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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.

Authors Interviewing Authors | D.A. & T.J.

BY: T.J. LOVE

 

TJ: Let's start with your origins. Where are you from originally?

DA: I hail from sunny San Diego. But now I reside in Atlanta.

TJ: Word. How'd you end up on the other side of the country?

DA: Well, my grandfather started a church in California. It grew and became very popular in the city, but then he told us that God told him to move to Georgia to start a church there. Mind you we had zero family there. But we stepped out on faith and God blessed us. Five buildings later, we're doing well and now own a movie theater also.

TJ: That's really dope. Getting y'all Wizard Kelly on. I've been there though - moving across the country on faith. It's definitely harrowing. How has that influenced your work?

DA: Well, I rely on my family a lot and my faith is such a huge part of who I am, in general. I try to stay pretty balanced and center myself in the midst of the craziness. So most of my work normally has that same underlying tone towards having faith.

TJ: I feel that. I feel like you don't see a lot of that in Black writing. How does your faith shape you as a person? Why has it been so important to you?

DA: As a person, it has gotten me through some of the hardest points in my life. It has helped me smile when I wanted to cry. It pushed me forward when I wanted to give up. It covered me when I wanted to go wild. It's just always been a positive force in my life.

TJ: I feel that. So that being said, let me ask you something - a lot of pro-black 'woke' folk are claiming that Christianity is the religion of the oppressor. Where do you think this idea comes from and does this affect you as a Christian at all?

DA: Honestly, I don't concern myself with ideologies and claims from other people. I know what God means to me and what He's personally done for me in my life. That's all I stand on. I'm not living for the approval of anyone else.


I don’t concern myself with ideologies and claims from other people... I’m not living for the approval of anyone else.
— D.A. Alston

TJ: I hear you. I love people with principles. So talk to me about The Unlikely Tale of the Royal Elite Squad. What was the inspiration for that?

DA: Well, it didn't even start off as a book idea. I was sitting at IHOP with my mother. And, because I also draw, we've been talking about creating a coloring book for years. On this particular day, I was like 'Maybe I'll finally do that.' So I'm talking the idea over with her and I was like 'What if I do superheroes that are all women?' 'All with different nationalities?' Then, I was like 'What if I put a storyline to it?' And it just snowballed into the creation that it is now.

TJ: That's really unique - almost sounds like your own personal superhero origin story. Representation is a beautiful thing, especially in a world where the main protagonists have always been beefed-up white dudes. So what's next for D.A. Alston?

DA: Representation is major. For women and people of color. Currently, I'm working on the second installment of The Unlikely Tale of the Royal Elite Squad. I just really started writing it and I'm really excited. I'm just trying to focus and knock this out. I also have a few speaking engagements coming soon. The ultimate goal is to get a table at DragonCon to present my book.


Representation is major.
— D.A. Alston

TJ: Things seem to be coming together for you - a theme of us at VN. What's DragonCon?

DA: That's why I love our team. DragonCon is the Atlanta version of Comic-Con. It's the epitome of a lituation.

TJ: 'Lituation' just made me feel mad old. So it's basically a gathering of my fellow geeks cosplaying as their favorite superheroes? How dope would it be one day to see Royal Elite Squad cosplayers?

DA: That's the goal though! Seeing people dressing up as characters from my book. That's the dream.

TJ: Baby steps, right? First DragonCon, then the world. I'm rooting for you.

DA: Thank you sir. I'm excited.

TJ: Of course. Keep making us proud and keep us updated.


T.J.'s first book of poetry, Speaking In Tongues: Love In Five Languages, can be purchased here. You can purchase The Unlikely Tale of the Royal Elite Squad by D.A. Alston by clicking here.

 
Authors Interviewing Authors | Tony & T.J.

BY: TONY BOWERS

 

The Habitual Wordsmith T.J. Love knows how to create words that evoke real emotion. I consider this to be a superpower. This amazing ability is what the world has always needed, so I was excited to spend time chopping it up with my literary brother. I have been a fan of T.J’s even before his provocative poetry collection (Speaking in Tongues: Love in Five Languages from Vital Narrative Press). From his bombastic Sound Cloud recordings to his impromptu Facebook musings, this brother knows how to move the needle.

 

TB: How long have you been writing and performing poetry?

TJ: I've been writing pretty much all my life but started performing when I was 17.

TB: So you got years in the game. I started writing back when I was 9. My first love was Langston Hughes. He inspired me to write. Who was your first love of poetry?

TJ: Word, Langston was there. Paul Laurence Dunbar, too. If I had to pick a first love though, man... as a kid, probably Maya Angelou. She was always so evocative and had such depth in simple lines. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings was such an intimate read and gave so much insight into her life, it deepened my appreciation for her and her work. As I got older, I definitely dug Ainsley Burrows as my first spoken word love.

 

TB: We need that inspiration to guide us. Who are your current poetry/literary crushes?

TJ: I've really been digging on Lin-Manuel Miranda. He wrote Hamilton and the songs from Moana, but he's so damn lyrical and his wordplay is heads and shoulders beyond anything I've ever seen before. Like I'm obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack, how effortlessly he spins these lyrical tales through hip-hop and musical theatre. It's so dope. Warsan Shire is another one. I'm trying to familiarize myself with her work more. She echoes of that simplistic beauty I found in Maya all those years ago.

TB: That's interesting your connection to Miranda and musicals - are there any non-literary art forms that inspire you? Abstract art does it for me.

TJ: I love abstract art. I've always been a fan of art that doesn't have a set particular message, open interpretation stuff. I usually try to say something in my work, yet I want my readers/listeners to extrapolate from it what they will and it always inspires me to have conversations of their reasoning and rationale. I also dig still life photography. Like I've walked the Brooklyn Bridge a million times, but the perfectly captured image of it will get me emotional because it reminds me of home.

 

TB: Amen. Spoken like a true artist. What's your next challenge?

TJ: Right now I'm in a rotation of hosts for an open mic session out here in Phoenix called Cultiv8n Culture and that's been really dope, something new and exciting. I was just on a radio show out here called 'Off The Cuff' on RadioSupa.com where I spoke about Speaking In Tongues and my upbringing in life and in poetry. I also was just featured on Indiana hip-hop artist Con Rome's mixtape. Individually, my next project is to finish my ninth spoken word album. I have the pieces written, I just have to record them. Outside of that, just visualizing my next book. But that won't be till next year and with the Womens' Initiative coming up in 2019, I've got a little time.

TB: Wow. You got a full plate. That's what's up. Last question.... which do you prefer spoken or written poetry and why?

TJ: Damn, that's a great question. I gotta take both honestly. I know, I suck for that but they are both equally important to me. Some people are audio intensive. Some are visual. One without the other is deprivation. Spoken word has an attraction because delivery and cadence are fifty percent of the entertainment value, while written poetry has to have a certain visual aesthetic, whether in word choice or placement or structure, in order to be universally appealing. There are certain niches for both so they are both powerful in their own rights.

TB: No, that's great. Both is a great answer. Great break down of the why. I appreciate your time. Great and thoughtful answers. Thanks Brother. Keep slanging them words.

TJ: No doubt man thanks for the time. Will do, most def.


You can purchase Tony's first book, On The Nine, by clicking here. You can order Speaking in Tongues: Love in Five Languages by The Habitual Wordsmith TJ Love by clicking here.

T.J. Love Once Tried To Spit For Jay-Z

BY: Q. VERGARA

Hailing from Phoenix, Arizona, T.J. Love brings much more to the table than the Speaking In Tongues: Languages of Love poetry book he released on January 6, 2017. As we spoke, he made it very clear how versatile he is for all things literature. He also touched on a variety of subjects like how his grandma influenced his way of writing through math, his ninth spoken word album, and how he marched himself into Universal Records to meet Jay-Z.

Q: So tell us about your Speaking In Tongues project.

T: It's my very first publication. I've had work published online or in print for an anthology back in high school, but this is my very first standalone collection of poetry published and I'm pretty hype about it honestly. Speaking In Tongues is based on the premise of The Five Love Languages concepts of how people express love and need their love expressed, based on what their personality is. I need 'Quality Time' and 'Physical Touch.' Those are definitely my love languages and why there is a bit of a slant towards Physical Touch.

Q: Oh wow, it sounds like there's more to this collection than meets the eye. So when you wrote the first poem to this collection, were you aware of the direction or did everything kind of just happen and fit together?

T: I wanted there to be an underlying theme and my poetry tends to cover a lot of ground, from political to introspective, and obviously, love. I wanted there to be cohesion, so I decided that I would tie my work together with the love languages because to me it made sense. I was, in a way, exploring my own love languages and how I needed to receive love, and past relationships and stuff like that, in gathering all this work together. So it was definitely pre-planned.

Q: Oh wow, I feel like that's even more brilliant because it shows this meticulous planning while still being able to explore such an unpredictable topic. Now I'm familiar with some of your political poems which are poignantly written. How would you describe your style of writing? And further more, do you find yourself having to drastically change gears going back and forth between topics? Or is it, more or less, all coming from the same place so it's hand in hand? How did you develop that versatility?

T: Thank you for that. It's definitely appreciated. My writing style is something I'd like to think as unique. My grandmother used to say that math only has one finite way of reaching a solution. So I always subconsciously internalized that and made my poetry the complete opposite: let me arrive at this destination in a million ways. In infinite ways. Whatever you take from it is what I was trying to say. I try to write in an abstract way without being oversaturated and talking OVER your head as opposed to at you. Whatever is extrapolated is the goal. I know what I was writing, but the result for you can have a universe of possibilities. I do love wordplay, hence the Wordsmith moniker. I love taking ordinary concepts and twisting them into different meanings and appearances to create a whole new point that you, hopefully, never considered before. I see myself writing from the same place honestly. Whether it's a need to be heard by a lover, an ex, a politician, a social construct, it's a need to be heard. That stems from growing up feeling stifled and subdued, being convinced that I didn't have a voice and using my poetry as my outlet. So I guess that's where the versatility comes from, one place of still feeling the need to be heard, to communicate things that even as an adult, I still feel like I can't do verbally.

Q: That's so incredibly amazing. Is poetry your “go-to” form of writing or just what you've been focused on as of late? Do you write short stories or anything?

T: It's funny, people have asked me that so much, I might have to start writing them. Other than a college flash fiction assignment, I haven't written a short story since I was a kid, but I used to write them all the time. I would make my own Sonic The Hedgehog comic books and then create my own bastardized versions of characters. Instead of Sonic, I had Rapid Rabbit. Instead of Batman, I had Ratman and Acrobatman, instead of Spiderman I had Silverman, who had mercury for blood. [Laughs] I lived life very high above copyright laws as a kid. So poetry is definitely the main writing form for me.

Q: Do you think you can still find your old comic books? I bet they'll bring back some amazing memories and maybe a few chuckles. My old stories always make me laugh because of my naivety or logic from that age. So, you have a whole year of opportunities in front of you. Any projects you already have lined up for 2017?

T: Oh nah, those comics are completely dissipated into the ether. All I have now are my memories, like Rose at the end of Titanic. I wish I did though. Whenever I look at old stuff, it makes me cringe though, so that would be a Netflix-esque emotional rollercoaster. As far as 2017 is concerned, the book released January 6th. I'm working on my ninth spoken word album, or my first one, depending on which angle you're viewing it from. This one will have original production as opposed to the acapella or sampled beats on my previous albums. Once I get hooked up with some of my producer friends, "Analog Man x Digital Age" will finally see the light of day. Also I've been asked to feature on my buddy's mixtape, so keep your ear out for Con Rome. Then it's off to visualize the next book.

Q: Ok wait wait wait, hold on... so what all do you do creatively? You do spoken word? So you have albums with different tracks and what not? Tell me more about this. I feel so blindsided by this new information.

T: Yes ma'am! I have eight spoken word albums, available for free download on my purevolume account. It's super outdated, but they're all there.

Q: Oh wow. Can people expect to see you performing live? How long have you been doing spoken word? How did you get into that?

T: If they live in the Phoenix area, yes. I haven't performed since the summer, but I intend to get back to my open mic regimen in 2017. I've been performing since I was 17, so about 11 years or so now. Definitely a process with that, for sure. I went from a stage fright-ridden, spit my verses too fast because I was nervous to a less stage fright-ridden chill dude who can finesse his way through an intro with a cocksure Brooklyn accent. I started out of pure luck honestly. My former mentor saw that I used to rap and said I should try performing my poetry, which I had no idea was a thing. He read me some of his work and I was floored and immediately became enamored with it.

Q: Wait hold on... You used to rap?

T: [Laughs] Way back in the day.

Q: I refuse to acknowledge your badassery until I get all the facts. How old were you? Why did you stop?

T: I still freestyle from time to time.

Q: You are honestly full of surprises.

T: I don't know when I officially started. It was always something I did for fun as a kid, but I guess the seeds were planted freshman year of high school. My friends and I used to joke on each other in battle rap form. That's where I first explored my love for wordplay. It's how I combated bullying and made it into my own weapon. After my adversaries became allies, we formed a little rap group and shot music videos and stuff. The pinnacle of that was my buddy and I taking our "artists' package" to Universal in Midtown Manhattan where Roc-A-Fella Records was and shopping ourselves for an audience with Jay-Z. It was unannounced and kind of a "piss in the wind, see what sticks" kind of thing. Of course, we got the old "Mr. Carter was out of the country" message from the nice receptionist lady who kindly dashed our teenage dreams. What's funny is that if all the tools, like social media and being able to DIY everything, was available then like it is now, I have no doubt in my mind we could've been the next Rae Sremmurd, but ummmm... better. That was like 2004 though [Laughs].

Q: That's such a great story. I bet when you blow up, you and Jay Z will sit down and you can tell him he played himself.

T: We didn't know how to market and project ourselves. We were literally just like "Yooooo we are dope as fuck, Roc-A-Fella would be stupid not to sign us!"

Q: It's really amazing what marketing can do. 

T: Being able to extend yourself to people's comfort levels is something a lot of poets are unable to accomplish, so you have VERY FEW mainstream spoken word artists. People like Saul Williams, Floetry and Warsan Shire have somehow cracked the code, but even they are pigeonholed into niche markets. Warsan Shire only blew up on a more universal level this year because of her work for Beyonce.

Q: It's funny you mention Floetry because they're my shit. I love those two women.

T: Same. They were my first unconscious introduction to spoken word. And Marsha Ambrosius has parlayed her time in Floetry into a successful solo career. But I think it would be incredible if a more mainstream market for spoken word artists opened up.

Q: Do you hope to launch into a mainstream spoken word career?

T: Honestly, nah. Maybe in my younger days if there was a bigger demand for spoken word art then. But now, there's a lot that goes into it that I'm not completely down to commit myself to, like memorizing my work and performing it a million times at different venues. I'd rather hit up an open mic, ply my craft, get some snaps and claps and sit my self-accomplished ass down.

Q: That's a great way to put it. You're definitely a hidden gem I wish I was put on to sooner.

T: Story of my life [Laughs]. Nah, thank you.

As we wrapped up the interview, it felt as though I was saying goodbye to an old friend. Our entire conversation felt like a reunion of sorts as we reminisced on memories that were brand new to me. You can purchase T.J. Love's first collection of poetry Speaking in Tongues: Love In Five Languages here.


Q. Vergara is a foul-mouthed author and editor that vicariously takes pleasure in the success of her Vital Narrative team. She’s been with Vital Narrative since December 2014 and has enjoyed the opportunity to meet new and upcoming authors while being given the opportunity to take sneak peaks at their work. She claims it to be inspiring. She’s excited to conduct more interviews in the future.

The Official Soundtrack For "Speaking In Tongues: Love In Five Languages"

BY: T.J. LOVE

We asked T.J. Love to curate a Spotify playlist for his first collection of poetry and he selected a super-sized list of songs with 26 songs and almost two hours worth of music featuring Michael Jackson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lenny Kravitz and Musiq Soulchild. 

You can listen to the entire soundtrack below or on Spotify.


Pre-order Speaking In Tongues: Love In Five Languages here.

The Day Before Thanksgiving The Habitual Wordsmith Gives Us An Early Helping Of Food With "A Long Walk"

BY: T.J. LOVE

These feet aren't mine

I didn't craft them
Nor do I pay rent for them
They were borrowed

Used
Blisters
Corns
And all
Irregularly shaped toes
Overgrown nails
Crackling skin
But they carry me
As far as my anxiety will allow

I listen to "Wet Sand"
To drown out the sounds
Of my own self-doubt

I hate wallowing in pity
I'd rather suffocate
Smother myself in the
Smoldering remains
The embers of my fiery passion
Flicker and fizzle out

I found that this took a dark turn
As I look around
And forget where I am
Time to turn back

I'm black in a foreign suburban land
And we all know what that entails

I hesitate
The end of summer air
Dares me to continue
But despite barely existing
I do enjoy having an existence
To whine about
I prefer my chest,
As heavy and nervous as it is,
To remain hole-free

I have enough lead in my blood, officer
I won't be needing anymore
Thank you though

Cars are skating past me now
Little lives in transit
En route
I wonder where they're off to
And I begin to feel offended
Because I wasn't invited

I was never cool enough
Sometimes I was too cool
Too morose
Too intelligent
Too standoffish
To become someone's next regret

I'm at a point in my life
Where my thoughts no longer
Bear repeating

So I'm hoping this breeze
Caught all that
I was singing
Barely audibly
Before I paused my lips

Kids are on the court
With their grandfather
Playing basketball at 10:30
Always thought the park
Closed at 10

White privilege
Wish I was white enough for a game
I immediately see myself
Crossing grandpa while
The spawn of his spawn watch
I would abuse those replaced knees
I would spot him ten
Then give him eleven straight
Maybe push it sixteen
Depends on my cardio
I fell all the way off
And full court is no longer
An option

Nah, son.
Can't do it

Cops have a sixth sense
And this is Minority Report
And I'm a minority
And I pose a minor threat
As a former English Major

So I pass
Grandpa
And his manhood
And his knees
Are spared

The house is no longer
Out of sight
Out of mind

What was once a mirage
Is now a green garage
Whatever I'm feeling
Needs to be dislodged
Tucked away

Appearances must be kept
Deadlines must be met
Fabricated smiles
Muted minds
I must remain professional
And smile
Genetically modified lips
Pursed into processed curves

My headphones are now off

I enter the door
The dogs assault me
My girl questions my sanity
In the shape of
"Feeling better?"
Nah, son.

But it's showtime
My public awaits

"Figment" Proves T.J. Love Has A Way With Words

BY: T.J. LOVE

She is the vaccination
Required reading for
Science-fiction fascination

She is a figment of my imagination

Living in her pigment
Is living proof that we can survive anything
If magic made it
Because she is prestidigitation

She is a breath of fresh living wages
She is an antique library with sticking pages
And I sit encapsulated
In the worlds her words have created

She is the free activation
The free nighttime minutes
I don't have to wait till after 8
No longer afraid of past mistakes
I consulted with God to see
What He had to say
He said "Homie, she's the real deal
No fabrication
When I made her, 
I threw the batch away
Because she was so immaculate
Even I had to step back and be like
'Damn I'm great'"

And after that, we sat our craft beers down
Of course I had to pay
I thanked Him immensely
As He took the cab away

She is the magistrate
Judge
Jury
Executioner
Every night a mattress slain

Don't mind me y'all

But she's my technicolor future
When the past was gray
I had to starve my fears
They start their fast today

She is my skeleton twin
Our melanin wins the master race
I mean, shit was a light jog
What more do I have to say?

The Habitual Wordsmith Waxes Poetic On the Beauty of Black Women With "Pas De Noire"

BY: T.J. LOVE

Beautiful onyx goddess

Who convinced you that your
Bronzed lips weren't hypnotic?
Intoxicating sun-kissed skin
Wasn't melodic?
Symphonic
In its infinite composition
Magnum opus

Hair like magic
No hocus-pocus
Just a crown that most peasants say won't fit

But you are a descendant of
Every ebony thing that comprises
The skies and the sun that rises

You are the embodiment of
A mother's cries through
Labor pains
As she presses out another diamond
To be mined by undeserving eyes
They'll try and tell you that you are wholesale
No real value
Costume jewelry
When truthfully
You are crystallization of civilization
No appraisal can ever convey your true value

Thick thighs and hips incapable of lies
Your shape they emulate
Through engineered attempts
But can never multiply
So they try to euthanize you
With European myths of beauty
When you transcend standards

You ARE the standard

The flag bearer
The mast on the ship
That they need to sink for their own validation
But goddess
You
Are
Unsinkable

Those jeans you can't quite pull up easily
That blouse you pour out of
Every broken bra strap
Every shown curve
Dips in hips
Are overtures
The religion of your thickness
Dipped in holy words
Embrace every nap and snag
That your coarse hair brings
Because they are parables
Fables for the gilded throne
From which your blackness swings

I loved you without knowing you
I bow in your invisible presence
I exalt you
I speak your name in hushed tones
So as not to besmirch it

But none of that matters
If the reflection in the mirror doesn't
Remind you that "she's worth it"
She deserves this pedestal
The gates of heaven all envy you
No mere mortal title
Can espouse how immortal your body is

My chocolate goddess is
As much god as God is
Because He made you in His likeness
So how can you NOT win?

T.J. Love Drops Off "Menthol"

BY: T.J. LOVE

I've grown to detest the stench of menthol
The fumes rising from my chest and neck
Invoke memories of mentholated cigarettes
And medical final resting places
Where the elderly exist in the exiting throes
Of their numbered days—

I smell very sanitary right now.
Even with my nose knowing no surcease
From perpetual blockage
I have reason to believe that it is 5:01
And I am dead.

I've always hated being ill
Even in complimentary street form
Where brothers on the block would hear
A hot sixteen
And fiend for a beat with my lyrics permeating
The track
They'd rub my words on their gums
Attach their tongue to every single syllable
But once the masquerade of mass-consumed
Hip-hop hit its stop
So too did the belief in me

Therefore,
I have reason to believe that it is now 5:04
And I died.
Head cold
Coughing, sneezing
Koffing
Weezing
Nothing showing up on my Pokemon Go radar
Sitting in this lawn chair with no lawn
Pondering the sounds of early morning
Wilderness
And how much I hate crickets—

(Both the insect and the phone company)

Contemplating the quickest distance
Between sleep heaven
And anxiety hell
Wanting to clock out from this cold and
Go grab lunch
Stay way past the designated time punch
Maybe head home
Who needs to be ungainfully employed anyway?

Many thanks to the red underline
Undermining my verbal authority and
Informing me that "ungainfully" isn't actually
A real word
Android apparently doesn't believe in it

And I have reason to believe
That it is now 5:09
And my phone
Is
Dead.

 

The Habitual Wordsmith Addresses Police Brutality With "Test Your Might"

BY: T.J. LOVE

I was shot by a black police officer
I wanted to see what would cross the road first
The tint of his skin
Or the dye in his uniform

I saw past the gilded badge
Scratched the painted surface off and
Saw that the badge was in fact
White

On my dying breath,
I asked him if his parents were proud
He responded that he was raised by Lady Liberty
And Uncle Sam


He said he wanted to make a difference

I said you don't subtract black youths
Take away their lives
Minus their existences
And call the result a difference
What kind of math involves a bloodbath

Who are you to bathe in the skin
Of gods and empresses
Only to represent the new true blue supremacists
Who would rather see you dead with us
Than standing with them?

How many innocent microaggressive jokes did you clench your teeth at around the water cooler when your brothers-in-arms bragged about harming your kind? 

We live in a post-racial society
Where racism goes viral in each and every single post
And cops like you shoot guns to shoot videos and watermark Worldstar on the bottom of the screen

There is no applause for my destruction
But when you killed yourself to become this badge
You were met with
Uproarious praise and swore to love, honor and obey your master
As you traded your black for blue
You bruise brothers
And accuse mothers of not raising their children right
As you play judge jury and executionHER

Name stained with the grand larceny of the life you've stolen
Standard-issue bullets riddle frames and autopsy photos with your imprinted fingerprints tattooed permanent ink on holsters
You who are the prime suspect
Protected by the civil servant veneer
Sterling silver reputation among your peers

Because when Alton Sterling was murdered, you cheered

One day
Your duty will call to the house you grew up in
How the neighborhhood has changed
There's a Starbucks where the corner store used to be
You'll receive a report that said the suspect is black whose hue looks just like you
And is impersonating an officer
And is considered armed and dangerous
And you'll shoot to kill
You won't ask questions
You'll just fire

And let the red tape bury the context
And then you'll be buried next to me
Because you
Were the prime suspect