Monday, June 27, 2011

Another Post on Rape

I don't know if you know this about me, but I was raped. I was raped just after my 19th birthday; without getting into the aspects of it, I'll explain that it was one of the darkest and most traumatic times of my life. I never saw the guy again, thankfully. Let's be clear though: he raped me at gunpoint, acknowledged that he did it, and may well have killed me that night.

Subsequent to my rape, I ran away to the university from which I would eventually graduate; however, in the time between my fleeing as far away as I could then stand and college graduation, I drowned in a pool of emotion. I became self-destructive. I was depressed and suffered terrible anxiety and panic attacks. I was imploding.

By graduation, I was rebuilt. Somehow, I rose above it all. I graduated with honors; in fact, I was the student of the year. I had the support of the people I cared most about, but they were not the people that most would suspect. Now, of course, the depression seems like a flash. It seems like I woke up one morning and with the blink of an eye, I am where I am. Having experienced the trauma, heartache, and internal death, I realize that the process of rebuilding was by far the most difficult struggle I've ever endured.

Moving back to the city which the rape occured was never part of a plan for me. In fact, since my graduation not-that-long-ago, I have been fortunate enough to travel about briefly, and it was just by chance that I landed back here with a career.

I implore you to understand, reader, that my life is very pleasant now. I hardly ever reflect to my personal experiences with rape. I don't want sympathy because I am a survivor; I fully acknowledge this experience and know that I grew to be a stronger warrior woman after it happened.

And so, my friends, life went on. Happily.

Very lately, I have been out and about and wondered if I would ever run into him again. I've been out and seen someone that looks familiar to him and had to process the idea that he may still be in the city. Call it intuition or something stronger, but I thought that I was bound to bump into him again eventually, and wondered how well equipped I would be to deal with the situation if it ever happened.

And it happened yesterday. I was in the market to pick up a can of peas, and I saw a man on a cell phone pushing a baby. Yet, he turned his head and I saw his face but he did not see me -- until I rushed to another isle to keep myself from having a mental avalanche. And he followed me. And I froze facing canned goods while he pushed a baby in a cart and spoke on the phone. And I could feel him slow down, and even though he hasn't seen me since I was 19 years old and a completely different person, he recognized me. And I felt sick to my stomach and disgusted. And I trembled as he spoke a 'hey, (my name)!'

I didn't look at him. I said 'hey' and ran to the other side of the market for check-out, feeling naked, terrified, vulnerable, and angry. What gives this horrible excuse for a human being the right to live, have children, speak to me as if he didn't -- in everyway imaginable except for the literal -- kill the 19 year old me?

I don't know. I don't have the answers. I am safe and collected; yet, I wonder why the universe is injust. It was a hassle to contact any person for any support; it was a struggle to avoid an internal whirlwind, and an external explosion. And I still feel like my internal London Bridge is falling down.

The thing that is keeping me going today is knowing this: I am better than him and that he does not/did not/will not get the satisfaction of seeing me fall apart.

Finally, my first of several counselors post-trauma told me that I was numb and unemotional. (I still hear this very often today when I don't react to situations the way that people anticipate I should. I am rational and reflective, and that does not make me unemotional. That does not mean I am not reacting, it means that I have my own system to process emotions and it is right for me). The counselor explained the concept of "righteous anger" to me; and I tried to be angry that he raped me then. It was not right for me. I truly learned and experienced, only years later, just yesterday, what righteous anger feels like. I don't feel like I am betraying my true self in being angry. I don't feel like I am a coward, or that I am less strong for being emotional yesterday and at this instant. I don't feel wrong in questioning why the imbalance in the universe resulted in the theft of my life, my virginity, and why he is allowed to live. And I recognize that I'll never know or understand, but I feel it.

And I also feel thankful for the few people who were able to help me breathe and process.

Be Righteous(ly angry with me).

The first counselor I saw is the actual reason I end my posts with "be righteous". Whatever I do, righteousness minus a connotation based in religion, is my motivation.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

June. Even More Amazing.

I know; after such an amazing Mayo, after the wonderful experiences and all the love, how could June be more amazing a mere 11 days in? After going on my first cruise, my first experiece out of the country, my first real vacation in ages, how on earth could a-little-over-a-week-into June be that much better? Well, for one thing, I got to see my favorite band, The Legendary Roots Crew, live again. This time was a little different from the others. This time was something like a hip-hop fairy tale.

I had been discussing going to Philadelphia for this year's Roots Picnic for months. I love hip-hop, and as mentioned in previous posts, I love seeing The Roots live and ?uestlove is among my favorite people alive because of his talent, drive, intelligence, and contributions to the music world. It's all respect. (Admittedly, my post from last year's show was a bit of an exaggation on my crush. I read back on it and realzed that my sarcasm doesn't always shine through clearly in my writing. D'oh.)

After coming back from the Bahamas, and spending far more money than I intended, I actually worried that going to Philadelphia was not feasible. And quite honestly, had my travel companion not already purchased her tickets and made arrangements to go, I'd have talked myself out of it. You only live once, though, and I decided to go for it. In the interest of saving money, we decided to fly to Philadelphia. Neither of us had ever been on an airplane before; and the day before the trip, we both got butterflies.

The flight was fine. It was smoothe. It was beautiful. It was..short. We landed in Philly about 45 minutes after take-off. We shuttled our way to the hotel, and went to a casino for a while before retiring for the evening. Let's just fast-forward to the show, shall we?

12pm. Saturday, 6/4/11. We walked around, and bounced from stage to stage. We networked and spoke with Phillyfolk.

We bought t-shirts for the music festival. Duh.

We noticed that okayplayer was having a contest. To enter, one either tweeted or signed up for their mailing list. I'm not one for things like this; I don't gamble because I'm not fond of the disappointment you feel when you've not won. However, the winners of the drawing won the opportunity to watch The Legendary Roots Crew and Nas from onstage. We'd be foolish not to try, right?

So we tweeted. And signed up. And had people retweet.

And enjoyed the show. Saw some people I didn't know of. And some people that I did. Some soul, rock, rap. Donn T. Yelawolf. Oh, and did I mention Esperanza Spalding performed with The Roots? With all apologies - I was so excited, I didn't get a much better photo than this:

Sometime during the course of the day, my companion and I tweeted about how amazing we thought Amanda Diva to be. And she tweeted us back. I am fully aware of how nerdy that sounded.

The performances were great. Wiz Khalifa had several special guests that included Freeway and Beanie Sigel. Wiz's set was over at 8:30pm. Once that was over..the winner of okayplayer's contest would be announced.

They only picked two winners.

Amanda Diva came on stage to announce the winners.

My companion wanted to listen. I didn't want to get my hopes up.

Questlove snare roll..

She announced my companion. And I was excited! But I won't front like I wasn't a little salty. I mean, we came from NC together. We signed up on everything together. I know that it was a supposed random drawing, but it didn't seem likely that the odds were in my favor. So I stood. And waited for the announcement of the second winner.

Questlove snare roll..

Me. I won. I froze. I screamed. I waved. People rejoiced for me. RIGHT HERE. I WON. OH MY GOD. THAT'S ME. IWONIWONIWON. I ran to the side entrance of the stage.

Nas rocked. The Legendary Roots Crew rocked. As expected. They are my favorite live hip-hop act. They're utterly and always amazing. Did I mention that I met Kamal Gray and James Poyser as they walked to their keyboards?

And that Questlove and I kept making eye-contact during his set? Which, I know is probably a typical fanatic thing to say since he was lookign in my direction and I wanted it to happen. I know that it sounds ridiculous. I'm a very rational human being and I don't feel the need to defend myself. I know what happened.

Great show. We hung out, excited, processing the events of the day, when my comrade pointed out Questlove leaving the stage. My thought was, "damn. My only chance to meet him." Yet, who could even be mad after such an awesome day? Not me. Not at all.

Then we saw Black Thought. And talked to him. And took a photo with him. I'd be ruining my no-photos-of-myself-on-the-blog rule if I posted it. And then we saw Yelawolf. And talked with him. And took a photo with him. And I got felt up by him. There was far too much energy for me to process what was going on.

I was hot and sweaty and wanted to go back to the hotel to change clothing before attending the official after-party.

I was tired from standing up all day long. While I pledge allegiance to the fashion, and am quite flexible in what I wear, I'm generally a dress wearing gal for parties. However, I wore ripped jeans, a tank-top, and Converses to the show.

And our hotel was on the other side of Philadelphia.

And we'd been having the time of our lives.

So, screw it. Let's go to the official after party wearing the same clothing that we wore to the festival. We'd be fools to miss the party because I wanted to get pretty! Onward we went.

We sat and ate fish and grits with Phillyfolk. We talked about our excitement.

We watched Questlove walk right into the venue. And I respect the artistic zone, so I was not going to be that girl to disturb his music high while he was on the way to the dj booth. Nope.

We entered the club to party. We intentionally moved near the dj booth. And I lost my five-foot-tall protege among the people inside. I'm standing by myself, listening to the music, just a few feet from Questlove. And a guy unintentionally bumps into me and I nearly fell. I was caught. He was face to face with me and apologized. It was Captain Kirk Douglass. Guitarist of The Legendary Roots Crew. I was stunned. He apologized and moved to talk to Questlove; on his way out, he bumped me and apologized again.

We partied. We went outside for air. We went back inside for a moment, and I danced with a guy from another state for a while, while my homegirl had to handle some business. And while this guy is in my ear, my friend comes back and grabs my arm and takes me over to Questlove. She introduces herself and explains that we took our first flight ever to see him. And that I love him.

And then he grabbed my hand. And I blushed. And he smiled at me, and made his way out.

I wish the story ended with me losing a glass slipper, but I wore Converses to the party. I didn't give him my phone number or scream out my level of devotion to him. Instead, I was civil. Classy.

And it was the best weekend of my entire life.

April Showers bring...MAYCATION!

With the winding down of my incredibly active April, I was quite satisfied - and exhausted - with all of my groundwork and advocacy for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Though, May was very busy and quite lovely because my best friend/cousin turned twinny-five. Yes, that's right. We're reaching a whole new realm in adulthood.

To kick off her birthday, we saw Mint Condition and Raheem DeVaughn and it was a fabulous show. Raheem-the-dream just don't know!

The next night, we partied. Hard. A bit too hard. I'd bore you with the details of our club hopping and all that but...some things stay just 'tween us girls. It was a success. A very wild and exciting success.

A week later, I traveled out of the country for the first time. That's right folks; she and I went to the Bahamas. And it was an amazing trip.

We bummed. We learned. We tanned. We shopped. We partied. We ate. We had the time of our lives.

There are no real words, but there are photos worth thousands.

To top it off, cousinbestfriend got engaged at the end of the month. It was a good one.

Peace, love.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Coming Up!

Over the last thirty days, I've been incredibly busy. I've seen a few live shows. I've traveled out of the country. I've taken my first plane ride to a state I've never visited. I've seen my favorite band again - except this time, things are different.

I think that the best way to handle this is to break my last thirty days into many mini episodes over the course of the next few days. Be very afraid.