Many of you know this about me but for those who don’t: I am a Black Queer 18 year old who is determined to become a certified professional midwife (CPM). Black and Brown births MATTER, and the maltreatment against Black and Brown pregnant folks in the medical industrial complex is beyond unacceptable. It is genocide, and BIPOC folks should not deter pregnancy due to the fear of dying at the hands of white supremacist ideals. During my sophomore year of high school, I was introduced to birth work when I joined an abolitionist organization with a mission of collective liberation. I did not know that the Black community was disproportionately affected by parent and infant mortality during hospital births. Over the past few years, I have grown an immense love for childbirth; this is mostly due to being exposed to the beauty of home births. I have been manifesting becoming a midwife for a while now, but I did not know how/when it would happen because of my aspirations of going to a four year college. I am going to college in Portland, Oregon, which has a huge birth work scene, and it dawned on me fairly recently that I could do college and midwifery training simultaneously. My college campus would allow me to have secure housing and food, which would allow me to be completely focused on my studies of English Literature and Midwifery. A prospective midwifery school that I am interested in costs about $19,000 total to become a CPM. To avoid burnout with my two studies and my own personal wellbeing , I have chosen not to have a job or do work study. Because of this, I am aiming to raise $30,000 to cover the $9,000 that I could make doing campus work study. These extra funds would allow me to navigate personal needs and emergencies without going into debt and experiencing financial insecurity. Thank you for your support. I look forward to serving and loving my pregnant Black and Brown communities.
If you would like to reach out to ask questions or offer additional resources, feel free to contact me on Instagram or by email which can both be found at the bottom of my “about ♡” page.
Whimsical laughter consumed our front yard as we discovered how daffodils danced in the wind. Glided as high as our dreams, tangible shortly before they wiggled through our fingers. Fingers that would point to the “V” birds in the sky, leaving but never really gone. Never truly missed because we all knew they’d be back. In the mornings, Momma would drag my sister and I out of bed to hear what she called the Early Rhapsody. And this is where we learned to appreciate the small joys in life. And this is where we learned that honey is only as sweet as your sweetest tooth thinks it is. There was a small patch on our porch tinted red from squished pomegranate seeds that’d fallen during contagious laughter. In these moments, I swear I could see myself mirrored in the twinkle in my sister’s eyes. Her eyes were the colors of the fallen leaves out front including the reds and the yellows and the oranges for her visions had no limits. I credited her with why the skies were grey and packed with sheet-like clouds, because one day she said she was tired of the sun. At the end of each day, we’d sit in our drying grass inhaling the pumpkin smell that floated in the air. We learned to love pumpkins even though the color reminded us of carrots, and we didn’t like those. We learned to love these days because there was no other time in the year where we got to eat so much pie. This is how we survived the season, bellies round, hand in hand, eyes on the grey horizon.
The first thing I can remember is numbness. The sizzle the flat iron made when it pressed down on my hair. Burnt hair smell wavered in the living room as Momma desperately tried to make my afro presentable. A dissolution of my identity also hung in the air, but I wouldn’t really smell that until my teen years.
Around the corner the crackling of frying chicken caught my attention, and in between the grease pops, I could hear my Nana groan after burning her hand on the scorching pot handle. Like all Black grandmas do, she toiled in the kitchen alone cooking collards, neck bones, and black eyed peas for the whole house, sweat blotting her face.
Often we could hear a pitter-patter of small rodent feet in the ceiling. Momma’s alto voice resounded through the dimly lit hallway as she yelled for my step-dad to place more mouse traps. Our guests barely showed their faces, but sometimes we noticed abundant gifts of black paw print artwork on our beige dining room walls.
After my weekly hair session, I would slip into the bathroom and stare at myself in the mirror. Burn marks were scattered across my face, where Momma got distracted by the TV and mistook my earlobe for a thick part of hair. This instance is where I learned that beauty is pain and to be beautiful is to look like the white girls on the magazine covers that covered our coffee table.
I see my life reflected the most in Longleaf Pines.
Sometimes the intersections of my identities make me feel like I am surrounded by heat on all sides. Like there is nowhere to go and nothing to do but burn to the ground. But in these moments, that I feel will incinerate me, growth is ignited.
I am from the Deep South where moonshine is fermented and barbecue is synonymous with birthday parties and also where homophobia is tradition and Christianity is synonymous with law. As a child, I knew I was different. Girls did not invite me to sleepovers, and I resonated with my Queer cousins on an incomprehensible level. This is where the fire started.
I struggled internally with feelings I lacked a name for until fifth grade when I had my first girlfriend. Nothing had ever felt so natural before. Something told eleven-year-old me that this would stop the burning. But my feelings of glee and safety were short-lived as I was not prepared for what would happen next. I was called names. My peers deemed my actions unholy.
I felt this undeniable heat in my chest, and the social alienation and condemnation encircling me fueled my internalized homophobia. Throughout middle school, I tried to sell myself the lie that liking girls was all in my head. I struggled with eating issues which worsened when I ran cross country. I spent the summer before my freshman year crying, conflicted as to how much of myself I should be in high school.
Freshman me was out but sheepish. During my sophomore year, I decided to join an abolitionist grassroots organization, Carolina Youth Action Project. By then, I treated my sexuality like an accessory, something worn only occasionally. I walked into my Youth Action Alliance interview, and there was a Transgender flag hung on the wall, pronoun pins in a bucket, and Zami by Audre Lorde on a bookshelf: a Queer safe space. The fire quelled as I let my guard down and queerness out.
I walked into my first YAA meeting, and again the smothering heat around me gradually dulled. During the group introductions, I looked about me and the fire was gone. I was no longer burning alive. In the CYAP space, survival was not my main priority, living was. Interwoven in political education were lessons on how to plant seeds of self-love in a world that equates queerness with weeds.
My most life-changing CYAP expedition was going to the Creating Change Conference, a national LGBT conference in Detroit. I was overwhelmed the first day because I had never been surrounded by so many people like me. I cried after one lesbian panel. There were older Black couples that I saw my future self in. After meeting them, I realized that my insecure sense of self needed to be burned down before anything beautiful within could blossom in its place.
Ballroom culture is prevalent in Detroit, and so naturally there was a ball one night of the conference. The voguing and trophies reminded me of “Paris is Burning” because it was where I first saw such an empowering presentation of Black queerness. There were Black bodies on stage sweating and smiling profusely, voguing unapologetically, and loving every second of it. This atmosphere inflamed me because it inspired me to create my own narrative.
I came out as Genderqueer at the beginning of my senior year. Younger me would be so happy to see that I have burgeoned into someone who is comfortable in their own skin. Someone who is not ablaze anymore. I have immersed myself in a community who has planted seeds within me that will grow forever. The fires are out. I am now free.
Longleaf Pines: the trees that need to be surrounded by fiery destruction before they can sprout seeds, kindling growth.
I was forced to discover Assata Shakur, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, and countless other Black writers on my own. In my English classes, we sat in huge circles and cheered as Emily Dickinson and William Carlos Williams did the Carolina shag in the center. “One-and-two, three-and-four, five-six” replayed in my head as I watched them shimmy all over, unknowingly forcing students to dodge their movements. We laughed when one of us almost got hit by Dickinson’s twirls; we were happy to duck and roll. They are the priority. They are two pioneers of American poetry. They are the reason I recognize the red in the wheelbarrow easier than the color purple.
If I had read “From the House of Yemanjá” by Audre Lorde in middle school, how much more would I know of myself? Would I have aligned with the lines, “I am the sun and moon and forever hungry,” and realized that my inherent duality is what causes me to crave? I want to be a nameless face in the crowd, but I also want to be at the frontline with tears in my eyes demanding liberation. “Jim Crow Must Go,” “I Am A Man,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “No Justice, No Peace,” are all cries to be released from the chains that prevent us from pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. If I didn’t have these shackles, I swear I’d become the focus of the dance floor. Without reading Assata by Assata Shakur, would I know that it is our duty to fight for our freedom?
After finishing a bell hooks novel, there was a small amount of weight lifted from me. The Southern Black family dynamic had made parts of me feel empty. As a child, there was no safe space for me to experience my emotions in real time, so the unshed tears were carried with me. I needed to shamelessly cry into a loved one’s arms. I felt that my family cared for me, but I knew I wasn’t being loved in the way I yearned to be. During my junior year, I began the journey of facing my personal trauma, and I read Sisters of the Yam to get a better understanding of Black emotional health. bell hooks made it clear that, in order to heal, I had to be willing to shed.
This revelation came at a beautiful time in my life. I had a circle of Black and Brown queer folks who surrounded me with love, patience, and resources. Through them, I discovered the book Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good by adrienne maree brown. brown says, “There is no way to repress pleasure and expect liberation, satisfaction, or joy,” which affirmed that I needed to allow pain and frustration to come and go in due time. I began to be very intentional about doing things that felt good. I allowed myself to laugh when I clumsily dropped my pomegranates in the grocery aisle. The small delights in my days like birds chirping at dawn or finishing a dense novel become more meaningful. I held hands with the people I loved, and I squeezed them tight when parting, trying desperately to make up for all the hugless goodbyes.
Pleasure Activism stayed in my backpack for a few months after I read it to remind me that pleasure is a necessity. I still carry this novel everywhere with me; I constantly recite its quotes in my head to pass time. The most meaningful part of the book to me is when Audre Lorde is quoted saying, “And there is, for me, no difference between writing a good poem and moving into sunlight against the body of a woman I love.” “One-and-two, three-and-four, five-six,” “one-and-two, three-and-four, five-six,” and “one-and-two, three-and-four, five-six” plays in my head as I try not to step on the toes of this woman who smells of lavender and bears my name.