Malala Fund shares Flose’s story and poem “March on Sister” on Assembly

During her senior year at Syracuse University, Flose Boursiquot received a request from a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority asking that she write a poem for a women’s empowerment event. Flose, who sometimes looks to other people’s experiences for inspiration, channeled Pakistani activism, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and gun-shot wound survivor, Malala Yousafzai.

Malala’s experience fighting for the education of girls gave rise to “March on Sister,” a poem found in Flose’s first collection of poetry, Close Your Eyes, Now Breathe.

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When Flose wrote “March on Sister” about five years ago, she had no idea Malala would ever read the piece nor did she think she’d have the opportunity to be featured on the Assembly platform which gives voice to amazing girls and women who going against the grain for greater good.

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Read the Malala Fund’s coverage & watch Flose’s performance

“I’m most proud of saying no to fear really. In saying no to fear and just doing the things that I want to do, so much positive comes to fruition,” Flose tells Tess Thomas, the editor of Assembly.

Flose is thrilled to be associated with Malala because of her own personal passion for doing good and personal belief that educating girls brings humanity closer to justice.

Read the Flose’s full profile and watch Flose recite her powerful poem on Assembly: https://assembly.malala.org/stories/let-it-flose

Flose - Assembly Platform

 

Right love

Women who love other women were abused. 

She says this, my black diva, those words she said.

My vagina shrinks. That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard and I disagree.

“I love other women.” 

Words I haven’t said out-loud to myself enough times to understand. Instead, I write poems — formulas to ease understanding.

The first time a man touched me with his Brillo Pad fingers, I was five. The last time, I was 21. At 16, I asked a boy to hold my virginity. He held it in between his ring finger and thumb — it’s not new, he said.

I agreed. It has been stripped like onion layers at Burger King.

Catholics said god will give me a second one if I prayed. I needed a dozen at that point. God frowned not knowing I had Brillo Pad scars all across my clitoris and vaginal walls.

Women who love other women were abused. 

I love individuals. 

I love individuals because I have seen how men move in systems. From five, I have known that the love in my heart cannot belong to man alone. It belongs to the light inside the light in you — I see the light that shines for me. And so, I love individuals.

I love in human. I love that women are beautiful. I love that womyn are beautiful. I love that trans is beautiful. I love that the light inside the light of me can love right.

Written by: Flose Boursiquot

Published: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=flose+boursiquot

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Photos: Kalya M Mendez || Jewelry: Haati Chai Jewelry 
Media contact: letitflose@gmail.com
Author of Close Your Eyes, Now Breathe loudmouth.

I feel small

Early this week, someone who I care about disagreed with a decision I made creatively & asked me to rescind. After the discussion, I couldn’t think of any other way to describe how I felt other than small. I’m loud, I’m talkative, I say what’s on my mind, and I do what I want. Are there moments when those parts of my character have negative consequences, ABSOLUTELY. And I spend time overthinking how I can be better next time. When I make creative decisions, I allow myself to be free. I don’t think about other people, I think of myself and my artistic message. Do I think of the impact my creative decisions have, ABSOLUTELY. Do I think about how they will inspire others, ABSOLUTELY. But, ultimately, I make all of my creative decisions for me, because they allow me to breathe in this world.

Joshua Everett, an amazing friend and creative, sent me an amazing collection of essays by Kiese Laymon titled “How to slowly kill yourself and others in America,” and the page I’ve opened today discusses feeling small and I feel so understood.

It reads, “I’m just waking up on the anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination, the birthday of Nina Simone, and I feel small. I’m not comparing my life’s accomplishments to either of them. I’ve learned enough to stop making that mistake. But I still compare myself to who I think I should be by now and the vision is incomplete.”

Asking creatives to rescind what we produce, takes a bit away from “who [we] think [we] we should be,” it’s an unfair ask and in a lot of ways a selfish one. And like Kiese outlines, many of us already compare ourselves to people and visions that exist and some that we make up ourselves. We don’t need you to shrink us any smaller.

Whether you know me as a friend, colleague, partner, daughter, employee, niece, remember that your role in this world is not to form expectations of me and ask that I live up to them. Your role is to be present with me, in the same way, my role is to be present with you. Should you question me, ABSOLUTELY. Should you encourage me to make my way to a better self, ABSOLUTELY. But, it is never your job or your place to ask that I fit into a mold that benefits you. Do I know all of that bullshit about women who blah blah blah and don’t compromise will end up alone, sure… insert Eartha Kitt laugh.

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Photos: Kalya M Mendez || Jewelry: Haati Chai Jewelry 
Media contact: letitflose@gmail.com

Author of Close Your Eyes, Now Breathe loudmouth. 

I am “Giant Woman”

I caress women’s hearts
when their lips bleed
insecurities down to
their beautiful feet.

I write post-it messages
to myself and post them
up against the mirror
to caress my own heart.

I can only see the beauty
in me when it speaks
through dirty handwriting
next to puffy eyelids.

The woman who breathes
life reminds me that we
are queens, more than the
mid-twenties rolls & late night shame.

The young woman who models
beauty for a penny too fat
to slide into my pocket
gifts me a book; she understands.

The man on the radio
is close to my heart but
far from anything i’ll ever know…
he tells me of Alice, she’s always there.

Understanding works that way. 

Written by: Flose Boursiquot

Inspirations:
-Lily Myers, Shrinking Women
-Nahko, Alice (My Name Is Bear)

Sola Travelers: A friend in every city

The woman who warned me that “las mujeres nunca están seguras,” when I inquired about how safe it is for me to walk around at night in San Jose is not just the owner of an introspective quote for a blog post. Yogurt isle lady from the Automercado is part of a tribe of women who understand what it is like to walk around in our bodies. How we rarely feel safe in streets, no matter if the sun shines. Despite what Vice-President Mike Pence believes, women play a greater role in the workforce than temptress, so we often travel for business. Other times, we travel for pleasure — to discover what else that is out there. When we want to explore; go out at night, lay out on the beach, read a book in a sunny park, dance to music from a new culture, or perhaps shop, get our nails done, find a sexy dress, we do not always feel safe doing it alone in a foreign country although as long as we are women our native communities also do not offer complete safety.

That sad reality is why Founder of Sola Travelers Valeska Toro started her company Sola Travelers a few months ago; to give women a friend in every city in case they want the safety of companionship.

“During one of my travels last year, a stranger at a bar harassed me. I didn’t think that it would affect me that much, but the next day, I was still pretty upset about it. That day, I met a woman over lunch and told her about the incident. I had never met her before, but she understood exactly where I was coming from. It was in that moment that I realized that women around the world share a common understanding and connection. It made me think about a world where women could support each other and help each other travel.”

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When Valeska is not building mobile apps, she likes to go to small venue concerts, live DJ spin classes or one of her favorite restaurants.

The man who assaulted Valeska is not unique; he is also part of a band, this one is made up of sick men who believe a woman’s body is made to please them. These men have hands that know no limits, dirty lips that cat-call, and eyes that search for vulnerabilities. This gang is one many women fear.

So what’s the solution? 

Women, like myself, enjoy travel and there are times when we prefer to or have to do it alone. There are countless articles out there about how to stay safe in a foreign country — I read quite a few on BuzzFeed, TripAdvisory, Travel Noire, Independent Traveler, etc… before booking my trip to Costa Rica, my first solo viaje. If you plan to travel alone, I suggest you do some research as well.

There’s also Valeska’s budding company, Sola TravelersIt is now based in four locations: New York City; Orlando, Florida; Washington D.C.; and Costa Rica (San Jose and Playa Hermosa). 

“It’s interesting. During one of the women’s marches, we found a picture of a woman holding up a sign that read ‘I don’t want to be afraid to travel alone’ and when you think about it, it doesn’t have to be this way. We, as women, have the power to change this. With Sola, we want to give women a platform to become an Insider and help other women travel to their city while at the same time earning extra income on their terms. Alternatively, we want to give women around the world the ability to travel freely and have piece of mind knowing that they have a network of amazing women to support them.”

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Photo: @ivacaminando

Given Valeska’s vision and the tribe of intelligent women she has on her team, I’m sure Sola Travelers will find a way to keep you safe, empowered, and exploring wherever you are as the company continues to grow.

My experience with Sola Travelers 

Sola Travelers has recently expanded to Costa Rica (San Jose and Playa Hermosa), and I was their first trip. What are traditionally tour guides, Valeska has deemed Sola Insiders, women who consult, create an itinerary for you, and/or take you out. My Sola Insider is Andrea Pacheco. 

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Andrea Pacheco works as a Program Manager, loves to dance, and enjoys going to pilates class, concerts, and the beach.

The beauty of Sola Travelers is that it matches you with a friend in every city. It truly feels like I have company in Andrea. Before taking me out on Saturday, she and I Facebook messaged and spoke on the phone. From our conversations, she determined my interests and sent me three options for our field trip. This social media and phone personalized process was unique to me. Normally, travelers will go to Sola Travelers’ website, find what they want to do, and book it there. The Sola Insider then reaches out to the Sola and they plan from there. 

After Andrea and I hung out on Saturday, we stayed in touch. I’m the kind of person who likes to go with the flow in my personal life so I don’t have a solid itinerary. When I see something interesting, I forward it to Andrea. Typically, she’ll tell me whether that area is on the safer side, how accessible it is by taxi or Uber, and whether she knows a friend nearby. If you prefer consulting before you arrive to your respective city, that can also be arranged through your Sola Insider. How cool is all this, right!

Andrea and I at Irazú

Companion

That’s great, but how much does all this cost 

According to Valeska, Sola Insiders have control over what they charge and it varies by city.

“Our experiences currently range from $50-300 depending on what city you’re in and what you’d like to do.”

No matter what experience a Sola chooses, she will receive real-time support from a Sola Insider during her stay.

My afternoon with Andrea 

  • Andrea picked me up from the Feria Verde Organic Market where I spent my morning eating, strolling, speaking Español, and writing.
  • I selected option 3: a trip to Irazú Volcano in Cartago and a late lunch. The drive up to Irazú was about 40 minutes. On the way up, Andrea and I spoke about our experiences traveling, work, culture, family, and Costa Rica. One of the benefits of going on a trip with a Sola Insider is that you get a one-on-one course on the city you’re exploring.
  • When we arrived at Irazú, I actually had no idea I was inside of the volcano; Andrea made that known. She showed me where the craters are, told me about the Coati, a small animal that lives in the area, took photos of me, and when I wanted room to roam alone and write, she gave me my freedom.
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I keep on falling in an out of a volcano without you! *Alicia Keys voice*
  • On our way back down to San Jose, we stopped at Linda Vista, a local town restaurant best known for its delicious food and walls covered in business cards. At Andrea’s recommendation, I had a sweet cup of warm agua dolce and we shared a plátano maduro con queso. I topped that off with a lomito encebollado. 
  • Andrea had also planned a nighttime outing for us, but I decided to skip out given I have been fighting a cold all trip. What’s important is she was prepared to continue our day as planned.

As Andrea drove me around, she answered difficult questions with facts and passion; I got the feeling she truly believes in Pura Vida.

“I really like my city and my country, and by showing it to others I think it makes me be grateful. Its a reminder to not take things for granted.”

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Andrea pictured in Amsterdam on one of her solo trips. She enjoys traveling and sees Sola Travelers as a way to give back to all the people who have helped her make her way.

Want more of Sola Travelers?! 

Come back daily to find out what adventure I jump into next! 

Jumping Flose

All photos in this post taken by Andrea Pacheco. 

Everyone Deserves A Chance To Trap In This Life 

“In 2010, my uncle passed from AIDS related complications. Our family didn’t really know that he had the illness and I’m not really sure that he knew until his health declined. It’s interesting because if someone has cancer, you cry, and you feel sad. With him, I saw different types of emotions from people.”

Seeing a relative in hospice is a tragic experience. Young Kim felt powerless watching someone she loved suffer at the hands of a disease that, at the time, she didn’t understand anything about. Watching her uncle’s health decline so quickly scarred Kim, but she did not simply allow the wound to fade, she came into adulthood with fresh skin and a passion to advocate for others like her uncle. Kim says, “I have found comfort in knowing that I am dedicating a chunk of my life to fighting this disease. Yes, it has an impact on your health, but you can live long and healthy. You can still have a family and children. You can live just like everyone else. I just wish my uncle knew that.”

Despite the progress our society has made, HIV/AIDS is still seen as a tragedy that diagnosed individuals bring on themselves. It is assumed that the one with the disease was reckless in how they lived their life, and because of that contracted something that will inevitably kill them. We do our fellow humans a disservice with such a mentality. HIV/AIDS is a disease of a behavior; not one that impacts one particular type of person. Kim understands the difficulty that people living with HIV/AIDS face with their health.

“I am becoming the professional that people living with HIV come to. No one should face HIV or AIDS alone, so I am happy I can be that person. There are a lot of struggles people with HIV deal with. Healthcare in this country is challenging for everyone, but its a greater challenge for those with the disease. Part of my job as a medical case manager is helping people living with HIV/AIDS navigate the healthcare system, but a big part of it is helping them realize that they are still a whole person.”

While advocating for people living with HIV/AIDS, Kim, whose full name is Kimberly Huggins, is also receiving her Master’s in Social Work and PhD in Human Sexuality from Widener University. It’s only natural to wonder how she manages everything on her plate.

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Kim received her Masters degree from SUNY Downstate Medical Center School of Public Health

“I call myself a trap scholar, because essentially, I’m trapping too.”

For those unfamiliar, trap is a verb, it means selling dope to support oneself and/or family. Check-out Future, Trap Nigga and Fetty Wap, Trap Queen for further study. Kim, much like those who spend their time hustling, is setting shop in grad school, moving books, grinding with papers, and knows that her degrees are her big payout.

“It’s a grind trying to get good grades, make the right connections and soak in all the information. It’s not easy. Being in grad school, I feel like I have way less time to sit back and kick up my feet. In my previous graduate program, I worked full-time, went to school, but I was still able to be ‘turnt up on a Tuesday’. Now that I am in the last phase of a my academic schooling, there’s a lot more pressure. Whatever steps I take now will have an impact on my career moving forward. I aspire to be a sex therapist, professor and public advocate in the public health realm, but I know I need to be strategic because there is no blueprint for success.”

Although Kim feels pressure to be great, she does not go without support. She speaks highly of her parents, a group of really good friends, her boyfriend, and God. They are the ones there with her when doubt sets in.

“When you’re in grad school, you realize you are becoming the next expert. It’s a lot of pressure to realize that you are the one becoming the next expert in the field.”

I know what you’re thinking—wow, this Kim person is a rockstar. She is in fact a rockstar! Not only is Kim pursuing higher education while counseling people living with HIV/AIDS, but she has also co-founded, Kimbritive.

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Kim pictured with her business partner, Brittany Brathwaite, who is pursuing her Master of Social Work and Public Health at Columbia University.

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, outside of her mother who Kim speaks fondly of, she did not have many women to look to.

“It’s sad that we don’t have enough women who look like us. You go to a predominantly white institution; you can count on one hand the number of black professors. There is something powerful about seeing someone from the same community as you being successful. I didn’t have many role models growing up and it motivated me to be better.”

Kimbritive, a vision that began in a Starbucks with Kim’s business partner, Brittany Brathwaite, has taken off. The women just held a workshop for young African American girls in New York City called, “How to Be A F.L.Y. Girl: First, Love Yourself.” Kimbritive sailed to California, Virginia, and Atlanta, and plan to visit Syracuse in March as they continue to empower young women through their life’s journey with knowledge about “sexual health, reproductive justice and everything else in between.”

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The work Kim does in the classroom, on the streets, and at the office is inspiring. She speaks proudly of her peers who she describes as role models, but she herself has set an incredible bar, and many are watching.

“My goddaughter wants an American Doll for Christmas, with natural hair that looks like mine, and it doesn’t exist. She asked for an American doll that looks like me and it doesn’t exist. Her request touched me, you have to live a life of purpose because you don’t know who is watching.”

It’s safe to say that many are watching Kim as she grows in her journey. She hopes to plant seeds in people, to create change that benefits society, and I have no doubt that she will in fact do it.

ABOUT KIMBRITIVE: 

We are two dynamic, passionate and energetic agents of change from Brooklyn, NY who unapologetically believe in the importance of having real conversations with the goal of educating and empowering communities about sexual health, reproductive justice and everything in between! With backgrounds in Public Health and Social Work, we merge our experiences and schools of thought into interactive skill-building workshops to service the emerging needs of young people, youth service providers and adults.

FIND KIMBRITIVE

http://www.kimberlyhuggins.com/kimbritive/
Twitter: @kimbritive_
Instagram: kimbritive
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kim.britive

Ineye: Her Afro is a Crown of Knowledge and Unity

Ineye Komonibo & Friends

There she is, Ineye Komonibo (pronounces in-NAY-yay), a gorgeous carefree woman. She is standing on the far right in this image with two of her college roommates. All three women wear their hair out in huge afros, are dressed beautifully, and wear accomplishment on their shoulders with the same strength that they carry their black skin.

This image is floating in the virtual Twitter world with over 11 thousand likes and eight thousand retweets. Under it, the caption “the carefree black longhorn grads who ‘stole’ your admission #StayMadAbby.”

Thieves. How could these three women be thieves.

“I posted the picture [with that caption] because it was amazing to hear someone say that black students—not Latino, Asian, White—but that black students are not capable”

That someone, Abigail Fisher, the young woman who does not want race to be considered in college admissions, because her sub-par academics didn’t get her into the University of Texas over black students.

“It’s a form of psychological terrorism to tell black students that they are not enough.”

Terrorism. That’s a big word. Ineye is not shy to use it, because the way she sees it, the American education system is “fundamentally anti-black and black people constantly have to prove themselves.” Every single day when a person of color wakes up, they walk the streets in a society that “does damage to their psychy.”

Abigail Fisher is not an anomoly, she is a small part of a larger system that Ineye believes in anti-black.

Unfortunately, Ineye isn’t dreaming up an anti-black world, even U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia partakes in psychological terrorism. Justice Scalia speaks the same language as Abigail Fisher. In his eyes, black students are not ready for university education at a place like the University of Texas, which is where Ineye received her undergraduate degree in Public Relations with a minor in African American Studies, they belong in “lesser universities.” You’d think this U.S. Supreme Court Justice has enough knowledge to know that America has a pretty bitter history of giving black people lesser treatment, but here he is quoted in The Guardian backsliding.

Ineye doesn’t just have a say about the serious stuff going on in American news, like Affirmative Action, she also dabbles in social media sensations. Before we get into that, I’d like y’all to get to know Ms. Ineye Komonibo some more!

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The recent University of Texas at Austin graduate is 23 years old and from Houston. Ineye describes Houston as an international community with a strong Nigerian population. She herself is Nigerian, but in the last couple of years has adopted a black radical identity.

“I’m at a very interesting place in my life where my perspective about a lot of things turned out to be wrong. Anyone familiar with Nigerian culture knows that it is patriarchal. We are socialized from a young age to see the world in a specific way,” she goes to describe her upbringing as very conservative. However, a couple of years ago, Ineye experienced a shift.

“I realized that I was black. That as a woman, my gender is something that can hinder me in society. I realized that a lot of people are oppressed.”

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Ineye describes herself as the kind of person people get tired of, not because she’s always hyped up on sugar, but because she’s very conscious of oppression and her mind is constantly at work—she’s the kind of person who is “super aware.”

“I’m Nigerian, but I am a black feminist. I’m a Christian, but I believe everyone deserves rights. My parents, sometimes, I think they get tired of hearing me talk about race and sexism.”

Earlier, I mentioned that Ineye partakes in what some would call social media hype.

About two weeks ago, Ayesha Curry sent out this tweet:

Ayesha Curry Tweet

Since then, the social media world has been afire. Some women support her modesty, while others feel that she is shaming other women for choosing to show more skin. Men, for the most part, have praised Ayesha though their reason for uplifting her may indicate more implicit thoughts about a woman’s body, sexuality, and the male gaze than we think.

What does Ineye think. Well, here’s what she shared on Twitter.

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“I’m cool with Ayesha Curry. I think she’s awesome,” she goes on to discuss that Tia Mowry is among the list of woman who have shared sentiments about modesty being sexy. What struck a chord about Mrs. Curry’s popular tweet is how she phrased it. “There was a tone like ‘I like to do this for MY man and y’all other HOES could do whatever,’ That’s fine, you have a husband. But, as a woman, it is your job to support all women.”

Those comparing Ayesha Curry and the Kardashians aren’t on the same team as Ineye, because she’s about supporting all women in the skin and life that makes them happy. Really, Ineye feels that we all should be able to live freely.

“When I think of an ideal world, I think of a place where people are allowed to be different. A world where people are encouraged to exist in the way that they are. A situation where people can exist happily. Imagine a world where everybody acknowledges that we are all different, but decides to worry about other stuff, we would become a giant machine ready to change the world.”

Keep up with Ineye on Twitter as she works for change @eyekomology.

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