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Category Archives: Rants

Lovers. Friends. A Story.

A story.

As I remember it.

Eight years later.

We had met before. She was “hanging” with a classmate of mine.

I had recently moved to Philly to start grad school.

She was tall. Very tall. 6 feet tall.

I was 20. Head-strong. Bold. And Christian. Very Christian. More than I even realized at the time.

On this particular night- her, the classmate and this really zealous girl I had met at lesbian club my first night out in Philly. How that experience scared the hell out of me is a story for another day.

But they were over my house. We went to get barbeque. Those were the days I was in love with pork. I wrote poems about this love.

This night stands out to me for several reasons. 1. The overzealous girl called God a she. I was Christian remember, very Christian. The type of Christian that thought calling God a girl was blasphemy. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember telling them (all three of them some type of queer-identified) that they were going to hell for being gay. I was righteous with my condemnation. Because I was Christian, very Christian. Of course, I had gay friends….I grew up and in the theatre and church. I also went gay clubs, but that was them and not me. And I mostly kicked it with gay men. Lesbians scared me. I thought they were all predators. I made sure to keep my distance from lesbian women.

I had never kissed a girl. Because that was gay. And a sin.

Times passed. I learned more about Philly. Dated some guy. He took me on my first $100+ date. I was 20 and easily impressed. He was sweet. I should gave him some. But not because he paid for dinner or because he offered to buy me a winter coat.

Anyway she stopped “hanging” out with my classmate. I say “hanging” in quotes because they were dating. Something she still refuses to admit.

I would see her around. I think she invited me to a sex toy party. And we were Facebook friends. Sometime over Christmas Break we started interacting via the FaceBook heavily and decided to hang out when I got back.

This a good point to mention I flirt. A lot. Most of the time I don’t even know I am flirting until the person is trying to pull me into the restroom for a quickie. (That has never happened, but you get the point.)

She liked men as well. So we would go out and scoop out dudes. I know…anyway she wasn’t really a threat because we would talk about boys. And she wasn’t one of those scary lesbians. I told you, I had issues with lesbians. Thought they were all predators. Over the course of the next couple of months we hung out. Heavy.

I remember one time we made plans for a sleepover and cuddle sessions. All this sounds very gay. I promise you the gayness escaped me at the time. Cause I was straight. But everyone loves to cuddle.

For Spring Break that year I went to Jamaica. I came back with a hickey. Some drunken night with some guy who worked at Dunns River Fall…who still calls me. But that is another story.

She was so mad about the hickey. I did not understand why. Cause me and her was friends and I was straight.

One day when I left her place. She asked me why I never kissed her.

I thought that was the most ridiculous question ever.

“Because I don’t kiss girls!”

She knew this, remember I been told her all the gays were going to hell. I went to church every Sunday so clearly I wasn’t going to hell.

But all the next day I would wonder…”Hmmm…why don’t I ever kiss her. Her lips are pretty nice.”

I figure I can like a girl and not be gay. Looking back I don’t understand how the fact that we were basically dating the whole spring escaped me.

The next time I saw her. I fixed the not kissing her thing.

What came after is none of your noisy ass business. We begin dating consciously.

We begin dating…consciously.

But you remember I was Christian. Very Christian.

So this did not work well for my consciousness. I was a wreck. I would have to take shots to be intimate with her. I was on the “Jesus don’t love me” ride. Blasting Tonex’s “Lord Make Me Over” and crying. Would not hold her hand in public. Would jump when she touched me. All that self-hate shit.  Plus I did not know anything about dating a girl. Did not understand why she expected me to open the door for her cause she was a girl….I was a girl too. Very confused about so much.

We had good times but this did not bode well for starting a relationship. To add to this one of my closest friends was dying from cancer. I was an emotional wreck.

I was getting better though…I might have been down to one shot before. And I only jumped sometimes when she touched me.

I understand now why she eventually ended things. It was a lot. I had my own experience being some extra-Christian woman’s first. I understood even more after that.

(I am almost to the point.)

I spent weeks trying to win her back. Maybe I wasn’t in love, maybe it was deep infatuation. I would write her poetry weekly. They are still saved in my email…some are better than others. But Lorde, I was serious.

She was the closest to love my young heart had experienced. The months that follow was rough. I could not see a place for her in my life as anything other than my lover. Part of this was me not be comfortable with my sexuality. If she was the only girl I ever dated, I could convince myself it was just her and that in general I wasn’t into women. So somehow not as big of a sinner. This is my 21-year old logic.

She taught and showed me how to form a friendship with someone you were so intimately connected with. Eight years later, I can text her at 1am about how ____has moved on and doesn’t want me no more. (This happened last week, I been in my lightskinned feelings). I can go on trips with her. I can hear about her relationships and not feel jealous. Legit be her friend. This took time I got the (email receipts to prove it). This also meant time away from each other. Open communication.

She is finally (kinda) over the fact that she had the Tab who didn’t hold hands in public with girls in public and not the Tab who makes out with women in Baby Gap. (This has not happen but I would be open to it).

I read a facebook post the other day from a friend from college.

“For those of you who have break-ups, just know that love is not limited to a particular person or situation. If you have patience, love will find you again (and again if necessary lol).

For those of you who have a hard time celebrating the successes and happiness of those who you have dated and loved…maybe you did not love them in the first place…maybe you just loved what they were to you.

For those of you who are battling to make a relationship work, because you have invested time, you love the person, and it seems like the both of you are good people outside of the pressures and confines of a relationship… it is possible, though unconventional, to resort back to a friendship, and it may be healthier for you both.

It takes a different way of thinking, a greater understanding of life and love, and an appreciation for the person beyond the relationship once shared…but in the end, “friends can become lovers, and lovers can become friends”.

When I am feeling like I can only be in someone life as their lover. I am reminded of her. I am reminded of her teaching me how to be friends with a former lover. I might have to take time to mourn the person as a lover and have patience imagining what new space we will occupy in each other lives.  The love does not have to go away, like energy it can just be transferred or transform until a new shape. Another type of love.  Transitions. Love has the ability and power to help transform us. When I say I love you I mean that forever. Anyone I have ever loved is still in my life.

I am not very Christian anymore. I am still not gay though.

I wrote this for me. I might currently be in the phase of ceasing communication to stop myself from writing a poem a week to proclaim my love to someone and remind their new boo ain’t got nothing on Tab.  I wrote this to remember what it was like making a lover a friend. You know…a friend that I don’t have sex with. I wrote this because I needed to affirm that things will be ok. I’m be ok.

Oh and just because you waded through this long ass story. Here is an excerpt of a poem I sent during my poem a week to reclaim the love phase. Hey, before you judge let me remind you I was 21.

If you had never ask why I didn’t kiss you
I would have never kissed you
If I had never kissed you
I wouldn’t have wanted to taste you
If I would have never tasted you
I wouldn’t have desired all of you
If I didn’t desire all of you
I would have never ask you to be my girl
If I never asked you to be my girl
It could have never been over
If it had never been over
I would have never try to forget you
If I never tried to forget you
I would have never known how much I valued you
If I never knew how much I valued you
Then I would never had the inspiration to write a poem a week for you
If I never wrote a poem a week for you
Would you have ever known how much I cared for you?

~Just Tab

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Blue Ivy is my Savior or The ramblings of a colored girl who is finding her own salvation when Jesus was never enuf

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Blue Ivy is my Savior. My friends and acquaintances constantly hear me refer to the child of Beyonce Giselle Knowles and Shawn Carter as my Lord. To be honest it started as a joke. I really enjoy performing irrational ‘Yonce stan. I love the utter ridiculousness of the Beyhive. As time progress my reasoning for calling Blue Ivy my savior also progressed. It was my way of drawing attention to the “irrational” concept of needing a savior and what I deem the arbitrary yet fanatic way Black people revere Jesus Christ. In order words what makes one baby divine and another not. I firmly believe that salvation comes from within and often we as a people spend too much time looking for an external savior.

However there is another reason Blue Ivy is my Savior. I remember the first time I heard someone refer to God as a she. I remember how outrageous I thought that was. How sacrilegious the concept seem to be. Never had I in my 20 years of life, ever even considered God as a woman. I immediately wrote this young lady off as some heathen who would burn in hell. How dare she refer to God as a woman? I later realized my reaction said a lot about my own conception of myself and beliefs about women. Growing up in a very patriarchal world, which was heightened due to my intimate experiences in a patriarchal religious environment. I was taught and believed that women were less then. If I had the time or desire I could describe the ways in which I saw women demonized in both scripture and in religious spaces.  Hell, the fall of men was blamed on Eve, and that’s the first book of the Bible.

He can’t do nothing for me

The concept of Jesus’ Blackness was a less radical thought. However, I still spent much of my adolescences in a church with a mural of a white Jesus on the wall. I was still raised in a world that painted and depicted Jesus the Christ, Savior of men as a white male. The history of white males with blonde hair and blues eyes (as Jesus is so often seen as) have a history of never seeing me or treating me as equal in this country/world.  So what does it mean that I was to think of these depictions as images of someone who could and would save me? The pictures that do show Jesus with hair and skin like mine are always labeled “Black Jesus,” calling attention to their deviation for the norm- that is the real Jesus-the white one.

When I say Blue Ivy is my savior I am affirming a feminine divinity. I am making a conscious effort to affirm my own femininity in my conception of a Savior. When I say Blue Ivy is my savior I am affirming a savior that has skin like mine, who has hair like mine. I am affirming my Blackness in a very anti-Black world. My femininity in an anti-female world. The research on Black girls show that are more likely than their counterparts to be suspended, that they have low self-esteem, they are deemed a problem, they are more likely to be sexually assaulted, less likely to fit in at suburban  schools. Black girls are often seen as the problem.  When Black girls grow up, they can look forward to articles with titles like “Why Black women are single.” When I say Blue Ivy is my Savior I am proclaiming that Black girls are not the problem they are the solution. That if I am to have any external savior not only must they look like me, but I am proclaiming that I am the only one that can save myself. The only way the little Black girl inside of me can be redeemed, is through me. As stated in my favorite book The Color Purple  “The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it.”

I am a big fan of liberation theology. The idea that Jesus came to liberate the oppressed and through the liberation of the most oppressed in society we all shall be liberated.

So when I say my Savior is Blue Ivy- in my head and in my heart I am saying that my Savior is Black and Female. Girl-child and Queer. Misunderstood and Powerful. I am saying that my Savior is me.

“I found god in myself / and I loved her / I loved her fiercely”. ~ Ntozake Shange

What does your Savior look like?

~Just Tab

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2014 in Learning bout Tab!, Rants, Religion

 

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The evolution of an ex-Christian

He asked me.
I’m lying in bed pretty much sleep it’s Sunday morning.
“Tab you going to church?”
“No why?” I mumble back half sleep not moving my head from my pillow to answer.
“You just need to come sometime.”

My father never directly asks me to go to church. I know he wants me to. I went on Father’s Day and to a service at the convention for him. Because I knew it would make it him happy and hell it was a cheap gift.

Even as teenager he never asked me to go to church. I went when I wanted to and I mostly used school theatre productions as an excuse not to go. When I moved back to from college I tried to attend at least once a month. Again for them. My mom has always been more vocal about her desire to see me in church. Perhaps speaking the things he really wants to say.

Hearing him telling me I need to come woke me completely up. I doubt he realizes but this is my last Sunday in West Palm Beach this summer. I mostly do what my parents want. Never been downright disobedient and they rarely tell me things to do. While most people won’t see this as me being forced but due to my current financial situation and pretty much being dependent on them- I doubt I really have much choice. More reason to finish dissertation pronto.

I have no clue why they want me to go but let’s make this clear. Going to church won’t me a Christian, it won’t make me straight and it won’t stop me from being their very different daughter. This blog has been sitting in my heart/head for a minute- still not sure I have all the words to explain/ articulate my current journey but I’m going to try. Bear with me.

Even as a child I was very critical of the religious tradition I was born into. I would take notes during my father’s sermon. Not to remember the key points but to later tell him all the concepts I did not buy. Predestination was one such concepts. I often wondered how I could believe that Christianity was the only way, because if I was born to Muslim parents I would believe Islam was the only way. So much of one’s belief depends on the belief of their parents. In my opinion the fact that my parents were Christians was never a good enough reason for me to be a Christian. I always said when I was older I wanted to explore other spiritual practices.

In college I went to church practically every Sunday. My friend and I called ourselves “church hoppers” due to ridiculous number of churches we visited. Close to the end of my time in Tallahassee I eventually found one I liked. The reason I went church had little to do with any type of religious need. But more of a need to feel close to my family at home, cultural reasons and structure. Tallahassee and FSU was the type of place where all the Blacks went to church. It was the cool thing to do. I knew that although I was far away from home- this was something that my family was also doing. I liked the routine of it. Church, nap, Sunday dinner. It was comforting in a lot of ways just not spiritually fulfilling.

While in Philly for my Master’s I attended church regularly as well. Philly in a lot of ways was a transitional period for me. I started questioning how Christianity fitted in my life. Part of this was triggered by  meeting so many Blacks who weren’t Christians for the first time. Being exposed to traditional African Religions (even though that was a little scary, right Atira?). Also dealing with issues of sexuality in relation to my own personal practice of Christianity all led me to really evaluate how Christianity worked for me.

Moving to Arizona prompted me to fully pull away from Christianity. I was over disappointing church experiences, the messages felt irrelevant in my life. Frankly I was tired of judgmental hate speak thinly disguised as sermons. I think the more you know about Christianity and your connection to African/Black history, the harder it is to be a Christian and to ignore the colonialist, patriarchal and racist legacy of the religion. It was even harder for me to face how much I had internalized those very things. Envisioning God Black has always been so much easier to me than envisioning God as a woman-let alone a Black women. I remember how offended I was the first time I had ever heard someone refer to God as a woman. That speaks directly to internalize sexism that I inherited from  the way Christianity was practiced around me.

I used to say I was a bad Christian because I never had the desire to “save” people, Never thought people needed saving. Then I would say I was a fan of Jesus not his followers. Which became I believe but I do not want to be identified as a Christian. To finally verbalizing and understanding that while Christianity maybe the only way for some people it is not the only way for me. I am not a fan of the arrogance and the exclusivity of Christianity. Of its need to dominate and change people. Of its insistence of righteousness.

But I can go on and on about what I do not believe or my issues with Christianity but it might be more beneficial for me to tell you what I do believe.

I don’t believe there is one way or one true religion. For the most they are all the same. Some work better for others. I like the concept of one God, many spirits and ancestor worship. I woke up at 4am this morning, Somehow I started reading my favorite spiritual book The Color Purple. The gospel according to Shug Avery has always made sense to me in a way that Christianity didn’t.

Here’s the thing, say Shug. The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’t know what you looking for. Trouble do it for most folks, I think. Sorrow, lord. Feeling like shit.

It? I ast.

Yeah, It. God ain’t a he or a she, but a It.

But what do it look like? I ast.

Don’t look like nothing, she say. It ain’t a picture show. It ain’t something you can look at apart from anything else, including yourself. I believe God is everything, say Shug. Everything that is or ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, you’ve found It.

……………………………………………

Oh, she say. God love all them feelings. That’s some of the best stuff God did. And when you know God loves ’em you enjoys ’em a lot more. You can just relax, go with everything that’s going, and praise God by liking what you like.

God don’t think it dirty? I ast.Naw, she say. God made it. Listen, God love everything you love—and a mess of stuff you don’t. But more than anything else, God love admiration.

You saying God vain? I ast

Naw, she say. Not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.

What it do when it pissed off? I ast.

Oh, it make something else. People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.

Yeah? I say.

Yeah, she say. It always making little surprises and springing them on us when us least expect.

You mean it want to be loved, just like the bible say.

Yes, Celie, she say. Everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance, make faces and give flower bouquets, trying to be loved. You ever notice that trees do everything to git attention we do, except walk?

Well, us talk and talk bout God, but I’m still adrift.Trying to chase that old white man out of my head. I been so busy thinking bout him I never truly notice nothing God make. Not a blade of corn (how it do that?) not the color purple (where it come from?). Not the little wildflowers. Nothing.

Now that my eyes opening, I feels like a fool. Next to any little scrub of a bush in my yard, Mr. ____’s evil sort of shrink. But not altogether. Still, it is like Shug say, You have to git man off your eyeball, before you can see anything a’tall.

Man corrupt everything, say Shug. He on your box of grits, in your head, and all over the radio. He try to make you think he everywhere. Soon as you think he everywhere, you think he God. But he ain’t. Whenever you trying to pray, and man plop himself on the other end of it, tell him to git lost, say Shug. Conjure up flowers, wind, water, a big rock.

But this hard work, let me tell you. He been there so long, he don’t want to budge. He threaten lightening, floods and earthquakes. Us fight. I hardly pray at all. Every time I conjure up a rock, I throw it. (Walker 168-69)

I could quote The Color Purple at length all day. In many ways it has been the influential book I have ever read. As far as religion, I am not interested in being a part of any religion. I am more concern with my own spiritual growth and my connection to the divine inside of me. I appreciate and respect the cultural tradition of Black Christianity- it is one of the reasons I love Gospel music so much. I even enjoy sermons but I find myself engaging with them from a performance or intellectual level not a spiritual one. I am extremely grateful for Black liberation theology helping salvage my connection to Jesus. I am huge fun of the way Liberation Theology  depicts Jesus as a crusader for the poor and the oppressed.. This is why on most Sundays I tune into Trinity United Church of Christ service online. I treat the Bible like any other religious text I take what is good and helpful to me and disregard the rest.

This journey of spirituality and belief is far from over. Every day is a new discovery and page. I try to keep myself away from toxic environments or things that I don’t think help me grow spiritually.

I think I am over a lot of the resentment, hurt and pain that I experience through church and because of the mindset Christianity often instills. But some baggage is still there. I try to remember the good and the positive. The potential that the institution of the Black church holds- This is an aspect on why my academic focus is what it is. For those who believe in Christianity or that’s the path they choose I want it to be a liberating and freeing experience for them. Where they do not have to deny parts of themselves in order to belong. I guess I will do a blog post eventually explaining what my dissertation project is about and how it relates to this goal. In so many ways I am a product of the Black church, but I do not have to be a part of it when spiritually and religiously it does not work for me,

This blog is not as coherent as I would like. I am working through this journey. I just wanted to share a part of my evolution away from Christianity and towards the divinity within. Bring on the holy water and people trying to save my poor lost soul.

I am obedient.

I went to church today.

Didn’t didn’t change a thang. For so long I wished that Christianity made sense for me. I am a child- I want to make my parents proud. But there is a point when the price of their pride became too expensive.

I choose freedom over pride.

~JustTab

With the utmost respect and love for whatever spiritual/religious path you are on…

(Sorry for the length and lack of cute pictures)

 
 

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What not to do…

San Salvador was cool, in a very U.S.A. clone type way; every major U.S. American franchise-including Chilis, Wal-mart (I hate this corpation), Zara, Bennigans, Papa Johns, etc. While these brands are probably found in every Central American capital city, I was put off a bit by the “mini-malls” that look exactly like CityPlace or any other new shopping center in America.

The development and house that Carmen lived at looked like any other gated community that I have visited. El Salvador even uses American currency as their official currency. Everything I was doing, I could pretty much do at home. Carmen wanted me to stay another day, but I decided I wanted to visit Suchitoto. This town is away from the big city, safer and historic. Since watching the film “Innocent Voices,” I have been really interested in the civil war in El Salvador. The U.S. spent over a million dollars a day for years supporting the El Salvadorian army. Currently, with the massive influx of American franchises and businesses it is easy to see why the USA had such a vested interest in El Salvador. As I shed my Republican/Capitalist skin, I have been embracing my leftist and socialist side. I still really like George W….sue me. Suchitoto was a major stronghold for the FMLN, the guerilla forces who fought against the army during the civil war.

Noble intentions, right? Now for the part of the story that’s a short chapter in my “This is what you don’t do” book. Tuesday morning Carmen dropped me off at the bus station. I left my water bottle in her car, I am still upset about that. It was so perfect and my favorite color pink. Sadly, it was the wrong bus station, so I had to take another bus to the right station. So imagine me and my HUGE backpack and my smaller back on my stomach waiting at the bus stop along with all the other El Salvadorians going to work or whatever. As much as I like to show off my strength (see the million pictures of me picking up random people) carrying mi mochilla- which probably weighs at least 45 pds around with me is no fun and I think it marks me as a target. I might as well walk around with a fanny pack and Lonely Planet. This guy approaches me, David. He told me where to go, about how he used to live in the U.S., his divorce from his American wife and his job. Of course this ended with him giving me his number and telling me how he wants to take me out. David was pretty cute and under different circumstance he could have got it. In Guatemala, I rarely got approached by men. As I go further down south, this is changing-rapidly; this might have something to do with people getting darker and “curlier” hair.

I finally got to Suchitoto, with no place to stay. I had a vague idea about where I could possibly stay, the options were pretty limited. It was either really cheap ($7-15) or really expensive ($75-200) a night. I went with the cheap. Vista Al Lago. It got pretty decent reviews, but I should have thought about the source Lonely Planet. I think those books are written for an audience that is dirty and a bit punkish. Their idea of clean or unsafe is not exactly the same as mine. My room was basically a wooden box, with a fan and a bad light and no windows. The bathroom was outside, but was fairly clean. The owners were really nice and the view was good.

I spent the rest of the day exploring the town, mailing postcards and getting my tour set up for the next day. After this I went to this cyber café to plan my life or my next move. I wanted to leave El Salvador, for the capital city in Honduras. There was a theatre festival going and Thursday was the final day. Since I stayed in Guatemala an extra day I missed my chance to see a play in El Salvador. I basically had 2 options to get to Honduras.

  1. To leave directly after my horseback tour for the Honduras border using a series of “public” buses to make it to the border. Once in Honduras try to make it as close as possible to the capital before calling it a day. I researched places to stay at various place en route to the capital. The problem with this is no one could tell me how long it would take me to get the border.
  2. Go back to San Salvador after the horseback tour and try to catch the last “luxury” direct bus leaving for the Honduran capital. If I missed that bus I could stay another night with Carmen. Maybe go out dancing or something. Then take a direct bus from San Salvador to Honduras at 5am. I would still be able to catch the final performance of the festival.

While I was using the internet another woman came in. After I a while I decided to ask her eat with me. You know the whole hating to eat alone thing, plus I always need to practice my asking out skills. Her name was Kelly or something she was from England and was spending a year in Central America. We went to a bar that was owned by a man who parents were guerilla soldiers. The bar was covered with Che, FMLN, Socialist and leftist poster. He told us more about the war, which got me more excited about my tour the next day. It was pitch black as I walked back to my room. When I got to my room I started rethinking my decision to stay there. I Lysoled the sheets but was still not happy with cleanliness of them, so I slept in my sleeping bag. I didn’t want to shower or use the bathroom because I did not want to meet the animals that might be outside at night. I had to listen to my audiotape of Maya Angelou to fall asleep. I woke up at 5am, with the urgent need to use the bathroom. It wasn’t until 6 am that I had the courage to use the bathroom. It was cold in the morning and I did not have the desire to shower in the cold water outside. So I got dressed, packed and read until it was time to get picked up for the horseback riding tour. I figured I would eat later.

I don’t know why I thought a 5hr tour on a horse was a good idea. 5 hrs on anything is too much let alone a horse. Saddles were either not designed for women or designed to be a torture device for women. As good as I am at riding and I am pretty darn good, I think I prefer to be ridden. The tour was informative, I liked my guide. My horse, Katrina was slow as molasses and prefer to eat grass rather than walk.  We were riding through the jungle. At some points there was no path in my opinion, just trees and branches with the desire to harm me. Of course Katrina did not make it any easier, I swear she was trying to get me hurt. I got scratched by branches and Katrina ran my knee into a tree…I bled. After 3 hrs I was uncomfortable on the horse that I pretty much tuned everything out. I was also thinking about a possible scar that could be forming on my sexy legs. When we finally made it back, I was sore.

Still had not made a decision on what I was going to do next. After returning to town and getting my stuff I decided to make a run for the border. I knew I wouldn’t make the bus in San Salvador and I did not want to ask Carmen to wake up at 4am to take me the bus station. I left at 2pm took 2 buses and made it to the border at 5:30pm. I spent most of this time waiting for the busses to come. It should have taken me no more than 2 hrs if I didn’t have to wait on buses so much.

When I got to the area before the border, this kid took me on his bicycle contraption through immigration and border security for a $1. I then took a cab to the bus station in the town. I knew that there was a “direct” bus to Tegus that left there at midnight and since all the buses to other towns had stopped for the day I decided this was my best option. Now this is where stupidity takes over. I decided this was smarter than staying in a hotel and leaving early the next morning. I could just stay at the bus station!  Think about how pretty I am, I cannot possible be smart as well. I brought my ticket from this older toothless fellow name Luis. Then went to find food, at this point its 6:30pm and I have not eaten since 8pm the day before. The food I got was disgusting and greasy and nasty. I went back to the bus station. I thought the restaurant in the hotel next to/ attached to the ticket office was the waiting area. It was not. The waiting area was this semi covered area between the restaurant and the ticket office. In the back was a hotel, which seemed more like apartments and the front faced the street. This is where I was going to spend the next few hours. Then Luis came over started talking to me, about how nice and pretty I was. And where the “morenas” lived in Honduras and how much he likes morenas. He asked if I had a boyfriend. I told him yes. I learned to say yes to this question after a man repeatedly told me “Me gusta tu” as I waited for a bus earlier, followed by an invitation to his house. He told me it didn’t matter if I had a boyfriend when I was abroad. Luis was a little more touchy feely then I am comfortable with. This is when I started to think about the intelligence of my decision to stay at a bus station all night. At some point Luis goes back to the office. This other comes around and starts talking to me. He says he is going to clean one of the busses outside. I try to lay down on the chairs as I listen to music. He comes back shirtless and asks me if I wanted to sleep on the bus with him. “No, gracias. Estoy bien.” I tell him. I am starting to feel real vulnerable. I won’t say I forget that I am a girl sometimes, because I don’t. I always feel like a girl. However, I often forget how the world views my femaleness, particularly men. Just because I feel/ think I look asexual, does not stop others from sexualizing me. Many men worldwide have the tendency to believe that women are here solely for their pleasure. After all God did make Eve for Adam right? This tendency to see women as here for them sometimes makes men believe they can do whatever they want with us. Scary thought. Especially when one is alone in foreign country being approached by men who language and customs one is not familiar with. I am always reminded that a Black woman can not be raped.

I started thinking about my L.P. who always has a huge knife with her. Whenever we are hiking or going to see a play, she reminds me she has it in case someone acts up. She took ot her huge blade as I was paying for parking at ASU, I kept telling her she was scaring the white people. If I am going somewhere alone, she asks me if I want her knife. I always make fun of her knife. Suddenly, carrying a knife seemed pretty darn smart. I go back in the room where my bag was being kept and slyly found my knife and put it in my pocket. I was ready to cut somebody if anyone tried me! Luis left at 9:30. They shut off most of the lights and closed the area that led to the street. I was secure in the sense that no one could come off the streets and get me, but unsecure in the sense that I was pretty much locked in. I waited from 7-12:30 am for the bus to come. Once the bus came it was already pretty packed and not the cleanest vehicle. This was supposed to be a direct bus. Their definition of direct was very different than mine. It was supposed to take 9hrs. It took 12 hrs. We were always stopping either to let people off/get people or for the police to search the bus. I would wake up randomly to 4 police men on the bus. It was hot and nasty. Most people would use the side of the road for bathrooms. The places we stopped with bathrooms were disgusting. I longed for the mini-America of El Salvador and Carmen’s 3/2 cookie cutter home. There were always people coming on the bus trying to sell us random food and drinks. I am sorry, but I am not buying fruit or tamales off people who carry them on their head all day. At one place we stopped there was a black guy selling stuff. He immediately started telling me about how he used to live in the states but his baby mama got him deported for child support. He then went on to tell me about how God told him he needed a woman like me in his life…um ok.

I finally got to Tegus around 1pm. I had not showered since Monday night. If cleanliness is next to godliness, I was kicking it with the devil fa sho. No food since the crap I ate the night before. I got to hotel. Took a hot shower! Hot! I haven’t had a steamy hot shower since I been here. Put on a nice clean dress. Felt so fresh and so clean. Back to being next to godliness. Then went directly to a Pizza Hut which I have been craving since I had some in Guatemala City, my first in years. I went back to my room and slept. You know in a bed. Not next to somebody in hot dirty bus.

Once I got up I headed to the National Theatre of Honduras “Teatro Nacional Manuel Bonilla” for the final performance of the festival. I have been dying to see a live performance here. I kind of enjoy theatre, just a bit. I have only spent the majority of my short life being involved in some aspect of it. I was not concern about not really speaking Spanish because good acting (and bad acting) conquers language barriers. Also the name of the festival was “Encuentro Centroamericano de Mimo,” it focused on mime performance-which made the language difference mismo. The only issue I had was with the last piece that was very language heavy, angry and very confusing. The show started late, so I spent that time writing a very confusing and abstract letter to my parents about “life”. I am still writing letters, even out here. I have sent about 14 letters and 5 postcards. Take a wild guess who has gotten 3 letters and 1 postcard from me so far. Anyway the show was good. The theatre was old, historic and beautiful. People brought their children, Me encanta familias en teatros. I wish I had my camera, I took some shots with the Blackberry though.

Apparently people are told not to use flash photography in theatres in Central America.  So was it worth it? Being on a bus for half a day, not eating or showering for hours upon hours… I am reminded of the lyrics to one of the songs in A Chorus Line “I won’t forget, I can’t regret what I did for love.”

Lessons learned. I am sure there are more but this is all I could think of now…

  1. As down as I am with the people. I refuse to take transportation “common” people can afford to take on destinations more than 5 hours away. My republican side takes over and I can’t be chilling all dirty. If I took the “luxury” bus that was 2.5x as much I would I have arrived at the same time and they serve meals on there!
  2. I am woman. That makes me vulnerable to the sexual advances of men. I will keep my blade close. As I typed this its clip to inside of my jeans. Very easy access.
  3. Don’t try and “spend” a night in a bus station.

I am done with Tegus. I arrived in Tela Friday. It’s on the Carribbean side of Honduras. I am ready to chill at the beach. Sunday I am going snorkeling. I won’t lie, I am kind of excited to see some dark skin people with nappy hair like me. I like think that a lot of my life and what I do channels Zora Neale Hurston. The whole father being a pastor, growing up in Flordia and being brilliant…she sounds just like me! Zora did a lot of anthropological work in Haiti (check) and Honduras (check)- she was one of the first to do work all over the diaspora on African people. Once again I will try to find out more about the Garifuna and other African descended people in Central America, it didn’t go so well in  Guatemala. I am staying with Gaby and her boyfriend. Who is Gaby? Well according to her profile she is building Tela’s first mini-golf park…

~Just Tab

The biggest shout out to the Creator, God, Allah, Jesus the Christ, Oshun, Shango, Saint Peter, etc. for keeping me safe. It ain’t nothin’ but the blood, grace and mercy that keeps me safe.

 

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The Story of Us.

I have had two great loves in my life, two great loves that I have never physically met but have touched and influence my life innumerable ways. They are Tupac Amaru Shakur and Oprah Gail Winfrey. The significance of Tupac on my development is a story for another day, but suffice to say obsessed is a term that was often use to describe my respect for this man. My focus today is on Oprah, or more specifically The Oprah Winfrey Show.

I remember being in Mrs. Williams (very white & Greek) costume class towards the end of my 9th grade year. For some reason my spoiled, middle class Black body which attended one of the most prestigious high schools in the country and who was raised in a two parent Christian home decided that I was a revolutionary.

Although at that time I would have not used that word, I was down with the movement- whatever that said movement was. Evidence of my downness was my decision at 13 years old not to get any more perms “I do not want to be a slave to the white man’s definition of beauty,” this is what I told anyone who questioned my disdain for the lye. On this particular day in class I was “educating”, perhaps a better word would be ranting on Oprah Winfrey being a pawn of white women/society and how she is just a sellout, etc. Mrs. Williams ask me was I serious…of course I was- I was Blacker than Black. (SN: I had just read a book about the Black Panthers and I have a tendency to embody books that I read). She explained to me how significant and remarkable Oprah was to all women and especially to Black women. I was half listening because, who was this white woman trying to tell me about Oprah and who should be significant to me as a Black woman!

She must have had some impact because that summer I happen to watch Oprah, probably for the first time ever.  Let’s just say I fell in love over that summer in 2001. I had a standing date with Oprah at 4 o’clock every weekday since. I wonder how different I might have been from who I am now if some white lady didn’t take the time to call me on my B.S. and encourage me to watch Oprah. Thankful I will never have to know.

It does not take much more than a short conversation with me to know that I love Oprah perhaps just a little bit more than most people. I have raced home to watch Oprah since the day I got my own car. I brought a VCR just to record Oprah in college. I have dropped classes or didn’t take classes that interfered with Oprah. As recently as this fall in grad school, I would wake up at midnight no matter how tired I was to catch the 2nd showing of Oprah because I did not have a DVR. Thankfully, I upgraded my cable this spring so I did not have to do that this past semester. The major reason I upgraded my cable is because the package I had did not include the Oprah Winfrey Network. In undergrad I was known as the girl with all those names, with a crazy fro, or the girl obsessed with Oprah. Professors used to ask me what was on Oprah that day, knowing I watched. My parents and friends understand that between 4-5pm I was not going to answer my phone- Oprah was on. I have a hard time talking about anything without saying “There was this episode of Oprah…” this is how much she has impacted my life over the past 10 years.

With this being said I do not worship or follow Oprah blindly. She is not my savior. In my head we are equals.She calls me Tabby, I call her Oppie. There are plenty of things that she does that I do not agree with including her love for Tyler Perry. I actually disagree with her a lot but my respect for her is endless. I imagine us lying in bed reading books or debating how harmful Tyler Perry is to the Black people as our dogs sleep at our feet. With Stedman bringing us tea.

I am fiercely protective of her. You want to annoy me…tell me Oprah does not believe in God and she is the anti-Christ or that she is secretly a lesbian.  I know way too much about this woman from her bra size to her shoe size. I know more about her than my own mother.

Here are 3 ah-ha moments (of many) that I learned from watching the Oprah Winfrey Show

The quote that remains with me:

  • November 2006 I was watching the show and Oprah said:“You are not your past. You are what is possible for you. Own this truth and move forward in your life. Forgive yourself, and others will be able to forgive you.”  In my head there are so many things that I feel like I have moved on from in my past but they keep coming back because I have not them go or forgiven myself for those thing occurring. How can I expect others to forgive me when I have not forgiven myself. This quote is a great reminder that my future is not defined by my past. I own my truth. I move forward.

The book that enlightened me:

  • March 2009, Oprah did a show called “Living without labels” on the show she featured a book by Lisa Diamond titled Sexual Fluidity. The book was about the fluctuation in sexual desire specifically in women. This further help informed what I was already coming to know that sexuality is more of a continuum than a binary. Those who know me, know that I do not do labels of any kind.

The show that change my perspective:

  • August 2004, Oprah did a show on transgender children. While there was someone at my high school who was transgender. I was really did not get it or think much about. I still don’t really get it but it’s not for me to get. Watching this little boy cry about not being able to play with Barbies or wear a dress and his mother telling him he couldn’t play with them because he was a boy. She explained boys have penises, the little boy told his mother he hated his penis and wanted it to fall off. Watching this boy and his parents struggle to keep him in his “proper” gender assignment when everything inside of him was telling him that this gender did not fit the person he was, made me rethink how I looked at gender.

But enough of this. The last episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show aired May 25, 2011, 2 weeks ago. I started writing this a while ago, but I never finished. Perhaps I did not want to deal with the end of an era. The morning of May 25th, I decided not to work- I had to get prepared. I got a haircut and ran my errands. Came home, showered and picked out my outfit. I even wore a bra for this momentous occasion. I had the house to myself; I pour my glass of wine and got out my tissues. Turned off the cell phone and computer- I was ready to focus on my Oprah.

I had been rather underwhelmed with the previous 2 final episodes, so I was not sure what to expect. Oprah did not disappoint. I would give you highlights but they would probably bore you and I rather tell you what the final show meant for me.

  1. I am 24 years old. Young. Perhaps naïve and idealistic. I will give you that. However at this young age I refuse to believe that I can’t have and be whatever it is that I want to. Oprah talked to about finding your passion, the thing that lights you up. The people in my program look at me like I am crazy because I don’t want to go on the tenure track or even desire a job in the traditional manner. I want to follow my passion. I want to do whatever makes me happy. That is success for me. I am chasing passion not paper. I look at my professors and they seem miserable. There is no way in the world I want to do that. When I explain to people all that I am going to accomplish in this world and they brush me off because I am young and idealistic, I know that because my goal is to give more than I take, learn as well as educate- I am going to be ok. Oprah taught me that.
  2. The other part of the final show that I am going to keep with me is being responsible for the energy you bring with you. This could be in a relationship or any physical space. This little nugget caused me to examine the energy I was bringing into relationships both platonic and romantic. While in my head I believe that I know I am worthy of love and awesome friendships, my actions don’t indicate this. People tell me that they love me, but in head I am constantly thinking why this is not true. They only love the funny Tab, or the smart Tab or the goofy Tab. Or they just think they love me. There was a point where I would constantly ask my mother what did I have to do to for her not to love me anymore. This concept of unconditional love seemed unfathomable to me. While I can see myself loving someone unconditionally, I can’t see that love being returned unconditionally. I find myself not envisioning relationships forever, because people always leave. I don’t really envision anyone in my future, but myself. These thoughts manifest themselves into actuality and people do leave my life. This only confirms my thoughts of people not really loving me and always leaving, perpetuating this negative cycle. Oprah reminded me on the last show that I need to take responsibility for my energy. That I alone am worthy. Not funny Tab, not pretty Tab, not crazy Tab…just Tab is worthy of love. This is easier said than done, but I am now more consciously on path to embrace and know my worth.

Oprah saying goodbye

The show itself exceeded all of my expectations and was a perfect ending to The Oprah Winfrey Show. No worries, ya’ll I am not suicidal. I have been coping just fine with the end of the show. In the end what I am taking from the 10 years I spent watching her almost daily is the motivation to live my best life ever. A lot of people don’t get Oprah’s appeal, it’s not for you to get. Just know that if a lil colored girl from Kosciusko, Mississippi can achieve all that Oprah has…why can’t this little black girl from West Palm Beach achieve all her dreams and more?

~Just Tab

I apologize for the length…but this Oprah I am talking about.

 

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Practice what you preach…

I tend to post a lot of things about HIV/AIDS on my FaceBook page or even here. It’s a topic that is important to me. Maybe this is because I was a HIV/AIDS peer educator in high school. Or because I know people living with HIV/AIDS. Perhaps its because too many talented people died because of AIDS. Or that I know my friends are not practicing safe sex. Or because 1 in 5 people with HIV/AIDS or aware of their status. HIV/AIDS affects me.

June 5th marked 30 years since the first confirmed AIDS case. Thankfully, HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence anymore.

I been stepping up my posting HIV/AIDS posting game on FB. Yesterday,  I posted things about Sylvester James a music icon who died of AIDS.

I started thinking- I hope people don’t think I have HIV/AIDS since I post these things. I remember going through anxiety over whether or not I should “like” the FB pages for Greater than AIDS or The Black AIDS Institute, not wanting people to think that because I am interested in HIV/AIDS activism that I am infected. Typically when I start worrying about what others will think, that’s a sign for me to do it anyway. Which is why i “liked” Trans Queer: A Trans Fag Sex Journal on FB last week. I like to think that I am not afraid to talk about anything. This internal conflict in my head shows how strong the stigma is around HIV/AIDS. Not even wanting to be associated with it because of the fear that people might think I have it. It should not even really be about whether one is positive or negative, more about knowing your status. So I posted about HIV/AIDS online yesterday and I realized that I haven’t been tested since October. Generally people should be tested every 3-6 months. But since I don’t “really” have sex, I don’t really think about getting tested. I guess its my Christian background which gives me the tendency to not practice what I preach. I remember how difficult it was last time I was home in WPB to find a place that did HIV/STD testing, especially after 5:30 when people who work are free. I really do understand why some people don’t get tested, you would think the process would be easier with the rates of STD’s here in Florida. Getting tested even when you are pretty sure that you are negative is extremely stressful. In my head I replay all these redicouclous ways that I could have gotten infected. Like…the time I got a paper cut…who knows what bodily fluids was on that piece of paper or some other highly improbable way. So I went to www.hivtest.org to look up free places that did the rapid testing last night and planned to go today. Later that night I came across this video. The guy is hillarous but still addresses a lot the issues that one goes through when they get tested for HIV.

So I got tested this morning. In this random community/faith based testing facility. It was small and had bible quotes all over the place. The test was easy enough, a prick on the finger for blood. Then I was asked questions about my sexual history. The norm. Of course, I was sweating bullets as I waited for the results even though I don’t “really” have sex. I got my results back…negative AND they gave me a free $10  giftcard to Publix just for getting tested. That is motivation to take a HIV/AIDS test everyday…food is expensive.  Even though I was not really worried about being infected it felt good to have my negative status confirmed. Knowing is truly beautiful. Talking about it helps remove the stigma.

In other news I have this great post about me and Oprah that I started writing on May 20th and have yet to finish. No worries I am getting my life together and I will finish that within the next 2 days. In the meantime I will be leaving the country to begin my summer travels on June 19th. This year I am going back to Guatemala, as well as visiting El Salvador, Honduras and El Salvador. I am planning to be away for about 5 weeks.

Be Safe.

~Just Tab

 
 

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Is you a boy or girl?

“Is you a boy or a girl?” I have been asked this question several times by young children. While, I doubt very few of them- if any actual think I am a boy, the question is more about my lack of adherence to their “image” of what a woman looks like.

My hair is cut low and my clothes might not always emphasize my feminine features. I never get mad or upset when children ask me this question, since usually it’s out of curiosity.  However, what does annoy me is being CALLED (different from asking) a boy or any type of male. As a child I detested being called a tomboy. Even now it irks when children who don’t fit others perception of what a “girl” is supposed to be or like or whatever is called a tomboy. Or currently in certain communities the term “boi”, has gained popularity for more masculine gender-queer/ androgynous people. My friends have trouble understanding how and why “Oh, Tab you are such a cute boi”- highly upsets. Yeah, I joke about looking like a 12- year old boy, but those are jokes.  The gender that I identify with is “woman”, no matter what I am wearing or who I am dating that’s what I am- a woman, so to be called a “boi” even by friends is to me calling me out my name and associating me with something I do not identify with. Simone de Beauvoir famously said “One is not born a woman, but becomes one”, this quote was further popularized by Judith Butler in theorization of gender. It speaks to that fact that gender is not a biological fact rather it is a construction. Whereas sex: male or female can be considered a biological fact; which is why people can be born a certain biological sex, yet identify with another gender or no gender at all. . Yeah, it’s kind of tricky but you don’t have to agree with me about this.  Knowing how strongly I feel about my gender identity and the power of being called or haled something you do not identify with I can’t imagine what Caster Semenya had to go through.

If you can recall Caster was the South African runner who was “gender” came into question after she won the 800m World Championship in Berlin in 2009. Her gender as well as her sex became a subject of debate around the world. Was she biological male or female? If she was female, why did she look so masculine? Why didn’t she wear “girls” clothes? Is she gay? Does she take testosterone? Is she intersex? Are just some questions that surrounded her. At some point she got a make-over, but did a dress make her more of a woman then she was before?

Caster story is fascinating to me…who decides what makes a woman? This woman had an 11- month investigation launched about her gender. I just get questions from children. To her grandmother who changed her diapers as a baby, to her friends, to her community, to herself she’s a woman…yet it took a whole organization and 11-months for a decision to be made regarding was she woman, enough. If you have time I would strongly encourage to watch this documentary made about Caster by the BBC. It was filmed during the 11- month wait to receive the results of her “gender” testing. After hearing so much about Caster, it is refreshing to hear from her. It also opens up dialogue on the construction of gender in today’s society, as well as the gender inequalities in sports. Anyway, the doc is dope and I think I might have low key crush on Caster. I admire her strength and her courage. Watch it. I promise it is worth your time.

I would like to ask what makes you a “woman” or a “man”?  Is it dictated by your clothes, your attitude, you’re sexual organs? What is it?

~ Just Tab

 
4 Comments

Posted by on April 17, 2011 in Gender, politics, Rants, style, Them Black people

 

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