America’s 11th

I don’t really post poems on my blog, but here’s one I wrote in college, revisiting what it felt like to be 11 on 9/11. It corresponds with my post last year about the events:


Daddy came to save me from my elementary classroom.

“Did they tell you they’re attacking the country?”

Well, the answer was no,
and what a way to learn.

We zoomed
to the high school holding big sister captive.

At our haven, Mommy pulls in.

I can’t remember what she was wearing;
what car she drove or what color the shutters were painted;
But I remember the family room and the old white window pains

and the sky’s spotless blue hue peeking through.

Mommy’s eyes, camouflaged by lakes; her blue contacts
turned life rafts.

I remember
it all.

My best friend darts across the street.
We sit on the familiar wicker chairs that still haunt the porch today (faded, flaking and breaking).

We sit, we wonder,
“Will the bad guys pass?”

(Our 11-year minds).

As the 11th sunset of the month intrudes, thick dark clouds roll over — and Mommy says they’re from the Pentagon.

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Reclaiming Baltimore in the Midst of Riots: As Told by a Black Native

Disclaimer: This piece was written in regards to the riots that took place in Baltimore, Maryland on and after April 25, 2015. It is not in reference to the peaceful, organized protests that took place on that day or throughout the week. Thank you, peaceful demonstrators. Your work has not been in vain.

Maryland is a small, Mid-Atlantic coastal state that envelops our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. If you’re not from the east coast, you might not have any concept of where this state lies on the map. I happen to come from the middle of the state, from a great town called Bowie—no, not like the musician. More like “Boo-ie.”

That means that, for me and others from the area, frequenting Baltimore, Annapolis, and D.C. was not unusual. We tend to feel a sort of ownership over all these familiar towns.

Down here in Miami, I am proud to tell people about where I’m from. I am a proud Marylander. But here’s the thing: I usually tell Miamians that I’m from the D.C. area, because most people down here don’t know what or where Maryland is. (Nope, not the Midwest. Try again!).

Rioting Sets Us Up for Failure

But after today, people are going to know who we are and where we’re from—and not in a good way. Today’s protests, in “honor” of the deceased Freddie Gray have put us on the map, just like Ferguson.

I get it. These riots were formed in an attempt to bring justice to his name and to our race, as black Americans.

But, we’ve got it all wrong. I don’t want to begin to discuss how riots have the opposite effect of what the initial intentions might have been. I will note, however, that rather than bringing justice to the view of our race, these “racial justice” riots create a polarizing effect, setting race against race. And, unfortunately, the race that keeps losing is our own. Don’t you see?

In “Honor” of Freddie Gray?

Is this about Freddie Gray or is it about race? And if it’s about race, why are we out there doing things to make people hate us more, furthering the divide and setting ourselves up for more hate crimes? Why are some of us out there attacking innocent bystanders? Sounds familiar.

I can only hope that the investigation brings justice for Freddie Gray and peace to his family. I can only pray that all of the truth comes to the light, whatever that truth may be. Why?

Freddie Gray was a Baltimorean. A Marylander. A black man. In so many ways, one of my own. I want to see justice. I want to know why the police made the decisions they chose to. We all do.

But, inciting violence only perpetuates the divide. Using violence to express our distaste for the outcome of what happened to a black person in police custody only causes more policemen to feel the need to protect themselves (at potentially extreme measures) when approaching a black suspect. We are digging the hole deeper.

Now when I tell people I am from Maryland, I will do so with just a tinge of anxiety on the tip of my tongue—well aware that the next comment will be about the nature of our citizens in the face of adversity. I probably won’t have to explain where it is anymore, though. Everyone will know. Now they have seen it, stained by the bitter taste of revenge.

I’ve seen it, too. Watching videos from today’s protests, all I can wonder is, “Is this my state?” I don’t recognize it. I see Camden Yards in shambles. I see black citizens throwing full, metal trashcans at white bystanders at Pickles Pub. I hear about the Orioles game being put on lockdown. I see young men throwing rocks and bricks at other people. This is not the Maryland I know and love.

I know we have all had a good laugh about the Baltimore benches touting, “Greatest City in America,” but why? Why is it so funny to value where we are from?

Now that I am living in Florida, I am able to see more clearly what makes home so beautiful: access to the Appalachian Mountains, the city, and the sea all at once. The flavors of our cuisine (I see you, Old Bay). The cherry blossoms that emerge after a long, icy winter.

Making a Difference: Reclaiming Maryland

Why participate in endless debates about whether or not the riots are a just cause? Why, from the comfort of our couches, should we bring attention to something that does not warrant any positivity to our state and the human race, as a whole?

What can we Marylanders do for our state? We can shed some positive light on Baltimore and Maryland. Let’s show everyone what our home looks like—in its recognizable form. Let’s share what we love about our perfectly beautiful, colorful, ethnically diverse region. Maryland has now been put on the map across the nation.

Is it crazy to think that sharing what we love about Maryland will make any difference? Maybe. But it’s crazier to think that we would let ignorance represent everything we know and love about it. We can’t stop the riots with our words, but we can have our say about our Maryland. Let’s reclaim Baltimore and #putmarylandonthemap #forgood.

Please, share what you love about Maryland in the comments, and share your photos on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with our Maryland hashtag, #putmarylandonthemap !

“Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Purple Nail Polish: Ode to Nono

Joe Torsani, or Nono, as many of us lovingly called him, was a man who commanded respect—but not out of anger or force. Rather, Nono commanded respect by offering it to all, no matter how big or small.

Nono was an interesting personality. On one hand, he was a brave soldier; on another hand, he was a caring family leader; and yet, he was also an old flirt with a great sense of humor.

It’s that sense of humor and his welcoming demeanor that I might remember most.

I’ll never forget the day. It was during my nail polish phase in college. We were sitting at his daughter’s house with all of the family when I started painting my nails. I turned to Nono and jokingly proclaimed, “Your turn!”

To my surprise, Nono agreed.

At first, I thought he was just joking around — but then, I realized he was serious! And just like that, Nono let me paint his nails a beautiful, glittering purple nail polish: his wife’s favorite color.

I’m not sure why that memory sticks out in my mind. Maybe it’s because it was one of the first times that I really opened the window to see into Nono’s true character.

What other high-class, professionally trained, 70-something, former military leader would let a 21-year-old girl paint his nails purple? I don’t really know the answer to that. See, Nono was one of a kind.

This was well before I was married to his grandson, Derek. You’d think a grandfather would only have that sort of patience with his own granddaughter—and after the age of 12? Not likely.

But see, that is the thing about Nono: he helped to build and influence a family that is not bound by the legality of family by blood or marriage.

Nono and Noni believed—and have instilled into their family’s roots—a culture of family that transcends all circumstances. If you’re a friend to a Torsani, if you’ve ever worked with a Torsani, or even if you just met one in the cereal aisle at Target, you are family.

Now, just a few years later, and 4 months since we last held hands, we have laid him to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. With a heavy heart, I have but one thing left to say: don’t you have any nail parties up there without me, Nono!

Note: The above photo is from the day described. It’s easy to miss, but if you look closely, you will see his nails are, indeed, a pale, shimmering purple. 

In Loving Memory:

Joe Torsani

1934-2014

One Size Fits All: The Secret America’s Favorite Underwear Store Is Hiding

A Look at the Damages and Expectations Caused by “One-Size-Fits-All” Clothing

It all started when I stumbled into a popular underwear store. Hoping for a new, nude-colored bra, I explored the shop and picked out a few options (I won’t even go into much further detail to address the store’s lack of brown-tone bras. Hello, not everyone is “beige”).

Anyway, I was trying on a bra when I noticed a cute, light pink t-shirt hanging on the door. At first, I thought another customer had left a shirt hanging there after trying it on. Then, I noticed that this shirt said, “Try Me” on it.

Oh! The store leaves the shirt here for customers to try on with their new bra. It’s kind of a genius idea: see how this bra looks under your typical, everyday t-shirt before buying it.

How could I resist? I tried it on.

Looking beyond the pit stains, the weird bleached out spot on the front, and the hole near the lower back area of the shirt, it fit me relatively well—not too tight, and not too loose. Man, what a great size! Like Goldilocks and the three bears, I felt like I had discovered something that fit juuuuuust right. How did they know?

The problem is that they didn’t. This is obviously the same shirt left for each customer to wear. Every woman who walks into this store, young and old, is provided the same cookie-cutter t-shirt option, in only a single size.

I typically wear a small shirt in women’s sizes. Sometimes medium.

So, what about everyone else? I wondered.

Feminism

In the middle of our 21st century’s reignited Feminist Movement, rape culture is being addressed, the ridiculous expectation of thigh gap is faced with backlash, and the gender-wage gap is finally being brought to light. Sure, our country’s marketing system is partly to blame, but so are we. We are the ones who accept this; we are the ones who desire to fit society’s preformed image of who we “should” be. From size-shaming CEOs to tiny one-size-fits-all options, the American woman’s self esteem is on the verge of collapse.

Now, I am not exactly a feminist. It’s not that I am against these societal progressions. It’s just that if I could stay home and bake all day in a pretty floral apron, I would. On the other hand, I would like to see our nation’s women getting paid the same as their equivalent male counterparts—it is only right. Yet, at the same time, chivalry is sexy. Sexier than the underwear in this dang store.

The Media

The true culprit in crippling self-esteem by promoting unrealistic impressions of what women should be, however, is not this specific underwear store. At the heart of condemning Americans’ understanding of beauty and resuscitating disoriented values of what is “cool” is the media. The media drives our inability to look past size as a pivotal defining point in a person’s identity—whether too thin, too thick, or anywhere in between.

Now, no one is saying that it is healthy to be morbidly obese—that is a completely different story. All I’m saying is that everyone should have the ability to be confident in who they are, and they should be treated with the respect they deserve as a part of our society, and as people.

We can’t even make a song about all body types being proud of the body they have without promoting an atmosphere of divide. Skinny shaming, fat shaming—can we all stop shaming and just appreciate the array of beautiful shapes and sizes? Like a cliché, overplayed Beatles song, we should all just give peace a chance and come together, right now.

But, somehow we choose not to. Rather, we fall victim to these societal expectations. And thus, we are forced into these “O/S” labeled shirts with tactfully shorted size descriptions. (And, can we really be so sure O/S doesn’t actually mean “Only Small”?)

The truth is, no size fits all. Ever. Why do we want to all be one size, anyway? One thing still rings true: whoever you are; whoever is reading this, know that you are uniquely beautiful. Your body size is on fleek.

No Size Fits All

Join a revolution in bringing awareness to sizeism in our society. Ladies (and hey, gents, too), head over to your local underwear store and post your one-size t-shirt selfies: #onesizefitssmall


Originally published on StackStreet.

Why Those Born in 1988-1993 Have a Unique Perspective on September 11th

And the story of a child turned adult, seeing the world from both sides.

Editor’s Note: If you are solely interested in the title without the explanation of my experience from that day, please see the subheading labeled “Perspective.”

I’ve wrestled with writing this piece for weeks. Yet, I find myself on the eve of September 11th, just starting it. The reason? To be frank, this subject leaves me feeling vulnerable: reminiscent of the emotional response triggered in many Americans as the tragic events unfolded.

The 13 year anniversary of 9/11 reminds us of how long it has been since the day; babies born that day have now become teenagers. And for me — well, they’re older than I was on the day they were born.

On September 11th, 2001, I was a 11 years old. And, just as they say, you will never forget where you were that day:

6th grade. Elementary school. Mrs. E’s classroom. The main office kept buzzing into the room, releasing students for early dismissal — in the middle of our state-administered standardized tests. Didn’t they know better?

As the office called for the 4th or 5th student to pack up for dismissal, my teacher — a particularly fun and sarcastic teacher — jokingly said, “Um, no! We are taking a test.” And the room of 11 year olds broke out into laughter. But when the office sent someone to our classroom to speak with our teacher, we knew something wasn’t quite right. And when she came back stone-faced and pale as a ghost, we were all tipped off that whatever happened was worse than we thought. As the office released more students, we were no longer laughing.

When it was my turn, I packed up and headed to the front office. Seeing my dad, I was surprised. Let me explain: my dad is Nigerian. Any Nigerians reading this know that’s all the explanation needed. For everyone else, that means he takes education very seriously. If anyone would have picked me up from school early for no particular reason, it definitely would have been my not-so-Nigerian mom.

Once we left the building, we started walking up the hill toward his car. Without hesitation, he asked, “Did they tell you they’re attacking the country?” And that’s how I learned. Sensitivity is not quite his strong suit.

To make matters worse, we lived in a suburb just 20 minutes outside of Washington, DC, where the Pentagon was hit — making our town a prime target in the mind of a child. My mind raced with confusion, disbelief, and fear — a childish fear, because that’s what I was: a child.

Perspective

That brings me to my main point. Those of us in my age bracket of 21-26 have access to a unique perspective surrounding this day; a perspective that our elders and those younger than us cannot and will not ever fully understand.

We fully experienced the events of 9/11 with a childlike understanding. Initially, this might not seem revolutionary. I know, I know. Those of us who fall into this age group already know we were children during that day. But, think of this:

Although most of us were old enough that the attacks weren’t hidden from us, none of us fully understood what really happened that day. We were old enough to attempt to understand what was happening as the events unfolded in real time, but were hindered by the thought processes of a child-developed brain.

As we aged, the truth could not be hidden from our eyes, our ears, and our minds. We were forced into the reality of a war-struck world at an early age.

We are now adults. Each year, as we mourn the anniversary of 9/11, we are reintroduced to images from that day. With age, we now truly understand the weight of the tragedy and loss from an adult perspective.

Our minds struggle between the memory of our childhood fears, encapsulated by an adult body and brain. It’s an interesting paradox to live in: to understand something with an adult brain, manipulated partially by a childhood view.

Yet, we have learned so much from this. We have grown so much from this, and we have a broader emotional understanding of 9/11 to show for it. We are that golden age that was just old enough, yet just young enough to tap into this unusual perspective: to see it from both sides.

Why Those Born During 1988-1993 Have the Most Unique Perspective on September 11th

204,000 Fangirls Who Need to be Stopped

jeremymeeks1
Credit: http://ibnlive.in.com/

For the sake of future generations, can we please stop crushing on felons this Friday? If you have any self-respect, you will not participate in #FelonCrushFriday.

Of course, it is a natural human occurrence to be attracted to others. However, to allow this simple attraction to permeate into a developed crush, enough to publicly announce one’s love for an alleged felon waiting conviction is worrisome. 

The Charges

Let’s backtrack a bit. In case any of you missed the numerous Instagram and Facebook posts, along with news coverage regarding this topic, here is what happened:

Last Thursday, Jeremy Meeks was arrested for firearm possession and gang related charges. 

In the hours following the incident, he gained an outrageous amount of attention—for being good looking. Apparently, the Internet’s estrogen went absolutely wild over this guy. 

And then—well, then there was Friday. Or, as social media users now call it, #FelonCrushFriday. 

A Rising “Star” 

I kid you not; women are offering to birth his children. It didn’t stop there, though. When his previous two mug shots found their way to social media this week, enthralled young women continued touting their love for him, proclaiming that he “has aged like a fine wine.” Third time’s a charm?

This isn’t to say that people can’t change or that they don’t deserve a second (or fourth) chance. In fact, this certainly isn’t even an attack on Jeremy Meeks’ character, as I do not know him (and I don’t dream of it). This post is only to say that we should not be celebrating a person during their lowest moment. 

America, the Beautiful

Since the release of the notorious mug shot, men have followed suit, showing that women are not the only culprits perpetuating “criminal celebration” (AKA anti felon-shaming?). Felon Crush Friday is now, officially, in full swing—unlike my hopes for the future of America. 

Even worse, there is now a Jeremy Meeks Facebook fan page with “JeremyMeeksDreamyMcMugShot” as part of the URL. In less than one week, this page has almost 204,000 likes. This guy’s mug shot has garnered more attention than teenage pop superstar Justin Bieber’s.

Celebrating Crime, One Convict at a Time

A strange thought: What will happen once a convicted felon graduates as “most popular” in the slammer’s yearbook? It is our responsibility to keep this attention from going to his head—that gorgeous, gorgeous head. All jokes aside, let’s cut it out. 

Can we just take a second to understand the gravity of this situation? Less than one week after his arrest, two people lost their lives during a gang related mass shooting in Miami. So, why are we celebrating criminals?

Ultimately, it’s not really my choice. Friday is quickly approaching; what’s your stance?


Originally published by Thought Catalog at http://www.thoughtcatalog.com.

For this story, click here.

 

 

5 People You Will Deal With After Getting Engaged

1. The Nostalgic

Although her wedding took place 35 years ago, The Nostalgic can’t help but reminisce on the day. She begins by saying the memory is “such a blur,” but follows up with an entire play-by-play, highlighting miniscule details.

Get ready to sit through flashbacks about a day that took place before you were born. Ever wonder what time the sun rose on her wedding day? Just smile and nod—it will end, eventually. Yes, she will break out the photo album, which mostly features cracked, yellow, aged glue in lieu of 20% of the photos.

2. The Debbie Downer

So much in life has happened since you were coloring partners in Kindergarten: endless pool parties, your first high school dance by each other’s side, the big moment where you told her every embarrassing detail of your grotesque first kiss, and you even started driving the same week. You two just do life together.

Now, you’re getting married and she—well, she is still on the market. Get ready to hear her sob stories and to experience jealous rages of fits. Do yourself a favor, and don’t make Debbie Downer your Maid of Honor (unless your wedding colors feature an envious shade of green).

3. The Adviser

The Adviser has been married more than once, which makes her a wedding expert (in her mind). She essentially picked out your dress, your jewelry, and your first dance song before you even changed your Facebook status to engaged. You thought that was bad; the next day she designed your entire Pinterest “Wedding” board, complete with over 200 pins. Perhaps, she is living vicariously through your wedding, or maybe she’s just a control freak. Both are risky: You have been warned.

4. Momzilla

Unfortunately, Bridezilla is no longer the only wedding-day monster. Maybe it’s because she insisted on footing part of the bill, but Momzilla thinks your wedding day is hers.

Get ready to expand your guest list to include 80 of her “closest” friends. If your venue is at capacity, you will be forced to slash your guest list, making way for Momzilla’s minions. Does your groom really have to invite his great uncle? Good luck with this one; Momzilla is a strong contender in the bride battle.

5. The Supporter

The Supporter sees your goals, understands your dream, and knows you better than anyone. She is talented at lightly critiquing that dumb idea that pops into your head last minute. She talks you out of bad choices and steers you in the right direction. She is patient, observant, calm, and would do almost anything to make sure your wedding day is special! Hallelujah for The Supporter. Ask her to be your Maid of Honor ASAP before she has to steer you out of another bad decision. YOGOMOH! (You Only Get One Maid of Honor).


 

This is my first officially published piece of work. I hope you enjoyed it!

Originally published by Thought Catalog at http://www.thoughtcatalog.com.

Photo by J*nel Photography.