“Ain’t nothing to be afraid of. You got goals. You got things you want. Move forward”—Cris Copastetik
I have a new tradition I do every year on New Year’s Eve where I write a list of everything I wish to purge from my body in hopes that the Universe will transmute that energy into a renewed magic ahead of the anticipated year. I write down my fears, my loses, my regrets, my shame. It is as cathartic as it much as it is utilitarian—I believe if we speak into the world what we want then we manifest it.
I was very fortunate to manifest a lot in 2018: I won the Brittle Paper Award in Poetry (and it was the first time women and/or femmes won in every category), I had my first ever cover story on Flatbush Zombie for Brooklyn Magazine, I was a 2018 Brooklyn Poets Fellow, AudioMack interviewed me (thanks Donna), I was paid the most I’ve ever been from my writing, from freelancing as well as readings, and I published a lot of my poems. Yet, I came up short often. I failed to keep up with the onslaught of music releases, I didn’t write enough op-eds, I slipped and called one lover the name of another, I hurt people I love dearly, I missed deadlines often, I drafted interviews and backed out of publishing them for fear of the internet retaliation. When I wrote for my first op-ed for NBCThink, for days on end, the backlash was the ocean rising in its majesty to break over my head again and again; first, a trickle of comments, then waves, and when the flood came I was washed onto shore only for the ocean to drag me back. The longest message I received is one I never replied, but even 6 months later, I keep coming back to:
The part that I must respond to is this: “I respect all thoughts and opinions, however, I don’t believe that someone’s demise is the time to bring up their past. Doing so could give off the impression that he deserved what happened or “had it coming”. Whether we like it or not, there are people who care for him such as his who care for him such as his family and fans, and they deserve to take this time to mourn and express their feelings without judgment”. While I appreciate and am grateful for the respect this person showed me, as a journalist, my only obligation is to the truth. The truth is what do we have to say for ourselves that we’re so adamant about protecting violent men than the people they’ve enacted violence upon…? When the circle of a controversial life is complete, we must examine the legacy left behind. I was right to interrogate X and that was furthered by his taped confession back in 2016. I felt affirmed that if I have an inclination, a curiosity that I must pursue it to its logical conclusion. All of this was a teachable moment: How do I show up for myself in the face of opposition? How do I protect myself while still doing the work? How do I push through despite my doubts and worries?
Threats are nothing new to me, I’ve had cruelties hurled at me for as long as I’ve been writing about music. I push and the world pushes harder, I bite back and the world opens its maw to tear me apart with the happy rage of kingdom come. As much fight as I have in me, I still break and I break often. I was scared to write after that op-ed, and it didn’t help that I am not supported by the platform I currently write for, but I confess: that’s not entirely fair. I’m told sometimes that I’m unfair and accusatory, that I keep score of those who have hurt me without also being mindful of those who I have hurt. The lack of support is because I am supposed to be The Support ™️. Being in this position makes the stakes higher because now if I fail, I have failed others who need me—my staff writers. Despite this pressure on this bridge called my back: I’ve never been alone and sometimes I lose sight of that. I’ve been alone and I am seen by people who are invested in my success. I’ve been remarkably fortunate to have received a tremendous amount of support from my colleagues in poetry, who have pushed me, who checked in me on and knew if I wasn’t writing then something was wrong, who encouraged me every step of the way and reminded me how powerful I am, that I a light people gravitate towards. In the coming year, I’m doing my best to hold that close, that should I fall I have people in my corner who will catch me. That there are more people cheering me on than there are people praying that I fail.
Moving out of New York, 2018 will end for me on a bittersweet note. I discovered too late that New York is my home. I left for because I must tend to what I left behind so I can move forward. It’s difficult being so far from everything I’ve grown to love, but may the unknown path open its arms for me. May I find the way back home.
What I am trying to tell you, dear reader, is this: The only reason I ever started writing anything at all was to save myself. I am writing this very thing so I won’t be divorced from the tools I needed to create the future I was incapable of seeing, that a younger me often feared didn’t exist. I was determined to write myself into a future I knew I deserved. Especially as a Black woman, if I don’t believe in myself, if I don’t push for my space in the world, I won’t survive. May one faceless voice come for me, may 1,000 voices come for me and I know even this is an offering—that what doesn’t kill me better hide because, trust, I’m coming for you.