Ready…Set…Take Action!

My world view got more focused this summer. Not in the sense that I know more specifics about politics or how to end world hunger. But it’s like I can see the world more clearly as I have grown to understand that not everything is black and white.

I learned to the importance of being critical instead of just skeptical of the systems. I believe that skepticism is rooted in not believing in a system’s ability to succeed or to benefit you. However, skepticism offers no constructive feedback to a mode of change because it spirals into apathy as we stop caring about and supporting systems that don’t recognize us. It’s easy to not care about and to not believe in systems because it prevents us from having to deal with disappointment when we can’t make the change and progress we are fighting so hard for.

On the other hand, I believe the notion of being critical is rooted in acknowledging the strides a system is making, while also questioning the narrow avenues of progress certain groups have to endure. Criticism requires one to be engage in building a better community, a better world, and ultimately, a better system. This summer, I learned that in order to be critical, I can’t sit around being angry at the world and complaining about systems that I continue to implicitly reinforce. I have to use my voice and platforms to uplift grassroots movements and communities. I have to use my mind to imagine a better way of life without being restrained by the limitations of this current one.

As I return home, I feel like a bouncing ball of potential. I feel like I’m filled to the brim with possibilities. I feel like I have overdosed on positivity and gotten as high as Cloud Ten. And there I sat wondering how I was going to get the rest of the world up there with me. Then, I got overwhelmed by the magnitude of problems that I couldn’t just blow away. Eventually, I calmed down and realized that I can still make significant strides in my personal life as well as my campus community. With that said, I plan to build programming and initiatives to help low income, first generation students which I will call the First Gen Collation. And, in my personal life, I plan use the new ideals of restorative justice and mediation to figure out what justice looks like for me without blindly relying the problematic systems of punitive justice.

Conquering My Own “Contradictions” With Conviction and Connections to Seminar

Centuries ago, I was considered property. In 2018, I am still objectified for the agendas and desires of others, but at least I am generally considered a person. This observation is unfortunate, yet still a frustrating reality.

I have dedicated much of my blogs, journals, and reflections to discussing my frustrations with my position in the world around me. As the summer has progressed, I realized that my anger is more than just a surface level reaction to everyday grievances and mistreatment because it has become embodied within the essence of who I am and how I move about the world. My anger is an ongoing discontent with having to conform and comply to the assumptions, expectations, and standards of persons outside of my lived experiences because of my identity labels; it is also an emotional frustration with people universalizing their unique perspectives and experiences to an entire population, i.e. I regret having an abortion and will never have one again.Therefore, no woman should be able to have an abortion because all women will regret it.







My anger manifests when people’s ideas about who I should be restrict who I can be and how I get to be. In my most frustrating experiences, people have refused to accept who I want to be, and blamed me for their traumatic transgressions against me. By doing so, people have diminished the true weight I carry as black queer woman in this society. Many people I have encountered would rather get upset about having to adjust their behaviors and actions to recognize and respect my humanity than get upset about the injustice that myself and other marginalized minorities experience daily; this pattern of behavior often prompts “movements” like #NotAllMen and #AllLivesMatter that take valuable space in conversation about Women’s Rights and police brutality.

When privileged people take up valuable space in conversations regarding social justice, women of color experience multiple avenues of marginalization due intersectional oppressions. In an article we read last week for seminar called “Mapping the Margins”, Kimberlé Crenshaw coins the term intersectionality to describe how race, gender, class and other identities interact to shape multiple dimensions of a person’s experience. Women of color often reflect on feelings of craziness before becoming consciousness of sexual politics and patriarchal rule because they are expected to identify themselves as either “woman’  or a “person of color”. Crenshaw argues that positioning of race against gender leaves women of color at an intersection where their stories aren’t heard nor are the women represented. Crenshaw analyzes that sexual oppression is just pervasive as class and race in lives of women of color. Her notable example was the history of rape of black women by white men for political repression; in this example, one can how see intersections of race, gender, and class shape the trauma and experiences of Black women. I agree with Crenshaw that feelings of craziness stem from women not having a voice or the freedom to exercise it in society.

By voice I mean the ability to use one’s innate potential and developed talents to determine, define, and declare things about themselves and how they see the world around them. Crenshaw emphasizes how women of color are obscured and potentially jeopardized by  political strategies of movements that require them to split their political energies between at least two subordinate groups with often conflicting political agendas, i.e. Black rights vs. Women’s Rights, so what little voice they do have is diminished.

The Combahee River Collective Manifesto (another reading from seminar last week) offers a different but related outlook on identity politics. They argue that identity politics is a political dedication to fighting to end your own oppression instead of someone else’s. Women of the Collective reject pedestals that tokenize them, queenhood where their person’s are fetishized under the guise of power, and walking ten paces behind to support someone else’s movement. They simply wish to be treated as levelly human.

In contrast to the Crenshaw’s and the Collective’ notion of identity, Wendy Brown (our final reading from seminar) argues that labels generated through oppression do very little to help groups achieve liberation beyond recognition. Brown is critical of the way people have to identify with pain and suffering to gain recognition from the government. I’m not sure I agree with this, as I believe that identifying with one’s pain is a method to gain empathy in the fight for justice.

Furthermore, returning to the idea of intersectionality, I argue that there are important social consequences to combining certain labels. For example, I am bisexual and Christian, so people commonly question how I reconcile my spirituality with my sexuality. I stress that these fundamental parts of my identity do not exist in opposition, but share space in my world. I have chosen to live in a world in which God loves all his children as I love him, all sins are equal in weight, and one should love thy neighbors rather than living in one where gay is “sin”, God hates me as I should hate my ‘lifestyle’, and I have to hide who I am. I chosen to love who I am in the face of God. To build a better intimate world for myself, I molded my Christianity into a private conversation between me and God instead of complying to the politics of the Church whereas my Bisexuality has transformed into a public conversation between me and the world.

In short, I defined my labels instead of letting them define me.


I identify as a black, bisexual, feminist, [Christian] woman in S.T.E.M.

Ain’t I a [Angry] Black Woman?


On June 14th, 2018, I attended the Human Rights Conference for Pride month which was a collaboration between NYC Pride and the SUNY (State University of New York) public school system. It was an enriching gathering of  “activists, artists, educators, journalslists, policymakers, students, and others engaged in LGBTQIA+ human rights around the world.” While I was there, I attended a seminar called “Being Brave Enough to Share Your Story”, presented by Joshunda Sanders, about the importance of elevating the personal-as-political narratives of queer women of color in the LGBTQIA+ Rights movement. Her presentation resonated with me in such a powerful way.

During her seminar, Sanders said that in our capitalistic society “Black women at rest (mentally or emotionally) aren’t considered to be doing enough to advance capitalism.” I was drawn back to a reading titled “Capitalism and Gay Identity” by John D’Emilio. D’Emilio analyzes how in capitalistic society there is essentially a fine line between autonomy and exploitation because people only have control and ownership over their labor. However, people must work to survive in our society, so selling labor becomes a forced circumstance where one is subjected to a diverse capacities of manipulation rather than a free choice. I believe that this line is especially fine for women of color and other marginalized identities due to compounded systems of oppressions. And, personally, I feel like every step I take to find myself, love, or career is a dance between being a token for someone else’s advancement and taking an opportunity to advance myself.

When I look back in history, I see that my “liberation” as a black woman has been an unintended and sometimes unwanted consequences of other social movements. For example, during the civil rights movement, the 14th amendment granted black men  the status and rights of citizenship,which include the right to vote. Similarly, during women’s rights movement, the 19th amendment intended to give white women the right to vote. I don’t believe people intended for those amendments to eventually give black women and other women of color the right to vote. I feel like when it came to the fights for rights, my rights a black woman–not just as a black person or as a woman–were not even a part of the conversations even though women of color contributed a lot of emotional, mental, and physical labor to advancing those social movements. As a results, my freedom and my discrimination is not visible in these movements because people are oblivious to the double burdens that come with being black and a woman as articulated in Sojourner Truth’s speech, Ain’t I a Woman?.

Furthermore, Sanders also said that “Black people don’t have time for writer’s block because there is too much to say.” She advised everyone to share without holding back for fear of backlash. I feel like I have been talking louder and louder to get people to listen, but I didn’t realized that they had me on “mute”. I didn’t realize they saw my scars as sacrifices and my burdens as blemishes to their movements. But, I am tired being expected to play the supporting role in the “White man’s, Black Man’s, White Woman’s, Privileged Person’s” movement. I have to come to learn that my revolution will not be funded, my revolution will not supported, my revolution will not be televised. I need to stop playing the role that world has wrote me. I need to stop waiting for recognition and support to raise my voice. I need to stand on my soapbox and my own platforms to raise it myself. I must continue to be brave enough to tell my story.

Don’t Erase, Make Space.

When I was growing up, I just wanted to be liked and to be loved. But, don’t we all? I just wanted somebody–anybody–to make me feel special and appreciated. I was looking for someone to complete me because I always felt I was missing something. It was happiness. I was accepting the bare minimum of respect and appreciation from some many friends, family members, and romantic partners with the slightest hope that I could be happy. Unfortunately, like Warsan Shire said, you cannot make homes out of people. But, I was like a happy fiend, going to each and every source just to get a little dose of elation. While I was chasing happiness, I was overdosing on toxicity through continuous cycles of disrespect, manipulation, and exploitation from people I thought would make me happy. All they did was take advantage of me or my situation. Eventually, I learned that my happiness must come from within to truly have a lasting, warming impact on my soul and my life.

Now, I’m at point where I understand that I deserve more than the bare minimum of respect and appreciation. I understand that I am worthy of a safe space. But I have yet to master the art of self advocacy. I find it so much easier to fight for others than myself. It is so easy for me to fall into sunken place of fake smiles and hidden anger to avoid conflict. I feel like people avoid conflict because it takes much more emotional and intellectual labor to get to a solution. But avoiding conflict does very little to preserve the illusion of peace because it just creates uneasy tensions. Yet, I’m still in the mindset of accepting a bare minimum of peace to keep happy environment at home, in the dorm, or in other spaces. By doing so, I sacrifice my own peace of mind and my connection in those spaces. To avoid conflict, I  often disconnect from and reduce myself within the space.

However, one of my goals for this summer is to be present to deeply engage with the people and potential around me. Because of that goal, I am challenging myself to make space for me. It is taking time to learn that I belong in the spaces I occupy.  Navigating NYC has been difficult, but I can not retreat within myself if I want to get anywhere. I am here for a summer of service, but I cannot forget about self care. I must make space for emotional,mental, and nutritional health. I started with nutritional health. I had to branch out on my own to find a grocery store that was right for me. Finding my grocery store was the first of many small steps to connect and find my place in the city and this program. I am here for a summer of service, which cannot be provided unless I am present. And to be present, I must take the risks of putting myself out there. I must take chances and opportunities to engage with the people around me. I have to stop erasing myself to prevent conflict. My next step is unpacking my physical luggage into my room and emotional baggage into a journal, so I can find comfort in the space I occupy here.


Rahteesha 2.1

I’m fresh out of freshmen year. And splashing my way into a thrilling summer in New York. I have been getting really nervous about being in such a big city ever since I accepted to my program. I come from a really small town with the bare minimum of sidewalks and the subways served sandwiches. I’m also nervous about managing me on my own money, meals, and transportation without my Dad, my food points, or Duke Vans on standby. After DukeEngage Academy, I’m less afraid of heading out into the great wide somewhere because I got to connect with my summer cohort, and I got reintroduced to some vital resources and strategies for budgeting and meal planning. With my fears subdued, I’m ready for a summer of service, self-care, and self-improvement through five goals.

My five goals for self-improvement are:

To be open to new ideas, perspectives, and opportunities.

To be consistent to establish routines for my daily and weekly obligations and needs.

To be authentic to build strong relationships with the ladies in my cohort.

To be creative to write more spoken word poems and blogs.

To be present to deeply engage with the people and potential around me.

By accomplishing and embracing these personal goals this summer, I will broaden my perspectives  in ways that will nourish even more growth in the fall and in my future.