Brown Girl Lifted

because life @ the intersection is personal & political

You Can’t Double Tap The Pain Away (Or How To Move On From Heartbreak in the 21st Century)

So you broke your heart.

Maybe your whole world just fell apart when bae walked out the door. Or maybe it was a long time coming– and you had to pull the plug on a relationship that was good but not great. (And what even is life if you’re not letting it be great?)

Maybe it never even really started, but you already allocated so many crush resources to it that it still hurts like a bitch.

Beware, Oxytocin

Your hormones made you dumb and it takes forever for it to wear off.

Worse, technology + hormones = bad news.

It’s easier to feel shitty. It’s all fun and games when you’re instagramming the shit out of  your boo, but the pain of untagging is excruciating — and no one deserves that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind shit.

Now more than ever we face endless opportunities in love and jobs. We are also better than ever at turning people into symbols and ghosts, because they never really do go away… They’re always sliding into your DMs or watching your Snapchats, or saying they’re “Interested” in your events.

Here’s how to move on– without getting under someone else.


1. Talk about it if you need to. Get it all out and into some kind of safe screaming chamber.

Armor yourself with people who wholly accept you, who will sing your praises and make you feel good about yourself, while doing your best to 100% avoid any and all people who may have hurt you, no matter how good-looking or necessary they seem.

We’ve all got that person who makes us feel like a million bucks — maybe that person who always had a crush on you but will never act on it because they know you’re out of their league- or maybe just you two haven’t been hanging out so much since they got really into choir

 NOW IS THAT PERSON’S TIME TO SHINE. Laugh with old friends, and remember this can be enough. Remember that you are enough. You are everything you need in this world. 

2. Keep moving. Immerse yourself in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.

Research shows that many people are happiest when experiencing Flow,” the feeling of being completely and totally focused on an activity.

Find your flow and you won’t want to stop. If you don’t know what those activities are, it’s time to start something new.

Some ideas…

  • Listen to an album that YOU love that doesn’t remind you of anyone. Maybe something that’s been there with you since middle school
  • Write a song, or a story or a poem
  • Text someone you have been feeling bad that you haven’t texted in a while
  • Go to a drum circle or finally try out your talent at an open mic
  • Go on a walk, or a long drive, or an impromptu vacation and take a ton of pictures of yourself, with your hair rippling in the breeze
  • Help someone in need — like that friend we were talking about earlier

3. It’s not like you’re not going to get a tomorrow.

The human capacity for change is infinite. We are adaptable beings. This person or thing that broke your heart does not decide anything about your worth.

Accept the fact that even the most intelligent, good-natured, talented and sexy people experience pain and heartache.


Celebrate that you are free and open for the next opportunity — it’s yours for the taking.

*sends article to past self*

Aarushi (@aarushifire) does stand-up, sings in the Madison-based band, Tin Can Diamonds, and produces for public radio. She founded Brown Girl Lifted in 2015.

I think God herself lives within

a woman’s body.

The inherent way beauty resides in

her bones,

holding the potential to recreate.


Guided by moonlight, birth and death meet

at the crossroads.

Two ships,


within a sea of red.


I think about my mother.

And her mother.

About the women before me.

I think about the women after me.


(Is there a difference?)


I think about coincidences.

The way water travels—



Rain embracing rivers, embracing shorelines,

with a sense of subtle familiarity.

As if, she’s crossed this path before.


I think about contradictions.

The way the tide grows, preparing to fall.

The gravity with which we collapse,

only to rise up again, as stardust.


The way creation is destruction,

is destruction,

is destruction,

is creation.


But this is not a poem about contradictions,

this is a poem about resurrection.




-Nivedita Sharma-

[Declassified] How To Survive As A POC at a Predominantly White Institution

It’s that time of year again. You start the semester optimistically. After all, you only had to sell non-vital organs to pay for textbooks, move, and sell your soul to gain access to this to the entry-level capitalist machine we know as ‘Higher Education’™*

*no jobs guaranteed!

All the logistics of payment for suffering are in order, but are you really prepared to dive back in?

If you’re feeling unease not caused by the aggressively neutral not-a-smile-but-not-a-frown mouths your classmates flash you when they make eye contact, then continue reading.

  1. Have some ~school colors~ in your closet, better yet, ~~official~~gear.


Sure, it’s expensive AF and made from sweatshop labor, but SCHOOL SPIRIT is a must-have camouflage against the territorial non-POC–especially on the (not-soccer) football game days, as well as other sportsball events.

Donning “correct” gear—hats, lettered clothing, hell, even those sexy, striped dungarees—is like saying,“I’m with the Mascot,” the head honcho, the Boss of Bosses, the Don Capo Famiglia.


Know your mascot. Most likely HE is an anthropomorphic omnivore, part-time gang/cult leader of your institution. Wear his likeness on a visible part of your clothing and traipse carefree past tail-gating parties and drunk majority-race classmates– they’ll pass over you like the plagues did for God’s chosen people in ancient Egypt.

  1.  Bring a bottle of pepper spray.

On second thought, bring two. Many of these ((hush)) ‘White’ people are deathly allergic to Spicy. For an even quicker, more disposable getaway, carry a Carolina reaper pepper on you. When the time of use comes, simply break it open in the midst of a menacing stranger. They’re are afraid of anything that isn’t a sweet bell pepper—it works like a charm.

Alternate substitute repellants can include, but are not limited to: good rap music, a basic understanding of actual US history, on hand & ready clap-backs, direct sunlight, and anything they can’t pronounce.


  1. Create a catchy jingle to help people learn your name.

This can be melodic or rhythmic, whatever is your style. This will entice the Whiteys and bring them onto your side.

It will not only help your peers remember your name, but also (MAYBE?)how to pronounce it correctly.* Remind them once or twice of your jingle during the first week.

After the first week, it’s instant-death penalty. If all White People can memorize the (not-soccer) football and other sportsball chants, they can learn a few fucking syllables to identify you.

If they fail to make the effort of mindlessly being recipient to your uniquely created, Super Bowl commercial-worthy earworm, just make a point to call them by generic, incorrect White People names. Bonus points if the beginning letter isn’t the same.

*Just kidding. They may never pronounce it correctly. Just remember that your name is like, really exotic, and there is one other POC in the class to also keep track of.



  1.  Being the Token Friend can be a lucrative $ide hu$tle.


Just as the University likes to Photoshop showcase its diversity on every web page, article, and pamphlet, so do Whiteys.

Having a diverse group of friends on your social media is like shouting to the world that you’re a well-rounded person. White People don’t get the benefits of a Token Friend if they don’t have proof.

You’re in a group photo? Charge ‘em for that shit. Did they make that picture their cover photo? Awesome, charge ‘em double.

They regularly mention your existence to others (“I have an X friend,” or “My X friend says…”)? Make a jar – 25¢, 50¢ per mention. Bam! Instant laundry money. They want you to meet someone else in their life (to prove your existence)? $3 per cameo.

Who needs a part-time job?

By not being White, you’re automatically rare and unique. From there, it’s just simple economics, supply and demand.



  1.  Do seek out other POC.


Need to commiserate over shared experiences?

Laugh together at the ridiculousness that is the White Supremacist Patriarchy. When someone said something really Racistin class, make eye contact across the room with the only other POC in your discussion.

Can’t subsist on burgers, brats, rabbit salads and “brunch” alone? If you ask your people for help, they will provide; they know where the real food is at.

We may be small in number, but we’re here.

Just remember, you’re not alone.


Lauren Jia Gonitzke in love with stories in all their forms and mediums. As a critical and avid consumer of media, Jia is passionate about people who take and interpret, subvert, invert, and transform the original material. She’s a senior majoring in English Creative Writing with certificates in Chinese and Asian American Studies. Jia is a college student, storyteller, global thinker, and Chinese adoptee.

the narrow ledge between sorrow and a blank stare,

just remember:


They are offended by your capacity to feel.

They are threatened by the tears cascading down your cheeks.

Tears with the potential to turn into a tsunami,

to break down bridges, to wipe the shoreline clean,

and expose the sharp rocks hidden in the sand.


“You are too much,” they say.

Too much for speaking, and too much for crying, and too much for shouting.

You should’ve learned to sit down,

to cross your legs,

to contain your sadness into small boxes.

Didn’t your mother ever teach you to be polite?

To color inside the lines?

Your anger is a fire that must be extinguished.

If it grows too large it just might expose the truth;

it might just burn down this city of lies.



Don’t let them take your pain and turn it into something cruel.

Don’t let them take your anger and fray the edges, tear the seams,

Reshape it into something else.

They try and paint you as dangerous, as excessive.

Society has taught you to be small, how dare you try and become larger,

try and outgrow the narrow space you have been assigned?


They are afraid because they want control.

They want to own you,

every part of you

in its entirety.


But they cannot have you.


Because you own this anger, this pain.

You own this rage; this sorrow belongs only to you.

The way your blood boils, the way your heart sinks

and your breath thickens and your knees begin to shake.

This is your weapon; hold on to it like a handful of seeds.

No matter how much they ask or how hard they demand, do not give it to them.

For, with these seeds, you are able to grow a garden.

You are able to cultivate strength.

You are able to start a revolution.


After all, this vulnerability–this raw and uncensored ability to feel,

is the closest a human being can come to God.

Nivedita Sharma is a daydreamer, avid tea drinker, aspiring writer, frequent people-watcher, and lover of words. She recently graduated from UW Madison with majors in biology and psychology and certificates in gender and women’s studies and global health. Specifically, she is interested in promoting social equity through working on reducing health disparities and focusing on minority and women’s health. Additionally, she strongly believes in the power of sharing and embracing diverse experiences through writing and performance as a method of initiating social change and creating a more inclusive, more beautiful world.


ah, yes – sky blue eyes, a regal nose
short, neat blond hair
he’s a generic boy from the Midwest
attractive in the conventional white boy aesthetic
looks like he could be Captain America
an American GI looking for his war bride
but there’s no war
and my English is probably more smooth than
whatever will tumble from his mouth
after he makes his way across the room
i wonder who he sees –
Suzie Wong, Miss Saigon, Liat
he’s trying for that scene from South Pacific
but this isn’t a movie
and i will not fall into his arms by the end of the night
mysterious, intoxicating, alluring, exotic.
that’s all he wants from me
i am the Orient and he’s seeking my sacred mountains,
wants to conquer my strange, foreign lands
i am the precious lotus, sakura blossom, magnolia flower
that he wants to take home and nurture
but he’ll learn soon enough how to fear me.
when given the choice between flower of the Orient and dragon lady,
always choose dragon lady
dragons are power, strength, feared
so when he goes in for a smoldering kiss
and cannot handle the heat
you will burn bright, consuming him
whenever given the chance,
incinerate generic white boys
seeking a piece of the East
let there be no more
generic white boys
searching for their Oriental flowers
because there are none
here be dragons.

Lauren Jia Gonitzke in love with stories in all their forms and mediums. As a critical and avid consumer of media, Jia is passionate about people who take and interpret, subvert, invert, and transform the original material. She’s a senior majoring in English Creative Writing with certificates in Chinese and Asian American Studies. Jia is a college student, storyteller, global thinker, and Chinese adoptee.



These are the lessons they teach you:

mispronounce your name

for the sake of their tongues,

lower your voice, soften your tone

for the sake of their ears,

straighten your hair, lighten your skin, for the sake of their eyes,

dilute yourself, shrink yourself

for the sake of their egos.

But you do not belong to them.

Brown girl, you

belong to Monsoon rains,

and the five rivers of Punjab.

To the countless women who came before you;

women who have worn centuries of resistance and resilience

on their spines.

Women who have walked on fire, raised entire generations, started revolutions and crossed borders.

Women carrying stories so powerful that they can swallow you whole.

Women that live within you, unapologetic and unwavering

in their strength.

So next time anyone makes you feel as if you do not belong,

as if you are anything less

than enough, remember–

you are so much more than enough.

You are whole.

You are more than whole.

It’s nothing short of a miracle,

the way that you are

so much greater,

than the sum of

your parts.

-Nivedita Sharma

Continue reading “Shakti”

I am so in love with learning —

what beautiful concepts illuminate our natural world

what skillful art reflects our inner growth

— on our campus on the isthmus

But I am so deeply shaken —

instances of hate and violence manifest in blatant cruelty

but also in the whispers, the whispers, the whispers

the “I’m-not-racist-buts”

the discomfort

the assumption of understanding divides that feel so great

— on this tiny strip of land betwixt two lakes…

we are packed together like sardines in a can

and you respond to difference with hate?

why do you get off on

hurting those whose throats are already choked up

whose eyes are already tired

have you ever really been tired before?

Growing up in the most racist county in America, I grew a thicker skin.

Today the skin is broken.

Something bubbled over

and burst out of me


tears like a bullet

through layers of sweat and internalized oppression

of thousands of swallowed words and tears and bad moods

stereotypes — oh how i wish they were benign —

etched all over my skin like tattoos

sexualized reactions to my brown body

bolstered by “complimentary” notions of how I defy expectation

I don’t know what people see when they look at me

it is not me

it has never been me

they silenced us before we had the words to notice

that I looked different from my ivory skinned peers

before I was even a spark in my parents’ eyes

there was a conspiracy taking root

built up by holding us back

and down

and under

and behind

and dry

and so hungry

we were too precious to be squandered

too valuable to be left alone

too golden to not be threatening

I am like them

but I don’t like them

I love them

but I don’t like them

I don’t want to give them what they want

I am like them

but I don’t want to give them what they want

I don’t want them to buy and sell parts of me

I don’t want to fake an accent

tell you what caste I’m from like it’s my sun sign

I don’t want to be the only brown person in the yoga class

I keep forgetting when I’m supposed to be a “good sport”

I am too sensitive to live by the rules of this world

I am too poor not to

I have choices, but not many

today I understand why my parents wanted me to be “comfortable”

because when you have money, you can buy back the rights

stolen from you at birth

you can make choices about what worlds you want to live in

& that makes it okay

that makes it okay that you can never change your body

It’s my fucking body,

I didn’t choose it.

I have to live in it,

I have to be here

on this crowded isthmus,

shrouded in the fog

-Aarushi Agni


with breasts that you measure in “cups” and letters
and you can’t even

remember the size,

and all you know is how they perk or drop in the mirror 

with stretch marks across your thighs that look like you’ve gone to war with lions and

you have won.


that you are both

woman and man

with warrior and Queen 

running and  pumping and


through your veins. 

-Nyesha Lashay

Continue reading “Reminder”

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