My Top 15 Favorite Albums Of 2016

My Top 15 Favorite Albums Of 2016

I love my genre-diverse list of 15 favorite albums of 2016; true. But I must say that Black women especially showed up for music in 2016. I mean, Beyoncé’s album alone carried me through 2016. Solange made me so proud. What a tremendous contribution to Black music and culture. Rihanna defined what risk-taking is in music and is definitely receiving the benefits of doing this well. These 3 artists, let alone the other Black women I named made such an impact in 2016. Black women as creators sometimes seem to give the world more than the world deserves. I am grateful for these creations, nevertheless.

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Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - November 2016

Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - November 2016

In November, I had several re-realizations about how little people think of independent artists, of Black women online, of hypervisible Black women online and people like me who are both independent artists and hypervisible Black women online. I dealt with so many paternalistic people second-guessing what I do, offering unsolicited advice or requesting free work. I do my best to not let it be stifling to me. It still affects my mental, emotional and physical health though. The ‘cumulative’ stress is real. 

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History, Symbolism and Representation: Examining The Meaning of Hillary Rodham Clinton's Rise

History, Symbolism and Representation: Examining The Meaning of Hillary Rodham Clinton's Rise

History, symbolism and representation came to mind for me over the summer when I thought about what Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidency would mean for me.  Examining history with a critical lens is more important than a hegemonic one. It does not invalidate the truth of a notable moment in history but instead provides subsequent context and nuance that evades the urge to solely support the ruling and the dominant. Interpreting symbols critically is more important than superficially and solely based on the perspectives of the powerful. Representation that pushes for structural change is ideal in a society where representation as a form of tokenism to buttress the existing status quo can end up backfiring and not being healthy or liberating at all. I have difficulty emotionally connecting to the meaning of this moment. Nobody has any room for the brokenhearted Black women though.

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Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - October 2016

Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - October 2016

Recognizing my need to rest is as important to me as recognizing my desire to create. When I looked over my Artists Make Art series, one thing that I realized is that I am not making logical deadlines where the time allotted matches the time needed to complete something. I am working alone. There is no team. There is no assistant. Thus, I am interested in making more logical choices and decisions about the actual time it takes for me to complete projects and not feel guilty about that longer time span since again, I am doing a lot and doing it alone. I look forward to really re-evaluating my deadline setting and making sure it is in a productive way that always centers my time, my physical/mental health and my need for relaxation and rest as well. 

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I Am Tired Of Being Expected To Work For Free

I Am Tired Of Being Expected To Work For Free

The people who demand free work from me are not in "survival mode" where exploiting me will "save their lives." I have seen some of them respect other indie creators' work and time, especially when those creators are "ally" Whites/men. Some of them get paid at their high-paying jobs with benefits that I do not have and often with salaries that I do not make. I make less now than what I did in corporate (by tens of thousands), even as I was still underpaid there. I do not deserve to be treated as someone in a consistent state of arrears to privileged, monied and inconsiderate people where I always owe something new or something else.

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Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - September 2016

Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - September 2016

Some people cannot stand to hear me say this but in some ways, using social media as an independent creator is worse than corporate. There are so many types of abuse that I experience now that I never did in corporate. It is difficult being an independent creator, especially as a Black woman, especially as someone who has to use social media as a "workspace" in order to earn and survive. This is a reality that I am not interested in hiding just so that I can be someone else's "career fantasy."

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I Rarely Trust People That Say That I "Inspire" Them

I Rarely Trust People That Say That I "Inspire" Them

Inspiration in of itself is not the problem. The way some people express "being inspired" as a pathway to rendering me an object to use, abuse and discard is. So many people are "inspired." So few people are ethical, honest and kind. I wish that these people thought of my labor as valuable enough to be paid for, cited, respected and consumed with temperance or respectfully disagreed with. I rarely trust people that say that I "inspire" them. I wish that this "inspiration" was rooted in kindness, not greed, envy and/or exploitation. 

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Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - August 2016

Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - August 2016

Not every day is easy, but I try to be aware of my limitations, my physical, emotional and mental health, and just try to take each day one at a time. Easier said than done, but so far, I still try. But people still continue to hover around the work that I did with Gradient Lair and refuse to stop the plagiarism and erasure. They are desperate for "wealth" in a social media "economy" where performing "wokeness" is "currency," and they will acquire this "wealth" by any means; ethics be damned. Part of this is either erasing my work and my role in how people know certain concepts today; another part is simply lifting the work and pretending it is their own. They will even assert that this abusive behavior is being "woke" itself. Despite all of this, I was still able to get some of my projected work done in August, and so much so that I still have a good feeling about the rest of the year in terms of a few things that I want to publish.

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The Painful Side of "Role Models," ''Mentors" and "Goals"

The Painful Side of "Role Models," ''Mentors" and "Goals"

I do not want to kill people's fantasies. But, I do not want to be one of them either. I am not your "goals." I am not who you want to be or are trying to be. You think I am. You also think you know me. You do not. However, this does not mean that what you do know about me becomes a lie.

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Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - July 2016

Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - July 2016

I decided that I do not have to rush to complete things that I previously set a deadline for. I want to pause sometimes and at least enjoy my work itself since I do not have the luxury of enjoying the context (primarily because of how a lot of social media is awful) in which I share this work, as an aspect of income/survival. Let me at least enjoy the process if I do not enjoy the post-publication circumstances, right? I have to be accountable for my work since there is no one to tell me what to do as an indie creator; I simply have to get it done. At the same time, I have to balance my own self-care and creative process over time.

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What People Think About Indie Art and Artists: A Survey

What People Think About Indie Art and Artists: A Survey

I do wonder how many of the people who participated in the survey chose what they think are the "right" answers (ones leaning towards payment and respect for indie artists) versus how they actually engage. This is not me being jaded; from using social media for over 10 years now and specifically using Twitter since 2009, I know that people engage indie artists poorly and many of those people do not evaluate how they consume or engage, with any real insight or introspection. In other words, some of the "nicest" people still engage indie artists as people who "owe" them, or do not engage indie artists with any respect at all.

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Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - June 2016

Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - June 2016

I am halfway through a new year and at this moment I feel a small amount of optimism about my work itself, though not in the social media culture that surrounds it. That leaves me torn, always, and makes me desire something else for my life, ironically. The issue is that there is nothing that I rather do more than write and make art; it is simply the context in which it is happening, in social media space, that has a price that is honestly too high. I cannot pay that price with my peace of mind, time, safety and physical/mental health forever.

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Hire Black Writers

Hire Black Writers

I did not share my thoughts on the hashtag #HireBlackWriters because I am scrambling for status for myself. I did so because of the clear and present marginalization and erasure in mainstream media. Employed writers working in mainstream writing industries are overwhelmingly White. These staffs are not oversights or accidental; they are deliberate. 

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Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - May 2016

Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - May 2016

There are so many times when I feel discouraged about what I do. Who could feel "empowered" as an indie creator using social media when so much time is spent mitigating online abuse? Most times, I am just here so that I don't get fined; Marshawn 3:16; the holy verse on labor. Will art always save me? What will happen when art can no longer be my hero?

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One Day I Want To Dazzle

One Day I Want To Dazzle

I love Black writers who not only inform, educate, critique and analyze—which are critical skills and valuable themselves—but also Black writers who dazzle. To dazzle is to “amaze or overwhelm (someone) with a particular impressive quality.” Not just what they share but how they share it.  Anytime I read something from a skilled Black writer where I feel that tingle in my spine—where I literally want to throw the book or article or essay or poem or play etc. across the room because how dare they be so excellent and emotionally move me this way; the sublime audacity of it all—I feel grateful for the experience. 

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Abusing/Exploiting Independent Creators Is Not "Fighting Capitalism"

Abusing/Exploiting Independent Creators Is Not "Fighting Capitalism"

Some people convince themselves that somehow superficially condoning exploitation of my labor while at a deeper level not challenging misogynoir and anti-Blackness is actually "fighting" the system. They do not see that they are in fact the system. The reason why wanting to make a living to survive is deemed "greed"—by misogynoirists, some "activists," and other people who reside on the Left as much as they do on the Right—is because I was never meant to survive. 

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People Who Minimize Hobbyists and Exploit Professional Artists

People Who Minimize Hobbyists and Exploit Professional Artists

Something that I have learned as an artist—one who is both a hobbyist (in some arts) and a professional artist (in other arts) who earns income from art, as well as one who ran a full-time business before as a professional artist—is to watch who really supports my art versus who really likes the appearance of speaking to an artist/about art.  Now, do these people "owe" me the role of reader, customer, client, project partner, or "pupil" (people weaponize "learning" as a way to exploit my labor or silence me altogether, but I digress) or other roles that infer a financial transaction at times? Of course not. But then this would also mean that they would have to stop plagiarizing my work, stop copyright infringing my photographs, stop binging on my work to vomit it all back up (without citation) on social media (to make themselves look "smart" and gain attention/followers) while at the same time harassing me over cash.me or Paypal buttons on my work, and stop the DM/emails/tweets requesting free labor on a daily basis.

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