My Play Little Brother

oakland-mapTW: SUICIDE

Death changes you. No matter the kind of death.

It can unravel you, it can unbuckle you, in the face of death you can learn who you are.

You probably WILL learn who you are.

5 years ago, my play little brother took is life. Matteo.

I helped to raise this child, and the most peculiar thing about it, or perhaps not, is that no matter what I accomplish, I will never see his flesh face. I will never see him get married, I will never hold his baby, I will never see him graduate from college. I will never, I will never.

I help to raise Mat, or as I called him Matteo, because if you know me online or afk (away from keyboard) I have a special affinity for names and naming.

There are are a variety of kinds of death. Murders, Cancer,  Natural Death, HIV Aids, drive-bys, structural racism being mapped onto your under/un-insured body. He took his own life.

He was tall, lanky, handsome, White, with a cleft in his chin, his “hella’s,” his handsomeness and Love for our favorite Thai Restaurant on Grand Ave, the last place I took him to eat after he picked up from the airport after a work meeting in New York. His astute awareness of being a young White man in Oakland. His gift of poetry. His alto voice. His willingness to work. His ability to make me laugh at things I should not laugh at. His loyalty to his friends.

I couldn’t grieve his death for a year.  I paid the price for this. It cost me, in part, a very important relationship. Once I began to grieve and continued to, I learned how to do it. I did it with videos, with art. I dedicated my first book to him. I made a painting about Oakland and the book and I included him in it.

I got to a point where his death became a part of my day to day life. It just was. Not that I thought about it, or that I  felt sad about it, his Life like his death became a part of me.

In making the video in Oakland in 2012, I came to conclusion that it wasn’t for me to say what he should or should not do with his life. It is what it is, and it was what it was.

One of the things that I am most proud of  in life is that in the few months before his death I was very insistent  about texting him to make a time for us to talk. This was before it was common knowledge that young people prefer to text, rather than talk on the phone. It took me a few days to schedule it, and we finally spoke and it was a lovely long conversation. We talked about home, his school and grad school desires, his friends, his family, how grad school was going for me and the fact that I had fallen in love recently.

He died 2 months later.

Death changes you. HIS death changed me.

I will say that 5 years later, I still see his face in children. And I mark it as well. Their round faces, their soup bowl haircuts. I look for and see his face in the crevices of their smiles, in the shape of their hair cuts, in the lankiness of their gaits.

One memory I will always have is of me taking him on the 15 bus  from the Berkley pool to Oakland while listening to Illmatic on my walkman. Me listening, and being protective. Him looking out the window at all of the activity on the streets. Me negotiating the stares from Black men wondering what I was doing with this White child.

I helped to raise him.

The thing that I know know that I did not know then is that the suicide of a young person is something that you do not get over. It is something that you learn to live with; hauntingly. Today, it is NOW something that I know that I don’t ever WANT to get over. I relish in the opportunity of ever getting to know his spirit.

Amen.

I Love you Matteo, Always. I see you every day.

Your Sister.

Renina

What Prince Taught Me: The Importance of Ownership

Prince Post

Prince, our new genius ancestor, taught me the sheer importance of Being a Black woman creative who owned as much of my work as possible. He taught me by example that in order to own my work that I would have to fight, and that the stakes were high. Black women’s work is often undervalued and stolen.

I know this is true because our genius ancestor Ms. Zora Neal Hurston died in penniless in an unmarked grave.

As a teenager, who Loved hip hop I read The Source avidly. I will never forget an interview that they had with Prince’s then attorney, Londell McMillan, where he discussed the politics of Prince’s relationship with Warner Brothers, the inability of Prince to use his name and the impact that it had on his creative process.

It is from Prince that I learned that it was okay to be absolutely clear about the value of my creative work in a world that says that Black women’s labor is worthless. He was also a fierce champion of Black women artists. See WEAREKING. See Misty Copeland.

Here are Eriq Gardner and Ashley Cullins of The Hollywood Reporter on Prince:

The story of how Prince — full name Prince Rogers Nelson — changed his name to an unpronounceable “love symbol” in the 1990s during a contractual fight with Warner Bros. is legendary. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it as the fourth-boldest career move in rock history. The story goes that the artist wanted to release more music and wanted to own his masters. The record company wouldn’t let him. When that happened, he began appearing in public with the word “slave” written across his face. The change of name even had Warners scrambling to send out font software so that reporters could incorporate the symbol into stories. Many of those writing about the musician just found it easier to speak about him as “the artist formerly known as Prince.”

To value yourself in a culture that says that you are invisible is the embodiment of being a Black girl from the Future. #blackgirlsarefromthefuture

To be able to dictate the terms under which your work will be consumed is a damn near miracle.

Prince taught me that I would have to be clear on the value of my work and continue to tell the people who desired the work the value of it over and over and over and over and over again.

Is it labor intensive? Exhausting and a fucking shit show. Yes. Everything has a cost. And my rational is that this is the cost of doing this kind of work for Black people in general Black women in particular.

Do you value your creative work?

How do you demonstrate that you value the creative work of someone else?

Who is your favorite Black creative and why?

#Blackgirlsarefromthefuture Podcast, Book Club and New Product Shops

BGFTF Book Club

I am very happy to announce the brand spanking new #Blackgirlsarefromthefuture podcast, book club and shop. I  have been busy!

 

For this podcast we discuss Their Eyes Were Watching God by Ms. Zora Neal Hurston. I also talk about Dear White People the politics of the digital and mainstream distribution of Black films.

Podcast Segments:

  • Book Club: 2:50-13:00

  • Level Up of the Week: Justin director of Director of Dear Black People: 13:00 -17:54

  • Shout Outs: 17:55- 27:00

  • #AskAllCity: 27:00- 29:00

Mentioned in the podcast:

Here are my shops!

Shop: @TeeSpring – Until May 27th

Shop: Tote bags, pillows iphone cases, pencil pouches

Shop: Notebooks, coffee mugs, the Book

Facebook: Facebook.com/Blackgirlsarefromthefuture

Instagram: @Reninawrites

Twitter: @Reninawrites

 

Thank you for listening and sharing. I hope you enjoy it. ~R

Let me know. Did you enjoy it? Do you LOVE Their Eyes as much as I do? What else are you  reading?

 

Black Girls are From the Future Podcast and Book Club

BGFTF Book Club

I am so excited to announce that the #Blackgirlsarefromthefuture podcast and book club launches this week.

The first book that we will be reading will be “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Ms. Zora Neal Hurston. I started rereading it on Friday evening and I was able to locate new connections that I have never seen before.

For the podcast I will be posting some questions that I am thinking about as I read the books, that can help you guide your reading as well. Below I have the page numbers for the books.

BGFTF PODCAST_MEME

Book Club Structure

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston

May 6th 1-115

May 20th 116-196

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer

June 3rd pages 1-116

June 17th 116-265

The Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

July 1st, 1-162

July 15th, 129-251

Third Girl from the Left by Martha Southgate

August 5th 1-124

August 19th, 125-268

For the podcasts we will read one half of each book, each month for the first podcast and then finish up the book for the second podcast. I have books selected for May, June, July and August, but there isn’t a selection for September yet.

I look forward to growing our community. I certainly look forward to hearing from you.

Wings up.

~R

What are you reading right now?

Who is your favorite Black women author who is underrated?

How many other book clubs are you a part of ?

Want “Black Girls Are From the Future: Essays on Race, Digital Creativity and Pop Culture” at your local library? You can request it.

Book Marketing MEME_Final

 

You can request my book “Black Girls Are From the Future: Essays on Race, Digital Creativity and Pop Culture” at your local library.

If you want the book in your library that you have to do is go to the website for your local library and request the book.  I have included links to ten cities where folks have supported the book. If I do not list your library link below, every website as a link where you can request a book.

If you have been on this ride with me, thank you for all of your support over the years. You all are the reason why I do what I do. If you are a new reader, thank you for joining the community. I treasure this space, because it has allowed me a space to develop my writing voice and create an international community.

Again. I appreciate you thank you for riding with me. You will need the ISBN number to order the book. The ISBN for the book is: 9780615835129.

Oakland

Brooklyn

DC

Manhattan/Harlem/Bronx

Houston

Chicago

Atlanta – via Collection.Development@fultoncountyga.gov

Durham

Dallas

Los Angeles

Prince George’s County, Maryland – **Note. They don’t have a digital link, only a phone number, but I wanted to include it just the same.