Growing up, I learned how to be invisible by buying into the things my father wished for: his daughter, decorated in accolades without the weight of her gender, race, or sexuality (& later, disability) hindering her from achievement. If I was able to do this, I thought, able to do well in school and earn all these neat little awards, then this truly was a world that was fair. I was judged only for my ‘competence.’ Until I went to college. There, I found the tools – the language – to name all the things I internalized. I began to understand both being hypervisible and unseen were not things of flattery. How I’ve come to navigate that has taken form in many ways – protesting, blogging, talking – but it’s been creating that has been my constant. The world’s not just. Take some of this art with you when you need to know you’re not alone.
Three Pieces of Art
1. "Needed Me," Rihanna: I was going through a rough patch with my love life and rendering myself a complete failure in the department when Rihanna dropped this album and came for my life. Every time I hear ‘tryna fix ‘ya issues with a bad bitch, didn’t they tell you I was a savage?’ I gasmyself up and remember that I do not need to have that kind of relationship to be ‘successful’ as a young adult. I’m bad all by my damn self and I’ll curve anybody who can’t deal.
2. "Milk and Honey," Rupi Kaur: I picked up Rupi Kaur after the recommendation from my Kindle store and can’t even be sorry for it. Many of her poems have been heavy on my mind, this one resonates with me hard as a woman of color. We often are forced to navigate the world as if we walk a tightrope; we are either too soft, or too hard. We love too much, or not at all. I hold onto this poem as a reminder that I can be all of these at once, that I need not compromise myself or my heart to satisfy.
3. "Justicia," by Edouard Duval-Carrié: I’m not privy to art ( I’m better at keeping up poets ), but I had to visit my campus museum a couple years back for a poetry assignment and came across this piece. The result was a series of haikus; I meditated on different parts of the art, letting my focus drift from the literal image to the imagining me in the subject’s place. I use it as a reminder to enact what I wish to see in the world, the justice that will not be delivered by those who are comfortable.
Two People That Make You Feel Less Alone
1. Zora Neale Hurston. “Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company?”
2. My closest friend, Mark. “What’s the motto? That’s right! Never give up!”
One Thing You Carry With You
“I wanted to be a poet and I knew that early on, but it was not practical for a girl born into a poor family to be a poet. I was never a practical girl.” – Shay Youngblood, Black Girl in Paris Black Girl in Paris is one of those strange novels that touched me, and proceeded to never release its grip. I’m still haunted by the way Youngblood paints a hopeful Black woman going out and chasing her dream in a world where they don’t want to see us do that. This quote stays with me because I want this for myself. I don’t have to settle for anything I don’t want to.
Jasmine Sierra is a graduate of Oberlin College, currently taking a small break before returning to school for an MFA in poetry. She has been featured in Winter Tangerine, Unrooted, Blackberry Magazine, and a number of her local college publications. You can find her portfolio here.