“STOP HITTING YOURSELF”

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ON MY RIDE TO FERGUSON AND BLAMING BLACK PEOPLE FOR ANTI-BLACK VIOLENCE
Written By: Jamila Lyiscott
Photo By: Tsige Tafesse

I can remember the bored lifeless face that I would give to peers who found pleasure in playing the “stop hitting yourself” game with me as a child. As the “culprit” used my own hand to playfully (and annoyingly) force me to hit myself in the face while repeating the silly statement, I would note that the only thing they could possibly want or expect from their provocation was a reaction. I would note that the game itself was a feature of immaturity. And in later years, in considering this as a metaphor for America’s consistent blaming of Black people for anti-Black violence, I note that had the “culprit” moving my hand been invisible to onlookers, my psychological wellness would be put into question as I sat there seemingly hitting myself in the face.

My spirit is still not the same since I returned to Brooklyn from the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Freedom Ride to Ferguson, MO on Labor Day weekend of 2014. Alongside 600 Black people from across the nation, we delved into the emotionally charged movement ready to stand and work for tangible change. We raised our hands and voices in unified chants of “Don’t Shoot”…We made promises to all who would listen to the timbre of righteous rage in our voices, that if there was no justice, there would be no peace. The hugs, laughs, and smiles between us were just as urgent, just as pressing, just as powerful as the fists, the tears, and the collective vigor that stirred in our hearts as we chanted “Black. Lives. Matter!” at the top of our lungs from beginning to end.

But since then for me, even more distressing than having seen the exact spot where the dead body of Mike brown laid unattended to like an animal in the street, are the re-emerging assertions that…

1. Black people ought to be less outraged about the crimes against our communities because of the existence of crimes within our communities.

2. Black people are in some way(s) to blame for the continued legal disposal of unarmed Black people throughout America.

These articulations conjure up the childhood game in my mind…they give me deep pause as I witness the invisible hand of white privilege playing the “stop hitting yourself” game with Black communities like Ferguson all throughout the country, convincing Americans that a culture of self-defeat, poverty, ghettoness, hypersexuality, violence, illiteracy and let’s not forget the worst crime—sagging pants—is to blame for the way that Black lives are viewed and valued in America.

As our crew from NYC, NJ, and Philly boarded the bus in Harlem for our 18-21 hour ride into Ferguson, we knew that the trip would be one small component in a web of efforts to fight the hatred against our communities and the brokenness within our communities. We also knew that well before the guns or tanks or tear gas ever touched ground in Ferguson, it was crucial for America, and for the people using these weapons to buy into a historical narrative that assures us that Black lives require excessive force in order to be controlled for the greater good of this nation. So the world is watching the war zone that is every day Black life in wonder and confusion…why won’t we stop hitting ourselves?!

What we fail to see is that in order to massage our collective consciousness into accepting the death of Mike Brown as legitimate, a completely unrelated video of him allegedly robbing a store was released to assure us that he brought his execution upon himself—“Stop hitting yourself Mike!”

What we fail to see is that, in order to lull us to sleep to the reality that our justice system supported the murder of an unarmed teenage boy, Trayvon Martin, by a random armed citizen, we were flooded with a barrage of unrelated negative information about the victim’s character to assure us that he somehow brought his execution upon himself—“Stop hitting yourself Trayvon!”

Let me be clear: The argument that Black people are to blame for anti-Black violence is in perfect alignment with the logic and legislation that upheld the heinous design of slavery in America. In order for world powers to maintain slavery and post-slavery racist legislation, it was crucial for the people to believe that the uncivilized nature of Africans required excessive force, policing, and restraint.

There was no shortage of animalistic images of fugitive slaves with the word “DANGER” written boldly across the page to drive this sentiment home. The enslaved were a danger to others and to themselves, so the average citizen was convinced that Blacks were responsible for their fate and thus, the abuse and execution of Black bodies were upheld by law.—“Stop hitting yourself Black people!”

Aside from the fact that “there’s no such thing as Black-on-Black crime”, the idea that we ought to be less outraged about the crimes against our communities because there are crimes within our communities forgets that the violence and crimes in our communities are ILLEGAL while the string of police brutality and killings in our communities are deemed legal by the policies and practices that continue to uphold them.

We are not in support of violence in any capacity. We are outraged, disgusted, sick, and tired of the legalized violence and hate that continues to saturate the Black experience in America because BLACK LIVES MATTER.

To suggest that Black people are responsible for the myriad of issues that emerged from our dispersion, enslavement, and colonization is to blind ourselves to the hand of white privilege that has been playing this silly, but deadly game quite effectively for some centuries now. And this is not to say that we do not have some responsibility in maintaining and perpetuating some of our own ills, but it is high time for us to stop falling for silly tricks and adopt more critical perspectives than what is fed to us by the same hand that is playing the “stop hitting yourself” game with us in the first place.

Jamila Lyiscott is currently a doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University where her work focuses on the education of the African Diaspora. She serves as a community educator and adjunct professor and is currently a Graduate Research Fellow at the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME). Jamila was recently featured on Ted.com where her video was viewed over 2 million times.

Follow her on Twitter: @blackrelevance

The Perfect Festival Look

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I decided to send summer off with the perfect festival look. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably already seen this outfit. I wore it to Brass Fess to see THE Machel Montano at Brooklyn Museum during Labor Day Weekend. For those of you who may not know, Machel Montano is a world famous soca artist. He’s also arguably one of the greatest performers to ever live. Hailing from Trinidad and Tobago Machel has hits for each year I’ve been alive…26 years! His music is a staple in my childhood and it continues to be a great part of my life. Thank you Machel for a lifetime of great music.

Let’s talk about my BODAY for a little bit. Honestly, my body has been through a lot over the last two years. A year ago, I was probably the smallest I’d been in a long time. I wish I could say it was because of healthy eating and exercise, but it wasn’t. I was STRESSED and it showed. Happy to say that phase has passed and I’m on to a bit more of a chunky phase. The truth is I’m in a good place and I don’t mind that I’ve gained a few pounds. I’ve decided to love my body at any size. Some days I’ll want to cover up, but I also know that it’s quite fine to show a little skin if I want to.

These shorts, cropped top, fringed kimono, and sandal boots are just flawless together. I think everything is from Forever21 including the beaded bag. I love that bag, I bought it from their website years ago. It just adds instant glam to any outfit.

Cheers to your next summer and more festivals.

Stylishly yours,
Nia

Fall Florals

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It’s a approximately a week before the official start of fall, I’m too excited. Florals will be in full bloom. Fall florals are usually a bit on the darker side but, these pants are perfect for transitioning. They’re light enough to remind you of summer but long enough to provide enough coverage from the cooler air.

I bought them at Evette Boutique (a Brooklyn known discount clothing store) on Court St for $19.99
The peplum top I got at the Fashion to Figure (@ftf on IG) sample sale for $5. It came with a removable necklace. Shoes from Tempo for $25. Bag gifted. I really love all these pieces together, when I put them together I literally squealed…lol.

Will you indulge in fall florals? Let us know.

xoxo,
Linda

I hate Shorts

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I not a fan of wearing shorts. I’m sure many of you can relate. If your thighs rub you know where I’m coming from. They ride up and create somewhat of a baby bump – not cute.

These shorts were no different but they are so cute I could not pass them up. I grabbed them from Jewel’s Vintage Closet at her ‘End of ‘Summer clearance sale. This outfit was only $15 (Shorts- $10; Shirt- $5.)

The amazing price forced me to wear it the first time, although I knew it would not be the most comfortable experience. This time I decided to try something different- I wore my Spanx under my shorts. I convinced myself that it would prevent the shorts from riding up…I was so wrong. It actually made it worse! It wound up creating even more friction. I’ll admit, it was a bit uncomfortable but I was cute…lol!

Beyond that, being paired with this light denim button down made it comfortable and chic.

I wouldn’t suggest anyone do what I did but if you give it a try and let me know how it works for you! Do you guys hate shorts as much as we do?

xoxo,
Linda

Boho Chic

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I don’t usually go this bohemian but, I loved this look. It was definitely outside the box but, still me. I was going through my closet yesterday when I stumbled upon these pants I purchased from Forever21 earlier this summer. My immediate thought was I can’t let summer end without wearing these pants so I grabbed them and, began feverishly looking for something to pair them with.

I tried matching tops but nothing seem to work, so I grabbed this printed cropped top also from Forever21 and it just worked. I was going to end it there until I noticed something staring at me in the mirror…my ass. LAWDT. Don’t get me wrong I’m in a very happy space. I’ve been eating whatever I want and I haven’t stepped foot in the gym since early July…and it shows. For this reason I threw on this printed kimono and it also worked. On that note…I’ll be back in the gym this week and try to watch what I eat.

This look is NOT for everybody. My own mother’s words were, “I know you like dressing out there, but this is just WAY out there and I don’t like it.” OK…thanks mom. I proceeded to explain to her that I don’t adore all of her style choices. The shoes she was wearing at the time were definitely questionable. But…who am I?

That’s the great thing about style, it’s YOURS. Do as YOU please.

Stylishly Yours,
Nia