Swallow the pill when it’s useful

While conversing with a woman connected to the organization I work for in Miami-Dade, PACT (People Acting for Community Together), our talk shifted from small to large and sometimes controversial topics. As we progressed, she revealed that 20 years of her professional career was spent working in public housing. This sister of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated went from being an intern to an administrator, learning much along the way and forming an affinity for justice, a process that started many years before as she is a product of the segregated south.

In our talk about housing, I inserted my personal opinion, something organizers are discouraged to do in a field where our job is to work for the people and not our personal agenda. At that particular moment, in my “I have only been here for seven months but I have Miami-Dade all figured out” voice, I stated “the housing issue in Miami-Dade is just awful, to have more than 257,000 families paying 50-70% of their income in housing is not right.” Although, I do have that problem of inserting my often generalized feelings or projecting thoughts that exist mostly in Flose-world out onto the public, my frustration with housing in Miami-Dade is supported with data.

Anyway, part of this sister’s, who has lived in the county and has seen it evolve, response was “it’s the Hispanics and the Haitians” and she began a thought about mass emigration to the most southern state which a flight attendent interrupted as we were on our way to Cincinnati, Ohio, for a conference at Xavier University.

It’s the Hispanics and Haitians. It’s the Hispanics and Haitians who have put pressure on public housing in Miami-Dade. Interesting. Such a quick insertion immediately shot a bolt of tension to my brain. In a more informal setting, I would have challenged her. However, I held on to that tension and asked myself a question, “Flose, why the tense brain?”

Good question self, was it not you who made an observation to me just a couple of months ago that Miami’s infrastructure is suffering in part because of immigration. Well, yes but I don’t like how she said it’s the Hispanics and Haitians.

Come on, Flose. You work in Miami. Some of the largest groups of immigrants have come from your home country, Cuba, Venezuela, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Canada, and the list goes on, so what’s the source of that tension.

Let me turn my attention to you, kind reader. Do you have siblings? If not, you lucky duck, but even if you don’t have other humans who you grew up in close proximity with, shared hand-me-downs with, and had silly fights over things like the last piece of mom’s favorite dish, you must have at least a friend or an individual who you hold dear. Now, have you ever criticized that person, been in a fight? Maybe noticed something they could be doing better to increase quality of life or happiness. Okay, great. And you did it because you care, right–or let’s hope and say that’s why. Have you ever been in a situation where an outsider, by outsider I mean someone who isn’t your sibling or that friend, criticized the same trait or behavior. Growing up, when other people criticized my siblings, it made me tense automatically. Although, I knew how annoyingly pesky they could be, that outsider doesn’t know Andy and Fanfan like I do, so maybe their criticism is mean spirited which meant it was not welcomed.

It was through that same lens that Sister’s comment, which is rooted in truth, hit my ears. Therefore, something which I have reflected on as I am armed with the difficult task of organizing in such a complicated city, felt was offensive and I refused to swallow the pill. In my defense, I don’t swallow many pills, I’m much of a hippie that way. But worry not, I have enough of an elementary education to know I should vaccinate my children if God decides I’m mature enough to cultivate life someday.

I share this short anecdote because I think it’s important for me and my peers to learn to swallow a useful pill even if it’s given by an outsider. It might make you feel rocky at first, but allow yourself to digest the pill because truth is what it is whether it comes from a smiling or a cutting tongue. Luckily, this sister’s intent was not to cut but to give me perspective on the housing crisis th

That’s why I watch FoxNews, because through all that mindless idiocy, sometimes there is a truth I need to swallow and work through. Do not become so consumed in your world that you fail to set triggered fight feelings aside for the advancement of your community or movement. There is much to be learned from tension, so get out there and swallow some pills!

Side effects of this post include feelings of disagreement, intellectual trauma, and the need to continue a longer conversation as there are missing perspectives from my views.

Slavery: it happened, but it’s not over

Slavery. It’s been around since the dawn of day, a practice even found in the Bible. Worry not, I’m not going to sit here and preach fundamentalist Christianity to you because I’m far from a Bible thumper. But yes, slavery, “the practice of owning slaves,” (Google dictionary) wasn’t first discovered 400 years ago when white Europeans introduced it to the Americas.

As a practice to oppress and gain economic capital, slavery pervaded in the United States in the most foul way for 400 years. It is a fact that cannot be denied and should never be forgotten, so if you are one of those let’s forget slavery and hold hands type of people, one of my sponsors is selling a new pill–reality check. I don’t want to be hasty, I’m very much a hand-holder, cuddler, let’s allow the world to make love kind of person, but I also choose not to deny the ugly simply because it doesn’t benefit my agenda or privilege. However, as Cornel West, a famous man who I appreciate, notes in his book Race Matters, black America cannot remain victims of slavery, Jim Crow, and even present-day discrimination. I don’t highlight that theme from his book to preach a ‘let’s forget it happened’ gospel. I do so because we are not all victims of slavery simply because we are black. We are not victims because our ancestors were. Research shows that we can inherit socialized ways of thinking and being, so I understand how difficult it can be to escape especially when racism still exists today. However, those of us who survived our lineage of slaves are not slaves, we are not victims of slavery.

This is how Google defines victim, “a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action.” Let’s break it down from there.

Did slavery harm, injure, and kill?

According to Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 12.5 million went through the Middle Passage. Those two words should ring a bell. In case they don’t, the Middle Passage was used to transport black human bodies from Africa the way we unethically raise and transport chickens today. These men, women, and children were chained and stuffed like beasts one top of the other. It is said that sharks loved to hang around the Middle Passage ships because dead bodies were at times thrown overboard while others chose to dump their living bodies off ship. It shouldn’t surprise you that of the 12.5 million, 10.7 million made it after the month and half long voyage. 10.7 million people–that’s an island worth of human lives.

Once in North America, South America, and the Caribbean these men, women, and children were held in captivity and forced to provide free labor to whites who profited from them. While enduring brutal work conditions, they were ravaged in other ways. Women, especially, were raped by their white captors and forced to breed, yes breed like animals. All slaves were subject to beatings and maltreatment by whites, young and old.

So were our ancestors harmed, injured, and killed during slavery–yes. Therefore, they were victims of slavery. Now, let’s flip the screen to present-day America but remember slavery wasn’t just an American phenomenon. Do black bodies in this country still encounter events and line of action in the way our ancestors did? As I ready to write these next few lines, I recognize that we live in a very complicated society, but my answer to that question is no.

Although, black bodies endure harm and injury in the United States, we are no longer victims of slavery though we still suffer the consequences. Are black people killed and oppressed, yes, but to call ourselves victims of slavery is an insult to the brutality that our ancestors endured. We cannot forget that it happened, but we must not allow it to continue to enslave our minds and that of our future children.

We cannot forget that slavery endured for 400 years in America, but we should not ignore that slavery is still happening. 36 million human beings are slaves across the globe today. Those still treated like worker beasts without human dignity are the modern-day victims of slavery, and in the same way we should not erase American slavery from the history books, we shouldn’t allow those 36 million to go unnoticed.

I just want to be!

Hello world, community, person, microbe–whoever you are…

The concept of a blog has been floating around in my mind for quite some time, now I have one! Just a little bit about myself and what you can expect from “Let it Flose.”

My name is actually “Flose,” but pronounced “flows,” I know so cool! I have three other names that follow that first one, I’ll reward you with them at some point. I’m writing so arrogantly… please keep reading my blog!

So where was I, oh yes, my name is Flose and I’m a 23 year old Haitian young woman figuring out who she is in a country where a human can’t simply be. That’s my take on it, at least. It’s hard as hell to just be in America–you have to be black, gay, straight, Christian, fat, beautiful, ugly, natural, trendy, pick a label or one will be given to you.

As much as I wish we all could be, this blog is going to be a public safe space where I’ll think through current events serious or otherwise because we simply just can’t be… I usually pay attention to the more serious stuff because it’s what angers me. What kind of serious? I don’t know, the massacre of nine Black Christians in a house of worship, marriage equality, Greece, racial cleansing in the Dominican Republic, politics, and whatever else catches my attention or ignites something in my soul. The otherwise includes some light celebrity “news” and things I pick up while “twatching.” If you were born after the Lil Kim Era you’ll translate that to “Twitter watching,” if not, anything I say in this blog post should not be held against me in the court of social media.

I’d also like this blog to be a place for me to figure out what it is I am supposed to be. That means that some of the posts won’t be thought-out until every sharp edge is smooth. There will be times when I toil through things with you, feel free to challenge or support me. I know it’s quite easy for us to be cruel in this online world, I could do without mean-spirited.

That’s it for now. It’s quite late and I have this whole community organizing job thing that keeps me busy 10-12 hours daily so I need to be well rested to step out in the field as my best self.

Until next time!

With peace,

Flose