The day I watched the video of Walter Scott’s murder, I happened upon the most beautiful necklace, made by the supremely talented Canadian, Tracey Tomtene.  My remedy for this despair was to listen to the reverent voice of Ms. Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise.

Still I Rise1

After an initial reaction of disgust, and sadness, I revolted in to the fear of the unknown, wondering how many other black men have been murdered in the senseless way that Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Vonderrit Myers, Ezell Ford, Eric Garner and too many others have been? How many others didn’t have the benefit of a camera to serve as a reliable witness to the crime?

My new necklace dons Maya Angelou’s famous words: “Still I Rise.” Wearing this necklace is my attempt to honor black men all over the country who continue to get up everyday, and venture out into a world that has criminalized their skin color. The shape of the necklace was important to me, as unlike my circular wedding ring (which symbolizes my never ending love and commitment to my husband), this necklace is triangular. The edges are spiky, and painful to the touch, symbolizing the pointed, obvious racial commonalities these crimes harbor. I chose a hammered finish on the necklace, but am unsure if the indentations from the hammering should signify the beatings black men continue to face by people whose job is to protect, the fragmentation of our nation, or the exhaustion and fatigue these repetitive crimes have caused so many of the still living – like myself. I suppose, as it’s shape reminds me, it could mean all three.

Perhaps these tragedies will wane by the installation of more and more camera’s, both in the hands of nearby Samaritans, and the cops. However, taking a cue from my new #BlackLivesMatter triangular necklace, I am hoping for a more sacred answer. A deeper conviction of character from those who have yet to acknowledge how their own implicit biases undoubtedly affect the way they do their jobs (this applies to all of us!). I wear my necklace in a humble dedication to all the men who are no longer with us and weren’t able to tell their side of the story.


You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.


*** Although this poem is written by a woman, and about women, these first three words lend me to think about the black men who continue to rise up.  It is not an oversight or without thought that I’m choosing not to address the many women of color who have also been targeted and criminalized in our recent past. ***

10 Year Old Discusses Selma, Christopher Columbus and Race

Angela & Eridon

10 year old Eridon, an aspiring Radical Brownie, caught my attention at a #BlackLivesMatter event in Seattle. As the only child in the audience, she courageously posed questions for the powerful panel of Black scholars and activists. Eridon’s mother is a transracial adoptee of the 60’s which has undoubtedly provided fodder for her young, inquisitive mind in learning about race relations in the United States.

For this installment of The Adopted Life, I’ve chosen to interview Eridon (Because of my readership audience, It should be clearly noted that Eridon is not an adoptee). Watch our conversation here:

Personal note: Ava Duvernay’s film; Selma, has expanded the minds of our youth (like Eridon). I’d argue that this means way more than an Oscar! Please share the heck out of this video so that Ms. Duvernay can know the impacts of her work.

If you are interested in being interviewed on The Adopted Life please apply here.

I’m Trying To Believe That “Black Lives Matter”

Black Lives Matter

It’s an undeniably trying time to be black in America right now. There is simply no way to ease the shockwave of this  truth.  I have found myself working exceptionally hard trying to believe the #Blacklivesmatter hashtag that is plastered all around me in my social media life. I have suppressed the daily involuntary body cringes that follow statements that begin “I am not a racist, but…” or “They mean well… [but it wasn’t like the murder of the black guy was premeditated or anything]…” I’ve noticed my self-esteem shrink ever so slowly while engaging with those who’ve found it necessary to argue that the movement should shift from #blacklivesmatter, to #alllivesmatter – effectively shutting minorities up…yet again.

Britt Bennet’s piece in Jezebel encapsulated my thoughts well where she wrote about well intentioned White people who’ve taken an ally approach throughout this mudslide of black carnage, but who, are still missing the point.

Over the past two weeks, I have fluctuated between anger and grief. I feel surrounded by Black death. What a privilege, to concern yourself with seeming good while the rest of us want to seem worthy of life.

-Britt Bennet

I recently stumbled upon Cipriana Quann’s interview for the I Am What’s Underneath campaign. This vulnerable campaign interviews folks unearthing not just what’s physically underneath their fashion and style, but it simultaneously asks them to strip down emotionally, combining to create a reverent yet simple display of the power we already possess.

Cipriana Quann

Cipriana’s interview has is allowed me to look in the mirror and to leave behind the suppressed, yet ever present uncertainty of my skin tone, and instead to begin to fathom that black just might be beautiful, indeed.

Watch her full interview here:

While describing the traumatic childhood moments, Cipriana maintains a beautifully dignified, ambitious and proud stature. If only the intensity of her memories combined with her obvious physical beauty could serve as a blueprint for any humans struggling with self doubt.

Jillian Mercado has also taken part in this project. While Cipriana’s message centers around the elevation of black women to places of health and positivity, Jillian speaks about how she confidently looks in the mirror and is wowed by her own beauty. Every day. Both having disabilities, and working within the field I am pummeled with the notion that being beautiful and having a visible disability are mutually exclusive. Not so. Jillian Mercado

“Wow! I’m so pretty today!”

The campaign does not focus specifically on race, but interviews a range of people, with large bodies, small bodies, androgynous bodies, pregnant bodies, post-cancerous bodies and more, working to challenge what it means to be beautiful. We are challenged through this project to no longer find our self-image in the products that television, magazines and corporation wants us to buy, but from within. One interviewee so beautifully claimed her own by saying

“My skin is what I like most about my body. You can’t buy it at the store.”