Missing Black Girls

When I first read about the tragedy of Kenneka Jenkins, like a lot of folks, I got caught up in the sensationalism of the story. Did her friends set her up? Who spiked her drink? Was it her voice calling out for help, during a sexual assault?

Unfortunately, the confusion that has accompanied this story has been exacerbated by the incompetence of the hotel, the indifference of police officials, and social media conspiracies.

Once you shift through all the chaos surrounding this young woman’s death, one of the bigger issues that emerges is how mainstream society deals with missing Black girls.

The stories of young black girls and women who are missing don’t get the Elizabeth Smart or Natalee Holloway treatment. We don’t see primetime television specials on them. Their images don’t become permanent fixtures on Twitter. Their names don’t get hashtags or trending topics. Nationwide manhunts or search parties don’t ensue. Crying black parents, pleading for their children to be found, don’t interrupt our sitcoms as breaking news. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/king-no-accident-hear-missing-black-girls-article-1.3005609

I became aware of Jenkins through the Facebook group, Black and Missing, But Not Forgotten. The story may have received more press coverage in Chicago (where the incident took place), but I haven’t noticed much mainstream media attention to this case.

I can only imagine the hoopla if a white girl, was found dead in a freezer in a fairly upscale hotel.

I was angered to read when Jenkins’s mother, after reaching out to police officials to report her daughter missing, had the police called on HER by the hotel. Jenkins’s mother decided to take measures in her own hands with family. They went around the hotel, knocking on doors, asking guests if they’d seen her daughter. A reasonable action, most parents would take.

Yet, the hotel had authorities remove her for “disturbing the peace.” It’s hard to believe they would’ve done the same thing to a white mother, frantically searching for her lost daughter.

The police, once involved, were no better. They initially refused to take seriously the disappearance of Jenkins. Perhaps, if they would’ve reacted faster the young woman would still be alive. Once they did find her in the freezer, they pretty much wrote it off as a “drunk girl” who foolishly locked herself in a freezer.

There was reluctance on their part to do any real investigative work. It was only the outrage of the Black community, that they were forced to do something. Once again, I don’t think this nonchalant attitude would’ve been used towards a white family. The criticism of the police,  has been reduced to “keystone cops” antics. No, they just didn’t give a damn.

As of 2014, 64,000 Black women were missing in the United States–March For Black Women

The calling of the police on Jenkins’s mother, shows that even when Black folks are the victims in need of help, we are still treated like threats. It’s reminiscent of the Seattle police shooting of Charleena Lyles, who called police for help. Lyles believed someone was breaking into her house. The police killed her instead.

A few days ago, the hotel released videos of the last hours of Jenkins’s life. It was alarming to watch the young woman desperately trying to figure out where she was. It was hard not to get upset, knowing the end result. If I was traumatized by the videos, I’m sure Jenkins’s mother is devastated. Her daughter went to a party (as most 19 year olds do), and will never return home. For her to be treated like a burden by the hotel and police, is a disgrace.

The mysterious circumstances of Jenkins’s death, will hopefully be resolved. Her family deserves proper closure.

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March For Black Women

On Saturday, September 30, 2017 the Black Women’s Blueprint is hosting a March for Black Women in Washington, DC.

The purpose of the event is to highlight issues affecting Black women across the country.

  • State violence against Black women
  • The criminalization of Black women
  • Rape culture/Sexualized violence
  • Murders of trans Black women
  • Addressing missing Black girls and women

and much more.

A few weeks ago, I sent in a form to their main website hoping to get more information about the event. The organizers are encouraging sister marches in other cities. I didn’t realize I was signing up on the spot to lead a march! 🙂

But it’s fine. I love planning events, especially something that seeks to empower Black girls/women. Also, I try to be a woman of my word and when the organizers contacted me via email, I decided to push forward.

Support the work of these amazing women in DC or if you know about a similar gathering in your city. If you are a Black woman in Portland, come on out to my event. I’ve decided to host a townhall, since it’s too last-minute for an actual march. We are in precarious times, and Black women have to make sure we don’t continue to be marginalized/silenced.

If you can, contribute to the main March For Black Women’s fundraiser and/or my event. I believe strongly in paying Black women for their time and labor.

march march

 

 

The White Privilege of Employment

A week or so ago, I saw this posted on the internet:

master's

When I saw it, I had a good chuckle. I thought “ain’t that the truth, Ruth!” Then I grew somber.  It really was the truth.  The job market is ridiculous right now, and because there is still a significant amount of people desperate for work, employers literally have the pick of the litter.

It’s even worse for Black folks, as the saying goes we are the last hired, first fired.

Under Trump, unemployment rate rises for Black workers

Since, I’ve gotten a graduate degree,  I’ve been hustling to find steady work. There was a period where it was hard to find work due to being pregnant, but I was still open to answering phones, something. What I’ve come to realize, despite the rhetoric leveled at Black folks to get an education, stay out of trouble, etc. Is that, we still have to show up to interviews Black (if you get that far, sometimes they discard your application on name alone).

It’s always been amusing to me that white folks (and some non-Black folks) who are anti Affirmative Action, accuse the practice of favoring Black folks. Studies show it is actually white women have benefited the most from Affirmative Action.

Affirmative Action Has Helped White Women More Than Anyone

I see this truth every time I have an interview.  The majority of times I’m sitting in front of a white woman manager/supervisor.  In my city, Portland, usually this means they are a self-described hipster/feminist/alternative/progressive who are for the empowerment of all women.  Ironically,  these white “progressive” women can be the worst. In that, they tend to take a paternalistic approach towards women of color…particularly Black women. Because Black women have historically been used as the antithesis of white womanhood (to justify our abuse/rape/exploitation during slavery),  the majority do not know how to engage with Black women as equals.

I have sat in interviews with white women who had smirks on their faces, looks of amusement, or surprise that I was friendly/open. The stereotype is that Black women are rude/combative/joyless people.  I have a friend who is a full-figured, dark-skinned woman. She once shared that her employer told her she couldn’t believe how sweet she was. My friend stated, “I guess because I’m a fat Black woman they expected me to be mean.”

Continue reading “The White Privilege of Employment”

White Supremacy

The white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and the subsequent murder of a young activist, made me reflect back on the disturbing killings of two Portland men. I’m sure folks remember the stabbings of two good Samaritans by a white supremacist in Portland, this past May. The victims (and a third who survived the attack) were defending two African-American girls riding our city’s light rail system.

Shockingly enough, I was on the train when the incident occurred. Not the main train where the stabbings took place, but the second car. Amazingly, I didn’t get on the main car, because there was a crowd waiting to board and I didn’t feel like struggling with my son’s stroller. I decided to get on the second car. I wasn’t on train a couple of minutes, when a young woman and her brother came running to our car….screaming.

Another lady on the train asked them what was wrong, and they yelled out that people were getting stabbed. The little boy (probably around 9 or 10) looked terrified, then he started to cry. “Please don’t let him get me.” He said.

Of course, people from my train rushed off to see what was going on. A young Black woman ran back onto the car with fear in her eyes. “Make it stop.” She said softly.  It wasn’t long before authorities arrived and everyone was ushered off the platform. I will never forget seeing a woman with blood all over her hands, talking to police looking dazed. Later, it would turn out, she was one of the people who tried to comfort the victims.

The killing of these two men and the death of the Charlottesville’s victim, highlight a perverse irony of the current white supremacist movement, they seem to be killing more white people as of late.

White supremacists are so filled with hate, rage, and violence they are even willing to go so far as to kill their own.  It’s rather bizarre.

These horrifying incidents (and they won’t be going away anytime soon), is exactly why Black folks/people of color have called on our nation time after time after time,  to address the evilness of racism in America.

Until our society gets real on how this country was built, we will always be back at square one. What I’ve noticed is that many white supremacists tend to have a warped sense of history, they truly think this is “white man’s land.” It is not. It is Native/Indigenous land, that became an economic powerhouse due to the exploitation of Black bodies via slave labor. It’s a country that then thrived off of immigrants/immigration. The foundation of the United States, starts with people of color.

Perhaps, I am wrong. These white supremacist do know the truth of our history, and maybe that’s why they are afraid. Native/Black/other folks of color blood runs deep in American soil. And despite all of their attempts, we keep surviving. White people are already a minority in many parts of the country.

Instead of embracing it as an opportunity to make amends for the sins of their fathers, and build bridges/coalitions with people of color, some white folks are panicking. It is how we got Trump. It is how we get tragedies like what happened in Charlottesville. A young woman died over foolishness. Rest in peace Heather D. Heyer.

There were also several people injured in the protests this weekend.

Support them if you can:

Marcus Martin 

Alexis Morris & Noelle Morris 

Dre Harris 

 

 

The Housing Industrial Complex Pt. 3

The reason why I decided to write this series, is not because I like telling my business, but rather my housing situation has truly been surprising to me. I thought I did everything the “right” way. I got the degrees, I didn’t have a child until I was in my 40’s, and I have stayed out of trouble. I have applied for job after job after job, yet I struggle.

The fact that I experienced homelessness for over six months was frightening to me. Even in my 20’s, when I was the brokest of the broke, I still found a way to keep a roof over my head. It’s not as easy these days, with increasing rents, gentrification, and unsympathetic landlords excluding working poor communities.

GENTRIFICATION SPOTLIGHT: How Portland Is Pushing Out Its Black Residents

In my current city, Portland, Oregon the displacement of communities of color, especially Black folks has been alarming. I relocated to Portland spring of this year, after my ill-fated attempt to make home in the Deep South. When my roommate and I were given an eviction notice due to an accident, I had had enough. I tried to get acclimated to my new southern town,  it was hard. Like most kids who were raised in the north, but shipped to the south during the summer months to spend time with family, it was different living there full-time as an adult.

The “red stateness” of it all made it unbearable. The limited access to social services, poor public transportation, and proud “rebels” was a bit much. I had to witness a pro-confederate flag rally once a month, when I rode the bus to work. The rally was held right next to the civil war museum downtown. I’m sure you can guess which side the museum wished won.

I decided to return to Portland, after our landlord was committed to kicking my roommate and I out. I packed up my son and our belongs and the little money I had saved and got out of dodge. But as the saying goes, “jumped from the frying pan into the fire.”

SEE ME Housing Support https://www.gofundme.com/woczinefoundersupport

Continue reading “The Housing Industrial Complex Pt. 3”

Racism Fatigue

Last weekend, I attended a zine festival. I was excited, because I knew I was going to see friends of color I hadn’t been able to connect with since moving back to my city.  While folks seemed okay for the most part, I noticed a weariness with a lot of them. The DIY (Do It Yourself) event showcased the creative writings/art/comics of those who self-publish. The history of the festival has traditionally been white hipsters. This year, organizers worked hard to center the voices/work of writers/artists/activists of color. The overall theme was how marginalized communities are resisting the resurgence of hateful racism happening in America.

I actually was invited as one of the guest speakers, and hosted a workshop specifically for Black women/non-binary black folks. My workshop was called “The 94%: Dusting Off Our Shoulders,” after a piece I wrote for a women of color zine collective I contribute to. The workshop was a continuation to the homage I wrote to Black women. Black women were a powerful force during last year’s election. It wasn’t so much because Black women overwhelming voted for a potential woman for president (while white women let Clinton down), but rather the bigger issue of Black women’s activism, leadership, and organizing skills that were ignored by mainstream media, including “progressives.” Instead the media focused on the woes of the white working class, especially white women.

We had a heartfelt conversation about this at the workshop. The thing I that stood out to me the most was the fact Black women are exhausted.  We are giving are all to better our communities/society as a whole, and keep getting degraded/rendered invisible. Later, I thought about this discussion, as well as remembering the tired faces of some of my friends of color, I encountered that weekend.

The Message (Grandmaster Flash)

Racism fatigue is hurting our health. I mean, at this point, what more can Black/Brown folks do? We’ve written scholarly books. We’ve put on insightful plays. We’ve read soul-stirring poetry. We’ve made numerous truth-telling movies. Hell, Black/Brown folks even created a whole new genre of music, rap, to discuss these issues (early rap music focused on the lives of poor Black/Latino youth).

Yet, despite it all, studies show that most white folks still tend to hold stereotypical views of Black folks/folks of color. It doesn’t matter if we’ve gotten the degrees, have traditional relationships,  or “act right…” most white folks still tend to see Black folks as less than. It’s strange. One would think it was Black folks who held white folks in slavery for hundreds of years, and continually denied them their basic human rights.

It’s not that we’ve given up hope. It’s just that we are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” to quote Fannie Lou Hamer. We keep giving and giving, and all we’re getting back in return is a kick in the ribs.

 

The Criminalization of Black Women

The shooting of Justine Diamond by a Black officer, has riled up white folks. Diamond’s death has caused white folks to bemoan the overuse of force on the most “innocent of victims.”  Besides the curiosity of this outrage, has been the amusing scolding of the Black community to come together as “humans” and fight against police brutality.  Huh? These are the same people who cursed Black Lives Matter activism. They tend to see Black victims as having “done something wrong” to warrant their killing. Even when the victim is a child. The lack of support from many Black folks has confused white folks, but what did they expect? You can’t treat a group of folks sh*t, then turn around and expect them to be a shoulder to cry on.

While it’s a terrible thing that happened to Diamond, in the end she will get justice. Already the police chief has resigned, and the black officer that shot her is getting vilified (no Blue Lives Matter love for him!) The same can not be said for Black victims. I’m not going to get too emotionally involved in this particular case.

What did pique my interest, this past week, were two articles I came across on the ‘net. Both deal with the criminalization of Black women, particularly poor Black women. In “A Warrant to Search Your Vagina” Andrea J. Ritchie discussed the abuse of Black women by police officers. Ritchie  has written extensively about the sanctioned violence by the criminal justice system against Black women. Ritchie detailed how Black women are often beaten, raped, and killed by police. It is the combination of race and gender, that makes Black women particularly vulnerable to police harassment.

Currently, there has been a call of compassion and health crisis by politicians for opioid/meth users (usually 90% white), this olive branch has not been extended to Black women. Black women are still being brutally attacked and exploited in “the war on drugs.” Black women bodies are routinely degraded.  It is reminiscent of the days of slavery, when Black women were made to strip naked and sexually assaulted.

“In 2015 Charneshia Corley was pulled out of her car at a gas station after a police officer claimed he smelled marijuana during a traffic stop. Two female officers then forced her legs apart and probed her vagina in full view of passers-by.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/21/opinion/sunday/black-women-police-brutality.html

Ritchie noted that police CAN issue a warrant to search one’s vagina. It may seem absurd, but it is true. This is alarming and sets the stage for abuse of power, as illustrated in the cases discussed in the article. Generally, the women did NOT have drugs on them, but will forever be humiliated by this invasive body search.

Continue reading “The Criminalization of Black Women”