October 27, 2015

I've returned alive & well & mourning the end of a beautiful trip that was much too short. (Post-vacation depression exists, right?) I did it alone, but often had the company of wonderful people throughout the week--by way of friends, Airbnb, and group tours. I'd travel solo again in a heartbeat & as I quickly approach age 26 (tomorrow!) I am seriously contemplating when I may be able to do it again--hopefully sooner than later.

Atop the Campanile di Giotto during one of the most peaceful hours I've ever experienced; instagram.com/noeliasophia

October 16, 2015

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Psalm 91
The Bible

Never would've expected to post an excerpt from THE BIBLE but here we are. Before I left to study abroad in Italy in 2006, my mom handed me a piece of paper where she handwrote Psalm 91 in English for me to keep. I still keep it in my wallet, and I think of it now as I prepare to leave (in 20mins!) back to Italy for a week-long solo trip. I don't consider myself to be a religious person at all, at times questioning whether God exists, much to my mother's dismay, but I've found over the years that I've become more spiritual, at least. And I think I owe much of that to my mom and the circumstances we've found ourselves in. Her unwavering faith has given me much of mine, and that faith layered with the knowledge that she is the person who loves me most in this world, makes this piece of paper--and the message she imparted by giving it to me--very special. Also, I can't deny the fear I feel now that I'm so close to the trip--the first I've ever truly taken by myself. But I've known for a while I've wanted to do this. And maybe because I feel like I have a little bit to prove to myself, & because I've been wanting to return to Italy for so long: it all feels right. & these words offer me much comfort and strength before I go.

October 14, 2015

And you are here now, and you must live--and there is so much out there to live for, not just in someone else's country, but in your own home.

Between the World and Me
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

It feels pointless to blog any more excerpts, even though I could keep going. This book is remarkable & needs to be read in its entirety. 

I won't be forgetting about 'Prince Jones' anytime soon. In the last part of the book, Ta-Nehisi details his meeting with Prince Jones' mother, Mable Jones, and the entire section is gut-wrenching. 
"The thing to understand about Prince Jones is that he exhibited the whole of his given name. He was handsome. He was tall and brown, built thin and powerful like a wide receiver. He was the son of a prominent doctor. He was born-again, a state I did not share but respected. He was kind. Generosity radiated off him, and he seemed to have a facility with everyone and everything. This can never be true, but there are people who pull the illusion off without effort, and Prince was one of them. I can only say what I saw, what I felt. There are people whom we do not fully know, and yet they live in a warm place within us, and when they are plundered, when they lose their bodies and the dark energy disperses, that place becomes a wound."
(p. 64)

"She had never known her father, which put her in the company of the greater number of everyone I'd known. I felt then that these men--these "fathers"--were the greatest of cowards. But I also felt that the galaxy was playing with loaded dice, which ensured an excess of cowards in our ranks. The girl from Chicago understood this too, and she understood something more--that all are not equally robbed of their bodies, that the bodies of women are set out for pillage in ways I could never truly know. And she was the kind of black girl who'd been told as a child that she had better be smart because her looks wouldn't save her, and then told as a young woman that she was really pretty for a dark-skinned girl. And so there was, all about her, a knowledge of cosmic injustices, the same knowledge I'd glimpsed all those years ago watching my father reach for his belt, watching the suburban dispatches in my living room, watching the golden-haired boys with their toy trucks and football cards, and dimly perceiving the great barrier between the world and me." 
(p. 65)

"But you cannot arrange your life around them and the small chance of the Dreamers coming into consciousness. Our moment is too brief. Our bodies are too precious. And you are here now, and you must live--and there is so much out there to live for, not just in someone else's country, but in your own home. The warmth of dark energies that drew me to The Mecca, that drew out Prince Jones, the warmth of our particular world, is beautiful, no matter how brief and breakable."
(pp. 146-7)

October 13, 2015

But her beauty and stillness broke the balance in me.

Between the World and Me
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

"And still and all I knew that we were  something, that we were a tribe--on one hand, invented, and on the other, no less real. The reality was out there on the Yard, on the first warm day of spring when it seemed that every sector, borough, affiliation, county, and corner of the broad diaspora had sent a delegate to the great world party. I remember those days like an OutKast song, painted in lust and joy. A baldhead in shades and a tank top stands across from Blackburn, the student center, with a long boa draping his muscular shoulders. A conscious woman, in stonewash with her dreads pulled back, is giving him the side-eye and laughing. I am standing outside the library debating the Republican takeover of Congress or the place of Wu-Tang Clan in the canon. A dude in a TribeVibe T-shirt walks up, gives a pound, and we talk about the black bacchanals--Freaknik, Daytona, Virginia Beach--and we wonder if this is the year we make the trip. It isn't. Because we have all we need out on the Yard. We are dazed here because we still remember the hot cities in which we were born, where the first days of spring were laced with fear. And now, here at The Mecca, we are without fear, we are the dark spectrum on the parade.
These were my first days of adulthood, of living alone, of cooking for myself, of going and coming as I pleased, of my own room, of the chance of returning there, perhaps, with one of those beautiful women who were now everywhere around me. In my second year at Howard, I fell hard for a lovely girl from California who was then in the habit of floating over the campus in a long skirt and head wrap. I remember her large brown eyes, her broad mouth and cool voice. I would see her out on the Yard on those spring days, yell her name and then throw up my hands as though signaling a touchdown--but wider--like the "W in "What up?" That was how we did it then. And what were the laws out there? I did not yet understand the import of my own questions. What I remember is my ignorance. I remember watching her eat with her hands and feeling wholly uncivilized with my fork. I remember wondering why she wore so many scarves. I remember her going to India for spring break and returning with a bindi on her head and photos of her smiling Indian cousins. I told her, "Nigga you black" because that's all I had back then. But her beauty and stillness broke the balance in me. In my small apartment, she kissed me, and the ground opened up, swallowed me, buried me right there in that moment. How many awful poems did I write thinking of her? I know now what she was to me--the first glimpse of a space-bridge, a wormhole, a galactic portal off this bound and blind planet. She had seen other worlds, and she held the lineage of other worlds, spectacularly, in the vessel of her black body."
(pp. 56-58)

October 11, 2015

Perhaps I too might live free.

Between the World and Me
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

I finished this book last Saturday and immediately thought, "I have to read this again." I finished it for the second time today. I want everyone I know to read it in the hopes we can share the same experience -- that of my eyes and mind opening a little wider, enough to stretch my capacity for empathy, passion, understanding, and anger, more than was possible before. (And I am already very much capable of all of the above.) I witness the brutalities and injustices in this world & country -- especially towards black and Latino women & men -- via the news and continually feel angry but helpless. I came out of this reading experience feeling like there was so much more I should know but didn't. I felt similarly after completing The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Ta-Nehisi's words, his intention, his message--directed to his son but meant for everyone--are so beautiful and necessary. It almost feels unjust to reblog so much of what he's written, so I'll try to limit the excerpts:

"I remember being amazed that death could so easily rise from the nothing of a boyish afternoon, billow up like fog." 
(p. 20)

"I loved Malcolm because Malcolm never lied, unlike the schools and their facade of morality, unlike the streets and their bravado, unlike the world of dreamers. I loved him because he made it plain, never mystical or esoteric, because his science was not rooted in the actions of spooks and mystery gods but in the work of the physical world. Malcolm was the first political pragmatist I knew, the first honest man I'd ever heard. He was unconcerned with making the people who believed they were white comfortable in their belief. If he was angry, he said so. If he hated, he hated because it was human for the enslaved to hate the enslaver, natural as Prometheus hating the birds. He would not turn the other cheek for you. He would not be a better man for you. He would not be your morality. Malcolm spoke like a man who was free, like a black man above the laws that proscribed our imagination. I identified with him. I knew that he had chafed against the schools, that he had almost been doomed by the streets. But even more I knew that he had found himself while studying in prison, and that when he emerged from the jails, he returned wielding some old power that made him speak as though his body were his own. "If you're black, you were born in jail," Malcolm said. And I felt the truth of this in the blocks I had to avoid, in the times of day when I must not be caught walking home from school, in my lack of control over my body. Perhaps I too might live free. Perhaps I too might wield the same old power that animated the ancestors, that lived in Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Nanny, Cudjoe, Malcolm X, and speak--no act--as though my body were my own."
(pp. 36-7)

October 04, 2015

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
By Issa Rae

I spent all of the cold yesterday afternoon in bed catching up on season 1 of Issa Rae's hilarious web series Awkward Black Girl. And I finished her memoir last week. Very good - can't wait to finish the series & follow her new one for HBO!