New novel (First draft completed) 8.29.2016

As mentioned, I am working on a new novel, titled “Unravel.”

A synopsis: 

 

Subhash and Naima are middle-class, suburban, white-collar professionals living in central New Jersey, who will do anything to maintain the life they’ve built. They are also young parents to their 6 year old daughter, Tulsi. Both want the best for her, but as they face off against obstacles, they begin to realize that choices must be made and consequences accepted.

 

The final chapters are the following:

Chapter 13 Click here to read.

Chapter 14 Click here to read.

Chapter 15 Click here to read.

Chapter 16 Click here to read.

Chapter 17 Click here to read.

I didn’t include excerpts this time because I think you as the reader will gain more by not knowing what’s to be expected.

Also, as I make clear in each chapter, these are very rough drafts. Unlike other chapters, Chapter 13-17 were left unedited due to life getting in the way and not finding the time or energy just yet.

Either way, the first draft of my novel is completed and I thank everyone for the encouragement and support!

PREVIOUS CHAPTERS

CHAPTER 1

Excerpt:

Naima held on. But once they stepped through, Tulsi squirmed free and ran.

Naima chased, as Subhash followed.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 2

Excerpt:

As the only black reporter, Naima usually relied on what she described to Subhash when they started dating, as her “Spidey sense.” Back then, it was cute, and even something to be proud of, an ability to be conscious of what was around her at almost all times, a skill perfect for her job. But after spending nearly seven years in the same newsroom, and trying her best to get to know everyone who’d come through, even the interns, she realized that her valued “Spidey sense” was tingling more and more often. Everyone was a possible enemy she concluded after a co-worker (who left to be an editor for The New York Times after only a year at the Tribune) complained about Naima’s “demeanor” to the others last summer, claiming that Naima was too “abrasive.” Naima learned her lesson to not let her guard down just yet. It was tiring of course. And on some mornings, she felt like staying in bed and closing her eyes, imagining she was someplace else, somewhere she could laugh as loud as she wanted, or even cry in public. At times like that, she’d tell herself that one day, it would all be worth it. One day, all this would be returned in full.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 3

Excerpt:

“I don’t know what to do,” Rhona said, gasping for breath. “They just came saying they needed to talk to me, and I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know who they were. I told you I wanted to be anonymous. I don’t want to be a part of this anymore.”

“Just stay calm, I’m on my way,” Naima said.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 4

Excerpt:

People fled, tripping and falling across the lawn.

For a moment, Subhash had the urge to jump into the crowd. He took a step forward. Tulsi wrapped her arms around his leg like it was a tree.

Subhash scooped her up into his arms and hustled to the opposite end, disappearing behind the art museum. He moved as fast as he could without losing his grip on Tulsi, as her arms were around his neck.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 5

Excerpt:

Blood trickled over his eyes.

He let the drops land on his shoes and carpet.

“Daddy, are you sick? Did you fall down?”

Soon, Naima arrived and dabbed the wounds, and they went upstairs. He laid in bed as she took off his shirt and wrapped his hands and feet with bandages.

Tulsi crept up the steps as well.

“What’s wrong with Daddy?”

“Nothing, honey. Daddy is just tired.”

“He looks hurt.”

“Just go back and watch your show.”

Naima applied pressure to Subhash’s side and Subhash grimaced.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 6

Excerpt:

 

After an assignment interviewing owners of a Italian/Thai fusion restaurant, which was opened in the neighborhood closest to the Holland Tunnel where most of the newer residents lived, the ones who wore sunglasses on cloudy days as well as khakis and sandals, Naima stopped at a C-Town in Journal Square. She was on her way to the office, but feeling thirsty, hungry and her contacts were irritating her eyes. The C-Town was next to a row of apartment buildings and convenience stores, and the aisles were filled with Caribbean and Indian spices. Naima grabbed a Snapple from the freezer and was ready to pop it open on the spot. However, she stepped aside, allowing a family and their shopping cart to get through, and caught a glimpse of a face in the corner of her eye. She quickly hid behind a column of Reese’s Puffs cereal and Ramen noodles.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 7

Excerpt:

Naima rushed down the stairs, her coat flying like a cape. She jumped off the last steps and grabbed the door knob.

“What are you doing?” Subhash said.

“I’m late,” she replied, gasping for breath.

Subhash was at the top landing.

“It’s still out there,” he said.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 8

Excerpt:

 

Suddenly, thunder rumbled, and a bright flash blinded. He collapsed. Struggling to breathe, he dug his nails into the asphalt, unable to break through. The sky was gray, clouds gliding like fumes.

Soon, the sound of tires screaming echoed. And the smell of freshly cut grass disappeared.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 9

Excerpt:

Naima snapped pictures and turned on the car. Suddenly, there was screaming and Tulsi bolted awake.

“What’s going on? Where’s Rhona?”

“Keep your head down.”

Naima picked up speed, finding the nearest entrance to the turnpike. Tulsi turned around, and Naima boomed, “Keep your head down!”

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 10

Excerpt:

“He smelled like garlic,” Grace said as she grabbed a bag of weed from a drawer and stuffed it into her bra.

After she left, Subhash tickled Naima, until they both were under the sheets, while music and voices from the other rooms reverberated.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 11

Excerpt:

Subhash rushed into the hallway, and Naima found him splashing water on his face in the kitchen sink.

“I can’t believe that fucker!”

“Lower your voice…”

“You all remember what that monster did to us right? How he made high-school a living hell!”

Naima took a step forward and Subhash’s breathing slowly returned to normal.

“Let’s finish the meeting.”

“I can’t.”

“Please. This is not helping.”

Subhash turned around and opened the back door that led into the parking lot. Naima paused before returning to the conference room to write notes.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 12

Excerpt:

Subhash glowered as he went to the wall. Naima was a few feet away and wasn’t allowed any closer.

“Show me I.D.” the officer said and Subhash handed it to him.

Subhash waited.

The officer asked where Subhash was going.

Click here to read more.

New novel (updated) 7.30.2016

As mentioned, I am working on a new novel, titled “Unravel.”

A synopsis: 

 

Subhash and Naima are middle-class, suburban, white-collar professionals living in central New Jersey, who will do anything to maintain the life they’ve built. They are also young parents to their 6 year old daughter, Tulsi. Both want the best for her, but as they face off against obstacles, they begin to realize that choices must be made and consequences accepted.

 

Chapters 10, 11, and 12 are the latest that I’ve added and are all from Section II. The first nine chapters are Section I. Section III, which I’ll be working on soon, is the final part.

CHAPTER 10

Excerpt:

“He smelled like garlic,” Grace said as she grabbed a bag of weed from a drawer and stuffed it into her bra.

After she left, Subhash tickled Naima, until they both were under the sheets, while music and voices from the other rooms reverberated.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 11

Excerpt:

Subhash rushed into the hallway, and Naima found him splashing water on his face in the kitchen sink.

“I can’t believe that fucker!”

“Lower your voice…”

“You all remember what that monster did to us right? How he made high-school a living hell!”

Naima took a step forward and Subhash’s breathing slowly returned to normal.

“Let’s finish the meeting.”

“I can’t.”

“Please. This is not helping.”

Subhash turned around and opened the back door that led into the parking lot. Naima paused before returning to the conference room to write notes.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 12

Excerpt:

Subhash glowered as he went to the wall. Naima was a few feet away and wasn’t allowed any closer.

“Show me I.D.” the officer said and Subhash handed it to him.

Subhash waited.

The officer asked where Subhash was going.

Click here to read more.

 

PREVIOUS CHAPTERS

 

CHAPTER 1

Excerpt:

Naima held on. But once they stepped through, Tulsi squirmed free and ran.

Naima chased, as Subhash followed.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 2

Excerpt:

As the only black reporter, Naima usually relied on what she described to Subhash when they started dating, as her “Spidey sense.” Back then, it was cute, and even something to be proud of, an ability to be conscious of what was around her at almost all times, a skill perfect for her job. But after spending nearly seven years in the same newsroom, and trying her best to get to know everyone who’d come through, even the interns, she realized that her valued “Spidey sense” was tingling more and more often. Everyone was a possible enemy she concluded after a co-worker (who left to be an editor for The New York Times after only a year at the Tribune) complained about Naima’s “demeanor” to the others last summer, claiming that Naima was too “abrasive.” Naima learned her lesson to not let her guard down just yet. It was tiring of course. And on some mornings, she felt like staying in bed and closing her eyes, imagining she was someplace else, somewhere she could laugh as loud as she wanted, or even cry in public. At times like that, she’d tell herself that one day, it would all be worth it. One day, all this would be returned in full.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 3

Excerpt:

“I don’t know what to do,” Rhona said, gasping for breath. “They just came saying they needed to talk to me, and I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know who they were. I told you I wanted to be anonymous. I don’t want to be a part of this anymore.”

“Just stay calm, I’m on my way,” Naima said.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 4

Excerpt:

People fled, tripping and falling across the lawn.

For a moment, Subhash had the urge to jump into the crowd. He took a step forward. Tulsi wrapped her arms around his leg like it was a tree.

Subhash scooped her up into his arms and hustled to the opposite end, disappearing behind the art museum. He moved as fast as he could without losing his grip on Tulsi, as her arms were around his neck.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 5

Excerpt:

Blood trickled over his eyes.

He let the drops land on his shoes and carpet.

“Daddy, are you sick? Did you fall down?”

Soon, Naima arrived and dabbed the wounds, and they went upstairs. He laid in bed as she took off his shirt and wrapped his hands and feet with bandages.

Tulsi crept up the steps as well.

“What’s wrong with Daddy?”

“Nothing, honey. Daddy is just tired.”

“He looks hurt.”

“Just go back and watch your show.”

Naima applied pressure to Subhash’s side and Subhash grimaced.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 6

Excerpt:

 

After an assignment interviewing owners of a Italian/Thai fusion restaurant, which was opened in the neighborhood closest to the Holland Tunnel where most of the newer residents lived, the ones who wore sunglasses on cloudy days as well as khakis and sandals, Naima stopped at a C-Town in Journal Square. She was on her way to the office, but feeling thirsty, hungry and her contacts were irritating her eyes. The C-Town was next to a row of apartment buildings and convenience stores, and the aisles were filled with Caribbean and Indian spices. Naima grabbed a Snapple from the freezer and was ready to pop it open on the spot. However, she stepped aside, allowing a family and their shopping cart to get through, and caught a glimpse of a face in the corner of her eye. She quickly hid behind a column of Reese’s Puffs cereal and Ramen noodles.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 7

Excerpt:

Naima rushed down the stairs, her coat flying like a cape. She jumped off the last steps and grabbed the door knob.

“What are you doing?” Subhash said.

“I’m late,” she replied, gasping for breath.

Subhash was at the top landing.

“It’s still out there,” he said.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 8

Excerpt:

 

Suddenly, thunder rumbled, and a bright flash blinded. He collapsed. Struggling to breathe, he dug his nails into the asphalt, unable to break through. The sky was gray, clouds gliding like fumes.

Soon, the sound of tires screaming echoed. And the smell of freshly cut grass disappeared.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 9

Excerpt:

Naima snapped pictures and turned on the car. Suddenly, there was screaming and Tulsi bolted awake.

“What’s going on? Where’s Rhona?”

“Keep your head down.”

Naima picked up speed, finding the nearest entrance to the turnpike. Tulsi turned around, and Naima boomed, “Keep your head down!”

Click here to read more.

New novel (updated) 7.11.2016

As mentioned, I am working on a new novel, titled “Unravel.”

A synopsis: 

Subhash and Naima are middle-class, suburban, white-collar professionals living in central New Jersey, who will do anything to maintain the life they’ve built. They are also young parents to their 6 year old daughter, Tulsi. Both want the best for her, but as they face off against obstacles, they begin to realize that choices must be made and consequences accepted.

Chapter 9 is the latest one that I wrote and added.

CHAPTER 9

Excerpt:

Naima snapped pictures and turned on the car. Suddenly, there was screaming and Tulsi bolted awake.

“What’s going on? Where’s Rhona?”

“Keep your head down.”

Naima picked up speed, finding the nearest entrance to the turnpike. Tulsi turned around, and Naima boomed, “Keep your head down!”

Click here to read more.

 

PREVIOUS CHAPTERS

 

CHAPTER 1

Excerpt:

Naima held on. But once they stepped through, Tulsi squirmed free and ran.

Naima chased, as Subhash followed.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 2

Excerpt:

As the only black reporter, Naima usually relied on what she described to Subhash when they started dating, as her “Spidey sense.” Back then, it was cute, and even something to be proud of, an ability to be conscious of what was around her at almost all times, a skill perfect for her job. But after spending nearly seven years in the same newsroom, and trying her best to get to know everyone who’d come through, even the interns, she realized that her valued “Spidey sense” was tingling more and more often. Everyone was a possible enemy she concluded after a co-worker (who left to be an editor for The New York Times after only a year at the Tribune) complained about Naima’s “demeanor” to the others last summer, claiming that Naima was too “abrasive.” Naima learned her lesson to not let her guard down just yet. It was tiring of course. And on some mornings, she felt like staying in bed and closing her eyes, imagining she was someplace else, somewhere she could laugh as loud as she wanted, or even cry in public. At times like that, she’d tell herself that one day, it would all be worth it. One day, all this would be returned in full.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 3

Excerpt:

“I don’t know what to do,” Rhona said, gasping for breath. “They just came saying they needed to talk to me, and I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know who they were. I told you I wanted to be anonymous. I don’t want to be a part of this anymore.”

“Just stay calm, I’m on my way,” Naima said.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 4

Excerpt:

People fled, tripping and falling across the lawn.

For a moment, Subhash had the urge to jump into the crowd. He took a step forward. Tulsi wrapped her arms around his leg like it was a tree.

Subhash scooped her up into his arms and hustled to the opposite end, disappearing behind the art museum. He moved as fast as he could without losing his grip on Tulsi, as her arms were around his neck.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 5

Excerpt:

Blood trickled over his eyes.

He let the drops land on his shoes and carpet.

“Daddy, are you sick? Did you fall down?”

Soon, Naima arrived and dabbed the wounds, and they went upstairs. He laid in bed as she took off his shirt and wrapped his hands and feet with bandages.

Tulsi crept up the steps as well.

“What’s wrong with Daddy?”

“Nothing, honey. Daddy is just tired.”

“He looks hurt.”

“Just go back and watch your show.”

Naima applied pressure to Subhash’s side and Subhash grimaced.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 6

Excerpt:

 

After an assignment interviewing owners of a Italian/Thai fusion restaurant, which was opened in the neighborhood closest to the Holland Tunnel where most of the newer residents lived, the ones who wore sunglasses on cloudy days as well as khakis and sandals, Naima stopped at a C-Town in Journal Square. She was on her way to the office, but feeling thirsty, hungry and her contacts were irritating her eyes. The C-Town was next to a row of apartment buildings and convenience stores, and the aisles were filled with Caribbean and Indian spices. Naima grabbed a Snapple from the freezer and was ready to pop it open on the spot. However, she stepped aside, allowing a family and their shopping cart to get through, and caught a glimpse of a face in the corner of her eye. She quickly hid behind a column of Reese’s Puffs cereal and Ramen noodles.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 7

Excerpt:

Naima rushed down the stairs, her coat flying like a cape. She jumped off the last steps and grabbed the door knob.

“What are you doing?” Subhash said.

“I’m late,” she replied, gasping for breath.

Subhash was at the top landing.

“It’s still out there,” he said.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 8

Excerpt:

 

Suddenly, thunder rumbled, and a bright flash blinded. He collapsed. Struggling to breathe, he dug his nails into the asphalt, unable to break through. The sky was gray, clouds gliding like fumes.

Soon, the sound of tires screaming echoed. And the smell of freshly cut grass disappeared.

Click here to read more.

New novel (updated)6.26.2016

As mentioned, I am working on a new novel, titled “Unravel.”

A synopsis: 

Subhash and Naima are middle-class, suburban, white-collar professionals living in central New Jersey, who will do anything to maintain the life they’ve built. They are also young parents to their 6 year old daughter, Tulsi. Both want the best for her, but as they face off against obstacles, they begin to realize that choices must be made and consequences accepted.

Chapter 8 is the latest one that I wrote and added. The rest are below, if you are interested and want to check up.

 

CHAPTER 8

Excerpt:

 

Suddenly, thunder rumbled, and a bright flash blinded. He collapsed. Struggling to breathe, he dug his nails into the asphalt, unable to break through. The sky was gray, clouds gliding like fumes.

Soon, the sound of tires screaming echoed. And the smell of freshly cut grass disappeared.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 1

Excerpt:

Naima held on. But once they stepped through, Tulsi squirmed free and ran.

Naima chased, as Subhash followed.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 2

Excerpt:

As the only black reporter, Naima usually relied on what she described to Subhash when they started dating, as her “Spidey sense.” Back then, it was cute, and even something to be proud of, an ability to be conscious of what was around her at almost all times, a skill perfect for her job. But after spending nearly seven years in the same newsroom, and trying her best to get to know everyone who’d come through, even the interns, she realized that her valued “Spidey sense” was tingling more and more often. Everyone was a possible enemy she concluded after a co-worker (who left to be an editor for The New York Times after only a year at the Tribune) complained about Naima’s “demeanor” to the others last summer, claiming that Naima was too “abrasive.” Naima learned her lesson to not let her guard down just yet. It was tiring of course. And on some mornings, she felt like staying in bed and closing her eyes, imagining she was someplace else, somewhere she could laugh as loud as she wanted, or even cry in public. At times like that, she’d tell herself that one day, it would all be worth it. One day, all this would be returned in full.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 3

Excerpt:

“I don’t know what to do,” Rhona said, gasping for breath. “They just came saying they needed to talk to me, and I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know who they were. I told you I wanted to be anonymous. I don’t want to be a part of this anymore.”

“Just stay calm, I’m on my way,” Naima said.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 4

Excerpt:

People fled, tripping and falling across the lawn.

For a moment, Subhash had the urge to jump into the crowd. He took a step forward. Tulsi wrapped her arms around his leg like it was a tree.

Subhash scooped her up into his arms and hustled to the opposite end, disappearing behind the art museum. He moved as fast as he could without losing his grip on Tulsi, as her arms were around his neck.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 5

Excerpt:

Blood trickled over his eyes.

He let the drops land on his shoes and carpet.

“Daddy, are you sick? Did you fall down?”

Soon, Naima arrived and dabbed the wounds, and they went upstairs. He laid in bed as she took off his shirt and wrapped his hands and feet with bandages.

Tulsi crept up the steps as well.

“What’s wrong with Daddy?”

“Nothing, honey. Daddy is just tired.”

“He looks hurt.”

“Just go back and watch your show.”

Naima applied pressure to Subhash’s side and Subhash grimaced.

Click here to read more.

CHAPTER 6

Excerpt:

 

After an assignment interviewing owners of a Italian/Thai fusion restaurant, which was opened in the neighborhood closest to the Holland Tunnel where most of the newer residents lived, the ones who wore sunglasses on cloudy days as well as khakis and sandals, Naima stopped at a C-Town in Journal Square. She was on her way to the office, but feeling thirsty, hungry and her contacts were irritating her eyes. The C-Town was next to a row of apartment buildings and convenience stores, and the aisles were filled with Caribbean and Indian spices. Naima grabbed a Snapple from the freezer and was ready to pop it open on the spot. However, she stepped aside, allowing a family and their shopping cart to get through, and caught a glimpse of a face in the corner of her eye. She quickly hid behind a column of Reese’s Puffs cereal and Ramen noodles.

Click here to read more.

 

CHAPTER 7

Excerpt:

Naima rushed down the stairs, her coat flying like a cape. She jumped off the last steps and grabbed the door knob.

“What are you doing?” Subhash said.

“I’m late,” she replied, gasping for breath.

Subhash was at the top landing.

“It’s still out there,” he said.

Click here to read more.

Knowledge is Power Series: The Ferguson Report

Michael Brown, 18, was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014.

The inability of the jury system to indict the officer prompted protest and anger. The National guard were called to instill “law and order,” and the chants of Hand’s Up, Don’t Shoot filled the streets.

In 2015, The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division published their report after investigating the Ferguson Police Department.

Aptly Titled “The Ferguson Report,” this 162-page document summarizes the obvious biases and institutionalized racism inherent within the Ferguson Police Department (FPD).

The Ferguson Report image
(Image from Google)

Major points from the report:

  • African Americans experience disparate impact in nearly every aspect of Ferguson’s law enforcement system. Despite making up 67% of the population, African Americans accounted for 85% of FPD’s arrests from 2012 to 2014.
  • African Americans are 2.07 times more likely to be searched during a vehicular stop but are 26% less likely to have contraband found on them during a search.
  • African Americans have force used against them at disproportionately high rates, accounting for 88% of all cases from 2010 to August 2014 in which an FPD officer reported using force. In all 14 uses of force involving a canine bite for which we have information about the race of the person bitten, the person was African American.
  • African Americans account for 95% of Manner of Walking charges; 94% of all Fail to Comply charges; 92% of all Resisting Arrest charges; 92% of all Peace Disturbance charges; and 89% of all Failure to Obey charges

The DOJ also had access to emails sent by Ferguson officials:

  • A March 2010 email mocked African Americans through speech and familial stereotypes, using a story involving child support. One line from the email read: “I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment! Month after month, year after year, all dose payments!”
  • An April 2011 email depicted President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee.
  • An October 2011 email included a photo of bare-chested group of dancing women, apparently in Africa, with the caption, “Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.”

The report includes many incidences of intimidation and racism against black residents of Ferguson by the police and officials. The following is just one example:

We spoke with one African-American man who, in August 2014, had an argument in his apartment to which FPD officers responded, and was immediately pulled out of the apartment by force. After telling the officer, “you don’t have a reason to lock me up,” he claims the officer responded: “Nigger, I can find something to lock you up on.” When the man responded, “good luck with that,” the officer slammed his face into the wall, and after the man fell to the floor, the officer said, “don’t pass out motherfucker because I’m not carrying you to my car.”

I have not yet finished reading the report (it is part of my doctoral work), but it’s obvious that racism and prejudice is rife within FPD.

Another aspect of Ferguson, which is crucial to remember, is that the majority of residents are African American.

Ferguson is a town of 21,000. In 1990, 74% was white. By 2000, black Americans grew to 52%. In 2010, 67% of Ferguson was black American (facts found in report). This is important because while demographics shifted, the power dynamics did not. The city council remained predominantly white with a Republican white mayor, and the FPD was overwhelmingly white as well. This is not to say that police forces that are diverse suddenly become more caring. The NYPD is probably the most diverse force in the country but no one could say with a straight face that the changes in how officers looked has immediately led them to change their tactics and level of engagement with communities of color.

Still, since we live in an apparent democracy, you would assume that as a community becomes more black and brown, that their needs, views, and conscience would be reflected in the power structure. This is key since pundits are forecasting a so-called majority-minority future in the U.S. If say, POC do become the majority of residents, then it would be common sense to assume that this would translate into political power as well. But, Ferguson, and places like it, prove this not to be the case.

As whites moved into surrounding suburbs, black residents were further marginalized. Ferguson proves that so long as the institutions remain racialized and bigoted, so long as white supremacy is upheld through law and practice, then communities of color, especially black Americans, no matter their class or social standing, will continue to experience discrimination and oppression.

There are places of hope though.

In the last election for council, activists were able to organize and inspire people to vote. The turnout wasn’t as high as many would hope, but definitely the actions and hard work of BLM activists and others in the community, helped to include more black Americans onto the city council.

Also, the DOJ itself laid out helpful ideas on what to do, which should be applied nationwide:

  • Implement a robust system of true community policing
  • Focus stop, search, ticketing and arrest practices on community protection
  • Change force use, reporting, review, and response to encourage de-escalation and the use of the minimal force necessary in a situation
  • Implement policies and training to improve interactions with vulnerable people

Those were just a few suggestions provided, and of course, in the report, they go in-depth on each one. I encourage you to get your own copy online by clicking here, and learn more.

The National Debt

By Shamika Ann Mitchell

My fellow Americans! There is something amiss here in the United States. It could be caused by the chemtrails in our atmosphere, or maybe the food fillers and additives we ingest and digest daily, or maybe the many poisoned wells and reservoirs that hydrate us (Flint is neither the beginning nor the end). There is something greatly wrong happening all around us, every day. Odorless, colorless, weightless, and terribly lethal, this elusive element is pervading the corners of every circle and the curves of every square. Despite the fact that we, as Americans, take great pride in nationalism, in aggrandizing self-narrative and prideful rhetoric, in the nostalgias of days so long gone (they never actually existed), we live in perpetual angst and distress, and often do not know the cause of our anguish. This great nation and its entire people are continuously caught in a cycle of distraction, disharmony and despair. We are nearly approaching a state of disrepair and irrevocable damage will continue to be wrought upon us all.

What is it that plagues us? What are the matters that rattle us most? Who can we blame for those secret shames and silences that prevent us from freeing sadness from our spirits? We have all been afflicted, and yet not one of us has sought any meaningful care or expressed an substantial concern for all that has gone wrong with everything we thought we held dear. We stare at our selfies and hope that we look OK, but looking in the mirror, it is clearer that we have lost our Selves. Who are we, really? What is America? What does it mean to be an American? From the very moment Las Casas actualized his idea that stealing and transporting people would benefit the Throne and the Church, the Original Sin took its grip. Is it possible to be cleansed from this Original Sin? Christianity teaches that the people’s sins should be cleansed with the Sacrifice of One, and that confessionals and repentances are the requisite cycle towards atonement. But what is it that we need to confess, and for what should we atone? From whom should we seek forgiveness? This nation was birthed in 1776, and yet, in 2016, we are still trying to renegotiate the sadistic sinful stains that have saturated our soil and all that has been harvested from these lands. There is no organic fruit or vegetable that is without a bloodied blemish. There is no Vegan or Kosher or Halal or all-natural item that is blessed by this bountiful blood. This is not amenorrhea; the United States is hemorrhaging.

Bloody America is now recognizable from any shore (from sea to shining sea), and we surely misremember how this America came into being: “Once upon a time, there was an explorer ______, and people left ________ and got on a boat, then came here, where there was a war…and here we are today, because we worked hard and earned it.” Is that really how the story goes? Is it really “happily ever after”? We keep telling these lies enough that we eventually believe the lie. The lies justify our existence and keep us complacent in our ignorance. We keep denying our complicity in the suffering of others. We keep refusing to take responsibility for our indirect roles in the madness and sadness that has spread all over the world. Americans want to proclaim individuality, enlightenment, and entitlement, but always at the expense of Others. “America is ALWAYS an exception to the rule,” is the delightful lie we keep telling ourselves as we profit from prisons, dispossession and bombardment. We exist in a society that resents itself; we hate who we are, what we have become, and why we are in this circumstance, so we self-medicate to lose the blues. The moral degradations and abominations of generations past are not passed; they have NOT been cleansed, and we are caught in a cycle of chaotic confusion. We are still too blind to see that we cannot legislate away these Sins. Instead, this Moral Debt continues to accumulate interest and America’s minimal payments are considerably past due. Residing in denial is desirable, and deflection is our rhetorical delicacy: “The debt is not ours. This was too long ago. Get over it,” are the nonsense pitiful mutterings of the ignorant and shameless who proclaim being blameless for the transgressions of their ancestors, and for their own apathy. Poisoned soil. Poisoned water. Poisoned sky. Poisoned tree. Poisoned flower. Poisoned fruit. Poisoned bee. And so on. And so on.

And so forth. Every July Fourth, we celebrate freedom in a nation with the largest prison population. We still want to believe the lie that there is truth and justice in a system that profits from imprisoning its Citizens. We need to believe the lie that working harder is all that is required to achieve and succeed. We want to believe the lie that forgetting will make the pains of yesterday’s yesterday go away, and that forgiveness is none of our business. We have withdrawn and overdrawn from our Atonement Account, and the amount due is insurmountable to replenish. What kind of future can America have without atonement? These institutions should encourage reconciliation, but they benefit from this nation’s burgeoning bankruptcy. History books keep lying to us. The media keeps deceiving us. Hollywood’s century of white lies keeps blinding us. Centuries of terrorism has traumatized us. Consumerism keeps us from investing in ourselves. If only money could buy happiness, we would not keep trying to swipe our sadness away. We have maxed out! The debts incurred cannot be waived between generations. America needs a payment strategy that emphasizes equity and legitimacy. We must not delude ourselves any longer; the American Dream was always a nightmare filled with despair and indescribable barbarity. The curses of caste remain a constant obstacle. Without equity, there is no genuine opportunity. Crimes against humanity do not have an expiration date. If we, the people, are going to form a more perfect Union, we must first acknowledge the wrongs committed, and then work towards an equitable solution that serves us all. As long as we profit from and invest in other people’s exploitation and oppression, the balance sheets will remain in the red. If we are ever to overcome this vacuous deficit, we must continue to remember the past, honor it, and commit to do better.

Dr. Shamika Ann Mitchell is an Assistant Professor of English at Rockland Community College, State University of New York. Her primary interests are Hip Hop, American literature, ethnicity, identity, and subjectivity theory. Her writing has been published in various texts, including College English Notes, Icons of Hip Hop and Women on Women: Indian Women Writers’ Perspectives on Women. You can reach Dr. Mitchell on Twitter @Black_Bootie. 

Men (Of Color), Masculinity, and Mental Illness

MarShawn M. McCarrel II, 23, was a Black Lives Matter activist, a poet, and a believer in social justice.

He, like so many others, fought for a world that would include all of us to feel free and secure.

Unfortunately, McCarrell committed suicide earlier this month, in the Ohio State House. Before doing so, he wrote on Facebook the following message:

“My demons won today. I’m sorry.”

McCarrell did suffer from depression and some might say that the time spent as an activist took a toll. After all, when you’re trying your best to make a difference, you also see more of the problems around you, from the shooting deaths of black and brown men and women to the chronic poverty many communities face. It can feel like a burden.

I don’t want to assume I know what McCarrell was going through when he decided to end his life. I am not African-American. I am not an activist like he was. Honestly, I am not as brave.

However, I often wonder, ever since learning about what happened to him, why didn’t he feel compelled to share how he felt with others before taking the step he took? It sounded familiar to me.

When I was younger, I remember how me and my friends (most of us were South Asian American men) talking about our favorite movies, video games, athletes, and who we liked in high-school. Ultimately, we always steered clear of our emotions. At one point, I myself referred to us opening up to our feelings as “white boy stuff.” It reminded me of what the character, Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye, would do, which was, in my friend’s words at that time, “bitch and whine.” Thing was, as men of color, we didn’t have time for that. We couldn’t allow ourselves any vulnerability.

Personally, I grew up with two disadvantages.

One: I was brown.

Two: I was short.

The combination is typically not the ideal. I remember how in Queens, it was very easy to be singled out by the other boys (again, mostly of color) and how we’d tease and taunt one another for whatever slight or weakness. Moving into the suburbs wasn’t much of an improvement, as I became accustomed to still feeling distant and small. Still, I formed a thick skin in the process. The last thing I wanted was for whomever was trying to hurt me to succeed and see my emotion on my sleeve. That would’ve been humiliation.

When I even began participating more in groups at college that dealt with racial issues and visibility, I’d never share what I was really feeling inside with anyone but very close friends. In that regard, I was fortunate. But I still can picture myself, age 19, in my dorm room, the sadness swelling up in my chest, being emotionally attached to the Iraq War, to viewing people who looked like me being cut down by bombs and poverty. It was easy to feel lost and ashamed. Sometimes, the survivor’s guilt that  accompanied moving from Queens into a better neighborhood far away in the depths of New Jersey would also rise up, and fill my every joint and ounce of my being, causing me to feel heavy.

And yet, I still wouldn’t express myself openly, the paranoia of white male faces laughing and clapping at my demise preventing me from doing so.

I had to win.

I had to remain “strong.”

According to the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum, South Asian Americans—especially those between the ages of 15-24—were more likely to exhibit depressive symptoms.

Also, South Asian Americans “had the lowest rate of utilization of mental health services—which is a conclusion that should come as no surprise to anyone raised in the desi community.”

According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, “African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population” and only one-quarter of African Americans seek mental health care, compared to 40% of whites. In fact, “African American men are more likely to receive a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia, when expressing symptoms related to mood disorders or PTSD.”

It’s clear that mental illness is an issue in our communities, including among men. Again, I don’t know what McCarrel was exactly going through but his situation leaves me asking questions, like:

To what extent does masculinity affect men of color differently than white males?

To how much does it contribute to our mental state?

Why don’t we do enough to combat “it”? Whatever “It” is?

My final thought, to help center ourselves, is, even though McCarrel lost his life at a young age, he made an impact. He was invested in social justice, including working on homelessness.

Remember him.

Is Dating Political?

dating political image
(Image from Google)

I look at her. She looks at me. She is white. I am obviously not.

And even though she’s funny, smart, and loves Octavia Butler the same way I do, I am left to wonder, while she’s reading the menu, Am I attracted to her as a person, or to what her whiteness can mean? Am I a hypocrite?

Yes, these are the questions that pile into my head while on a date. Fortunately, I don’t allow these thoughts to boil over. Still, they remain hovering like an anvil, and as I turn 28 and Valentine’s is right around the corner, the reality of meeting someone who I might spend the rest of my life with looms.

My parents didn’t raise me to believe I had to end up with someone from our community of Bengali-Brahmin-Indian-Americans. Although they have their conservative moments, they’ve always been supportive of my own ideas on what’s important in a partner.

Which shouldn’t be a surprise as the country continues to evolve. In an article published by the Pew Research Center, “in 2013, a record-high 12% of newlyweds married someone of a different race, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data.”

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that our society is open to all types of pairings. For instance, in the online dating world, black men and women receive the lowest response rates to their messages.

Despite my own parents and friends, I am also aware of how some South-Asian Americans view interracial relationships as only possible between us and someone white.

This paradigm is reinforced through our media and mainstream entertainment, such as movies like Meet the Patels and The Namesake.

In The Namesake, the main character Gogol dates a white woman, and after deciding to become more “cultural” decides to marry a “Bengali girl” instead. As if those were his only two options.  Of course, this plot, like many others, imply that white represents the standard American, and brownness is the perpetual outsider trying to fit in.

Even in shows that are progressive like Master of None, this story line is clear.

The only instance of black and brown love on the big screen is Mira Nair’s Mississippi Masala, which is about a South Asian family exiled from Uganda. They try to rebuild their lives in Mississippi, where their daughter falls for a black American man played by Denzel Washington. The movie remains a favorite of mine because it refuses to give into stereotype and reveals the tension between the black and South Asian communities.

So, I return to my original question:

Am I a hypocrite?

Like I said, I am not oblivious to how Desis revere light-skin. The “Indian whitening cream market is expanding at the rate of nearly 18% a year.” Even Indian actors and actresses have been in commercials for such products. These beliefs are worldwide, and affect the diaspora.

Knowing all this, I’ve typically dated within POC communities. I’ve even actively avoided Indian-Americans and Hindu-Americans. And only recently have I dated anyone white.

But a connection is a connection, right?

I honestly don’t have an answer and I don’t think I will for a while, or until I meet the “one.” Until then, I think the most important thing to do is to stay conscious of biases and prejudice.

For now, I’ll go out, order food, watch a movie, share some laughs.

For now, I will be mindful that she is before me.

That she see me. And I see her as well.

Fun Fact: Kamala Harris, attorney general of California and candidate for senator, has a Jamaican father and Indian mother. She’s awesome by the way.

 

News/Stuff To Know. Week of 2.1.2016 – 2.7.2016

black lives matter picture for news
(Image from Google)

Here are the highlights of the past week///

. . .

It’s apparent that the crisis in Flint won’t be solved anytime soon. However, some are deciding to do something about it.

EXCERPT: Baltimore attorney William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr. — who recently won a $6.4 million settlement for the family of Freddie Gray — has brought a federal class-action lawsuit against state and local officials in Flint, Michigan over the contamination of the city’s drinking water.”

Click here for full article.

. . .

Secretary general of the U.N., Ban Ki-moon penned an OP-Ed on the growing Israeli occupation of Palestine:

EXCERPT: Israeli settlements keep expanding. The government has approved plans for over 150 new homes in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Last month, 370 acres in the West Bank were declared “state land,” a status that typically leads to exclusive Israeli settler use.

Click here for full article.

. . .

Super-Bowl Sunday is our nation’s obsession, but there are consequences for the city that agrees to host the event.

EXCERPT: While different San Franciscans have used the occasion of the Super Bowl to protest about a variety of issues – including the installation of tacky Super Bowl statues, the December police killing of Mario Woods, and recent rate cuts for Uber drivers – the outpouring of anger on Wednesday was focused on the plight of San Francisco’s homeless residents.

Click here for full article.

. . .

This week was the anniversary of the murder of Amadou Diallo.

EXCERPT: Diallo died on February 4, 1999, seventeen years ago today. An immigrant from Guinea, he was approached by four plainclothes officers outside of his Bronx home who said he matched the description of a serial rape suspect. The officers—who said they thought Diallo was reaching for a gun when the unarmed man was just reaching for his wallet—fired upon him a total of 41 times, striking him with 19 bullets. The officers were indicted on charges of murder and reckless endangerment—all of which were cleared after their trial was moved from the Bronx to Albany. One of the involved officers, Kenneth Boss, was even promoted to sargeant last December.

Click here for full article.

. . .

The Black Lives Matter movement continues to evolve.

EXCERPT: Mckesson, 30, a Baltimore native and former public school administrator here and in Minnesota, is part of a team called Campaign Zero, which seeks to end police killings in America. The group wants to end “broken windows” policing, increase community oversight of police and limit use of force, among other goals.

Click here for full article.

. . .

A different and more hopeful view on our politics heading into the future.

EXCERPT: The next Democratic president will be more liberal than Barack Obama. The next Republican president will be more liberal than George W. Bush.

In the late ’60s and ’70s, amid left-wing militancy and racial strife, a liberal era ended. Today, amid left-wing militancy and racial strife, a liberal era is only just beginning.

Click here for full article.

 

What Sureshbhai Patel should mean to South Asians and non-black POC

Patel image
(Image from Google)

It was Super Bowl Sunday, and the plan was simple: roll our eyes at the commercials,argue over the teams, and sleep in the fetal position after eating too much dip.

I was in high-school then, and was excited to do something other than worry about classes or what my friends were doing. I was almost done carrying all the groceries into our home in East Brunswick, New Jersey, a suburban like any other, with rows of houses that looked the same and people who liked to stay indoors on sunny days. Just as I placed the last bag in the hallway, I heard yelling from outside. Despite my mom warning me not to, I walked onto the driveway, and witnessed one of our neighbors yelling at my dad.

“You Paki!” he screamed, veins pulsing in his neck. “You’re the source of all the problems in the world!”

It wasn’t the first time I’d experienced such anger directed at us. However, at that moment, seeing that man pointing his finger at my dad, yelling at the top of his lungs, like he was a teacher and we were children who did something wrong, made me realize a truth that further solidified when hearing what happened in the case of Sureshbhai Patel: our bodies are always under threat.

Sureshbhai Patel is a 57-year-0ld grandfather, visiting his son living in the suburbs of Madison, Alabama. On Feb. 6, Patel was stopped by the police as he was walking outside his son’s home. The police, responding to a call from a neighbor who described Patel as a  “skinny black guy”, approach Patel. Patel himself tried to show them the house he lived in with his son. In the dashcam video of what happened that day, it’s shown that officer Eric Parker slams Patel to the ground. Patel ended up in the hospital, partially paralyzed.

When I first heard about the incident, I immediately showed the video to my parents. We watched it while in the living-room, on my laptop. My mom began to ask questions, about who was Patel, and why he was being tackled to the ground. I explained that Patel was minding his own business, and that someone somehow considered him a threat. My dad’s eyebrows were narrowed, and without saying a word, leaned toward the screen, and clicked, watching the video from the beginning once more. That evening, he watched the video a few more times before ending up on the couch, and staring at our own TV, silent.

I’m a different person than I was in high-school (fortunately). Since graduating, my mind has been on social justice. I became a journalist, and now, am trying to earn a PhD in Political Science. My goal remains: to focus on race, and identity in the U.S., and to use my skills to make a qualitative impact on people’s lives. Currently, I’m buried in my books, reading material that I need, but also trying, desperately, sharing what I know with others beyond the Ivory Tower. But at times, I can lose who I am in these spaces. After all, there aren’t many people of color in academia, let alone social sciences. The discussions can often feel distant from me. Sometimes, I think about concepts such as linked-fate or revolutionary potential, like it’s even possible. But there are ideas/theories that seem tangible to me, especially when hearing the latest news about the judge throwing out the case against the officer who violently arrested Patel, after two mistrials as well. And with this sense of anger and hopelessness filling my chest like cement, connecting the dots and finding lessons from this is essential.

One concept in social sciences that was brought to mind is the “body.” Now, when I say “body”, I am partially referring to our anatomy, what constitutes us from our head to our toes. But this “body” is more than what is seen by a doctor or even by us when looking in the mirror. It is a “body” that is created by the power structure we all live under. For example, Patel might describe himself as an Indian national. Perhaps might consider his gender as important too. Yet, to the person who called the police, Patel was “black” and therefore, a threat. Patel’s body was constructed without his consent. Even though he tried to explain the best he could who he was, the police assumed he was up to no good, a body that did not belong in that suburban space.

This discussion of the body is often at the center of feminist and political theory. Great thinkers and academics such as Kimberle Crenshaw understood that there is no one body, and that often, bodies are victimized by perceptions and unjust laws. Intersectionality teaches us that we are all nuanced, that someone like Patel, isn’t just a male Indian national, but could be a fan of Star Wars for all we know, or that he didn’t want to be seen just as an Indian but of his ethnicity and religion too (i.e. Hindu). Still, we are not in control of who we want to be perceived as. As Crenshaw and others like her have shown, people of color and women generally, are subjected to a system that wants to simplify bodies and lived experiences. We can be Other-ed and therefore, left defenseless.

Patel was attacked, not because of what he was doing, but because of what his body represented. At the heart of the issue was the fact that Patel was considered “black.” This country, founded on the enslavement of black bodies, has always decried blackness as dangerous, outside-the-norm. The norm is: whiteness, and what can be grouped as tokens of whiteness such as having a  nice home in suburbia. But Patel, despite living in such a place, was immediately condemned as “black,” and therefore, didn’t fit that mode of whiteness. He was instantly at-risk because as “black”, he had no real rights. In fact, he had no feelings, no concerns, and certainly, no humanity. He was just an Other that needed to be controlled.

 

Again, to be safe from police harm and the injustices of the U.S political system, one has to harness “whiteness,” or at least, stop oneself from being Other. For example, as South Asian Americans, most of the discrimination we have been facing comes from Islamophobes. Those of us who are Muslim or perceived as Muslim are harassed, intimidated, and even killed. Our houses of worship are vandalized. Our identities under attack. Yet, there are ways to avoid this curse, and the solution lies in how we orient ourselves (a.k.a. our bodies) to the ways that the power structure wants us to.

As mentioned, the power structure puts pressure on us to produce a body that they want or see. If someone wants to be seen as a “man”, he must not wear heels, or have his wrists dangle. He must sit with his back straight, and be able to come up with big decisions no matter what. From a young age, we are told, as men, how to act as “men.” Eventually, we are disciplined by the power structure and those around us, like friends and family, into behaving a certain way that produces that kind of male body. Similarly, to be seen as “American,” and to be accepted by society, as a non-threat, it’s important not to act like a “Muslim.” Which means, do not talk about anything that can set you apart from your non-Muslim friends and colleagues, such as food, your own brand of American culture, and even politics. A Sikh-American, although not Muslim, can still exhibit what’s deemed as “Muslim” qualities: a beard, or a turban. To “correct” themselves by the standards of American mainstream public life and society, that Sikh-American might have to shave their beard, take off their turban, and depending on what part of the country they live (majority white population like in upstate New York), he could also flip to an Anglo-name. We see this in the case of certain South Asian politicians, like a Bobby Jindal or Nikki Haley, who instead of challenging the norms, abide by them, and adopt them in order to “fit in.”

Ultimately, in order to feel safe, we adapt to what is defined as “whiteness.” So, for anyone who is black, brown, immigrant or first-generation, cis or otherwise, they have a choice to make: either conform to a degree (especially in spaces that are white-dominated) or risk being singled-out and harmed, physically or mentally as well.

Most importantly, what we as Desis should realize is that deeply woven into American life is anti-blackness and the ill-treatment of black bodies. Tamir Rice. John Crawford. Rekia Boyd. These are innocent people, who were judged based on being “black”, and punished severely for it. Rice himself was only 12-years-old when shot twice in the chest, and left to die. The fact that the police officer responsible for this crime wasn’t indicted only proves the high-level of anti-blackness in our social and political climate. Plus, Rice was perceived as something other than just an average boy playing with a toy gun. He was suddenly an older man, since blackness, once pinned to a person’s body, heightens that individual’s age, and what he is physically capable of. Basically, what harmed Patel wasn’t his Desi identity alone (although his lack of English was used against him in the case), but the fact that his skin, his body represented blackness, in a country, that’s been built on black death and pain.

As South Asians and South Asian Americans, we cannot lose sight of that. After all, as South Asian Americans, we are usually more privileged, compared to other POC, especially black Americans. A black American teen living in the same neighborhood as me, will still face more problems than I ever will. Yes, I’ve been stopped by the cops too based on how I looked. But, the limit is, as long as I’m “seen” as something other than black, I will be harassed, but never beaten or shot.

That’s lesson number one: Blackness is vilified and serves to continue oppression of blackness and traits associated with that blackness. It bleeds like a corrosive into our bodies and body politic. When we ignore this, we perpetuate it. When we consider ourselves the source of the problem (i.e. “I should’ve been more compliant with the officer”, “The officer should’ve known I wasn’t a black or Muslim” (for those of us who are Hindu)), we are harming our black neighbors, and increasing the level of white supremacy against them too.

The second lesson is that black Americans and South Asians are linked. Our experiences may not be the same, but especially since the paranoia of 9/11, our struggles can be connected. It wasn’t even too long ago when South Asians and black Americans did see themselves as part of a common struggle against oppression, abroad or domestic. In Colored Cosmopolitanism: The Shared Struggle for Freedom in the United States and India, historian Nico Slate writes of the relationship Indian revolutionaries had with black American freedom fighters in the U.S. W.E.B. Du Bois saw this “colored cosmopolitanism” as a global battle against imperialism, racism, and greed waged by POC against the oppressors. Great American thinkers like Du Bois and Langston Hughes would include the Indian fight for independence in their own works and consider it a part of their world too. Also, for those South Asians who did start to build lives in the U.S., many found partners and deep-lasting bonds among the black American population as well. In a book written by Vivek Bald, which chronicled the history of Bengali men marrying into and becoming a part of black American culture in Harlem, it’s clear that black and brown people understood one another easier than those outside that circle. That while the white American made it illegal for brown and black bodies to exist as full-citizens, those same bodies found meaning in each other instead. Fast-forward to the present, and during the mistrials that took place, it was two black women on the jury who felt that Patel was wronged, which is a fact that cannot be left out and shouldn’t be ignored whatsoever.

“You Paki! You’re the source of all the problems in the world!”

Back to that afternoon. The man looming over us. His whiteness condemning us.

I still remember the anger I felt at that moment, to see him treating my dad as dirt. Now looking back, I assume the perfect response that the man was expecting was for my dad to acquiesce, to allow his body to be redefined before our eyes.

Instead, my dad smirked at the man.

“You have a small dick!” the man also yelled, which prompted my dad to chuckle.

“And your penis touches the sky,” my dad responded.

The man paused. Of course, the argument continued, until another neighbor of ours joined us in yelling back at the man and humiliating him. And of course, for years to come, we’d still face acts of prejudice, ranging from people throwing insults at us to literal bricks (which was done to my grandparents home in Queens). And along the way, my parents did seek to portray themselves to the world around us as “good Americans” to a certain extent by plastering the American flag on our car, to even planting an American flag on our lawn as well. And I did feel depressed some days, thinking that I was always going to experience the lump of cement in my chest, weighing me down. On days like when Tamir Rice was murdered, that frustration and pain grew. Seeing that cop car roll up to him in the video, the triggers pulled, the body crashing onto the ground. That child soon lifeless, expunged of any hopes and dreams he had, replaced with grief and the seemingly unalterable truth that his life was meaningless to the U.S. and what the U.S. believed in. There was nothing else I felt I could do but cry.

I am a South Asian American. I am also ethnically Bengali, although I don’t speak the language. I love books by Junot Diaz. I enjoy writing poems and stories, combining themes of love and aspirations. I think Mos Def’s The Ecstatic is vastly underrated and my favorite type of food is chicken parmesan. That’s who I know I am. And I want to be that person wherever I go. We all deserve that. Tamir Rice. Sureshbhai Patel. Eric Garner. Sarah Circle Bear. We all deserve to control our own bodies and its image, and we have to join that fight, whether that means participating in protests against police brutality or pursuing ways to ally ourselves with Black Lives Matter, it is up to us whether the streets will continue to be scattered with the blood and guts of black and brown bodies. Or whether, we will learn that if we want to live, we can and should be uniting, or experience a fate worse than death: invisibility.