much culture, commentary, and character in each page, it was absolutely worth the read.

If you’re looking for black literature, something new to entertain, or just a quick break, Black No More is a good place to start.

And Welcome to Book Worms; look out for new posts every 4th Tuesday of the month!

From History to History Makers– BHM Week 4

dawid-zawila-279998Black History Month Week 4 and today I want to tell to you about something that isn’t quite our history yet— here are some of the people who are in the process of making black history.

If you saw Obama’s tweet this week then you know what I mean when I say that young people truly are making change these days. From artists and activists to businesswomen and basic everyday people with more to give, we’ve got a lot of people to be on the lookout for. Lucky for you, I picked out just a few.


One

tumblr_ogmsl1cgf41u05srlo1_1280Let’s start with the artists, here is one guy to know the name of: Tsoku Maela. Raised in Cape Town, this young photographer focuses on the idea of mental health and normalizing the stigma of it, especially for black people. Earning the spotlight with his series of Abstract peaces (take a look here), his photos create a “visual diary of a subject at different stages of their depression and anxiety” when it isn’t all just one emotion or one state of being. As an artist, especially a black artist, I think it is important for people like Maela to explore their culture and more importantly, spread how it has influenced their own lives in a way that can change the lives of others— even if that change comes through awareness like it does here. I’m excited to see what he can do in the future and if you want to get to know more about him or who he is and what he does, take a quick peek at his website or his tumblr!

Two

clem-onojeghuo-228522-unsplash.jpgNow for your activists, let’s take a look into the life of Martese Johnson; if you think you’ve heard that name before, you probably have. That’s because he was one of too many caught on video being thrown to the ground in a police misconduct situation back in 2015— he didn’t quite fit the stereotype of a black kid in handcuffs though. As a student on the black alliance board at University of Virginia and an accompanist to Bernie Sanders at several rallies in the wake of the incident, he’s got quite the positive image built up for himself.  Johnson not only is an activist and a voice, but he is a representation of making good in a bad situation even if you have to do it yourself. In the future, he hopes to follow through on projects on African Americans and the media, maybe even running for public office one day.

Three

olu-eletu-38649-unsplashGrowing up in times like these, it only makes sense to talk about the business masterminds: Bianca Jeanty & Netta Dobbin. In their mid twenties, these two women have already created a company and kicked it out of the nest to watch it fly. MiMConnect is an “emerging networking platform that creates access to people of color with job opportunities, resources and a nationwide network in the media industry.”

Growing up, I’ve learned the difficulties of entering the professional world as an African American; from hairstyles to unfair treatment, this company aims to combat that struggle in creating their own space and helping other companies diversify theirs in the process. These two ladies have used an incredible amount of business and tech to get them to where they are today— maybe if I’m lucky they can help me find a job after I graduate too!

Four

ian-schneider-66374-unsplash.jpgLast, but never the least, let’s talk about someone we all should know by now: us. We are the people who may not always feel that we’re making a difference, yet somehow, one little thing can become everything. Take someone like Mikaila Ulmer, the business owner at 4 years old— she had to start somewhere and began where every one of us do: with a curiosity and a passion to follow it. How about Moziah “Mo” Bridges who just wanted to dress well and became 15 CEO of Mo’s Bows by age 15— the rest of us want to look good too don’t we? Start there. Or even like one of my favorites, Nathan Zed, your entertainer and every day guy with everyday problems who somehow managed to catch the world’s eye. By being themselves, these three all started small with something they cared about, and ended up on paths towards a cause much bigger than themselves.


Though I’ve only highlighted a few, there are countless people who are going to make a big difference in the world around them and they don’t even know it yet. As Black History Month comes to an end, it’s important octavian-rosca-369460-unsplashto remember that this celebration goes beyond 28 days. It is a culture. One that we need to pay attention to. Because this world truly is changing and the people who are changing it come from an immense amount of cultures and backgrounds. Soon enough, some of these people will be making new history and I am excited to be a part of it.

I hope you are too.

P.S. My 2 newest articles are up on HerCampus, check them out here and here if you’re interested (the second one is a fun one)! And I’ve got something exciting and new to share with you to finish off this month so be on the lookout for Tuesday 🙂 Happy Friday everyone

 

Lost in Translation– What now?

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I wanted to focus on Black History Month for all 4 of my posts this month, but I feel like this is important to talk through. In the midst of watching the world grow up around me, my goals and hopes rearranged with every step I take. I’ve got some big plans for my future, I know I have said that before.

But weeks like this make me wonder “what if I never get there?”

I used to follow every news story, whether it came out in class or late at night, I would go through each memorial and headline and tribute video down to the end. Call it an need to know, I’m not sure why I did that, but it felt important. I guess in some sense, I was trying to understand how we even got to where we were and where we are now, how it all happened. Each child, each sibling, each mother, each friend… To me, their losses felt personal.

Because they are.

When I look at the news, I have to acknowledge the fact that those could be my friends, my parents, my brothers, my classmates. I know it’s not just me; I’ve gotten a few extra calls from my parents this week, not because midterms have made these weeks so busy or for Valentines day ,but because they miss us. And I think they need a reminder that we’re still here.

That we’re okay. I’m sure my parents aren’t the only ones.

I’ve only been out of high school for almost two years now and it is astou

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nding to me how much I see changing. I remember the lock down drills we used to do– good for preparation but I don’t think we truly took them seriously enough in the weight of what we were possibly preparing for. Even as the last six years hold the 4/5 deadliest mass shootings in the US modern history, schools often being targeted, I know I was ignorant in my own security. Maybe I has the privilege of feeling that way, of not quite acknowledging the reality around me.

I can’t say students now have that luxury.

There’s a video circulating Twitter that’s been up for past two days; a Florida student is filming in a classroom as police come in to help a girl with a gunshot wound to the leg, before ushering others out through the halls. The officers keep telling them to stick close to the walls while they cry and run, passing unmoving friends and peers on the floor along the way out.

I wasn’t going to watch it, I didn’t want to. Yet I clicked play anyway, the need to understand more compelling than the need to be complacently ignorant. But in watching that video, nothing makes any more sense than how devastating it is to go through something like that. To accept the reality as it is for students and citizens trying to figure out where to go from here.

People are scared and I could not imagine being in middle school or even elementary school right now. Maybe comprehension at those ages isn’t as deep as it is for me now, but I think everyone knows something is wrong.

As a young black woman, I can be proud of the opportunities I have and the platforms I can reach in this day and age– fifty years ago, things were very different for people like me. Sometimes I get excited, thinking of the capability and creativity and intelligence I see in the presence of my generation. It can be humbling to acknowledge just how much I think we can do,

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with so much technology and capability at our fingertips.

But I also worry, about the lives we are coming into and the safety of our current state, the questions that come with it. I worry about the fear that now seems to haunt my generation and those coming after us. Because this uncertainty doesn’t discriminate by skin or gender or color or even political party. Every single one of us is living in this reality of yet another mass shooting just this year.

Shouldn’t just one be enough?

Something needs to change. There have been too many “prayers go out to…” or “my heart is with…” You can fill in whatever place you want there; it’s probably still on the ever growing list of places tragedy has struck. Yet nothing changes, people pray and lives are lost and it happens all over again. Now I’m not saying gun control is the solution, nor am I saying the opposite.

What I am saying is this: memorials and prayers and testimonies and thoughts are not enough. Though thoughts are great and we all have our own need for faith, neither is doing anything to change the future. We need to do something more than just watch more people lose their lives. Sure, I talk a lot about mental health because it’s important– these news headlines talk about mental health because it’s an excuse. This is just a factor. There’s more to these situations than that, than being “orphaned at 19” or having an “undiagnosed mental illness“.

We need to go deeper and find a way to fix the problem, whatever and how large this problem may be. Because it’s not going away.

Students shouldn’t have to be afraid to go to school. I wish I didn’t have all these plans in my life only to lie awake and night and wonder “what if I never get to finish that book?” or “when was the last time I told my parents I love them?”

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I don’t want to keep following these stories, the friends or the families or the lives, taking each loss personally when they aren’t and they are at the same time.

I just want to see things change– I don’t know how or when or what, but we can’t keep waiting. We can’t keep watching it all fall apart. I don’t want to live in a world where I look at the news and think “Oh, another one?”

And I know too many people feel this way too.

Beyond the Surface of Black Excellence

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Black History Month Week 2— Are you ready? Because I want to talk about something that ties into an entire culture of people, a term that I use a lot; one that I never quite defined for you. I want to talk about what it means say black excellence.

I’ve mentioned this term countless times, I know that, but I never quite said what it means. In our society or even on Urban Dictionary, you’ll find that we define it as what we see. We see things like an athlete on scholarship, a girl accepted to every Ivy, Will Smith, Oprah, or even the upcoming Black Panther Movie. When people think of the term black excellence, this is the direction they go.

But does that mean this is all the phrase may ever encompass?

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Absolutely not— like I said in my posts on this concept last year, black excellence is so much more than one person or one achievement or one underprivileged black student earning their way into a great University or program.

Just because I’m here at Cal Poly as the 1% does not mean that those of us in this representation here are the definition of the term.

I share this sentiment with Kiri Rupiah, Mail & Guardian’s social media editor when she says “I don’t see the value of being the only black person in the room.” That is not what black excellence is, that is inequality or under representation, a lack of equal opportunity… That is not excellent. No where close.

Living a life worth living is where the real merit comes from.

Consider the simple state of existence— getting up, eating when you can, and going back to sleep. This is what I like to call being. But working, parenting, studying, living, this is what I call excellence. It is achieving what matters as an African American who is making something of themselves.

Take a single mother: she is black excellence in the way that she is pulling it off by herself. Or an adult deciding they want more, so they go back to school part time for a GED or higher degree: they are black excellence in believing in their worth of deserving something more. How about the und

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erprivileged, those who often consider themselves the underachieving? They are excellence in their determination to keep going in spite of circumstance, or opportunity, or how many times they are told the word no. They are still going.

There are far too many ways to be brilliant to define it only in terms of fame or money; in what society sees as worth. At some point, it comes to how we define the achievement of working towards something, any goal of merit.

Consider how far black people have come, from the allowance of getting educated, of literacy, to the voices and the platforms we are now seeing African American people uphold. As much as I wish I could say we were out of “firsts” by now, it is still a great thing to see people striving to go after each and every one of those achievements until we break the standards and the barriers that seem to hold us back; no matter how many misdirected steps we attempt towards equality.

When I say the words black excellence, I am talking about the things that I see in my culture beyond skin color, beyond stereotype. I see hard work and a challenge to

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adversity. I see beauty in the struggle or sometimes, just another struggle to overcome. I think we need to stop seeing terms of culture as derogatory, but simply as an appreciation of what makes us different. It doesn’t mean black people are better, as a disparagement of others. No, this excellence is the celebration of who we are. Of who I am.

Because I am excellent. The black single mother is excellent. The struggling black student or the worker or the human being just barely getting by, all of them— all of us— are excellent.

Because we are still going.

And that is incredible.

The Resilient and the Risen– Black History Month

Just like that, the first month of the year has flown by. Maybe it was the three day weekend Cal Poly students had or just a lot going on for the new year, but here we are folks. Welcome to February, or as I like to say…

Welcome to Black History Month.guilherme-stecanella-371624

Since this blog started with my writing after all, today I want to talk about one of my favorite African American women— Maya Angelou. As a voice of many, Angelou was involved with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1959 as well as the Arab Observer in 1964, the only weekly news set that used the English Language in the Middle East. In the 50’s, she joined the Harlem Writers’ Guild in which she met the likes of James Baldwin who became a mentor and friend later on.

After traveling in Egypt and working in Ghana, she came back to the US and became a professor at Wake Forest University in Winston Salem in 1982, also accepting an appointment of Commission for the International Woman of the Year by Jimmy Carter. Though I wasn’t alive yet, some of you may remember her deliverance of On the Pulse of the Morning at Bill Clinton’s Inauguration in 1993, later meeting former President Obama in 2010 for the Presidential medal of Freedom.

As if that wasn’t enough, she was also the first black woman director in Hollywood. Angelou found herself becoming a bigger part of history than I think she could have ever imagined, as she worked her way across several industries and platforms, sharing her perspective and her voice at every single one. She died in May 4 years ago at the age of eighty six— her words now live on through the pages we keep on our shelves. I know that I’ve got a few.sandrachile-483700.jpg

Speaking of pages, there is one poem I have of hers taped to my wall: Still I Rise. Back in my senior year of high school (back in my day), I performed this poem for my class during our poetry unit. It wasn’t hard to choose. The way her personality exudes throughout the poem, her words of resilience unwavering and incredibly smooth, this was one poem I didn’t mind standing in front of the class to perform. It holds one of my best high school memories and one of the writers who helped pave the way for African American achievement along the path to where we are now. Tonight I want to honor what she has done and the words she left behind.


So without further ado, Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

noah-silliman-163561.jpgDoes my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

samantha-sophia-374229.jpgOut of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.


Whatever challenges you currently face and anything that stands in your way of success, I hope you can find your way to rise above it. Happy February everyone, have a wonderful weekend. And Welcome to Black History Month.daniela-cuevas-21263.jpg