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Brown Girl Lifted

because life @ the intersection is personal & political

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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

Today

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

Inheriting America’s violence: an immigrant kid on home and leaving

10407623_1656932877859372_5773064684406291616_nPerhaps this makes me ungrateful, but I know that as america stands today, my citizenship cannot save me. I have been talking with friends about using our american passports to fly somewhere far away where we can make a new home and begin our lives as expats. We will not be known as a refugees, though the state of violence against Black people and Blackness in the u.s. is genocide and has been petitioned to the U.N. as such.

I know that being born into my americanness is a privilege. I did not have to risk death to arrive on u.s. soil, I did not have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars in a taxing and never-certain process. Even though there is a place my parents call back home, I do not have to fear harassment and deportation. Still, despite having been born and raised in “the land of the free” I am concerned deeply about death.

I have scrolled past countless articles detailing Black death in america. I have glanced over them and lowered my head. I am exhausted by the news. I worry that I’m silent and yet don’t know what to say about the death abounding, the murders made of hate, so many Black lives taken, so many trans* lives, muslim lives, so many children, elderly, and ill individuals murdered. I have a friend who is very certain of one thing: he is finished with the u.s. and I do not blame him.

Although I’ve dreamt of it, I am less certain than he is when it comes to leaving america behind for good. As the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants I carried a rasta-esque ideal vision of back home. I considered it a place to escape to. I wrote this poem called “abandon” because I thought as Ethiopia stretched her hands to God, she would scoop me up, cradle me in her arms, and keep the u.s. from eating me alive.


In December 2015, I visited Ethiopia for the first time and will spend my whole life reflecting on what my first trip to Ethiopia meant, what every subsequent trip is going to mean. I feel there is so much I cannot say, only having glimpsed a bit of Ethiopia during my four-week stay in the capitol city. I will say, that for all the promised land dreams I had, I always knew, even if vaguely, that Ethiopia has its own violences.

There I was in Ethiopia, loved, cared-for, blessed. Also, undeniably a foreigner and a guest. I went for many reasons and quickly realized I could not be saved from america or my americanness, it was embedded in me. In fact, that I feel refused full citizenship and rights to healthy, happy, and uninhibited survival within the u.s. is part of my americanness because of its history and what was built long before my family ever arrived.


In my father’s house, CNN is always on and when Trayvon Martin was murdered, his face, constantly in the news cycle, became part of our living room, like a portrait. One day, my father said, “he looks like your brother.” This moment of admittance said aloud what I knew to be true the moment I began filling forms and naming myself as I have always felt and been seen, as Black/African american. I knew these dangers could befall our family, no matter our names or our origins, no matter where we came from.

I dropped my head when I read about the tragic loss and violent murders ofTaha, Muhannad, and Adam, three Sudanese american boys who were shot execution style in Fort Worth, Indiana. Though police have said their murders are not a hate crime, the deaths of these three boys are being attributed to racism, anti-Blackness, Islamaphobia. Their lives existed so deeply in targeted intersections it makes sense to suspect a hate crime. While we wait for more information to arrive, a petition for justice exists.The petition demands the Fort Worth, Indiana authorities to conduct an active and thorough investigation.

When I learned they were Sudanese I couldn’t help but think of their parents and if they ever imagined the land of opportunity would eat their children like this. Did their fathers see a young man slain by white fear and think, “he looks like my son?” Afaq Mahmoud, my friend and the cousin of Taha and Muhannad, asked her own questions in a statement that has been shared on the Our Three Brothers Facebook Page: Do you know what it takes to run from war? Do you know what it means to flee from one war zone only to land in another? Do you know what it means to flee to “safety” and have it swallow you whole?


Beyond grief my life consists of archaeology articles and labs, surviving on a white campus, and working to remember Black Joy. In the midst of this all I eagerly await a moment to read something away from my course work. A copy of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me sits on my bookshelf. I’ve yet to read it but I’ve listened to interviews, I know the reading is required. I know he tells his son, “This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.” I know this to be a truth of my own life — america is my country no matter how I feel about it and no matter where I go.


Hiwot Adilow is a singer-songwriter, poet, and performer. The Philly born daughter of Ethiopian immigrants writes most heavily about Love and the complexity of immigrant Blackness in all its gore and glory. Her writing has been featured or is forthcoming in Apiary Magazine, Duende Literary, and The Offing. She has also appeared on NPR’s Tell Me More and Wisconsin Public Television. Hiwot is a member of the First Wave Learning Arts Community’s 7th Cohort. She currently at UW-Madison pursuing a degree in Anthropology with a certificate in African Studies.

Why I Can’t Do Christmas…

 

For the past month you have likely been barraged by the sights, lights, sounds and smells of what is called “The Christmas Spirit.” You’ve pulled out your ugliest ugly Christmas sweater, and you’re ready to “deck the halls.”

You’ve watched The Grinch and Buddy the Elf about 10 times this month, blasted Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is you” so loud ya neighbors came knocking (what happened to her voice anyway??), and you’ve decorated your crib to now include a 7 foot tree complete with garland, lights, candy canes, and whatever else y’all use to pimp out trees.

You’ve emptied your wallet in a shopping frenzy for the newest gadgets, and when it’s all over some of you will ponder whether all the stress and expense was really worth it.

Here’s a perspective from one browngirllifted writer who said adios to Christmas once and for all.


**Before I begin, I’d like to issue a disclaimer. I do not hate anyone who chooses to celebrate Christmas, nor do I have any interest in condemning anyone for observing a religious holiday. I simply wish to share my voice.**

I remember what Christmas used to mean to me as a child. Pictures with Santa at the mall, decorating Christmas cookies, sneaking in the basement to get a glimpse of gifts I assumed were for me. Yes, it was all very exciting. Every December I looked forward to getting a chocolate advent calendar just so I could count down the days until Christmas (even though I usually ate them all during the first week). For my family and me, December signified all things Christmas.

Christmas music.

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Christmas programs.

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Christmas movies.
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Christmas shopping.

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NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 24: Black Friday bargain hunters shop for discounted merchandise at Toys R’ Us, which opened at 9PM Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2011, in New York City. Marking the start of the holiday shopping season, Black Friday is one of retailers’ busiest days of the year. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

Christmas cookies.
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Christmas outfits

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Christmas decorations.

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Everything. Christmas

So how did I, your typical Christmas loving child, say goodbye to “The most wonderful time of the year?”

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Continue reading “Why I Can’t Do Christmas…”

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