Who owns you?

The poem “Mistress stella speaks,” by Tyehimba Jess is about a mistress who is owned and is taken advantage of. The first thing that I noticed from the poem was the title. The mistress’s name is not capitalized and I feel like that is what caught my attention. My biggest pet peeve as a child was seeing my name in lower case letters. I remember being taught in elementary school that names should always be capitalized just as nouns or important things like titles or locations are capitalized. It signifies that your name is what defines you and gives it importance. If someone called me by a number or something else that was other than my name I would feel disrespected. Unless that person was given consent to call me by another nickname or another word, it isn’t allowed.

[At the beginning of the semester, Professor Beth McCoy explains the idea of consent by choosing a student from the class to act out what it would be like to not respect another person’s boundaries by not asking for consent before touching their head. This semester in class she asked Toby to sit down and she asked him if she could touch his head, Toby said sure. The second time comes around and we’re acting like its the next day or so, she goes up to him and asks again. Toby says NO. Professor Beth McCoy then says, “..but you let me touch your head the other day… why can’t I do it again?” She was showing that just because someone allows you to do something once, doesn’t mean you should take advantage of the one time they gave you consent. ]

So when I read the poem, “Mistress stella speaks,” by Tyehimba Jess, I had an idea of what the poem would be about. I thought about disrespect and possession from the Mistress’s husband but it was the other way around. The Mistress feels as if she actually owns her husband. Title tricks you into thinking that the Mistress is owned and is speaking up about her mistreatment but in all actuality, although she may not be respected as much and he always runs back to her and this to her means that she owns him.

Without her, he has no one else to run back to.



Social Media today vs. Dick and Jane

The Storybook Treasury of Dick and Jane and Friends by William S. Gray is a book that proposes the idea of a perfect household and family as I’ve stated in a recent blog post.

Dick and Jane:

“Here is the house. It is green and white. It has a red door. It is very pretty. Here is the family. Mother, Father, Dick, and Jane live in the green-and-white house. They are very happy. See Jane. She has a red dress She wants to play. Who will play with Jane? See the cat. It goes meow-meow. Come and play. Come play with Jane. The kitten will not play. See Mother. Mother is very nice. Mother, will you play with Jane? Mother laughs. Laugh, Mother, laugh. See Father. He is big and strong. Father, will you play with Jane? Father is smiling. Smile, Father, smile. See the dog. Bowwow goes the dog. Do you want to play with Jane? See the dog run. Run, dog, run. Look, look. Here comes a friend. The Friend will play with Jane. They will play a good game. Play, Jane, play”

Instagram is also a social media website and application that allows people to post how they feel, what they look like and what they are doing. On Instagram most people post selfies with families or friends, they post themselves losing weight, traveling, they post themselves getting their teeth whitened or receiving a certificate from a ceremony. Which is all great but no one ever posts when their crying unless its a joke, or real arguments between family and friends, or finding out bad news or anything negative.

I find that these two topics relate to our course because as I’ve said before, Dick and Jane proposes the idea that to have a perfect household or to live up to specific standards to live happily, you must be white, live in a nice house, have two parents that play with you and a dog too! In our African-American literature class, we focus on what African American slave narratives want us to focus on, we focus on authenticity and follow into what Dionne Brand wants, She said: “My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice.” Although these are two topics we haven’t really discussed in class, I think it’s important to be aware of the similarities that exist between books that we’ve read and what is going on today and to see how much has changed. Regardless of ethnic background or “race” people just care about their image and they always have.

Dick and Jane was written during the 1930s. What was going on during the 1930’s? The Great Depression…Everyone was struggling, White, Black, Native American, etc., but the perfect household was white and wealthy. For that time period it might’ve been realistic in terms of race but wealth wise, it was not.


What it is like…

Mid-way of the second stanza in the poem “What Would I Do White?” by June Jordan, Jordan paints an image of what it would be like to live like a white person and how she would act.

She says:
I would forget my furs on any chair.
I would ignore the doormen at the knob
the social sanskrit of my life
unwilling to disclose my cosmetology
I would forget.

As I read her poem, I  thought to myself, as a 20-year-old female, who is culturally associated with the Latinx and Black community, what do I think of when I think of a white individual? What do I think of when I am at a store and I am followed around because of the assumption that I might steal because I am Hispanic and Black and am most likely am to be poor? What do I think of when I am asked for a bag check at an inexpensive store like Walmart or Dollar Tree and everyone else in the store who is white, isn’t asked the same question? What do I think of when it is 2019 and I, unfortunately, HAVE to think about those incidents.

The question that I believe would follow the question in her title is, Why would I think about what I would do White? The conversation of race should not be a topic that is up for conversation, at all. I interpreted Jordan’s poem as a form of expressing how much respect white people receive and the freedom that they have for being of a lighter complexion. She uses the word “forget” twice and “ignore,” and because both words relate to one another. Notice that in the paragraph above, where I explained what it is like to be my self, I used the word think six times. To think about something is the opposite of forgetting and I think that that is the idea of what Jordan is proposing. With or without money, white individuals have held privilege over many black individuals throughout history and during the present day.

She is making a statement on not only how she feels and what she would like to feel but, how two individuals who are of the same species and origin are viewed differently and therefore are allowed to act and feel differently.


Possession of reality

According to The America Play by Suzan-Lori Parks, withholds two definitions ” 1. the action or fact of possessing or the condition of being possessed. 2. the holding or having of something as one’s own, or being inhabited and controlled by a demon or spirit.”

Parks explains how she possesses her writing and who she writes for. Her answer was herself. Her second answer is the question, “Who am I?” To me, I understood this to be that she writes for an audience who reflect herself and her own experiences as an African-American woman and her past. I was able to relate The America Play to Toni Morrison’s book The Bluest Eye and her explanation about why the book was written and how it was written in the Afterward of the book. Toni Morrisons states, “With very few exceptions, the initial publication of The Bluest Eye was like Pecola’s life: dismissed, trivialized, misread.”

The Bluest Eye is an African-American fiction book written to prove that the book Dick and Jane: fun with dick and jane does not represent the perfect family and in most cases whether black or white, the book proposes a story that is unrealistic unless you come from a middle-class family, with a perfect home and perfect parents. Toni Morrison possesses her writing by sharing an experience that may not be hers exactly but, there are experiences that she can relate to and actually understand, which is why she did not write for a specific audience but for herself. Suzan-Lori Parks also says, “Through each line of text I’m rewriting the Time Line— creating history where it is and always was but has not yet been divined.”

In The Bluest Eye, Morrison has the exact same setup. She rewrites a story that doesn’t exactly exist but in a way has existed. She incorporates scattered experiences and historical realities that still prove another fiction book that is supposed to be doing the same thing.

When I say, “doing the same thing,” I mean that Dick and Jane was written to propose a reality; but it does not. It is not relatable for any ethnic group and children who grow up under different financial circumstances. Even without the topic of social class and ethnicity, it does not represent all families because Dick and Jane’s parents play with them and seem perfect. Realistically with or without money, being or not being white, there is no such thing as a perfect household. Rather, the book proposes a household and family that you can aspire to live and be like but does not exist. The Bluest Eye, on the other hand, is a fiction book that proposes a reality that has existed for African American children and in some circumstances, other ethnic groups throughout history as well. 

Just as Parks “creates a history where it is and always was…” Morrison creates a history where it is and always was and still is. Racism still exists and many Americans still their lives just as Pecola lived, feeling “dismissed, trivialized, misread.” Morrison possesses her writing by relating it to herself and for those who relate to her and Pecola’s experiences.

Are you mocking me?

If you have ever experienced having an annoying sibling or have a friend mock you, at home or in a public setting, I am sure you know how it feels when you realize that there is a limit to jokes like those. Some people mock your tone of voice or something that you have said and for a few minutes you might find humor in it but then after a certain point, it becomes vexing. Sometimes it just isn’t comedic. Some react more than others and that goes for any joke that just gets old.

When someone takes it up to a personal level and mocks the way that you walk, an accent that you have, the color of your skin, your hair type or your culture in general, it is no longer a joke. The reason for this is because the way in which someone walks, the accent that they speak with, the color of their skin and their culture are all characteristics that define who they are and how they go about their lives every day. When someone is teasing you in that manner it is offensive because it really means that, that person has taken the time to analyze your appearance, actions, and culture and found something within all of it that was funny. It’s funny when you do something out of the ordinary and acts a certain way on purpose so that you can catch someones attention or make them react to it but when you aren’t doing anything to draw that kind of attention it is not only insulting but, disrespectful.

Now, let’s forget about the jokes that your siblings or friends ever made to mock you, let’s forget out them taking it up to a personal level and let’s acknowledge those who actually find humor in someone else’s culture and appearance. All of what makes someone unique is what defines all human beings and so when someone mocks another person’s style or culture it is wrong.

During our class discussion on “Nobody knows the trouble I see” by Bernice Reagan Johnson, we spoke about the standards in African-American literature and culture and acknowledging the use of another person’s work.  Reagen exemplifies singing or peaching in an African-American Baptist church as a something that relates to that topic. She says that when one sings in a unique tone or style it comes from finding individuality and a form of personal development in a way. She states that “Originality of voice and style is the true sign of a seasoned teacher. A true master is one who creates an offering with such power and originality that a new direction is established within the genre.” We all create our own offerings with our own form of power, its the same with blackface or any other form of racism. Whether it means posing with blackface and gang signs and posting it on social media as a joke or as simple as voting for someone who doesn’t care for African-American and Latinx groups. Whether someone does it blatantly or behind closed doors, they would be taking advantage of someone else’s form of power and signature.


Hate and Humor

James Arthur Snead was a man who studied English, European fiction and taught courses on modernism and German literature at Yale University.

According to YAMP (Yale Aids Memorial Project), various students and professors expressed how they viewed him as a person and as a professor before he passed away from aids. Two individuals who posted on the page and who knew Snead personally shared deep experiences that they had with him.  Peter Schneibner met Snead on a bus during the late 1980s and although he was fond of him and his personality, the experience that he had on the bus through him off. When Schneibner and Snead were on the bus together and on their two-hour road trip their bus driver pulled over for a fifteen-minute break. When Snead got off of the bus to use the restroom for a few moments a man who happened to be white pointed out that Snead was dangerous.

Schneibner shared:

“When he went for a pee, an old white guy sit­ting in front of me turned around and told me to be care­ful with the blacks. I should be very sus­pi­cious, he warned. A black guy talk­ing in a for­eign lan­guage can’t be any good, and sit­ting in the first half of the bus is bad behav­ior. By law, of course, blacks used to have to sit in the back seats.”

With the information that was shared with him, Shneibner did not change how he viewed Snead which was definitely a positive thing but, I found that that situation was quite funny  because the following individual, Mark Schoofs who posted about Snead says, “He had a way of car­ry­ing him­self so that race wasn’t able to obscure him. He was a vis­i­ble man, the oppo­site of Ralph Elli­son’s char­ac­ter, but it wasn’t because he acted white or avoided race. Hardly.”

I found humor in the story about the white guy calling Snead dangerous due to his skin color and talent in knowing multiple languages because according to his classmates, friends, and people that he knew, they found that Snead didn’t care much about race. He cared more about the historical events that have to lead us to where we are now or to how things were during the times in which he was alive. It is funny how there are people who want to be hateful or harmful to another person but don’t realize that their hate doesn’t matter much and shouldn’t matter as much as they think it does.

Masks keep you safe

According to the context of W.E.B Du Bois’ story, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” African Americans have been, “born with a veil, and gifted with with a second sight in this American world,— a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world.”

The story, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” was written in 1903 and Du Bois lived during the late 1860s when slavery was over but if you were black you were still chained to the racist systematic laws that existed and you were constantly surrounded by racist white people. When I say, racist white people, I don’t mean that all white human beings in the United States were racist but, the majority of the people allowed stereotypes to control their way of thinking and because of that, they were even more ignorant than anything. To be ignorant means to not give someone else a chance and to not allowing your self to be open to learning new things because a selfish mindset that you may have.

In class, we interpreted Du Bois’s statement about African American people being born with veils and being gifted with a second sight as living two different lives in a way to fend for their own life. People of color saw this veil as a tool that protected them and allowed them to learn how to act in the society and time period that they lived in and how they should conform to what white people would want at that time.

I titled this post as “Masks that keep you safe, ” because we also discussed the poem written my Paul Laurance Dunbar who wrote We wear the Mask. This poem stuck to me and it took me about an hour to really understand and take in the meaning of the poem. In order for me to truly comprehend the poem, I searched and listen to Maya Angelou’s version of the poem and her combining it with her own. I find that reading a poem verses listening to it serves a completely different effect on how you take it all in. Now, I will say, We wear the Mask is a phenomenal poem that depicts exactly what African Americans went through once they were forced to live by white standards. The lines that stood out to me the most and that I would tie in with W.E.B Du Bois’s line about being born with a veil from“Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” are:

“We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—”
Although the concepts are different the idea of being obliged to cover your true identity for the purposes of satisfying another group of peoples needs is what correlates. As W.E.B Du Bois’ story, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” stated “African Americans have been, “born with a veil, and gifted with a second sight in this American world,— a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world.”
Having to wear a mask all of the time ties in with the idea of having a second sight to survive in the American world that minorities struggle in. When you wear a Mask or a veil you are yourself behind whatever it is you are covering first. You see everything how you would regularly see things and you would have your original perspective but because of the society that minorities lived/live in they had/have to react differently compared to how they would have wanted/want to react originally to many racially related issues.

Why would a person of color hold a grudge against a white person?

Before answering the question titled for this blog post, I would first like to define some key terms and answer some questions for you:

  1. Human

According to the biology online dictionary:

“Humans are the hominins capable of creating and using complex tools, solving problems by sense and reasoning, using symbols and language, and creating complex social structures. Over time, humans have demonstrated behavioral modernity and advancement.”

2. African American

According to collins dictionary,

“African-Americans are black people living in the United States who are descended from families that originally came from Africa.”

I defined the word human first because I would like to make a point in saying that all humans are equally capable of applying themselves to complete any task given on Earth.  All humans are intelligent beings and can achieve any goal that they want with the use of communication, experience, memory and their physical abilities. Notice that the definition does not say anything about race, ethnicity or having different abilities, body types, muscles, or blood. It simply states what all human beings are capable of.

People of color are constantly mistreated, disenfranchised, and are underprivileged because of a research study that Johann Freidrich Blumenbach did on the measurements of craniums which led him to dividing human beings in to five different categories. The categories are “Caucasian, Mongolian, Malayan, Ethiopian, and American.” Once there was a separation of race between human beings because of their distinct appearances over time people took advantage of their own characteristics, power, and potential to seek other resources from other locations and from other human beings that were of a different race. Caucasian individuals from different countries across Europe took advantage of other racially categorized groups in different times and ways. Dating back to when Johann Friedrich Blumenbach formed this idea, it followed through with the slave trade organization that commenced in about 1650.

The slave trade organization was a controlling, manipulative and violent historical event that was used for financial growth, greed and gain in power from the Americas and Africa. Thousands of African human beings were captured and sold to other “masters” or other European “business men” who wanted more territory, power and access to resources from South and North America. Through the process of the slave trade organization many people lost their lives or were brutally mistreated. African and Indigenous women were raped in the Americas and in Africa and this led to the population of mixed people that exist today. Since the mid-1600s, up until 1865 when slavery was abolished, the  majority of Caucasian individuals from Europe who settled in to the United States of America treated individuals of African descent whether it was half, a quarter or fully black like they were wild animals. After slavery was abolished the 13th Amendment claimed that it was illegal to own a slave but segregation still existed, racism still existed and if you were African American you would constantly struggle financially and socially. One wrong move and you would get arrested and treated like a slave again. Up until the 1960s when Jim Crow laws were abolished but, again, African American people and other people of color were still mistreated in terms of getting a job, financially, they were underprivileged all because of their complexion. It wasn’t until the late 1990s to early 2000s that employment discrimination laws were passed, that African American high school children were graduating on time or were graduating at all, that people of color were progressing economically, and were able to succeed in the U.S. 

This leads me to explaining my second key term, “African American”. All human beings experience different things in their lives. We are all very distinct not because of out complexion, or our appearance. We are all distinct because of our experiences and the cultures that influence us. Humans are born in different locations and assimilate to different cultures over time and learn to adopt to different styles of life. People of color are black, indigenous, latino, or of other mixed ethnic groups. When living in America and being a person of color or specifically African American you have your own experience. Racism still exists and according to NBC News, the article, “Poll: 64 percent of Americans say racism remains a major problem” by Andrew Arenge, Stephanie Perry and Dartunorro Clark, “64 percent said racism remains a major problem in our society. Thirty percent agreed that racism exists today, but it isn’t a major problem.”

More than 50% of Americans acknowledge that there is a racial discrimination issue in their country. Given that the majority of people of color in America experience discrimination it seems like the issues isn’t complexion the the way in which people of color carry their skin. Every person has been influenced by culture but many people who happen to be Caucasian feel like because it isn’t like their own that they should discriminate, be racist against or mistreat others. Although not all white individuals are actively racists or follow white supremacists groups, actions speak louder than words and the statistics above prove that. If racism still exists, all Americans need to work on being culturally educated and learn to respect one another’s as they teach in Kindergarten. Americans need to show that they acknowledge each others experiences rather than focus on their own.

So to answer the question properly I would say that people of color should not hold grudges against people who have not prepared to actively not follow the kind of system that we live under. All humans are influenced by others and they experience complete different events and have different perspectives. People of color forgive those who are ignorant and just don’t know how to respect their culture but their is an expectation of learning from a mistake that was made. At the end of the day, this all shouldn’t be about color it is now about how people should learn to understand their similarities and differences between one another and where boundaries may lay between those two categories.

Racism exists and the cure isn’t to temporarily try to understand someone else’s pain or culture, it is to truly care about people around you day by day.


Importance of African American literature


According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, African American literature is defined as a “body of literature written by Americans of African descent.”

Before, taking any classes in college I did not know that literature could be driven by any culture. Literature is a form of communication and a way of conveying knowledge and it is what has controlled humanity’s mindset for decades and still does. When children begin their schooling they are taught the alphabet, phonetics, words, and they learn how to read sentences and eventually they’re timed by how fast they can read and interpret their reading. Eventually it becomes a habit of simply taking in what is on the page and configuring puzzled and metaphoric quotes and vocabulary words.

African American literature is also taught to children but in a a different way. Once the minds of children have been stimulated enough so that they can comprehend complex stories and important factors such as geographic locations, cultures, the existence of various languages and the importance of all of those components, teachers have the opportunity to teach history. The most important historical concepts that are taught in educational institutions in the United States are from the origins of North America and how we got to where we are today. The importance of teaching children those concepts are so that they can understand that everything that has been done to level up to where we are now, should not be taken for granted. 

African American literature is a form of reading a history textbook. When you open a book written by an Afro-writer, especially written before the 1980s like the “Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison or “Not with Laughter” by Langston Hughes, you are not reading your average book, you are reading a piece of perspective. When I read the “Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, my eyes glistened and I was shocked by how much I learned about the culture and the amount of respect African Americans had received before the 1960s. I was able to find that African American individuals were still treated unfairly after Jim Crow laws were passed and the way that I learned that was through vivid details that seem like exaggerations but were 100% true. Although the story was not exactly true, it exemplified the actual mannerisms and events that would happen during those times.

Literature is written to provoke others to learn more and to respect what they are reading. African American literature should be respected by not only Americans but by other people who come from countries that have also been affected by the historical events that provoked Africans to write their stories and share them.

The article, “Who reads an American book”, Smith questions, “In the four quarters of the globe, who reads an American book?” Although these questions are asked to prove a point. I find that Afro-literature in general is so important to read that everyone should be educated about not only African American literature but, Afro-latino literature, and direct African literature. Most of the time in schools we are taught to focus on the American perspective but if you are able to read what happened during the early 1800s for example in Virginia, Colombia and Senegal you can then gain access to the a broad perspective of what was happening globally rather than just knowing one perspective.

Literature allows everyone to express their thoughts and share information. At times, literature can also be a shout of help for others. For Afro- writers, literature can be both.




In Jackson, Mississippi, 1961, there was a signed ordered by the police stating “WAITING ROOM FOR COLORED ONLY” in hospitals and medical centers to segregate between the blacks and whites. According to “Civil Rights and Healthcare: Remembering Simkins v. Cone (1963)”, during this time period, African American doctors, dentists, and surgeons were only allowed to practice on other African Americans.

Of course during that time, the majority of white people thought African Americas were filthy and didn’t want much to do with them unless they were serving them. Of course medical practice is very serious so they’re only going to trust “their kind.” If a sign like this is up, it just shows that they didn’t even want to sit with the “colored group.”

Eventually, “the United States Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case) deemed that the two hospitals’ policies of racial discrimination for both patient admissions and visiting physician staff privileges violated the fifth and fourteenth amendments of the Constitution.”

This was a positive changed for the “colored group” in that they didn’t have to feel so secluded and treated as if they were animals. In reading the article, “The difference between blacks and animals”, Alice white states, “animals were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites.”

When I that sign I felt like it related so much to that quote because in this day and age you only see signs like that if “NO DOGS ARE ALLOWED” in to a store or an area in a park. It just shows how much white people back then belittled African Americans just because of their complexion.