Musila Munuve, “Natural”

From Musila:

In this moment, the natural hair movement is visually and culturally one of the most compelling to me. This body of work is intended to celebrate the beauty of natural hair, highlight the love and care it takes to maintain it and explore some of the reasons Black Women have gone natural.

Check out more of Musila’s Projects.

Black Joy & Baddies, By Onisha Etkins

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The Photos are called “Black Joy” & the drawings are Baddies. I first started with Baddies and a lot of my inspiration came from Afropunk, fashion, & Badass Black women. I liked choosing vibrant pastel colors that brought the magic in Black Girl Magic to my drawings. I treat the lines around the women sort of like an aura and you’ll notice the color schemes in the aura match the mood of the figures.

The ideas behind the drawings are what eventually inspired the photos. I love how raw Black & White film is, but I used that medium as an opportunity to reimagine color. Most of these photos were of my homies having a good time and I wanted the vibrant colors to represent that joy that was in the air at that time.

Living While Black in Chavin de Huantar, Peru

By: Nylah Byrd (’18), B.A. in Archaeology

Being black in Peru amongst a group of diverse races and backgrounds is very interesting to say the least. I want to start off by saying I was the only Black girl on the trip, simply for context. To be honest, for the most part I only thought about my apparent melanin upper hand when I didn’t rush to put on sunscreen like my lighter skinned peers. When race was the topic of conversation, I was stunned when I learned that my Latin American friends several shades lighter than me are called dark by some of their family members. Not necessarily in an insulting manner, but it was apparent that the observation wasn’t innocent since pointing out light skin simply doesn’t happen. I knew there was a stigma against dark skin in Latin American culture but I imagined dark as milk chocolate, not a latte. In that moment I realized that your family accepting your skin tone is not a given.

 

“Kids say the damndest things” is a saying for a reason. One night, I went outside to see a few of my friends were playing with some of the local children. The kids were showing them how to use their spinny tops that used a string and a good wrist flick to get them going. One of my friends who was outside is Ethipoian and he introduced himself to the children as being from Africa. I walk up to join the group and one of the small boys no older than 9 looked at me, looked back at my friend, then back at me and exclaims “You look like you’re from Africa!” in Spanish of course. My first instinct was to be defensive, but I realized that potentially the only other dark skinned person this boy has seen in his life is indeed from Africa. Then I couldn’t help but smile at his enthusiasm in his conclusion.

 

I simply told him “No, I’m from America” getting my Spanish practice in as well at taking the opportunity to educate a child.

 

“What is it like in Africa?” another small boy asked.

 

“I don’t know. I’m from America” I said.

 

“Do they kill lions in Africa?” the same small boy followed up.

 

I laughed a little and replied “I don’t know. I’ve never visited Africa”.

 

He finally dropped the topic and we began to talk about his school and he even practiced some English. I’m not sure if it’s because my words went in one ear and out the other or if he simply didn’t believe me when I said I was from America the first time. My best guess is a combination of both.

 

I went into this trip with very basic expectations. I knew I would be digging dirt, practicing my spanish, and making a few new friends. Little did I know those “few friends” would be everyone on the trip, from my peers to my superiors in the field. When it was time to say goodbye I was ready to stop digging but not ready to leave all the wonderful people I encountered. I knew I’d see some of them once school started up again but Stanford students get so busy so fast that I wasn’t actually sure how often I’d see them.

 

I also fully expected people to stare at me because of my melanin. But in reality, we all got stared at. Chavin is a small town with it’s own specific feel and it was very apparent that none of us were natives. Instead of standing out on my own I stood out with my friends, and that only brought us closer. Instead of “Black”, “White”, “Mexican”, “Chinese”, we were “American” and it felt good.

Being a Black Women in Tech

By: Lindsey Redd (’17)

On July 5th, 2016 a police officer murdered Alton Sterling. This was the Tuesday of the fourth week of my software engineering internship in San Francisco. This was the first company I had ever worked for, and I did not know how these things went. How do companies handle tragedy? Do they reach out to their employees? Do they reach out to their customer base?

I walked into the office the following Wednesday with sadness in my bones. I was tired. I was slow. All I wanted to do was sit down and do my work. There was the normal pleasant buzz around the office, but it seemed that no one knew the name Alton Sterling. No one knew that there was a murder hanging over Black America.

That night I learned about the murder of Philando Castile, another Black man murdered by the police. Two days, two murders, two more Black lives lost. My reaction was not shock or disbelief. Unfortunately, all of this was so familiar. Still, my heart sunk even further as I watched our collective grieving on social media. My timelines were flooded with posts from people in Stanford’s Black community, allies, activists, and scholars questioning how many more lives lost would it take for the American people to understand that our “safety” and “justice” systems were built to kill and incarcerate Black people. How do we grieve together, but continue to experience joy? How do we make systemic change? How do we take care of ourselves? How do we continue to dream of a beautiful future for Black people globally? How do we move forward?

The next day at my internship, I was met with radio silence. A few of my White colleagues asked me how I was doing like they would any other day. It was clear that either they had no idea that two Black men were murdered by police in the last two days, they had no idea of the inner turmoil that I was experiencing because of it, or they had an idea about both of those things, but had no idea how to address it with me. I told them I was fine, also having no idea how to casually tell a well-meaning White person with the brightest smile on their face that White supremacy was killing me and people like me.

That day I sat at my desk, fighting back tears as I texted my friend group of Black engineers also interning in the Bay about feeling invisible at work and wanting to go numb. I texted some of my friends who were spread out all over the country and the world about how they were doing, and how their work places were responding to the tragedies. Most said not well to both. The silence continued throughout the day until my manager emailed her team acknowledging that America is in pain and that this might effect our productivity at work. She offered her time to talk if anyone needed it. The email was short and simple, but it almost made me cry. Finally, someone at work could see me, even if only a little. No work got done that day.

The next week was filled with conversations with my aforementioned group of friends about Black lives, tech, and how we positioned our own Blackness in tech. We would all sit in the living room of my tiny San Francisco apartment discussing how some tech companies were responding both publicly and internally. Some responses were okay, some were terrible (I could write extensively on what I thought of each response), but in the end each was underwhelming. However, disappointment was not my initial response. This was the first time that I had been aware of any tech companies making public statements condemning the attack on Black lives. At first this was really exciting. “They can see us,” I’d think to myself. We yelled loud enough. We fought hard enough. They finally realized how important we are to their success, so they are speaking up for us. This is a very low bar. After walking into my office, one that prided itself on its commitment to community and diversity, and seeing only myself and one other intern as the only Black women software engineers in the entire place (yes, you read that right), I began to understand what a low bar this was.

I saw that many of these companies’ public statements about Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were as hollow as their commitments to internal diversity and inclusion. What does it mean when a CEO’s public statement has to be written by its grieving Black employee resource group? What does it mean when Facebook displays a massive Black Lives Matter banner on its campus, but simultaneously releases a statement saying they can’t hire Black engineers because we simply aren’t there (a lie btw)? What does it mean when a tech company “commits” to “diversity,” but only has a small handful of Black and Latinx engineers? What does it mean when I walk into work after two tragic murders of Black men and feel completely invisible? To me this means that the highest priority for the tech company is public image, not tangible improvements for the lives of the people of color who use and make their product.

With all of that said, one of the biggest challenges of my summer as Black woman software engineer was reconciling that I am dedicated to and passionate about an industry that ultimately sees me as a prop for good publicity. That is a very painful realization.

However, my understanding of the tech industry’s wholesome disregard of Black life and death did not drive me out of tech industry. In fact, I am more motivated and inspired to stay than I ever was before. In the face of tragedy, fear, widespread silence, microagressions, macroagressions, and objectification, I watched as me, my friends, and truly incredible Black and Latinx engineers not only got our work done, but also shook up the tech industry with our resilience and power. I saw engineers of color demand recognition, empathy, and the right to be human at work. They inspired me to speak up at my own company, and I am seeing the positive impact that my voice, my Black woman engineering intern voice, is having on an entire company.

I have some parting words.

Tech industry, do better. Black people are not your props. We are not numbers. We are people. We are intelligent, hardworking, and capable. We not only deserve to be here, but we need to be here. You will fail miserably without us.

Fellow Black people in or entering tech, you are brave, beautiful, and inspiring. I absolutely would not have made it this far without you. Thank you for doing the unpaid work of educating your peers and your companies about what it means to be Black in America.

Black people, thank you for sustaining us Black folks in tech. So many of us are doing this work for you. We know that this industry as a whole does not see you, but we do.

Digital Mixtapes and Protests: Oh, To Be A Queer Black Millennial

By: Nicole Marie

Article retrieved from Autostraddle

For me, the summer of 2015 was quintessentially millennial. In June, I moved into my first apartment. On that same day, Rachel Dolezal resigned from her post as president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP after lying about her race. One day later, Donald “I have so many websites” Trump announced his run for the Republican presidential nomination. And the day after that nine people, nine black people —

  1. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton
  2. Reverend Clementa Pinckney
  3. Cynthia Hurd
  4. Tywanza Sanders
  5. Myra Thompson
  6. Ethel Lee Lance
  7. Rev. Daniel L. Simmons
  8. Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor
  9. Susie Jackson

— were shot and killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a prayer service. I changed my desktop background to Bree Newsmen tearing down the confederate flag two days later. Ten days before I moved in, a police officer physically threw 15-year-old Dajerria Becton to the ground and held her at gunpoint at a pool party five minutes from where I went to high school.

In July, I cooked all my own meals and finally replaced my cracked iPhone. The United States won the Women’s World Cup against Japan 5–2 and Sandra Bland was found dead in her jail cell after being arrested for a minuscule traffic violation.

In August, I skipped work to go to Janelle Monae’s “Say their Name” march. I walked through the streets of San Francisco behind a woman two inches shorter than me who had the audacity to use her art to overtly call for action; to demand that the rest of the world pay attention to what was happening — the way news media outlets so easily name the police officer and fail to remember the names of those victimized. London Chanel, Mercedes Williamson, India Clarke, Shade Schuler and so many others. Trans people of color slaughtered.

We yelled their names, names of black bodies lost, bloodied, and abused. We disrupted traffic. We danced in front of the police station.

This is what it means to be quintessentially millennial for me, a young, queer, black woman. It’s small acts of growing up: paying bills, buying groceries, and learning to look straight ahead when a pervert comments on my “juicy, black ass” in the street. Because if I don’t, I could end up like Venice Brown, Terrain Dandridge, Patreese Johnson, and Renata Hill who received prison sentences from an all white jury for defending themselves against a man who leered at them, spat on them, and pulled out chunks of their hair simply because they were black, they were gay, and they were uninterested.

Being quintessentially millennial for me is learning that I will never be human to some people. I will be a freak show, an exhibit, a llama at a petting zoo. “Can I touch your hair?” It’s knowing that a request like that is only the beginning of my own dehumanization —  that all I need is a broken tailgate light and I could end up with an officer’s knee in my back.

In 2016, I saw the world. I studied abroad in Italy. I went to Paris. I got chills in the Van Gogh museum. I avoided the news. I avoided the news. I avoided the news. I avoided the news.
May was the start of a millennial spring romance in Paris with a girl who had lived in my college dorm: characterized by Snapchat photo streaks spanning days, memes as a flirtation device, and the exchanging of digital mixtapes. It was the shit of Nicholas Sparks books minus the white heterosexual privilege. In July of 2016, I found myself in a long distance relationship…happily. For a moment, I forgot about the summer of 2015. I forgot about the panic I experienced, the insomnia, the depression. We watched the new season of Orange is the New Black together and by the end of episode 12, it suddenly all came back.

I watched the screen in disbelief as a corrections officer exerted force on an inmate until she could no longer move. Her pleas for him to “get the fuck off” were not heard. Her pleas couldn’t be heard over the commotion of a peaceful protest gone very wrong. I was in disbelief not because I couldn’t comprehend the tragic nature of what had just happened on a fictional TV show. No, I was in disbelief because of how much a nightmarish event on a Netflix original mirrored real life. I cried, holding myself together with nothing more than willpower. I cried for the summer of 2015.

A few days later I cried for Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. I cried without knowing the details because I already knew what the news reports would say. I already knew what the footage would show. And yes, I cried for her. I cried for Poussey Washington. Not just because she was my favorite character, but because she was young, she was black, she was queer. In that moment, in her struggle for breath, I struggled for breath too.

Change the name and I’m her.

All the anger, outrage, sorrow.

I felt at events that happened only last year, this year, this month resurfaced in an angry lump in my throat. I felt vindicated when the women stormed the prison, COs locked their doors in fear, and Daya held a gun to Humphrey’s head. I wanted her to shoot him. I wanted so badly for the oppressive powers to understand the weight of their actions, the gravity of their prejudice.

But we are not free until all of us are free.

Audre Lorde once asked: “what are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you sicken and die of them, still in silence.”

I come back to this question often.

To be enslaved to anger is not justice.

To be enslaved to prejudice is not power.

To be enslaved to silence is not safety.

We are not free until all of us are free.