Nov 15, 2020
Graphic by Juliet Nwagu Ume-Ezeoke
If you had asked me earlier this year what I would bring with me on a deserted island, I most likely would’ve chosen a water filtration device, a machete, a flare gun, a tent—staples of survival to advance my chances of lasting through the chilly nights.
But now, my answer is different. Now I know what it is like to be moored on a deserted island, alone under the violent sun.
My island is not made of hard earth or sediment; it is soft and made of gray woven cotton. When I cast my gaze around me, no blue waves roll and thrash; my island and I are buoyed by layers of dirt and grass. On this island, I do not fear wild creatures in the night; in their place, I am pestered by persistent mosquitoes.
All around me, I see people running, kicking balls into goals, sitting in the sunshine, walking dogs.
Oct 17, 2020
As part of a recent slate of classwork, I read Joseph Beam’s 1991 Brother to Brother: Words from the Heart. Beam (1954-1988) was an African-American writer, poet, and activist who wrote extensively about the difficulties he faced being a Black gay man in America during the AIDS epidemic. In Brother to Brother, Beam discusses what it is like to be a Black gay man, and expresses the desire for a future where Black masculinity can be reconstructed to allow for Black men to share emotional intimacy and vulnerability with one another.
What interested me most about Beam’s work were his explorations of the erasure he felt in America as a Black gay man. I was particularly struck by the image of glass, which appears when Beam describes a man who stopped acknowledging him in public upon realizing Beam’s sexual identity:
“He no longer speaks, instead looks disdainfully through me as if I were glass.
Sep 14, 2020
The First Time
We are climbing up through the dense grassy underbrush. I am in shorts, and long blades keep scratching at my ankles like tiny reminders. I bat away bugs from my face and try to keep up with your infinitely long strides. You are in sneakers and you are unruffled. We climb up, and up, and up. I walk behind you, because I have never been where you are taking us. I am panting slightly, but I do not allow the air to make noise when it escapes my body. American Boys do not pant, so I must not either.
We arrive at a ladder, but it is blocked off. A cold vertical sheet of metal hides the bottom half of its many rungs. The message here is clear—do not proceed, do not keep climbing, do not grip the cold metal deterrent and use it to effortlessly hoist yourself up the ladder’s sides, do not lift your endlessly tall body above and beyond its rungs.
Aug 20, 2020
During my time in digital isolation, I’ve been exploring new forms of media. Along the way, I have come across a lot of podcasts, and discovered many compelling options for the auditorily inclined. Handpicked from a variety of sources and organized by theme, this list of 50 podcasts on subjects ranging from identity to astrology aims to make sure that whatever your interests are, you can find a Black-created podcast to listen to.
1. 1619 hosted by Nikole-Hannah Jones. Part of the New York Times’ 1619 initiative which began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American Slavery, this audio series “examines the long shadow of that fateful moment” and its implications in America today.
2. AFROPUNK Solution Sessions from AFROPUNK. Featuring well-known names such as Brian Stevenson and Elaine Brown, these Sessions discuss topics of culture, activism, and politics.
Jan 28, 2020
As I look for a comfortable viewing space within the crowd here to see YACHT’s performance at Rough Trade, I am surprised how packed the venue is. Since I discovered YACHT (“Young Americans Challenging High Technology”) in my early teens, the band’s renown has exploded. YACHT has gone from a little-known alternative favorite to a fairly known Grammy-nominated kombucha-drinking-crowd-drawing phenomenon.
When I saw the band in January of 2018 in Manhattan on their “Strawberry Moon” tour, the small venue they performed in was maybe halfway full – I was never more than an arm’s length away from frontwoman Claire L. Evans, and she was able to leave the stage and dance through the crowd. Now, YACHT’s audience nearly fills Rough Trade, which has a capacity of 250. I can barely scope out a space by the bar.