“Autostraddle described Ari Fitz’s new YouTube androgynous style chronicle, TOMBOYISH, as ‘a hybrid documentary and fashion show.’ […] Sartorially smart folks know that the key to head-turning swag is knowing how to blend “off limit” colors, patterns, and textures to create a personal style that is both unique and affirms one’s identity.” -DapperQ.com
This week my buddy Ari decided she wanted to feature me and my closet on the series. This came on the heels of my trip to DC for the first ever LGBT Innovation Summit the White House. I hope you enjoy it!
Each portrait is labeled with an “identity,” expressed in the the subject’s own terms.
I met Dr. Angelou at a private family gathering many years ago. It was a white party, for 4th of July.
Family gathering or not, she had been my idol. The person to whom I looked to when I first learned to express myself… through word on a page. She was black and unapologetic. And honest and open.
My mother knew this and took me over to say hello. I, however, have always been a shy person (don’t let the introverted extrovert fool you) and was understandably shy as a pre-teen going up to meet HER.
My mom would not have it any other way.
Dr. Angelou was tall like I was (and am), but was sitting when I met her. I remember distinctly being miffed at her telling me to “stand up straight” and not to hunch. Keeping it #allthewayreal, I wasn’t just miffed. I was mad about it.
But I was also a queer (tomboy) pre-teen … and angsty … and in drag. I was in a white skirt and crop top and probably visibly uncomfortable, though trying to look the part, and fit in. In context, I was just in my head about a whole lot.
Admittedly, at the time I’d probably hoped for some lofty poetic piece of advice. She wasn’t about that “placate your feelings” life.
It made more sense later.
Drag or not, she was telling me to own it. My height, whatever it is I was looking like (I was cute) - despite the other circumstances.
I still adjust my back when I feel myself sliding into a slouch. People sometimes comment on my posture. If they only knew it was she who played such a pivotal role in me standing upright today… and proudly AND tall.
Rest in Power dear Dr. #MayaAngelou. Thank you for all that you are.
You FAIL if you remain a startup.
"In his book Who Owns the Future, computer scientist and author Jaron Lanier talks about entities called ‟siren servers”—computer systems that collect data and then take advantage of information asymmetry to monetize that data for their own personal profit. Lanier argues that the primary business model of the current technological revolution is the creation siren servers for every possible informational niche."
When talking about my mobile app startup HeLLaRides, I explain that I’m focusing on the East Bay (rather than San Francisco) for a few strategic reasons.
Yes… I know, transit is frustrating in the Bay Area overall. But I’m biased, I live in Oakland. And if I’m really honest about it, I’m also frustrated. So many of the best apps that start here in the SF Bay area tend to cater their Alpha or Beta launches to San Francisco ONLY. This needs to change.
Case and Point: Enter Unwind.me, yet another cool application that I just learned of… that is ONLY available if you have an SF zip code, at least for now. WOMP…
My Beef? I’m a techie. I love products, especially digital ones that solve hairy human problems that we face everyday. And I know that there are solvable challenges in the East Bay (or any other place where working class and poor people live). And those folks need tech to solve their problems too.
So… for the time being I will WUUUUSAAA through it and work on “be[ing] the change,” if you will.
But for my SF based friends, who need to work out a knot or two — take advantage of your golden Zip Code — and check out Unwind Me. If you sign up here » you’ll get $20 toward your first massage. And the massage comes to you!
It has such a nice groove to it. And @hindizahrapost (Hindi Zahra) smashed it.
By Krys Freeman,
I learned to sag my jeans just right by watching the men around me. I studied the way they rocked tilted fitted caps over crisp tapers and deep waves, eyeing my father most intently. He was so precise about matching his kicks with neatly creased jeans and “throwback” jerseys. By fifteen I’d nearly stolen his style and his swagger.
It never occurred to me that having such insider knowledge was enough to get me killed, until I read about the brutal murder of Sakia Gunn.
Five years ago, Sakia, a 15-year old girl who “dressed like a boy,” was attacked while waiting for a Newark, New Jersey bus after a night out with friends. The girls were approached by two men in a car who made uninvited sexual advances. When the girls declined, stating that they were lesbians, 30-year old Richard McCullough fatally stabbed Sakia while shouting homophobic slurs. She bled out at the intersection of Broad and Market during the wee hours of Mother’s Day morning.
This May is the fifth anniversary of the murder of Sakia Gunn. She would have just celebrated her 20th birthday.
Too few of us know Sakia’s name, but we all know girls like her — young women like me who are often mistaken for teenage boys because we have the courage to dress the way we feel inside. We are your daughters, sisters and nieces. We are also young black lesbians who, in having the courage to live authentically, make our communities uncomfortable.
Sadly, the lives of many black youth have been taken because of intolerance and that very courage. Their names are also unknown. There’s Ronnie Antonio Paris, dead at 3 from brain injuries inflicted by his dad who boxed with him so he wouldn’t become gay. And openly gay Rashawn Brazell, 19, who’s dismembered body parts were found in garbage bags strewn throughout Brooklyn. Simmie Williams, 17. Nireah Johnson, 17. Stephanie Thomas, 18. Ukea Davis,19. And many more. Each and every one of them belonged to someone.
My family doesn’t understand why I’m more comfortable in button-ups instead of blouses or why I’d choose a pair of “dunks” over stilettos. Nor are they comfortable with my attraction to women, but I belong to them too. In his bigoted sexual aggression, McCullough never stopped to think that Sakia belonged to someone. She was someone’s family member and, more importantly, someone’s child.
We may conclude that McCullough was motivated by his own homophobia. But we must also acknowledge that he was implicitly encouraged by our community’s typical stance on issues of sexuality. Homophobic beliefs are somehow justified by people like my family and yours, who claim their gay relatives selectively, and stand silent in the company of bigoted conversation that endangers the very gay children they love.
My mother has always bragged to her friends about my academic achievements. My dad loved to tease his friends about how his daughter could “school” their sons on the basketball court. But there were no words of support when it became clear that I was a lesbian.
It was okay that I wasn’t crazy about boys, if it meant I was focused on school. And my perceived masculinity was tolerable, if it made me a solid competitor on the court. The catch: I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about my attraction to girls.
The silence was crippling.
My family was tight-lipped about same-sex attraction, but what they did say was damaging. As a result, I learned to be resilient in the presence of loved ones who thought being gay was a “white thing” or that I was going through a phase. I still shuffle with unease whenever relatives say things like “I wouldn’t mind so much if they didn’t put it in our faces.” I know that “they” alludes to those “effeminate” men and “mannish” lesbians walking in gay pride parades. I also know that the “they” my family despises includes some part of me.
Almost every time a person is murdered for being gay, they are met with hateful language I’ve heard my family use - these same family members would be devastated if my life were taken. They advise me to be careful, suggesting that I spare myself by dressing more like a girl. They don’t see the harm in refusing to affirm me as I am.
Their position contributes to the climate that allowed for the senseless murder of Sakia and so many others. Their silence endangers me also.
To my family and to my community, I need you to love and claim all of me, even when others speak out against me. You can help prevent another murder like Sakia’s. Your voice and your courage can make our communities safer for young people like Sakia, young people like me.
A native New Yorker now based in Los Angeles, Krys Freeman is a Media Fellow for Communities of African Descent at the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. She holds a B.A. in Urban & Environmental Policy with a minor in Critical Theory & Social Justice from Occidental College.
For More on how to help keep Sakia’s legacy alive go to http://www.sakiagunnfilmproject.com