Stop Invading Our Spaces

I went to a Jazz Festival recently, a very popular one in my state called the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival which is four days long. I went on Friday and despite these two incidents I did have a good time. I am not a fan of public drunkenness and a drunk guy fell on the side of me and dented and eventually broke my chair when I tried to fix the arm. The other incident that occurred I was quite taken aback by.

A white girl was going around dancing and coming up to other Black girls trying to twerk on them saying “hey girlfriend” and trying to be “hip and in with the Black people.” I don’t know if she was drunk of what but when she came up to me and did that I was highly offended.

  1. We are strangers. I have no issue with people of whatever race attending festivals that may have a cultural majority minority but I do take issue with someone thinking they can just come up and dance on anyone without consent. I don’t care that we’re both girls, I don’t want anyone, guy or girl, Black, White or otherwise, coming up to me out of no where and twerking on me. I don’t know if she was drunk or sober but I was definitely annoyed and felt that my space was invaded and disrespected.
  2. Why did she assume I was going to twerk along with her? I hate the stereotype that all Black girls twerk on command. I am not a performer nor am I here for anyone’s entertainment, let alone some drunk White girl’s. I did not appreciate it in the least. Would she have done that at a White party with White people? I don’t know, but for whatever reason she did it I didn’t like it one bit. There are Black people who don’t feel public twerking is appropriate and I am one of those people. I personally think that’s a trashy low-class thing to do and I am not alone in that.
  3. I don’t like when people try to act out of character to try to fit in minority spaces. True, I don’t know this girl. Maybe she authentically likes to twerk on random strangers and that’s just how she operates but personally I don’t think that’s an ok thing to do. Secondly she is a White girl doing this in a predominantly Black space. It’s not a good look. It’s like me going into a predominantly Latino space, screaming “Arriba!” at the top of my lungs and trying to salsa dance on people. I’m not saying I cannot participate in cultural dances, but there’s a difference between acting a fool with strangers vs. dancing with friends you already know or asking to dance with someone who may or may not want to dance.

It has just happened too often that I see some White attendees at festivals act this way. They take this opportunity to try to show how “stereotypically Black” they are by showing of dance moves that are in reality quite mediocre and invading people’s private spaces by acting as if they are close family member or best buddies. Even Black people don’t usually just run up on one another like that when we’re strangers. Even if it were Black person to Black person I would look at anyone funny trying to dance up on me that I don’t know talking about c’mon girlfriend! Ewe! No! Get away from me!

If I come off as stuck up or a stick in the mud I don’t care because everyone’s space and consent should be respected. I’m not a touchy feely person in the first place. I like to have a certain amount of space between me and people I don’t know. If I had a white bestie and I actually did do those kinds of dances then maybe I could and would dance that way with her because I would know her and know that she respected me.

So all I’m saying is PSA please don’t come to cultural festivals, get inebriated or soberly act a fool around minorities simply because you’re in their space and it’s a party doesn’t mean there is suddenly a pass to act like “you’re cool and hip and in with the Blacks and Latinos.” I just don’t like that attitude at all. Respect the space. There are boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. I’m not saying we can’t be friends. I’m not saying that cultural festivals cannot be attended or enjoyed by White people but what I am saying is don’t assume that everyone there is going to dance and don’t come up in someone’s space, touch on them and goad them to dance on command. I am not here for anyone’s exotic entertainment.

End Rant.

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Reflections of a CaMethodist Teen

“You’re lookin’ mighty fine this morning Ms.Freeman.” I turned around because I didn’t want to look this man in the eye. I started to serve the next hungry person. The man behind me got louder. “I said, you’re lookin’ MIGHTY FINE this mornin’ Ms.Freeman. Why don’t you come over here and hand me another biscuit.” I didn’t want to look at him or hand him anything more. “We only give out one biscuit per person.” I mumbled reluctantly under my breath. “What was that sweetheart?” he called out to me. “Just one biscuit per person mista’, sorry, it’s the kitchen’s rules.” He huffed under his breath. He could tell I was trying to ignore him. “Well, if ya’ outta buscuits, you got any muffins back there, or betta’ yet, some nice, warm, chocolate cookies?” I had it. I couldn’t take this man’s disrespect any more. I turned around and I looked him square in the eyes.

“Listen here Mista’, say one more thing to me and I can have you removed.” He was appalled at my boldness. “Oh, I thought you was a sweet Christian gal, why you yellin’ at me so?” He and his buddies were smiling wickedly. I knew they were trying to get a rise out of me. “It’s too early in the morning for this mess. Get your act together and behave yourselves or I will have you removed from this place permanently.” I huffed off and I heard them snicker and whistle as I walked away. Here I was trying to do a good thing and serve these men, many of them, hungry and homeless. All they could see me for were my “warm biscuits and cookies.” It wasn’t every man that came in, only a few. There were the ones who were vocal and the ones who just creepily leered in silence. Both were uncomfortable.

My own father, the pastor was no help. He was so focused on his various ministries that he never seemed to have the time to consider my feelings about the situation. Sure, I was all about giving back and helping the community, but the characters that came through those doors every morning weren’t always the friendliest or most respectful. I get it. They are coming directly off the streets, some from jail, some addicted, some of them still presently high, I get it. Still, I would have appreciated some proper decorum considering the fact that I am serving them when I don’t have to. I get up extra early every morning, before the crack of dawn, to serve these people. Sometimes it’s with reluctance, because I got plenty of Christian friends who don’t even bother with the mundane routine of church going.

However, being the daughter of a father in clergy, it would have been impossible for me to refuse to attend. After all, they fed me and clothed me. Going to church and serving the community without a fuss was the least I could do right? After all, the breakfast ministry was only one event that was troublesome for me. There were so many others that I did thoroughly enjoy, such as choir practice. Some people would lethargically trudge through the hymns, but I very much enjoyed singing the songs of my ancestors. I was in love with gospel music, so much so that I would watch all the Sunday Best Gospel singing contests religiously.

It was time for bible study and I knew that I would have to see that idiot again. One boy in particular in our bible study was just full of himself. He had the most foolish tattoos and once grabbed my phone and put his photo as my front wallpaper screen. What the hell? Who does that? He reminded me of the Disney character Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. I found him to be quite irritating, arrogant and mediocre. I also knew however that none of the cute boys in bible study of which there were very few, would ever dare, come on to me. Being the pastor’s daughter had its perks and its downsides. The perks were that our family always got served first and we got the best food first too. The downsides as a pastor’s daughter, I would never be approached by any boys in the church because they feared the wrath of my father one step from the wrath of God.

I might as well have been a nun in my teen years because I never was allowed to date and no one dared to date me. I was asked out once at sixteen but it was by a boy I didn’t want and at the time I wanted to say yes only to gain the attention of the boy I did want who didn’t want me. I know it sounds too cruel and the typical drama of a teenage romance. However, romance was not something I had much of during those times, but rather, much heartbreak, unrequited love, infatuation and crippling loneliness. I pondered joining the convent several times in my life because quite honestly, I didn’t believe that anyone would ever have the guts to ask me out or pursue me. I was too holy, too nice, too much of a goody two shoes, too smart, too strong, too talented and too intimidating.

At first glance I seemed like a sheep. If anyone provoked me however they would soon realize that I was anything but. I was quite an aggressive girl in elementary school. I harassed the boys often and played pranks on them. They would retaliate but it would never stop me. One time I stole the one ball we had from them during recess. Every time I would do these things I would get a hot blooded rush of adrenaline at my victories. It was my mission to defeat and one up the boys in my class every chance I got. I was very vocal about my opinions and I truly believed that boys were dumber than girls. I could out run them, I could out smart them, I could out do them in almost anything except sports simply because I didn’t like sports. If I had liked sports and trained, I would have beat them at that too.

Subsequently many of them saw me as a threat. I was that one girl that would try it. One day I remember going down a recess slide and the boys trapping me at the top and the bottom. I was stuck in the middle and they grabbed my ankles and dragged me into the mulch while pushing me down. They all banded together against me. It only further encouraged me. Once I wrote a death threat to one of my enemies. At the time I didn’t realize how serious what I did was. Of course I wasn’t going to actually kill one of my classmates, but because of unstable assassins the teacher had to take it seriously. Nothing too terrible happened, but I got a stern talking to.

I would poke boys in the back with mechanical pencils, I would put tape inside of their jackets in the closet and I would be a hellish tormentor of sorts. Why did I do those things? I did it because I could and because I wanted to. I liked upsetting them and I was extremely thirsty for attention, even if it was the bad kind. I had a reputation that protected me. People usually pinned me as a goody two shoes and because of that I knew that anything bad I did wouldn’t be believed without concrete evidence. I always had an alibi. My best friend would even assist me in my crimes. Her mother worked as the secretary in the office so if I was ever sent to the principal, I knew she would bail me out. I was only sent once, and since I saw her first, she told me sternly to seize and desist and sent me on my way.

I was bad. I liked being bad. Being bad was fun. Being bad was especially fun when almost everyone thought that you were good. When I altar served during mass, there was this boy that I had the biggest crush on but it was a strange emotion because at the same time he was my rival and my enemy. I hated and loved him. We called each other names. We teased one another terribly. I wanted to tell him that I liked him so bad but I didn’t want him to know, tell everyone and be humiliated. I showed him through torment. Perhaps it wasn’t the best method. I honestly didn’t know how to deal with such strong emotions at a young age. From the beginning of birth I had always been full of passion, Passionate rage, passionate empathy, passionate yearning and passionate wrath.

That passion has been the bane of my existence my entire life. So many nights I have prayed to God to take my heart away. I wished for numbness, for indifference, for coldness, for apathy. I wished for these things because I was the type of child to see a commercial on television for the starving children in Africa and instantly begin to bawl my eyes out because just knowing how much people suffered from hunger abroad broke my heart. What broke my heart even more was knowing there was nothing that I could do to help them as a little Catholic city school girl.

I emulated Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and Ghandi. To me they were who I aspired to be. I aspired to be a peace maker, end all war, suffering and pain and make it my life mission to heal all wounds and unite all peoples. I know that seems pretty ambitious for an elementary school girl but it was truly a dream that I hoped for and believed in wholeheartedly. At the same time, I wanted to kick butts on the recess yard, male butts. Interestingly enough, even though I had female enemies, I didn’t want to physically attack them, I wanted to be them. I wanted to have the popularity and attention they had. It seemed that because I was tomboy who watched wrestling with my dad and did martial arts twice a week; that the boys weren’t looking for a girl like that to date. Go figure.

I found other girls to be quite dull in their interests and activities. I grew up in a strict household that barred me from using makeup, playing with Barbies or watching channels like MTV and BET. My parents chose what music we could listen to which mostly comprised of seventies cds. I knew all about Funk and barely realized what era this music came from and that the present world was two decades ahead of what we were exposed to as children. When I say we, I must include the fact that I did indeed have a younger sister, one for whom I dearly loved but quarreled with frequently. We never seemed to see eye to eye until the time came that we both wanted something from mom and dad and we would band together to get it.

We built many forts and tents together. She was my play mate and my friend. We explored the world around us. We tried to dig our way to China once in the back gravel parking space my mother parked in. We had to stop because her tire kept sinking into the pothole we had created. Whoops! It took my father two whole weeks to teach me how to bike ride and I could not and would not accept that a bike with nothing holding up the right or left side could stand up and not fall. He kept trying to explain that in motion it would stand but logically and visually I couldn’t accept the concept. I was only allowed to ride to the end of the alley and no further. We were very protected and for the most part were only at school, home or church for most of our child and teenage hood. Some people may say that kind of sheltering is harmful, but on the other side of that, I have seen children and teenagers permanently damaged by parents who insisted on being cool mom and cool dad and trying to be their best friends or live a vicarious youth through them.

In truth I wasn’t missing anything by not dating then. None of the boys in school are serious then about any girl. I wasn’t missing anything by not wearing makeup that I didn’t need or have the money for. I had no one I needed to impress and even though I would sneak peeks at the magazines in the grocery store, the ones I wasn’t allowed to read, I found that I could never relate to the stories inside them. There would be stories about kids skipping school, cutting themselves, smoking or drinking for the first time, going farther in bed with a boy, being grounded, running away from home or shoplifting. None of these experiences I could relate to at all with which I do not regret but it did make me feel abnormal. I sat around hearing numerous conversations from peers that I knew I could not participate in because I had no idea what they were talking about.

Since I wasn’t allowed to read any magazines except Highlights or Christian Family friendly magazines, I was left out of the loop when it came to pop culture and celebrities. My first cd was NSYNC Pop and I received my first cd player on my eleventh birthday when I had my first sleepover. We watched a Sailor Moon film and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I never did have a sweet sixteen because honestly I saw no importance in turning sixteen. The only thing that changed at that age was that I was now old enough to wear high heels. Prior to that my feet were always firmly on the ground, unless I wore the black church buckle shoes and that was all the heel I got. To this day I still love Sailor Moon and I watch anime and am even part of the cosplay community. I plan to continue all these hobbies until I am in the grave.

Church is my second home, I make sure to tell everyone that because it’s true. At one time, I was attending church three times a week. I have participated in so many ministries, community service and volunteer opportunities I have lost count of all I have done. It feels good to help others, but if I’m being honest, burn out does set in, church people can pressure lay people into doing too much, especially if they do it well and I don’t always feel up to sacrificing my time for the service of others. Even now I struggle with spiritual maturity as most people do and I find it to be an almost impossible task because we are called to go beyond our flesh as human beings. How on Earth can I be more than what I am, more than what I was created to be?