Mix Hoodies With Black

I tend to have some pretty down-to-earth conversations about racial truths with one of my cousins, who is like a brother to me. They’re never serious, debate-like, haughty, “woke” ones; just some “Damn, shit’s really like this, huh,” ones.

One lovely experience that reinforced the scaffolding of our own invisible prejudice occurred during a trip to Atlantic City for my birthday a few years back that I’ve shared on Facebook before. It was late and dark and the ATM I needed was the drive-thru kind in an empty secluded lot. My cousin instantly put the fear in our party’s hearts by mentioning how one could easily get robbed here. He does this. Like when we went to see “Get Out” on opening night and he said he hoped no white supremacist would come shoot up our theater in protest of the movie. T_T’ Had me looking at white boys with backpacks who couldn’t sit still and the exit routes for half the movie, praying.

The ATM wasn’t constructed in a way where the car could get close; we rolled down the window and I slung half my body out, engaging my core to access the screen and withdraw as quickly as I could. OF COURSE, at that very moment, a black guy with a hoodie enters the lot and seems to make a beeline for our car. Stuck hanging out the window, waiting for the machine to process the withdrawal, while everyone else is giving commentary, “He’s coming closer!” “Did he just pull out a ski-mask?” “LOCK THE DOORS!!” I panic, terrified and fully believing I’m about to get buck-fiftied for my meager checking account balance. I’m not sure if I made it to the part where I actually got the money. I may have just jettisoned myself back into the car and screamed “DRIVE, JUST DRIVE,” without completing the transaction.

Dude walked right past us.

Was our fear justified?

If you were walking down a block at night and saw a group of Black teenagers clustered outside of the projects, would you cross the street to avoid…”something?”

I don’t. Not anymore. I don’t because what am I afraid of? Why should I be afraid to walk past a group of my own race at night? At most, as a woman, to avoid catcalling, but I’d rather show solidarity. When I confidently pass them, they either quiet down or throw out a greeting. I acknowledge them back as fellow humans and keep it moving and the “big, scary moment” is over. I don’t want to fear my own people. If it was a group of White men in suits, there wouldn’t even be a situation up for discussion, my cousin says. Or if it was a group of Asian men.
What if they were wearing hoodies?

“What about Spanish men?” I ask.
“Probably not. A bunch of light-skinned guys don’t look as threatening.”
What if they’re wearing hoodies?
“But your skin is the darkest of all; would you be afraid to walk past a group of you?”

There is not a clear cut answer.

“What if it were Black men in suits?”

Then it probably wouldn’t be an issue either. Everyone loved Men In Black.

What if they were Black but wearing glasses, skater gear, a Nintendo shirt…blahblahblahblahnothoodies, why do what they’re wearing hold so much weight? Why do we trust clothes before people?

I don’t want that ingrained fear that was instilled in me growing up. I’m Black and I wear hoodies. To fear another Black-in-a-hoodie seems silly. I want to break that fear. And so I walk past them, fearless and without judgment. Because we are all people, and we deserve that much. Most especially from our own.

~Tael

The Zen of Twitter

I’m proud to say that I’m not a Twitter snob.

You know the type.

They generally have a rather large follower-to-following ratio and openly brag about how they don’t do “Follow-4-Follow.” Then they get publicly insulted when someone stops following them because it wasn’t reciprocated, but why are you really upset? Because you thought you were some kind of celebrity and how could that loser with only 212 followers possibly unfollow YOU? You, with your clearly higher Twitter-cred?

Peasant.

It brings the questions to light: Are you on social media to make friends and connect with like-minded individuals? Or are you simply here to continue the popularity code that most hope to leave behind once they graduate school? Or perhaps you’re out here solely to attain celebrity status and bask in it?

You’ll encounter many who’ll say they don’t care about followers (usually those who have the most followers actually; aren’t they so humble?) For me, the concern doesn’t lie so much with the follower count, so much as the stasis.

Let me explain the Zen of Twitter. It’s the concept of balance (ninjas are all about balance). When you follow someone, you are doing so to somehow “benefit” from this new connection, whether it’s following a brand for updates on sales or new releases, following a celebrity to satiate your fandom, or following someone with a similar point of view who maybe makes insightful comments or gives you a daily dose of laughter whom you become friends with. If they follow you back, you’ve immediately gained something as they’ve completed the “link” and balance is achieved. If, after this, you try to talk to them and they ignore all your @s, that balance is disrupted and you decide if just having them remain as a dead-follower-weight is worth it for your “ratio.”

If they don’t follow you back, there’s really absolutely no obligation to remain following them unless you REALLY dig what they’re posting and you’re gaining from it. It’s their picture and posts that will be showing up on your feed, so you need to decide if you really want them to be there. And the unfollowed shouldn’t be angry if they didn’t complete the link in the first place.

I primarily follow the gaming community on Twitter because I don’t like my feed filled with dumb shit like “Lose weight instantly using this method,” or an innundation of narcissistic selfies (they always find their way in though). I want cute characters, hilarious gaming memes, geek culture, and cats. Anyone not familiar with the gaming community on social media would be surprised at the number of snobs in our own! You’d think that we’d all want to follow each other out of solidarity because we’re posting about the same topics, and not only if we’re currently into the same game, or #TeamNintendo. But also only if we have a wall dedicated to our collection worthy of a #SundayShelves. Even though we follow all the same people. And communicate in the same conversations. And have even played each other online. XD

But the truth is, it’s your Twitter account. And someone following you just because they want to hear your thoughts contained in a 140 character tweet is pretty awesome and should be appreciated. But you are free to follow or unfollow whomever you want to maintain your balance and ensure you’re benefiting from the deal. Unless you’re purposely unfollowing someone you’ve been cool with and had great conversations for awhile with no explanation whatsoever.

Then you’re just a jerk.

As a non-snob, heres a list of those I’m not likely to follow back on Twitter:

-In your face Bible thumpers
-Sexy_gurls_l00king4_gud-time
-GROWYOURFOLLOWERSINSTANTLY
-Feed cloggers who post mundane statuses every 5 minutes (I have literally seen “Bout to walk down these stairs” as a post)
-Strictly solicitors (Posting to promote your mixtape/YouTube Channel/Twitch is fine. Posting to promote your mixtape/YouTubeChannel/Twitch 10 times a day and constantly begging for support and Auto-Dming to help you reach 1000 subs is not, unless you’re reciprocating something to keep that balance
-Those who post strictly in another language, like arabic, cause I dunno what the hell you’re saying

Everyone else is generally good. Keep up the Zen.

~Tael

You Can Touch My Hair

I’ve heard it around the Internet how offensive it is to touch a Black woman’s hair. And maybe I’m feeling kind of left out that no one’s making requests for mine. Then I second-guess myself and wonder: Maybe they have been. Maybe they have, and it’s such a non-issue for me that it’s eroded from my memory.

My cultural collective says I should be enraged and offended if this happens. That it’s supposed to be some subtle form of micro-aggressive racism and I should feel objectified since I’ve had to overcome so much amidst the war against natural Black hair. But I’ve willingly tossed my locks into others’ hands so they can feel how lightweight they are. I’m a proud dreadhead and I’m proud of how far my own have progressed. And one thing I love about having them, is that I frequently receive compliments on them from across the race spectrum, from Black to Asian to Italian, from those I’ve worked with, to passersby on the street, to randoms at a service counter.

And I appreciate that.

I remember the turning point when I decided to lock up for good. It was after watching Floetry’s Say Yes music video.

Dreads are a vibe. A mood. I soaked up that vibe and ejected it out through my scalp and never looked back. I embrace my hair the same way I embrace questions about it. The only one I ever find mildly irritating is “Do you think you’ll keep them?” As if they’re some kind of throwaway hairstyle or fashion statement. Or a pet you’ll grow tired of. This question usually comes, surprisingly, from the Black community. As if I haven’t been cultivating a thriving garden of life on my head for the past 11 years.

But when those of varying races and nationalities find my hair impressive, and stop me on the street to let me know, I appreciate that. And if they say “Dude, I love your hair. Do you mind…” and reach out hesitantly with curiosity, because they’re afraid to finish the question and they fear some perceived inevitable wrath, I’ll whip some locks straight into their outstretched hand and say “Feel em!” The same way I would with a curious toddler who enhances their knowledge of the world through touch. I want you to be interested. Yes, we wash them, although not everyday (but most Black hair isn’t washed every day anyway). Yes, there might be a little lint stuck in there. No, not everyone chooses to let them grow into a tangled mass with little maintenance. Yes, at this point, if I wash my hair in the shower my dreads fall into my butt-crack. And yes, I also sometimes grab a bunch and hold them between my nose and upper lip like a mustache. It feels good.

I want to enlighten you if you’re interested in my hair. And as long as you don’t secretly cut them off from a seat behind me on the subway, we good.

You can touch my hair. Just ask first.

~Tael

P.S. If I get to know you, and you have an afro, I’m gonna ask to touch it. Because it’s an afro.

About This Video Gamer Gauntlet…

A little over a month ago I discovered this was happening.

This.

It’s a gaming convention. On a cruise. To the Bahamas.

It’s touting itself as the first gaming convention at sea, and although my research has turned up a few others (like GaCuCon, for example) this one seems way…more…[insert slang word synonymous with “lit” because I banned that term.] “Technically “first or not, I’m going. There’s no way I can’t NOT support this; I have high hopes that it will be an amazing time. Be dazzled by their schedule at their official site below:

http://gamertechevents.com/

Let’s throw aside the fact that I’m not a fan of boats. I’ll make this one work.

Let’s toss around the idea that we could possibly be Fyre-Festivaled, and that they’ve already rescheduled this event once. Tossed. (The Royal Caribbean has already been running this route for years. It’s established.)

Let’s journey back in time to all those brochures I got in the mail in grade-school from Carnival, which I tacked all over my bedroom cork-board and chanted the amenities to my mom, hinting QUITE strongly that it would be a dream to experience (it was only after it never happened that I began to dislike boats. >:/).

How ’bout that money factor? The prices seem worth it to me, (especially if you hunt for some discount codes on Twitter) for an all-inclusive three-day con/cruise (with the obvious liquor/casino/spa exclusions). Moments like this are what I’ve been grooming that good credit for since college. Swiped.

The whole trifecta itself is pretty good security. What if the con is boring because it’s the first time? I’ll still be on the cruise I never went on. What if the Majesty of the Seas itself isn’t that impressive? I’ll be surrounded by fellow gamers, have the opportunity to explore Bahamian territory, and I’ve never been on any others so I don’t know any better yet. 😛 What if the port stops are not that great? But I’ve never been to the Caribbean at all yet, dammit! What if this thing pops off and I have to learn on the Internet that I missed 3 days of cosplay, snorkeling, gamer concerts, pool parties, tropical weather, and a ridiculously unique all-in-one experience that I could have been a part of pioneering, especially since in the 9 years of my working adult life, I have never once taken an actual vacation?

I’m going.

Ya’ll should come too! 😀

ComeWithMe

~Tael

The Vilification of Shyness

I come from a family of acceptance and varied personalities across the spectrum. The outgoing, the charismatic, the loud and boisterous, the low-toned pipe-ups, the never-smile-for-photos, the Let’s-Take-40-Photos-at-the-Same-Angle-and-Only-Slightly-Mix-Up-The-People, the ones who avoid the center of attention like the plague. We’ve got it all. Maybe I was raised in a bubble. The New York one, I’ll get to in a later post, but the acceptance bubble. Because the real world is not as graciously accepting of the unfamiliar.

Assimilating into the world from beneath the comforting blanket of your family, one constant mind-boggler has been that there are many who treat shyness and introverted natures with disdain. Perhaps they don’t understand them; perhaps it doesn’t exist in their own families; perhaps it seems very Columbine-esque to them and they fear we’ll murder them in their sleep. Growing up, we brought many friends and lovers into the family, and half of them were introverts. They were shy, spoke quietly (and duh, why shouldn’t they be, they were just meeting us) and we respected this and surrounded them with our raucous laughter and love and never made them feel a certain way if they didn’t speak enough or remained on the sidelines.

Leaving my own family though, I’ve encountered the opposite throughout life. I’ve had people tell me my shyness and habit of keeping to myself has come off as rude, intimidating, and arrogant. When in the world did this happen? When did a lower voice and less speech and more social observation make you a villain? Sure, in grade school, it was more likely to make you a pariah, until you matured and realized not everyone is a social butterfly with a big mouth.

At family gatherings and events, you might have found me huddled in a quiet corner with a book on the outskirts. An only child until the age of 15, I learned early to be comfortable with silence and isolation. My comfort zone was in solitary. My mom constantly answered questions toward me for me, might have realized that wasn’t the best move, and once took me to a church function where she plopped me in a group of kids I didn’t know and demanded I make friends before walking away. I immediately burst into tears from the pressure. Middle school I was pretty friendless. I clung to what little social interaction was offered to me, played Gameboy in the yard, tried not to hide out in bathroom stalls at lunch, and dreaded when the teachers gave us the opportunity to choose our own groups for projects. High school I developed sweaty palms from the social anxiety, frequently wore gloves to hide this fact, and prayed I wouldn’t be questioned when I went to shake someone’s hand or I left damp palm-prints on the science tabletops.

Eventually, you encounter people in this world that don’t care if you veer away from social situations and probably even understand it (I would think it to be fairly easily relatable). But you also continue to encounter ones that still look down on it, as I did recently. And I’ll likely continue to encounter it the older I get, because not everyone is accepting to your personality, whether you’re in their face with it or not, and not everyone is willing to see the deeper you past your reserved layer. In our society, where partying and raucous antics are considered the epitome of a good time, if you deviate from this, you must be ready to defend yourself. Because if you hide on the outskirts and don’t drink as much, your motives will be questioned. Because if your anxiety gets the best of you at the wrong time, and you seek solace in isolation to recover, you lose worth in their eyes.

Thoughts

The ninja lifestyle can be misunderstood by most. But I am not lonely to continue its path. If you’ve ever been judged by your shyness, find me.

~Tael

BoroughCon 2017

Yo!

While I initially tried to keep my posts limited to the scope of the Indie Author Journey, what I’m finding is that the Indie Author Journey gets boring! You write, edit and format until your brain gets very angry, exhaust all the cheap marketing strategies you can find on the internet for little ROI, read many…many…best strategies/helpful tips articles, and make a whole lot of missteps, all while hoping for the lottery chance that your indie title will land in the right hands that send it viral. Eventually, the amount of unique writable content you can recount dwindles unless you’re constantly working on new novels/projects. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a writer first, it’s just one of my indulgences, so why not have my site reflect the eccentric ninja that I am?

So let’s talk about BoroughCon, which described itself as a brand new Comic/Sci-Fi/Gaming convention that I would classify as indie because of its newcomer status. Today was the final day, and I attended Saturday with my boyfriend and sister (this was her first con as well) in tow, after randomly seeing an ad for it at a bus stop. Oh, and of course, My First Cosplay.

MeilinPose

The first orderable costume online I ever encountered was Meilin’s from Cardcaptor Sakura (and let’s be honest, that whole series is chock full of banging costumes I’d love to get my hands on if done with quality), and this was while I was in high school, maybe even junior high. I favorited that page and vowed to save up enough for it, then went to college and forgot. Over 10 years later, I remembered that costume and Meilin’s was the first to enter my collection. Those hanging bells are real, by the way, and I had to focus on not whacking anyone with them on the subway.

First-year cons have a reputation for being not-that-great, but I wholeheartedly dived into this one because I…<3…indies! This was my third con experience (I don’t count Sakura Matsuri). My first was last year’s Castle Point Anime Convention in Hoboken which my boyfriend, a veteran of cons, introduced me to. I was immediately jealous of those in character, because it had always been my ridiculously nerdy dream to have the money (because I surely don’t have the skill) to procure an anime/video game outfit and then actually have a place to wear it to. I also attended Liberty City’s con in Times Square last year, which was another first time con. I had no problem with BoroughCon’s first-time status and I absolutely wanted to support them, especially since they were in Queens, fairly accessible by the subway. I found St. John’s to be an excellent space for it; I think colleges provide great venues for this sort of thing.

Now yes, there was a light turnout (the hotel that hosted Liberty City’s con last year was crammed), but that meant more space in the gaming room, because Liberty City’s game room was tiny and packed, and I didn’t even try to jump into the throng to wrestle a controller away for a spot. BoroughCon’s gaming room was spacious enough, and I was able to Smash it up for a good chunk of time there with fellow enthusiasts, and collect wins with silent grace like a ninja. I can’t speak for the con programming because the only one I attended was the Cosplay Fashion Show, which has become my no-miss-attendance event at these things. I felt they could have explained the divisions a little more, because I had no idea what the categories like “journeyman” etc…actually meant. A staff member tried to get me to join, but A. I’m still way too shy for that and B. although this was my first cosplay I can already say I don’t make my own costumes. I wear it for the spirit and my own personal dedication, but not as a finalization of my own craftsmanship.

All in all, I simply had a good time mingling with like-minded individuals. With the exception of the somewhat bumbling front deskers, all staff were incredibly friendly, randomly stopping us to let us know what programs were about to start, asking if we were lost, or complimenting my costume. It had a very chill vibe that I respected, and the Dealer’s Hall/Artists Alley was also cavernous enough (with much free candy!), though I was the only one in my party who declined to part with my gald. Thankfully, I’d scoured the Internet for tips for first-time cosplayers beforehand and learned that a mini-sewing kit is an essential item to carry, since one of my shoe straps broke while traversing the Dealer’s Hall, which could have ruined the whole day for me had I not been prepared. I was also prepared for the many deeply curious looks as I shuttled from Harlem through the subway to Queens in costume. I can’t wait for more and would definitely return to BoroughCon as they grow and become more popular!

The Holy Cage

If you’ve read Chaos (un)Controlled, you encountered tidbits of Rixa’s dark, arson-laced poetry during church. Uniquely written specifically for this novel? Nope. But the creative, rage-driven thoughts of an actual teenager forced to worship? Absolutely. I wrote The Holy Cage myself years ago and performed it as spoken word, when I was feeling very much like Rixa. I pulled excerpts from it because it was incredibly fitting considering the storyline. You can see the full original version in its entirety below:

I call it a cage.
Enclosed within those “spiritual” bars that consume me with rage.
Yes, I believe I am of age to lash out at the “holy hands”
Of my family that chain me with bands…
I am…forced…
To carry that torch, that as soon as I leave my house, I douse.
Wicked fantasies of flames, gripping at the lush carpet in exchange for my freedom.
Fire licking at the crumbling walls, the building falls.
I want to burn this place down,
while Last Supper portraits peel and blister, they’ll frown
at the demon achieving her freedom through an arson’s plough.

Wicked fantasies, of protruding my tongue to release my gum
Into the brass tray they pass.
“This is my contribution to your institution.”
This man at the pulpit will not control me,
His words do not hold me.
But they are all sold on a few scriptures riddled with holes
As he boldly shows what he thinks they mean.
They are lost in dreams that are not their own; they clutch at symbols and make them more.
The door to this building is just a door.
Polished wood and crushed velvet drapes, life-sized crucifix,
I need to escape.

I am constantly being nudged awake.
I have no respect
for an institution that forces people to come to its beckon.
That uses fear to control its prey,
Fear of a fate in a fiery pit if you don’t do it this way.

Many walk through that door that is only a door,
Walk back out no different than before.
Sanctification on only one day, the rest reserved for heathen play.
My spiritual stock is not derived from an edifice;
That path, is in my heart, and in pious actions
Not in concrete slabs with electrical wiring that fall apart
where the glue to hold is that so called offering that comes from your heart.
“Do you feel his presence? Well all you have to do is give us presents.”
In the form of tithes.
My spiritual connection resides in myself
While a minister, administers correction
when he may need the most help himself.
My spiritual faith does not rely on a guy in maroon robes
Assumed to be holy cause he told us so.
Breathing phrases from the leather-bound book in his hands,
He is no different from us,
Yet we lift him up and continue to pay his price like he’s Jesus Christ.
But they’ll continue to misplace their spiritual following in a mistaken faith.
Clung to as a savior, I call it a curse.
But they call it…church.