First Week Back

It’s been over a week since my last post, and I’ve just completed my first week at SUNY Purchase. It’s already been challenging, but in a much needed way. I have been asked to think even more critically, and to not be afraid to speak my thoughts. I am really looking forward to the discourse in my classes, and to being busy, for a change.

I have tried to check out the college’s student-run publications with not much luck, but it was the first week after all. It can take a while for things to pick up. One of my classes has provided me with two things that I could possibly publish here. One of them is that Janet Reitman, who wrote the sensational Rolling Stone article Jahar’s World on Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, will be having a conversation with one of my professors, Chris Raymond, who is also a freelance multimedia journalist, writer and editor with experience in today’s popular men’s magazines.

So, being a new student trying to find her footing at a very different college will take a lot of getting used to, but I am happy to be busy again. At least for now. I am still having my views on Touré’s book still simmer. I want to have the time to choose the right words.

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Fast Company’s (Possibly Innocent) Mistake

Early Tuesday morning, August 26, Ann Charles’ piece on what she believed to be 25 of the Smartest Women on Twitter was published. Surely enough, it was shared on social media, especially Twitter, where it was received not so well amongst those of color.

As many of the people I happen to follow pointed out, there is not one Black woman on the list, let alone not enough diversity for a brand/magazine that prides itself on “inspiring readers to think beyond traditional boundaries & create the future of business” (via Fast Company’s Twitter bio).

This led to many intelligent, practical,  and opinionated netizens to come up with their own lists, quite a few them holding more than 25 members. Not to say that the women on Charles’ list are not great role models or anything, but it did strike a cord in those who are in minority groups in America today (why we are still considered minorities is something I’ll never understand, but oh well). The lists had women of all backgrounds and different fields having done things that have contributed to the public’s understanding of the world we live in today, be it technology, activism, journalism, writing, and so on.

It was nice to see that Fast Company took notice and tried to make amends by publishing More on Those Smartest Women on Twitter, where they said, “We squandered the opportunity to do the same with our initial Twitter list” when trying to re-affirm what they state in their Twitter bio. They even asked for more feedback on who else readers would add to the list, with a “please”.

This got me thinking. While some may have just looked over the  original list and paid attention to the accomplishments of mentioned women, many felt some type of way when they did not see someone they could easily identify with. Charles even wrote that making the list “[included] seeking out the most influential and profound leaders across a diverse set of industries and interests. As the Twitter ecosystem continues to grow, it’s an ongoing challenge to find new, unique, and interesting sources of information with fresh points of view.”

Yes, there are a lot of people on Twitter today – about 554,750,000 active users as of early last month. So this was daunting task for Charles, and a matter of her own opinion. I’m not saying that this was a bad list; just that certain demographics did not feel represented well, if at all.

With more women chipping away at the countless glass ceilings in this man’s world, it was refreshing to see both women and men make up their own minds as to who else is contributing to attempting to make this world more equal for all. We all are different, yet we all have a sense of wanting to belong somewhere, especially with people we can see ourselves in.

Hopefully this will bring more attention to movers and shakers of color.

On Being Scared, Even Just a Little Bit.

I have not written in a while, yes. And I should be writing more. It’s not that I don’t have ideas. I have been reading, and I should be reading more, too.

I have had Touré’s Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? in my hands whenever the reading bug struck, and it has been quite lovely. It’s thought-provoking, even funny at times. It is also been eye-opening, for I am learning quite a lot from this man, to what he has to say, how he writes about his experiences and those of the people he interviewed for the book, and how he uses words so well.

I wanted to share this quote from the book, as I’m sure all of us have felt this way more than we can keep track. It sums up how I’ve been feeling as of late.

If you’re scared to publish it, then you absolutely must publish it! Yes, it’s embarrassing to you as a person but that makes it great for you as a writer!

– Touré’s provocateur

Once I’ve finished the book and have had time to digest it and develop my thoughts, I will post them.

I’m nervous, but excited. Let’s see what happens.

When Emotions Rule.

It’s been about five days since George Zimmerman was found not guilty for the murder of Trayvon Martin.

I want to talk about what I have noticed all over the Internet. Emotions are still running quite high, especially in the Black community, and for a good reason. Many feel that this verdict was unfair. That the jury chosen, especially because they were women, were not representative of Martin, that they did not sympathise with him and his family. Some have said that this is revenge for when OJ Simpson was found not guilty in 1995. Some have even expressed being unable to wait until Juror B37’s identity is revealed. Some feel that Rachel Jeantel betrayed her friend because Zimmerman was acquitted on all counts. Some feel that Channa Lloyd, the Black intern on Zimmerman’s defence team, is a sellout, all because Zimmerman got off scott free.

I can understand some of the public’s frustration over the case. What I don’t understand is the hostility towards the jury and especially Lloyd, who were all just doing their job at the end of the day. Why is Channa a sellout? What are you going to do when Juror B37’s name is revealed to the world? Is is going to make things better for you?

Is any of this frustration channeled negatively going to fix what is wrong in the first place?

As I’ve said before, I was upset by the verdict, but it was fair. That’s how the system works. One side was going to be happy, the other angry, whatever the outcome was. The only people who know exactly what happened that night are Trayvon and George. One is dead and one is alive, and possibly fearing for his life until he takes his last breath.

Some of you may think that I don’t get it, and you’re probably right. While I am Black, I am not African American. I have not lived through experiencing racism as some have having lived in this country, or elsewhere for that matter. All prejudices exist everywhere, and all of them will never go away. It might be because that I’m female, “light-skinned” (I will never fathom the obsession with skin tone among some Blacks, never. It’s pure stupidity, but that’s something I might touch on another day), and have had the luck of not yet coming across individuals that have succeeded in making me feel inferior because of my roots.

It’s heartbreaking sometimes when I see how people react to racial matters, or quickly say that something or someone is racist when things don’t go as hoped. They may be right, but people tend to forget that there is so much more to be considered, so much more that they are not seeing.

Let’s look at class as an example. People who have the money to get their way usually end up getting it, no? This is unfair, too. How you dress can make people judge you. Hoodies make some people feel uncomfortable, especially when they’re black.

Some people that say that racism is gone, all because the leader of the one of world’s most powerful countries is Black, are delusional and probably living under a rock. It is happening around us every single day, along with hatred of one’s sex, religion, class, sexual orientation, you name it. All of these things can be overlooked by someone in their right mind, because I and many believe that one’s character is what makes a person at the end of it all.

I have decided to take a course in African American history in the near future, to better understand where a lot of these people who feel so incredibly angry are coming from, and to understand this country, period. I have even started reading Touré’s recent work, Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? I want to get rid of my ignorance to understand other’s ignorance, if that makes sense.

I’m rambling here, just trying to make sense of all this to me, and hopefully to you, if you’re wondering as much as I am. I’m not saying that people should not feel the way they do about this case; I just want to have an idea as to why they feel that way, and to try to understand where they’re coming from.

Only in America.

I get most of my news from Twitter, and ever since the closing arguments were made on the State of Florida vs. George Zimmerman case on Thursday, I would check my timeline periodically to see what the jury had decided. I decided to not watch coverage of the trail, I read some articles, and that was plenty for me.

Not that I didn’t care about the outcome, I just had a feeling that whatever was decided, a lot of people were not going to be satisfied.

So I waited.

I was on my way home when I read that Zimmerman was found not guilty on all charges. I was upset, yet not surprised. I have a way of hoping for the best while still expecting the worst. I texted and even called a friend to let them know. And of course, my Twitter timeline exploded with all kinds of reactions; I even saw happy ones. Some people tweeted things like “#KillZimmerman”, and others kept tweeting how much they hated Florida and how bad they felt for Trayvon Martin’s family.

All of these thoughts did not surprise me either, because for me, the average person is not so hard to predict when something of this magnitude happens.

I am Black, and I am not American. I obviously have had experiences of people who have looked at me funny, have asked questions about my race, and have changed seats, inched away from me. However, I have never been physically or overtly abused for my race, at least not yet. Maybe because I am female, and I’m not always looking at strangers anyways. I have laughed about racism with my non-white friends while growing up, and still do. It is just ridiculous.

Why I am bringing up racism is because this is what has fuelled many people to feel the way they did/do about this case. Be you for or against Trayvon, for or against George, or simply watching and reading what has unfolded and will unfold, you felt something. Maybe it was some form of relief. Or sadness, you felt your heart breaking. You felt scared in general, or specifically for how Black people, Black men, may be regarded in American society today. You may have lost whatever faith you had in the justice system.

It is a pity how race is still a huge factor when it comes to even the smallest things. It is so easy to bring up, and yet still so hard for many to deal with.

I still have much to learn about America and it’s history, people, and it’s laws, all of which are changing as I type this and when you read this later.

While this is seen as a setback, perhaps people should use the energy that I saw on my timeline last night to try to make positive changes so that this does not happen again to anyone, regardless of race, age, sex, social ranking, etc., among other things. However, I feel that is going to take a while, because most of that enthusiasm waned. Some of it has turned into hatred, hopelessness, fear, and maybe aggression, violence. If nothing incredible happens sooner or later, most are going to return to their mundane lives, and this case will probably be pushed into the furthest corners of their minds.

“‘No justice, no peace’ means just what it says. Whenever you are in a society or community anywhere, if there is not justice there’s not going to be peace. But it doesn’t mean there’s going to be violence.”

– Kojo Nantambu

Some of us will see how this all plays out. If you just look at the way the justice system works, this was a fair verdict. The only people who know exactly what happened that night were Martin and Zimmerman. One of them is dead. One could have told his story, and he chose not to testify, for whatever reason.

Best of luck to whoever was involved in the case, and may Trayvon Martin rest in peace.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

I really wanted to participate in something that I believed would help me get my foot in the door somehow, but I found out last minute that I did not have the means to do so.

I was so excited to spent a good chunk of my summer dedicated to the program, but I can’t do it.

I can still work on my writing here, so I suppose it’s not so bad.

Here’s to another chance, if I’m lucky.

I am in the process of writing my views on a documentary I watched earlier this week. As it played, I found myself reaching for a pen and some loose leaf. I’m glad I took notes, and that I’ve had some time away from the topic to write the piece out soon. That, and I’ve been writing down other ideas to write about.

At least I still have some things to look forward to. It’s all just a matter of putting them down here.

Editing Others to Also Editing Myself

I came across this link on Twitter earlier today, on editing your own work on lifehacker.com.

I was a copy editor of the student-run paper at my previous college, and my job entailed making sure work to be published was in the Associated Press style, was grammatically sound, that spellings were correct, facts were accurate, and so on. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would, and I am considering looking for copy editing positions in the near future, aside from becoming a journalist.

I did write a few pieces, and wish I had written much more, but I was more worried about coursework, and I was working part time at a very popular food and beverage chain. I will write more about that later, for I would really need to choose my words carefully on that one.
I got the impression that I was tweaking others’ work to make them more clear and easy on the eye, especially for those who laid out the pages of the publication.

Since I’m starting to write and publish myself here, I should also start editing myself. I should have been started. I think I’m a little scared to read my work after it’s done. I write when I really cannot shake the urge to do so. I feel I just flow better, and that quite a bit comes out when I’m in this state. I’ve realized that not all criticism is bad, and the only person I can compete with, without losing it, is myself. I am trying to be the best writer/journalist I can be, after all.

Caroline McMillan breaks down the process, the first step being to print out your work. McMillan writes:

As any writer or editor will tell you, critiquing someone else’s work is much easier than deconstructing your own, because outside eyes bring a fresh perspective. To approach your own work critically, you need to simulate this “outsider” perspective by viewing it in a form other than the one you wrote it in.

I don’t need to say how obvious this is.

She also talks about taking a break, deadline-willing. The more time you have from your piece, the more mistakes you may see and better amendments can be made.
Then there’s reading it aloud, and this calls to mind my Voice & Diction class I took last semester. You do want our words to flow, and if they do when read aloud, the piece looks good, and you look good as a writer, too. Right?

Writing for the people you want to read your work is something to always keep in mind. Too many words is not a good thing. Being that I’m a consumer of information, I do find myself getting bored sometimes as an article goes on, even though the subject may interest me, simply for all the possible page turning, scrolling and/or clicking I may have to do.

The next stop is the hardest. Cutting down your piece, and being “ruthless” about it, McMillan wrote. “[…] this will help make sure that the true meat of your piece is what shines.” You want your readers to get something that could be useful to them from your piece, otherwise you’re not only wasting their time, but yours as well. I have learned this with word limits on essays.

The biggest piece of advice I got from this article was this:

When you make a point […] throw yourself behind it. Don’t give the impression that you’re not sure you fully support your own argument.

That advice stuck with me, and you should pay attention to it, too, especially when your career is in play. Don’t weaken your argument with wishy-washy sentences that start with “I believe,” “In my opinion,” and “You may disagree, but…” You’ll see the difference it makes.

This is not going to be easy to get the hang of. I’m even writing this on my phone, not on a computer. My laptop is not even connected to a printer at the moment. But as I said, I need to start somewhere. If that means scrolling up and down this four-inch window that I have, so be it this time around.

I want to, need to put my best foot forward, and my writing will have to speak for me until I get my foot in the door.