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America Hates the Poor: Emergency Preparedness is for the Rich

BY Q. VERGARA

 

The earthquakes that hit Southern California during the Fourth of July Weekend got quite a bit of news coverage. And while the information was useful, they kept insisting people should stock up on emergency supplies in the event of a natural disaster. It makes sense to plan ahead and be prepared, but let's be honest, it isn't always practical or realistic.

Image by Jessica Weston from  Associated Press

Image by Jessica Weston from Associated Press

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune (2019), California ranks number one in poverty across the United States. The U.S. Census calculates poverty in two different ways:

  1. based on income, and

  2. based on a measure called “supplemental poverty measure”

This measure allows the census to calculate how many people are living in poverty by how much government programs are assisting low-income families. Using this measure, California's poverty rate sits at a whopping 19 percent (San Diego Union-Tribune, 2019).

If so many families are struggling with day to day necessities, how are they expected to buy anything extra? When you're wondering where your next meal is going to come from and your stomach is touching your back, how realistic is it to buy groceries to set aside for "just-in-case?" When you're already living every day in emergency mode, because your finances do not allow you to breathe, how are you supposed to spend the money you don't have for an imminent hypothetical?

Image by  Marcello Migliosi  from  Pixabay

Having money in the U.S. not only provides you opportunity, but allows you to mitigate any damage you encounter when things go awry. Trouble with the law? Post bond and pay a good lawyer. Feeling sick? Fly to where you can get the best medical care and pay for it, no problem. Natural disaster? Pay earthquake insurance, move, rebuild, whatever. When you have money you are no longer at the mercy of your surroundings. When you have money you can be proactive. But when you're living in poverty, you're forced to be reactive and adapt. 

Beyond stocking up on food, there are a countless number of other hurdles those in poverty must face if hit with a natural disaster. Hopefully you don't have kids, elderly, or disabled folk in diapers—gotta stock pile that. Hopefully you don't rely on medication—can’t go over your allotments on insurance. Hopefully you have a house or at least enough room to even store the things you keep. God forbid you live on the second floor and have mobility issues. In an emergency, there's no chance in hell you're getting down those stairs. With just a little bit of money, you could have moved somewhere else, bought extras, and paid your way out of trouble to keep you and your family safe.

Image by  StockSnap  from  Pixabay

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

The super hurricanes you see on TV have been jarring enough. Infants in plastic storage containers, floating in dirty murky water on a stack of pillows and blankets. What would I do in that situation? If it happened tomorrow, I wouldn't have enough money to evacuate.

Not enough money to be awarded the same opportunities to keep my family safe. Not enough money to be safe. That's a scary thought. Having the foresight of emergency preparedness does nothing, because I still need the money to buy shit.  

I hope by the time the big earthquake hits, I have enough money in my pocket to keep my family safe. I pray that by the time it hits, I have enough money to keep my community safe. 

Why I Wanna Go To Cuba

BY: P. CURRY


Ah, Cuba. The forbidden fruit of the Caribbean (well, when you’re an American at least), only a few miles from the southernmost point of Florida. You know what they say about taboos. Tell a person they can’t and they wanna. Now, I’ve always been interested in Latin America and the Caribbean in general, but there’s just something about Cuba that I find especially alluring. Is it the music? The architecture? The history? The women? The cigars? The vintage cars? The fashion? The mystery? It’s probably a combination of all of those.

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Read the full piece on his website here.


P. Curry is currently working on his first book with Vital Narrative.

Bankrupt Childhood

BY: Q. VERGARA


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I got embarrassingly nostalgic and low-key emotional seeing a particular photo set on Facebook. We've been hearing the news for weeks now and it hasn't bothered me. The topic has always been a business debate, but it's never been about saying goodbye.

But tonight something happened. I sat down to smoke my bedtime bowl and perused my news feed so my thumbs could get their daily work out - phalange fitness is priority in my life. I see the regular everyday posts about politics and photos of babies and videos of cats and what the fuck ever. Then, I scroll down a little bit further and see the most adorable little girl. She has deep cherry brown hair and brown skin. She's standing in a store aisle surrounded by shelves that reach towards the sky filled with toys. The caption reads something to the effect of, she'll never get a chance to experience Toys 'R' Us like her older brothers, so here's a photo shoot of her inside the toy giant playing around for as long as she wants. +13 More. My finger was a curious.

Wow, Toys 'R' Us is actually closing, I thought.

The next picture was taken from behind as she looked up at a shelf. I could feel my throat get dry. But smoking weed does that to you, right? The third picture she's holding a toy twice the size of her. I felt small again. I could feel the little girls shoes around my feet. I felt a tinge of pain. The fourth picture she's running back to the camera with the gargantuan toy.

My son is nine months old. He's learning how to walk. He is my first child. He'll never experience the rush that was pulling up to Toys 'R' Us. He'll never know what it's like to see shelves filled up to the ceiling with every toy imaginable. He'll never know the critical thinking that went into toy selection. Finally choosing which toy to take home when your mom has a strict one-toy policy was difficult, but taught me to identify my wants and pick most accordingly with what fit my short-term and long-term goals (and Mom's budget). It always came down to Barbies, but which one was always the game changer. The only two places that even came close to Toys 'R' Us were Discovery Zone (Am I showing my age?) and book stores, specifically The Little Professor. Toys 'R' Us had that magic you could take home with you.

Becoming a parent for the first time was wild enough from conception to delivery and then gets even wilder after they're born. Being able to pass on a familiar experience from your childhood that filled you with so much excitement and happiness felt like a rite of passage. It was more than getting a toy. It was knowing a place exists that understands you and your wants.

But in all honesty, even if it stayed around, I doubt I'd take my son there as he grows up.

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Some years ago, I don't even remember how far back, I found myself in my local store in disbelief. It still feels like a lucid nightmare. Not because something terrible or traumatic happened but because of the feeling that stayed with me after I had left. It was like seeing your high school crush for the first time in 20 years and he's almost unrecognizable; not only because of the harsh whiskey stench that he marinates in, but then he farts and starts laughing at the rancid smell like he did all of those years ago and you remember why you stopped liking boys your age. It was like seeing an ex-boyfriend tripping balls off bug spray like you didn't even know that was a thing people were doing these days. You were humiliated for him.

But I digress, the last time I was there the air was thick. This big warehouse felt deserted and abandoned. No music playing. The aisles were ominous and watched you as you walked passed. I could hear squeaks on the linoleum floor an aisle or so over but I never saw another customer. The occasional employee would be spotted but I was to 'weirded' out to approach anyone. The inside of the store made me feel the same way a dead body would if it were propped up on display with its eyes open in a frigid oddly unnatural position. Uncomfortable was an understatement. The paint chipping on the cracked walls were just a small detail in the grand scheme of things.

That lasting image was traumatizing. I didn't want that to happen to my son. I couldn't discern if it was because I remembered how new and sparkling the store had looked in my childhood or if it looked as dilapidated to everyone. I refused to take that risk though. "It would have looked haunting to anyone," I said trying to convince myself. I felt like I would be introducing this beautiful boy to where toys came to die.

Is this what growing up felt like? It felt like time was betraying me. Like I woke up one day and I was old even though I thought I saw youth staring back in the mirror. Time was slipping through my fingers and burying me alive as I gasped for air. Has the world always been this disgusting and evil or are these new deadly trends a sign of the crumbling times? Was this the beginning of the end?

How did those pictures trigger such a powerful reaction? Or was I overthinking all of it? Was it just the weed? Did it even matter?

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Years after my last encounter with the toy giant, my mom got a seasonal job there. When she didn't get hired on, I was mad at God. My mom was perfect. I was mad that not hiring her, made her feel less than she was worth. Recently, learning how many workers lost their jobs and that some even lost their retirements with the company, broke my heart. I understood why God didn't let us depend on that income. The devastation of losing a second house would have been more than we could have handled right now. I guess Chance the Rapper was right: "my God doesn't make mistakes."

When I thought about the chain, I thought back to a better world. A world that didn't have mass shootings, and overwhelming hurt and pain sprinkled with anxiety and a splash of depression. I wished for a world that didn't betray me overtime with new deadly trends. I wished for time not to team up with gravity and make my skin droop - for time not to affect our youth and for moms and dads to stay with you forever.

It became less about Toys 'R' Us and more about how time was speeding up. Maybe the amount of time a year is got shorter because I've lived longer. One month when you've lived through 360 of them seems less significant, and the more time that goes by, perhaps the next month will become even less important. Time was betraying me. Being thirty in 2018 was drastically different then what it was when my parents were my age. The thought of reaching some level of stability and success was fleeting. Who knows if I would get there before my parents are taken from me. It was a constant fear of mine. My dad's health has been declining over the years and seeing him age so much has had an unspoken effect on me. My grandfather died unexpectedly. What would stop death from doing to my son what he did to me? I constantly felt threatened not to get to comfortable.

Aging has been a terrifying inevitability if you're lucky. I may not even get the chance to age. I felt like becoming a mother made me mortal. I remember coming home from the hospital while my son laid in the NICU when he was five days old. My invincibility cloak came off and I haven't been able to find it since. Now when I go out, my only mission is to get back to that smiling face by any means necessary.

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I thought Toys 'R' Us would be here forever. Why would I think any differently? And coming to the realization they're closing their doors for good has been far more difficult for me than I'd care to admit.

My mortality, seeing loved ones age around me, becoming a mother. I'm living life on the other side of the glass now. The side that is no longer experiencing life for the first time, but helping a tiny human experience his. I never thought at 30, I'd finally feel the shift of becoming an adult.

My parents are now grandparents, so I guess this is goodbye then.

Bye. Thanks for the smiles.


Q. Vergara is currently working on her first book with Vital Narrative.

Alfred Finally Makes His Way Out Of The Woods in a Stunning Episode of 'Atlanta'

BY: A.A. REDD


(image:  Vulture )

(image: Vulture)

This post contains spoilers for the "Woods" episode of Atlanta.

"Woods" is another flawless episode of Atlanta. The line between the surreal and the mundane this season seems more blurred. Mostly it's seemed to push every situation from creepy to blatantly horrifying, and this works strongly in its favor considering the theme of this batch of episodes (Robbing Season).

Watching this episode made me realize that one of the aspects of the show that's hardest to watch is how few of its characters get to win. Even Darius - who normally sees at least a small victory when everyone else loses - was cheated out of his goal at the end of his episode because of an atrocity someone forced him to the center of.

This episode felt a little less appalling, but only marginally so. It still felt incredibly heavy, maybe because of how much we as viewers have invested in Alfred's journey so far and how far we've seen him come, and the show reminds us of this: he has a girlfriend who is not only also a famous rapper but who is comfortable with him and seems to (try) to support him in a way that he needs; he buys a pair of expensive shoes in a shop so ritzy that all the white people are too old and bourgeois to recognize the rapper couple; and he hears his song on a major radio station, when he used to have to literally bribe someone to accomplish that.

Al has changed a lot in some ways, but in some ways he's exactly the same, and the show finally shows him in no uncertain terms that this selective growth cannot continue. This episode is one of those that's felt especially like a horror film, and I found myself yelling at the TV when Alfred ignored his harbinger (Sierra) and went on to meet with his series of weapon-weilding villains. You see it coming a mile away, just like in the movies, and just like those characters our Al is still too flawed to meet with his antagonists and win. It's incredibly heartbreaking to see Alfred try and stay consistent & true to his values and watch the world do nothing but punish him for it, but I'm hoping from the way that Alfred handled that photo op at the end that change is coming for him sooner rather than later.


A.A. Redd is a poet and Vital Narrative author. You can support her work here.

Don't Be Sorry for Transwomen, Be Better

BY: T.J. LOVE

 

Black people are the most vilified, antagonized, unduly criticized people walking God’s green Earth. And I love my community, I honestly do. But we are not beyond reproach. There are many topics that are still taboo in the Black community because of deeply entrenched misogyny and the traditional need to “keep up appearances” in the street.

My grandmother used to tell my cousin and I, 'no matter what happens in this house, don’t let it spill outside.' Everyone doesn't need to know your family's business, so that may be fine for keeping certain internal conflicts from being exposed to the outside world, but when it applies to things like mental illness, homosexuality, etc., it’s suppressive and disabling.

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As far as the burgeoning topic of gender identity and sexuality are concerned, we are still very oppressive towards our own because of the deep-seated hypermasculinity that pervades each and every level of our community and it is viscously damaging. AVP spokesperson Sue Yacka told The Daily Beast that of the 17 homicides of trans and gender-nonconforming people in 2017 the project has counted so far, 16 were people of color. Additionally, fifteen had been transgender women and thirteen had been Black transgender women. “This is that we know of,” said Yacka. “The figure may be much higher, due to misgendering and misnaming often by police and local media.” It appears that Black men are still afraid of being caught with trans women because of what they perceive their peers will think about them, conflating trans women as "men in women’s clothing." That perception is incredibly damaging and perpetrates violence against trans women.

We don’t afford trans women the same rights we give cisgender women because we still conflate genitalia for gender. Admittedly, I am unpacking the same damning concepts and misconstructions because of the socialization I’ve been exposed to all my life where masculinity is constantly being subjected to social cues and critiques, whether it be from family, music or relationships, our manhood is always co-opted by socialization.

So why wouldn’t I buck against gender identity? Shouldn't I be upset if I dated someone I thought was a cisgender woman, but was actually a transwoman - ain’t I 'gay' for that? My homies may turn on me, so shouldn't I hide the fact I ever did that? What will everyone think?

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While I don’t excuse that mentality at all, I understand where it comes from. It takes a lot to undo the destructive, primal, chest-beating, psychosomatic reaffirmation of masculinity and what makes a man 'a man.' But rather than address those issues, it is significantly easier for many men to abandon all understanding and tolerance and simply be an asshole. But in being an asshole, the assertion that transfolk aren’t worth learning their identities and respecting them enough to address them as such, as well as not being antagonistic towards them is exactly the fight our community goes through. Yes, our discrimination is different systematically, but the origins are the same: 'I don’t value you as a human being therefore I don’t give a shit about who you are and what you stand for and I will dehumanize your existence at any opportunity that I get.' That is hypocritical. 

We can’t exclaim that “Black lives matter,” but then exclude Black trans folk because they don’t fit in with our heteronormative concepts. We don’t need to demand that transfolk meet our comfortable sensibilities - we need to meet their humanity at the base level. It literally costs you nothing to respect pronouns and identities. You’re not subscribing to some sort of wicked agenda - you’re just being a decent human being.

I currently date a transwoman. She is 'genderfluid' meaning she identifies either as a woman or agender. Currently, her pronouns are “she/her" but a lot of genderfluid people identify as “they/them." She was afraid to come out to me because she felt like it might scare me off, which is the same fear a lot of transfolk probably feel.

They may wonder: is this person going to reject me?

Is this person going to hurt me?

Is this person going to kill me?

An interesting aspect of our relationship is the conversations we have about her identity and how she’s learning a lot about herself every day, which she imparts on me daily. We hit bumps in the road, because I’m still unpacking a lot of things myself. I’m learning how to unlearn all these aspects of toxic masculinity that have been dormant in me all my life. I still deal with little microaggressions that want to come out of my mouth and I have to censor myself a lot because I don’t want to be insensitive or unconsciously cruel. I still find myself on social media, speaking in trans spaces and stepping on toes by centering the conversation on me, but I realize how wrong that is. Sometimes, I find myself misgendering people and apologizing profusely for it, which is usually met with “don’t be sorry, be better." Initially, it hurt my fragile male ego to be told that, but I understand. How many times have we as black people had to defend our humanity to white people and how tiring does it get? It is just as exhausting for a trans person to constantly repeat “I identify as this, my pronouns are these, please learn them.”

After I let her know it was safe to come out to me and that she would never have any issues with me understanding and accepting who she was, I asked her what she deals with mentally, what goes on in the mind of a genderfluid person. Individually, sometimes she feels feminine, but most of the time, she feels like she’s genderless, neither masculine nor feminine. We talk often about trans-affective subjects and I’ve learned that although it’s often exhausting to keep asking researchable things, she enjoys educating me, a luxury a lot of heterosexual cisgender partners are not afforded.

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I feel like it’s strengthened our bond even further. I’ve never dealt with a person quite like her and I feel privileged to know her, let alone be with her, in a world where she is targeted as a woman of color, as well as a member of the LGBT+ community. I feel like my role as an ally has increased and that makes me elated, because I genuinely care about her struggles, as well as the struggles of everyone else who has to deal with the stares and the aggressions and the violence and the condescension on social media and beyond. I stand for all oppressed people and believe in empowering the Black community with knowledge that will foster understanding, acceptance and tolerance.

We should all stand united, shoulder to shoulder, especially in these times where we all have targets firmly painted on our backs.