Listen: A New Beginning With *1996*

Photographed by Morgan Martinez

Photographed by Morgan Martinez

by Scout Kelly

The worst part about making art is wanting to make art. A recent track release by the hot, young band *1996*, a flourishing project by Midwest-based artist Nicholas Ryan Abel, details the anxiety of performance not just as an artist but as a human-person. The track opens with an interview with the artist, who you later realize is both the speaker and the subject. It’s transparent and funny, a look into the pressure one feels when creating and the self-deprecating fear that what you have yet to make is somehow already a failure, even before existing. The second half of the track is a harrowing, dark song that still retains a certain prettiness. It sounds like an episode of the twilight zone, but with glitter.

You can listen to past releases of *1996* on their Bandcamp. Don't miss their performance at the Hooligan Mag Four Year Art Collective. Tickets are available online till February 14th and then available at the door.

Photographed by Morgan Martinez

Photographed by Morgan Martinez

PLAYLIST: I Have A Crush On Life and There Isn't Shit You Can Do About It


by Scout Kelly

2017 was a tough year for a lot of us. It was a year that I, personally, spent in rumination and at times, panic. I spent much of that time alone (save for a few good souls). I listened to a lot of music that fed that time of my life. You know what I mean - I was on that sad shit. It was what I needed; depression aside, I had tangible issues that I really had to work through. I had to take time to do that work.

But, uh, do you ever feel like you’ve been healing forever and you want a break? Like maybe you want to climb onto a rooftop and yell from the bottom of your belly in a good way?  Or you want to roll down the windows and sing something dumb, like, Alanis Morissette (not dumb, very good). Or, maybe you want to jump into a crowd at a show and let go of everything for a few minutes?

Sometimes I have this feeling when I listen to a great song, it’s like an overwhelming desire to kiss the entire world, to ball myself up and shoot myself out of a cannon and throw confetti over everyone!

I needed my mojo back in 2018. I don’t just mean my queer mojo, I don’t mean romantic energy, I mean I needed my capacity for shameless, exuberant joy. I needed to dance and punch the air again, or else I was going to lose my mind. I needed to remember how to have a crush on being alive. I get very, very, very down. Often. So, when deep, hearty joy comes along- I have to remember to be indulgent with this feeling of gratitude for being RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW.

When I think about all of the powers-that-be who might like to see me in my depression cave, with ugly anxiety, believing horrible and hopeless things… I want to celebrate my joy all the more. This year, I’m going to fight harder and dance harder and love in a way that is very uncool. I’m not here to be aloof; I’m going to be the most loof… ;)

So, I did what I always do - I started making a playlist!

I started collecting “crush songs” and asking my friends about songs that make them feel shameless, crushy joy! And I got some amazing responses. I made a Spotify playlist of my top crush songs and added lots of suggestions from friends. Please enjoy! Make your own and tell us which songs are your crush songs! I know that things are tough, and the world seems too heavy and too ugly. It really is, but it’s my sincerest hope that joy comes for you as well. I hope you punch the air. I hope you kiss someone.

(Spotify player below!)

Kiss Me- Sixpence None The Richer  (the obvious alpha and omega of crush songs)
New Feeling- Emily Yacina  (that airy crush in bright morning sun when you're on a walk)
SGL - Now, Now  (windows are down, you are singing, you might as well be James Dean)
Shut Up Kiss Me - Angel Olsen (you are feeling bravado and melodrama and it's delicious)
D'You Have A Car?- SWMRS  (you want to go and you want to go FAST)
Closer- Tegan and Sara  (you are shamelessly charmed by the idea of someone)
Summertime Mama- Becca Mancari  (summertime crushin', y'all)
What's It Gonna Be- Shura  (you are being honest and it feels good)
Nineteen- Tegan and Sara  (young love)
Why Can't I? - Liz Phair  (happiness came for you out of NOWHERE)
Archie, Marry Me- Alvvays  (you are pulling off a risky romantic gesture)
Cherry Garcia- Dingus. (You are crowd surfing and screaming along)
200 Miles- Caves  (long distance isn't that scary when you're happy)
Get Bummed Out- Remember Sports  (the sweet, anxious feeling)
Blessings (1 and 2) - Chance The Rapper  (gratitude and a lil sprinkle of hope)
Gigantic - Pixies (a good bass line and a big, big love)
I Want To Know Your Plans - Say Anything (nothing has to be perfect to be good)
Wetsuit - The Vaccines  (to never let the teen heart die)
Last To Sleep - Fazerdaze  (it's in slow motion and you're the star of the music video)
Novella Ella Ella Eh- Chumped (run fast and get it all out)
You're Still The One- Shania Twain (just let me have this, okay?)
Unattainable- Little Joy (you're walking and it's raining a little and you are smiling)
One Of These Days - Bedouine (You are charming and it's true)
Everywhere - Michelle Branch (everyone please cover this song)
There She Goes - Sixpence None The Richer (COME ON)
Fever - Carly Rae Jepsen (you are riding your bike and singing out loud)
Get Up Get On Down (tonite) - Turbo Fruits (you are in sunglasses; u look gr8)
Hot 97 Summer Jam- Chumped (I would wait for you all summer long)
Chasing Worriers  (you go get that kiss; this guitar sounds perfect)
My Body Is Made Of Crushed Little Stars - Mitski (your head is full of glitter and you are holding your friend's shirt at the collar and you're yelling along with each other)
Cut To The Feeling - Carly Rae Jepsen (huge crush and you just found out it's mutual)
Power-Ups - Sammus (You are unstoppable)

*under construction for the rest of my life

Hooligan's Favorite Albums of 2017


With the help of some guest writers and Hooligan staff, we've compiled a list of albums that have influenced and inspired us in the last year. We value the sanctity of music and recognize that creating anything requires hard work and dedication. For us, this is not a list of the best albums, but rather the ones that have had the most impact on us. 


SPLIT LIP - The Love-Inns
by Cody Corrall

The debut album from The Love-Inns is a stand out collection of eccentric songs that bring radical inclusivity back into punk. The track list tackles issues of consent, misogyny and shitty punk boys underscored by dynamic instrumentation and poignant lyricism that breathes new life into the genre. Where SPLIT LIP really shines is in their slower, more emotional tracks like the albums finale: “Summer Leaves.” The Love-Inns weave together exciting and ready to mosh punk jams with tender and heartfelt musical poetry masterfully. This first project is setting up a bright future for The Love-Inns and their quest to call out and change the toxic punk culture.

Favorite lyrics: “Don’t fight for my honor / cause my honor fights back.


The 1st - Willow
by Cody Corrall

The sophomore album from Willow Smith is her most mature and dynamic project yet. The album is weird and ephemeral: with equal parts 2000s R&B and early Björk influences. Willow uses vocal sampling and intricate instrumentation to her advantage, creating a sound that is uniquely hers. Willow’s vocal range and power are unmatched, and it shines throughout this record. The standout of this album is Willow’s poetic lyricism. Still a young woman, Willow embraces the irrational emotions she experiences and doesn’t shy away from them. These seemingly teenage emotions often carry over into adulthood, and they get stronger as they are accompanied by each individual element in the project, making it an incredibly introspective and raw project.

Favorite lyrics: “Being in love is like suffocating / And I am drowning inside my own fakeness.


Melodrama - Lorde
by Rosie Accola

Lorde’s sweeping sophomore album effortlessly defied the so-called curse of the “sophomore slump.” Melodrama is as epic as the name suggests, a multi-layered meditation on healing, heartbreak, and what it means to slowly cross the threshold into adulthood. Each track soars in its own right. “Supercut” uses ‘80s power-chords throughout the bridge. Lorde channels her inner Kate bush in the scathing, “Writer in the Dark,” and many a millennial wedding will be soundtracked to the swoon-worthy “The Louvre -- with its shimmering guitars and steadfast belief in a love worthy of being displayed alongside “The Mona Lisa.”

Favorite lyrics: “blow all my friendships / to sit in hell with you.


Turn Out the Lights - Julien Baker
by Rosie Accola

I first heard Julien play this records title track back in January, unaware that it would serve as an entry point into her sophomore album. The frankness surrounding how terrifying loneliness can be, coupled with Baker’s soaring voice as she belted out the last chorus sent me into a sobbing frenzy which alarmed a nearby rock dad.

This album is a significant departure from Baker’s 2015 debut, Sprained Ankle. Though thematically similar, still dealing with themes of navigating mental illness and grappling for connection in this strange world. However the production techniques used throughout Turn out the Lights, are complex and pushed further than Baker’s debut album. In addition to guitar and vocals, Baker incorporates piano, violin, and a completely instrumental first track showcasing her prowess not only as a producer, but as a curator similar to that of a visual artist.

Turn out the Lights is a breath-taking album which fearlessly articulates struggles with mental illness, and even the drudgery of wellness. The album’s lead single, “Appointments” struck me not only because of the crystalline opening chords, but because I was also tired of having to work so hard to remember to go to therapy. It’s one of those feelings that I never thought I would hear about in a song, and I’m grateful for it.

Favorite lyrics: “When is it too many times / to tell you that I think of you every night?


Collection - Soccer Mommy
by Francesca of Macseal

I stumbled upon Soccer Mommy opening up for Jay Som at the Sinclair in Boston and it was honestly the best surprise of 2017. Accompanied by memorable melodies, singer-songwriter Sophie Allison’s honest, comforting colloquial lyrics on Collection make drawing parallels between personal experiences inevitable. It’s obvious that Sophie willingly wore her heart on her sleeve while writing these songs with hooks like, “I don’t want a hollow smile / I want all that’s on your face / and I don’t only want to love you / I want something that I can’t replace” that suckerpunch your heart throughout the record.

Favorite lyrics: “You made your love like a forest fire / I wanted someone to keep me warm / you learn the difference after a while / I’m sick of living in the eye of the storm / I want the feeling of being admired / You only taught me to be out worn / This ain’t the love that I had desired / I’m sick of living in your eyes.


After Laughter - Paramore
by Francesca of Macseal

Nine years before After Laughter was released, almost to the exact day, my dad took me to my first Paramore show. That night, I decided Paramore was my favorite band and nearly a decade later, they still are. In a way that is only fitting, the release of After Laughter coincided with my college graduation day. While I should have been anxiously anticipating getting my diploma, all I could think about was dissecting Zac Farro’s off-balanced drum part in the verses of “Told You So.” The unique rhythmic presence Zac brings to the record binds each track together cohesively to form After Laughter.

Sonically this record takes a departure from the band's prior releases in a way that highlights Hayley, Taylor, and Zac’s individual musicality and growth. While this growth is apparent, hidden amongst the captivating lyrics of acoustic ballad “26”, Hayley references 2009 single, “Brick By Boring Brick” and says, “After all / wasn’t I the one who said to keep your feet on the ground?” Throughout the record these subtle moments come in nostalgic waves that add layers of depth and emotion to each track.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, After Laughter is truly an effortless marriage of unforgettable melodic lines and painstakingly relatable lyrics that will leave you wanting to dance through the tears.

Favorite lyrics: “I'd hate to let you down so I'll let the waters rise / And drown my dull reflection in the naive expectation in your eyes


A Crow Looked at Me - Mount Eerie
by Scout Kelly

This is the best record I’ve ever heard. Could I please leave it at that? When I first listened to it, I thought I could never listen to another album again. Mount Eerie is the musical project of Phil Elverum; this record is a tribute to his wife, Geneviève Castrée, also a musician, who passed away last year after a battle with cancer. They became new parents only a few months after her diagnosis in 2015. Phil writes about life after your love has gone, the experience of seeing a loved one go through chemo, and about raising their child alone. The grief inside of this album is undiluted and terrifying, and it is my deepest hope that it provided even the smallest amount of comfort to create. If anything, I believe in the god-like power of both love and grief each time I listen to this album.

Favorite lyrics from A Crow Looked At Me come from the opening lines of the album: “Death is real / Someone’s there and then they’re not / and it’s not for singing about / it’s not for making into art


Seed - Looming
by Scout Kelly

Looming gives me exactly what I want from a band, so thanks to them for that (S/O). Their sophomore album Seed is every bit as striking as their first and more. Lyrically, it’s a bit darker, I think. The album swoons between heavier musical tendencies and softer sounds, like the drum machine driven soft-pop sound of the track “waves.” I can’t listen to this album without moving; it’s one of the first albums I put on when I’m biking around my city.

Favorite lyric on this album is the refrain on the track Queen: “I’m not happy / but I’m less miserable


Good Woman - Becca Mancari
by Scout Kelly

ARE YOU A SOUTHERN QUEER? DOES THE STEEL PEDAL MAKE YOU SWOON? If yes, then Good Woman is literally for you. This album is one of my favorite releases of this year for so many reasons. Becca Mancari and her band built this album with so much heart and it shows. Musically, it’s objectively gorgeous and catchy as hell. It contains heartbreak, hope, and so much joy. Becca is a queer, Nashville musician HANDING you love songs about dancing with your partner in the kitchen. Please listen and buy the hell out of this beautiful album. After you do that, dance with your partner in your kitchen and have some hope for this world.

Favorite lyrics come from the chorus of Summertime Mamma:
Summertime Mamma, breaking me down / wearing that dress, girl / I’ve seen you around / Summertime Mamma, throwing me around / hot like the stones on the Tennessee ground


Everybody Works - Jay Som
by Rivka Yeker

I think I first heard “The Bus Song” on one of my Discover Weekly playlists on Spotify. It’s moments like these that make me trust Spotify in gifting me music I’d actually like. Jay Som is a band that is on the same pathway of bedroom pop influenced lo-fi rock, a genreless genre that continues to defy expectations of music and throws you in for a loop the minute you think it’s going to be something it’s not. Everybody Works is a poetic and dreamy album filled with intimate moments of personal reflection intertwined with observations of the world at large. If you like pop, rock, some funky synths, and sort of heartbreaking lyricism, you must listen to this.

Favorite lyrics “One More Time, Please”
I can't wait to find rest / won't you just give me piece of mind?


Hiss Spun - Chelsea Wolfe
by Rivka Yeker

I saw Chelsea Wolfe perform for the first time this year and it gutted me, just like this album did. Slightly more heavy and distorted, Hiss Spun is a bold, mystical, and all encompassing journey of what seems like an otherworldly seance. It is spooky and dark like the rest of their records, but there is something focused more on the technicalities of the music itself in this particular album. The guitars are loud and align with her voice, allowing for the album to sound like a consistent vibrating hallway of doom. If you wish you could like black metal, but want something more “beautiful” yet still on the same level of haunting, you gotta listen to this.

Favorite lyrics for “Scrape”
My body fights itself inside / I feel it bow, this mortal hold


A Black Mile to the Surface - Manchester Orchestra
by Rivka Yeker

Sometimes I am still shocked that I have it in me to continue to support and love a band for as many years as I have Manchester Orchestra. They continue to impress me with each record they put out, reminding me that they know what it takes to put out a good, solid, cohesive album filled with everything that, I think, matters in a record. Andy Hull manages to write consistently striking lyrics that always hold layers and layers of immaculate storytelling. A Black Mile to the Surface sounds like it is one continuous song, making it seem like one long-winded beautiful book. Each song a new chapter, each word a new revelation, each chorus a moral. I could cry thinking about how much this band has inspired me as both a writer and as a lover. If you like all the sad songs in the world, singer-songwriters who like to play with full bands, and powerful alternative rock, you have to listen to this.

Favorite lyrics from “The Grocery”
"I want to reach above the paradox where nobody can see / Want to hold a light to paradigm and strip it to its feet / I want to feel the way your father felt, was it easy for belief? / I want to know if there's a higher love he saw that I can't see"

peace fam.jpg

Peace, Fam - Mykele Deville
by Rivka Yeker

Mykele put out a record that is lively and ambitious. It is filled with personal anecdotes, his own truths, and the kind of storytelling that leaves you feeling ready to start a revolution, leaving the album to be uplifting and optimistic. It is political, but only because Mykele raps about injustice on such a personal level, on such a real and raw reflection of the city he loves. It is a Chicago anthem, one filled with both a call to action and an invitation to celebrate Black youth and their resilience. 

Favorite lyrics from "Peace, Fam" 

"Take pride in some radical self care / treat your friends like you treat yourself / love their smile never lovin their wealth  / if you're wrapped up tight let your soul unwind, / know first change takes place in the mind"


Soft Sounds from Another Planet - Japanese Breakfast
by Rivka Yeker

This album encapsulates the sort of dreaminess attached to heartache, grief, and moving forward. It is almost as if listening to it in full is like being in a trance, one filtered with melodic electro-pop and gut-punching lyrics. I have learned so much by listening to it, learned from front-person Michelle Zauner’s words on how to grow, become fuller, and more in touch with yourself. It is a gift when a record can teach you something as valuable as self-reflection & the ability to begin learning how to love again.

Favorite lyrics from "This House"
"Well I’m not the one I was then / My life was folded up in half / I guess I owe it to the timing of companions / I survived the year at all"


Every Country's Sun - Mogwai
by Rivka Yeker

I got my co-worker hooked on this record when he asked me to play something slightly more optimistic (I’m sure we’ve all been there). This new Mogwai record is filled with pop hooks that encapsulate their atmospheric and powerful sound. They’ve been one of my favorite post-rock bands since the beginning of my post-rock phase (that I don’t think will ever end). It is inspiring and uplifting and an incredible addition to Mogwai’s already perfect track record of what I think is an unbeatable discography.


If Blue Could Be Happiness - Florist
by Nicholas Ryan Abel of *1996*

This album is speaking in a hushed voice, a friend laying on a bed and saying to another friend “right now it’s Sunday night and there will be a Monday morning and I don’t know if that’s good or bad or anything but the sun is coming and that is a truth that we cannot fight.”  This album says, “I’m in a lot of fucking pain but I’m trying and I promise I won’t yell.” This album is a conversation where maybe nothing new is understood but you feel better just for talking it out.

Favorite lyrics, both from “Red Bird” 
And the sunrise always came / And it sometimes made you happy
I understand the birds now that I’ve learned some things / Yeah, I think


Feel Your Feelings Fool! - The Regrettes
by Georgia Hampton

I go between being in slack-jawed awe and insanely jealous of The Regrettes, a band comprised of four teens from Los Angeles that packs a bigger punch than a good number of established bands on the scene today. Combining the musical stylings of girl groups from the 60’s with the anger of female voices of punk, The Regrettes rip through misperceptions of femininity, overblown male ego, and flakey friendships with searing clarity. I haven’t stopped listening to this album since my friend told me about it early this year, and it continues to serve as my go-to when I need to remind myself that I’m an unequivocal badass. I only wish I could have shown this album and this band to my 15 year-old self, she sure as hell needed it too.

Favorite lyric from the song "Seashore" 
Well my words are growing stronger / and my legs keep getting longer / I’m like nobody else / so you just go fuck yourself


Survival Pop - Worriers
by Georgia Hampton

Worriers incredible third album Survival Pop blasted through my earbuds like a bullet through a window. In each song, lead singer Lauren Denitzio calls out to their listeners with this desperate determination to keep going, even if it hurts, even if you’re crying, especially if you’re crying. And I think we can all agree that in the dumpster fire that 2017 has been and continues to be, it’s very apt that this album came out this year. I’ve turned to this album when I was afraid of confrontation, when I’ve doubted my strength, and Survival Pop has continued to deliver. None of the songs make any promises that everything will work out, but it reminds you that you can fight. That you should fight. Listening to this album feels like the reassuring hand of your best friend squeezing your own, and knowing that after you do whatever you have to do that scares you, at least she will still be there.

Favorite song on the album: My 85th Rodeo
Favorite lyric: “Smile at the worst of things / laugh when I hate everything


Safely Nobody's - Tall Friend
by Lora Mathis

Before diving into my love for this album, I must name my bias towards it. Front-person Charlie Pfaff is one of my closest friends. However, while this does make the album increasingly special to me, the comfort I find in it is not simply a product of our relationship. An intimate world is spun on Safely Nobody’s; one of goodbyes, childhood aching, and growing pains. The opening track includes a voicemail from Charlie’s mother and the album’s poetic lyrics paint delicate, detailed scenes. In them, childhood memories are unfurled and deep longings for belonging are sifted through. This album speaks directly to the lonely child in me.

There are so many beautiful lyrics to choose from but I hold these extra close: "I’m harvesting my worry / ‘Cause it’s something that just grows and grows and grows"


A Place I'll Always Go - Palehound
by Lora Mathis

This album brought me through the month of June. I listened to it while walking through the sweaty streets of Philly, deep in my own healing process. Front-person Ellen Kempner’s breathy voice is paired with catchy riffs and lyrics centering queer healing and love. It begins with a romantic connection that is souring, and eventually melts into falling for someone new after having your heartbroken. However, this is not simply an album dealing with romantic love. It dives into death, familial relations, and shedding your youthful self. I love A Place I’ll Always Go for the healing space it creates amidst its hooking melodies.

One of my favorite songs on the album is “If You Met Her,” a look into how life continues amongst grief: "When the dust clears / Where’s my body?"


HEAVN - Jamila Woods
by Keisa Reynolds

Jamila Woods’ HEAVN is how I got through 2017. It feels like a love letter to the Black girls and women holdin’ it down in Chicago and across the globe. Woods uplifts those who fought for Black liberation in “Blk Girl Soldier” and reminds us how infrequently we hear those names. “Lonely” brings depression out in the light, illuminating the ways our minds can betray and bog us down. Along with Solange’s A Seat at the Table, this album should continue to play in your rotation. Every song will inspire you to keep amplifying marginalized voices, to keep fighting and hold your loved ones dear.

Favorite lyrics, from "Holy"
"Woke up this morning with my mind set on loving me"


Stick Around - Active Bird Community
by Kelley Sloot

There are only a handful of songs I’ve listened to where I can fully remember where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard it. QB Sneak- the first single I heard off of Stick Around, came out of my earphones while I was walking to class on a chilly afternoon. I fell in love, listened to their other tracks, and fell in love all over again. The album, released in January, successfully puts together a better ‘coming of age’ story in 23 minutes than most modern movies can do in two hours. Paired with powerful instrumentals, the lyrics touch on feelings of love, uncertainty, and insignificance; feelings that some of us know all too well.

There are days when I’m blasting "Dead Legs" while driving down the highway with all the windows open and there are other days when I’m listening to Home (and the rest of the album) on vinyl while sitting in bed. Either way, Stick Around has become a staple in my everyday listening habits and I’m looking forward to what the boys in Active Bird Community do next.


Popular Manipulation - The Districts
by Genevieve Kane

I don’t know about you, but 2017 has been the year of the tear for me. That’s right. I have been doing a lot of crying this year, which is why Popular Manipulations was my go to album. I would grab some tissues, put this bad boy on, and dissociate for 38 minutes. Popular Manipulations is The Districts third album, and definitely the most cry-worthy. Each song is chalked full of raw and intense emotion. The album is poetic, sincere, and downright touching. The opening song, “If Before I Wake,” immediately sets the tone of the entire album and possesses a reverberant power that renders me captive by its sound. After experiencing all 11 songs of the album, I feel completely renewed.

Favorite lyric from the song “Fat Kiddo” on the album:
Backlit we all see the sky / Skinny branches veining out / Blue afternoon


Stranger in the Alps - Phoebe Bridgers
by Rosie Accola, Francesca of Macseal, and xxxtine of Allston Pudding

“Motion Sickness” (xxxtine)
There’s something unfortunately powerful about negative experiences. They have a way of grasping you tightly and sending you on a whirlwind. Phoebe Bridgers’ “Motion Sickness” takes this idea quite literally comparing being in love with someone downright mean to you to getting sick in a jumbling car. The song is outward catharsis, throwing those honest emotions for the world to see even from the first set of lines like “I hate you for what you did / And I miss you like a little kid.” Even if there is anger and sadness, it’s better than feeling nothing at all right?

When I first heard this song, I immediately had to restart it again with the lyrics in front of me. It took everything I felt from a previous relationship and sent me straight back to that feeling. This time I had a sense of distance. The motion sickness can’t get a hold of me any longer. There’s no need to roll the windows down.

“Demi Moore” (Rosie)
This song embodies the three things that keep me going in life:
- Somehow being able to emulate a combination of spooky, forlorn, and sexy
- ‘00s film references
- Small moments of tenderness wherein people admit that they need human connection.

“Scott Street” (Rosie)
I first heard “Scott Street” as an unreleased demo in the depths of Youtube. I was struck the casual, honest, nature of the lyrics. Songs usually detail the dissolution of romantic partnerships, but this idea that everyday relationships can dissolve too is rarely touched upon, especially within the uncertain landscape of one’s twenties.

“Killer” (Francesca)
“Killer” is one of those songs you spend an entire day listening to in attempt to process the entirety of its lyrical beauty. In fact, I did for multiple days and still can’t fathom how Phoebe wrote this song. Lines like, “I hope you kiss my rotten head and pull the plug / know that I’ve burned every playlist / and given all my love” and “I am sick of the chase / but I’m stupid in love / and there’s nothing I can do / and there’s nothing I can do” push my heart into my throat in relief that someone else was able to articulate my own emotions so accurately.

If Hermione Was Black

J.K. Rowling has always stated that she never said what Hermione Granger’s race was in her books. Her canon description of Hermione was that she had brown eyes and frizzy hair, and that white skin was not specified.

But what would have happened if Ms. Rowling had stated in her books that Hermione was a little black girl who grew up to be a black woman? What would have happened if she adamantly stated that they could not whitewash this character and demanded that only a black actress could be the true Hermione?

I think about this a lot because Hermione Granger is one of my favorite literary characters of all time. I always admired her intelligence, her bravery, and her kindness. She was soft and feminine yet strong and tenacious, a multifaceted character who I truly believe was the real hero in the Harry Potter series. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley would not have survived past their first year if it wasn’t for this brilliant girl.

As a black girl who enjoys nerdy things, who has been called an “Oreo” in my life more times than I care to say, who just wanted to have a major character who looked like me, black Hermione would have saved me. It would have been such a great positive representation for young black girls and boys that we are intelligent, we can shamelessly love nerdy things, we can be brave and kind and save the world, too.

Black Hermione with her frizzy hair and brown eyes could have looked just like me. I could cosplay as her and no one would question it. People would tell me, “You look just like Hermione Granger,” instead of tertiary or unnamed characters in the Harry Potter universe.

J.K. Rowling made Hermione’s race purposely ambiguous, but I could see the hate and vitriol that spewed once a black Hermione was cast in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a play that was not even written by Ms. Rowling but heavily endorsed by her.

I read the microaggressive racist comments on Twitter and Facebook, comments like “Hermione is not black,” “When I think of her I don’t see a black girl,” “Why do they have to make everything about race?” “I’m tired of this social justice, progressive nonsense,” “Emma Watson is the true Hermione and I’ll never view it otherwise,” “I’m not racist but why mess with the original story?” All I saw in comments like those were how dare someone interpret a racially ambiguous character as anything other than white. For all we know Hermione could be mixed, she does come from the Muggle world. But people got so up in arms over such little information when the plot of the play was first released. Nobody cared that it was a play, a different interpretation of the Harry Potter series, a continuation of the story through the eyes of someone new, something outside of the Harry Potter realm completely. The only thing that people cared about was that Hermione was black.

Since so many people reacted so negatively, I think about if Hermione was always black would people have read the books as much or seen the movies as heavily? Would they suddenly turn away just because the three main characters had a brilliant, outspoken and courageous woman of color also in the forefront? I really do hope not, that would be such a shame. Some people can embrace fictional worlds with dragons, magical spells, Dementors and flying cars but a person of color being a hero is just too much for them to even think about, it’s just implausible.

But for little girls like me, who carried around those giant books everywhere I went when I was nine, who bought the entire set with my own money when I was fifteen, who has seen every movie hundreds of times, visited Harry Potter world, lives and breathes Harry Potter? Black Hermione is the dream, my dream. J.K. Rowling gave us the capacity to dream, to think for ourselves, to be brave. My Hermione will always do the same.

Redefining Illness

Art by  Bec Hac

Art by Bec Hac

Six months ago, I was officially diagnosed with Candidiasis, which can be considered many different things – an illness, a disease, an infection. It is essentially anything that makes one chronically unwell. Candidiasis affects over 40 million Americans of all ages, yet not everyone knows about it. People can go their whole lives suffering and accepting it, simply because doctors have a hard time wrapping their heads around illnesses that are difficult to grasp.

Candidiasis disrupts one's entire body, creating parasitic-like yeast overgrowth in the gut, spreading in the blood, and reaching everything from the brain to one's feet. The problem with Candida itself, is that it’s in everyone, but not everyone experiences its explosion, the moment that turns everything into more bad than good, creating unrest for its sufferers. So when I learned that this had been floating in my body longer than I would’ve ever guessed, the rapid weight gain, chronic fatigue, more headaches/migraines than normal, and an increase in depression and anxiety started to make sense.

The journey to decrease Candidiasis begins with understanding that there is no finish line, that the entirety of one's life is fighting to stay healthy, because unfortunately, we’re destined to destroy ourselves. Human lives are infinitely more fragile than we presume them to be, our immune systems require work, our bodies require constant attention.

In order to begin getting rid of Candidiasis, one must starve the candida of what it wants, rejecting its pleads,  and not feeding it yeast, sugar, and carbs. It was terrifying at first because I had a very specific idea of what a college student living in her own apartment’s life should look like. It didn’t involve illness, and it was much freer and less restrictive. I had to change my frozen pizza, Arnold Palmer, and candy from Walgreens diet to something that was beyond me, something that made no sense, something that needed way more energy and money than I had.

At first, it was a lot of researching and trying to understand what the fuck was going on in my body. It was creating my own diet, and following the Internet’s instructions, unsure if whether what I was doing was working and whether I was doing it right. I had seen multiple doctors at that point, and nothing was getting better. Eventually, my mom finally had me see a nutritionist. After seeing the nutritionist, I was given six different vitamins to help kill off the Candida and help strengthen my immune system, and then I was put on an extremely strict diet that was supposed to help clear my Candida in 2-3 months.

For 2 months, I had nightmares about eating sweets and bread almost every night, feeling nothing but guilt if I slipped up (which I rarely ever did purposefully). I let Candida take over my life. I was losing it, and I was in a state of constant unrest. I later learned that putting a time stamp on it would only increase my anxiety because I tirelessly counted each minute and each day until I’d come to the end and recognize that not much has changed.

I went to get my blood test redone, and had the nutritionist analyze my blood work. I had improved drastically in the parts in my body that needed help, I lost about 20 lbs, but the Candida was still there, and I still didn’t feel fine, even though I've never really understood what exactly fine means.

As the months passed and I began learning more about my condition and tried my best to stop pitying myself, working towards getting better, but falling hard on my bad days, I discovered that a relative of mine experienced Candidiasis years ago. We were sitting side by side at my grandpa’s birthday, and she told me that one of the major influences of Candidiasis is emotional. It’s about rerouting the brain to stop thinking that there is any normal way to live in our bodies. It’s about understanding your relationship with your body and how to communicate with it, how to learn about what works and what doesn’t. No doctor can tell you that. No one can explain to you how you feel more than you can.

I met up with the same relative a few weeks later and she gave me text on everything related to Candidiasis. She muscle tested me, and spoke about how much energy has to do with how we connect with our bodies. She taught me the importance of unlearning guilt and shame and how to stop equating my Candidiasis with my own personal failure. Then, she handed me a print-out on Candidiasis that changed everything completely. 

The first line said, “Candidiasis is a state of inner imbalance, not a disease.”

This is when I began to start viewing my condition as an imbalance, everything from the growth of yeast in my body to the chemicals in my brain. These are just disparities, things I have to live with, but things I can work on coping with and on.

The pain doesn’t stop. Every day is a brand new experience, anxious as to when I’ll get a headache or a migraine, preparing to be too tired to go out, pushing people away because I can’t be intimate, and feeling self-conscious and fearful that I’m a burden. I am emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted, but there isn’t much room to pity myself anymore. There isn’t time, nor is there a reason.

I have learned that it is okay to feel bad. It is okay to feel bad and to keep living, that there was never an eternal promise of happiness (and good health) when one enters existence. My imbalance shouldn’t prevent me from living to the best of my abilities.

At the end of the day, I am doing everything I can to fight what’s inside of me. I was raised to know how much strength resides within me, regardless of how much pain I endure and how much it tries to weaken me. I know that I am capable of fighting this, that all it requires is believing in myself to get through it, and recognizing everyone is battling something, and that I am not alone.

Learning to let go of the word illness and not allowing it to become a heavy weight that slings over my shoulders while dragging me through the mud isn’t easy. I want to, so badly, get through life without feeling like it’s eating me alive. At the same time, I don’t think there’s a single soul that gets that lucky. Our conditions are all specific to us and none of us experience life the same, so categorizing illness as debilitating for everyone, is wrong and harmful. We must redefine what it means to be well, and drop notions of good and bad.

Most of us are just merely getting by, but sometimes that’s enough. 

First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, and Then ...

By Genevieve Kane

Still from Cameron Crowe's 1989 film  Say Anything

Still from Cameron Crowe's 1989 film Say Anything

Four wise men by the names of Paul, John, Ringo, and George once said that "love is all you need." That is a pretty presumptuous statement if you think about it; but then again, who can really question the authority of The Walrus?

Love is all you need. What does that really mean? For generations, young people have been flooded with all sorts of romantic propaganda, packaging and selling this idealized concept of love. I shall now turn to Cher, who touched us all with arguably one of the most annoying songs of the ‘90s (“Groove is in the Heart” coming in close second), Do You Believe in Life After Love.  
Let's take a second to think about that. Do you believe in life after love? A simple question really. Yes, or no? Do you, or do you not, believe in life after love?
As a young woman, I feel particularly affected by the notion that there could possibly be no chance of having a life after love. Love is all consuming. It's one of the emotional extremities that defines us as humans. However, for young girls, I feel that love has become much more than that. The media portrays finding love as the be-all-end-all. It fabricates this unhealthy idea that you are a missing piece of a discombobulated puzzle just waiting to find the perfect jigsaw to fit ever so nicely together with all of your complex curves and edges.

Romantic, yes. Realistic? Maybe. Damaging? Very.

Telling a young woman that she is not complete until she finds love, or her soulmate, is harmful. Women are taught to equate finding love and getting married with success. I am constantly told that a woman is not successful, or complete, until she finds someone to complete her. She can not exist independently. She can not reach her full potential until she finds someone to unlock it for her.

This has been reinforced by many television shows, movies, and magazines. There have been countless films where the female protagonist’s main objective is to find a husband before she blows out the candles on her 30th birthday. There's an entire genre of film that perpetuates that. Women are rarely main characters with meaningful roles in movies, but in rom-coms, they're the stars. 

I am tired of seeing a woman’s shtick on television be that she is single and ready to tie the knot. Also, how many different ways can the same article about finding your future husband be rebranded and resold? I feel as though my surroundings have been grooming me to actively seek out love, with marriage as the end goal in mind.

Though, nice as it may be, I do not need John Cusack standing outside my window with a boom box blaring Peter Gabriel to feel content with myself.

It is 2016. It should be no surprise that women and men are both fully developed and complicated people. Regardless of gender, no person should be told that they only have half of an identity. This breeds unhealthy relationships where couples becomes overly dependent on their partners, and can only find value in themselves by seeking validation from another.

I am taking my sweet time in figuring out who I am before I get involved with another person. I am making sure I take care of myself right now. I am my own top priority.   

Stop Disrupting Black Joy With Your Fear

By Keisa Reynolds

Often we hear how important it is to learn how to spend time alone, Ive heard people say that you dont really know yourself until you have really spent time alone.

I agree with the sentiment so much. This piece was meant to be an essay about how great it feels to spend time alone and learning how to enjoy it. Then the murder of Alton Sterling happened, Philando Castile the next day. Then, I discovered we never learned to say the names of Stephanie Hicks and Essence Bowman, and we still struggle to uplift Mya Halls.

I experience joy when I spend time by myself. Sometimes it feels impossible when black joy gets snatched on a daily basis. It’s not easy learning to spend time alone when you are told your body is perfect for harassment and violence. Spending time alone, no matter how many of us have to do it, doesnt feel radical, especially when youre learning how to survive in the face of violence.

Spending time alone is a luxury for many people. There is always potential danger no matter who you are, however, the higher social status (real or perceived), the less danger you face, and the danger you do face looks very different than most. Its easy to not think about it, because no one should have to. Living life is a luxury for many people. Theres a kind of personal freedom in taking advantage of living life, doing what you want, what you can.  

I imagine the sense of personal freedom Sandra Bland felt as she drove to Texas to start a new job. I imagine the sense of personal freedom Alton Sterling felt when he figured out how to make money outside of the system that denied him professional prospects. I imagine the sense of personal freedom that Rekia Boyd felt as she enjoyed being out with her friends like the average 22-year-old before she was shot in the head by a Chicago police officer.

Many of my friends who are, and are accepted as, white heterosexual cis men walk home at all hours of the night without a second thought. Walking with my ex, a white man, in the South Loop at 10pm on a Saturday did not make me feel any safer; it reaffirmed how easy it is to navigate day-to-day life as a man, specifically as a white man. I would have taken a cab or requested an Uber instead of walking around. While safer than walking alone, requesting a ride still isnt the safest option for women, femmes, and gender nonconforming people. If there is another black person with me, the idea of safety in numbers goes away; the more of us, the greater the possibility of danger.

Black people face being perceived as a threat or receiving threats, sometimes both. Even our laughter can be seen as disruptive and threatening. Being a queer black feminine person is not a risk, nothing about my identity is a risk. The violence black people experience, including the violence we face at the hands of law enforcement and vigilantes, does not happen because we bring it upon ourselves.

It is summertime here. I would like to do the following: go camping, take a road trip with friends, hold the hand of a lover as we stroll through the park, sit on a restaurants patio while sipping mimosas, wear sundresses, wear a smile. I can and will do those things, and I will experience joy when I do. I will also experience sadness because the countless lives weve lost that wont be able to.

Experiencing joy and personal freedom is a right reserved for all, not a few. Black joy, whether or not it is accepted, is a gift to the world. 

Why Self Care?

By Ashley Johnson

I am Black. I am a woman. I am fat. I am cis-gendered. I am queer. I am tall. I can go on and on; these identities affect how I navigate in the world.

None of these are particularly positive identities (unless we choose to reject a hegemonic, racialized set of beauty standards). On a daily basis, I deal with negativity towards at least one of my identities, whether it’s internalized, stereotypes directed at me, or overt actions threatening me.

Self-care is crucial towards my fight as an oppressed person because how could I maintain my willpower without it? How would I be able to teach others and myself about my actual lived experiences? How would I be able to diligently give a voice to those who don’t have one? Self-care regenerates me to work forward.

But, what is self-care?

One could say that self-care is simply taking time to pay attention to the self before, after, and even during stressful times. For me, I identify self-care as a radical act that centers you as the point of focus in the whirlwind of daily activities. Self-care is a necessity, and it’s crucial for my existence.

Surviving in a world that doesn’t make space for me, while simultaneously rejecting me, is nothing short of a revolution. Every day I learn something new about the ways in which people’s lives are threatened, simply because of who they are. As I am constantly evolving and learning more about the indecency that resides along with humanity, I experience lots of emotions. I’m hurt, angry, unsurprised, confused, and sometimes, a mix of these. All I really have to keep me pushing forward is my fight towards freedom. Ultimately, I hope to be free from all of my barriers. Self-care brings me closer to that freedom.

Self-care for some is as minimal as showering after a long day, for some it is as big as a shopping trip. The key to self-care is defining what frees you from the prison that is built around you. I do believe as long as you aren’t harming yourself or others, that you can experience self-care within your means.

I practice self-care every day. This, for me, looks like meditation, lighting incense, washing my hair, drinking a cup of water. It involves making tea, cooking, contacting a friend I haven’t spoken to in a while, writing a poem, reading a book, putting on some headphones and blasting music, taking a nap, finishing a piece, or talking to my grandmother.

I’m a working-class woman so I can only do a limited number of activities that cost money. I might take one bus to a tea shop and indulge in some tea, take the bus to the lakefront, travel to my favorite salad restaurant, or walk up the street to the gas station and back. Some of these things center my thoughts and calm me down. As a person with high anxieties about perfection, I wallow in the opportunity to do something without having to prove my worth.

Self-care is subjective, but it is what allows us to find peace in all the chaos and hatred. Our resistance looks like a lot of things, and caring for the self is part of it. Self-care is a liberating, transformative act that shows our thorough fight against our oppressors in order to survive.

The Importance of Saying Something

By Anna Brüner

"I do not know your name — but I know that a lot of people failed you that terrible January night and in the months that followed."

- Vice President Joe Biden

You’ve heard it before in middle school anti­-bullying assemblies. You’ve read it in public ads on the subway. Maybe your Sunday school teacher even uttered the words in a watered down lecture on stranger danger. “If you see something, say something.” It is part passive plea, part ingrained civic duty. It is thrown around with other do­-gooder mantras like “just say no” and “don’t be a litter bug.” It dapples the landscape of pre-recorded messages that drone over airport speakers, “Don’t be a bystander. Report suspicious activity. If you see something, say something.”

There’s a post that was floating around my Facebook newsfeed for a few weeks. Three women were out to dinner when one of them witnessed a young man a few tables over slip something into a girl’s drink while the girl stepped away. When the young man got up to go to the bathroom, the three women approached the girl and told her what they saw. “But he’s one of my closest friends,” the girl told them, later adding that her car was parked at the man’s house and that she had come here with him. The women proceeded to inform members of the waitstaff who informed the restaurant’s manager, who was able to catch the man slipping something into the girl’s wine on the security cameras and immediately called the police. An attempted rape successfully prevented. The internet rejoiced.

“I haven’t seen you since the office party! Can I introduce you to my boyfriend?” a friend of mine said at a house party to a woman they have never met before who was being harassed by an aggressive, sober man. She went along with the act, grateful and relieved, and my friend called her a cab while they went outside to meet the imaginary boyfriend. On Master Of None, Dev (Aziz Ansari) and Denise (Lena Waithe) film a man masturbating on a crowded subway car before calling him out on the act, inciting other passengers to speak up and tell the conductor before calling the police, moments after having a conversation about how people see these kinds of acts all the time and usually do nothing. In real life, two students on bicycles stopped Brock Turner when they saw him attempting to rape a fellow Stanford student.

In his open letter to the Stanford survivor, Vice President Joe Biden wrote of “a culture that promotes passivity. That encourages young men and women on campuses to simply turn a blind eye.”

But it isn’t just college campuses. It’s high school dances and tree lined side streets in good neighborhoods. It’s public parking lots not long after dark. It’s your favorite bar or your best friend’s Christmas party or the church you’ve attended since you were three. It’s beaches and parks and bike trails. It’s alleyways that serve as the quickest way home.

A couple of weeks ago, a woman was stabbed and had her throat slit on the Chicago red line after saying “no” to a man who asked her to have his babies. Nobody did anything. Some people even took photos of her as she bled out on the floor. It happened on a train I take every day, at a stop not far from where I once walked alone to my partner’s apartment when we first started dating. But it could have happened anywhere. On another train, in another neighborhood, in another city.

“To see an assault about to take place and do nothing to intervene,” wrote Vice President Biden in his letter, “makes you part of the problem.”

I was in an abusive relationship for nearly two years. Several months in, we went on a double date with a good friend of mine and his girlfriend. We never went out with anybody. It lasted only an hour, just a quick dinner. The next day I woke up to a series of texts from my friend.

“You need to leave him.”

“You need to get out of there.”

“This is not okay.”

I didn’t leave then. I should’ve, but I also “should’ve” left long before that moment. But even though I didn’t listen to my friend in that moment, I did start to notice just how dangerous my relationship was. I stopped making excuses for my partner and started to see the framework of my abuse. I wasn’t able to do that the first time he made me feel bad about myself as a person. I wasn’t able to do that the first time he hit me, or the first time he raped me. But I was able to begin to do it the moment a friend brought attention to it. It wasn’t all just “in my head” anymore, I wasn’t being “crazy” or “manipulative” or “overreacting,” as my partner had brainwashed me to believe. This was real, and it was real because someone else, someone I trusted dearly ­­saw something and said something. It would take a few more of my friends seeing and saying something to finally push me to leave for good, but God knows how long I would’ve stayed had no one spoke up about what they saw being done to me.

There are dozens of reasons why people choose to do nothing. They don’t know the whole situation. They want to avoid conflict. They don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable. It isn’t their problem. It’s safer to do nothing. Whatever the reason, it’s always easier to do nothing. To say nothing. To pretend you don’t see it.

It would have been easy for two boys on bicycles to just keep going, to not stop, to pretend they didn’t see Brock Turner in the bushes holding a struggling girl to the ground. Maybe she would’ve still pressed charges. Maybe evidence would’ve still been brought against him in court. But maybe not. Maybe none of us would have ever known Brock Turner’s name. Joe Biden would have never written his letter.

I am begging you to not be a part of the problem. I am begging you to not be the one at the party who suspected something was wrong, the person they interview the morning or the week after. I am begging you to not play into a culture of passive, silent witnesses. There is too much violence, too much harassment and assault. There are too many lives who have been affected, permanently changed, and lost because of people who did nothing. Most have us have never hurt someone. Most of us have never raped someone. But most of us have turned a blind eye away from the uncomfortable moments where we could have acted.

I know it’s not easy. I know it will be scary. I assure you, however, the worst possible thing that could happen is not that you embarrass yourself, or embarrass another person, or make a scene. The worst possible thing that could happen is that you do nothing, you allow it to play out, and it happens again and again, behind closed doors in private places where people can't see anything. 

I Don’t Want To Be A Mom (Sorry, Mom)

By Anna Brüner

When I tell people I don’t want to be a mom, they assume I don’t like children. True, I am the first person to mutter obscenities under my breath when your spawn starts crying on the airplane. I roll my eyes at Facebook friends’ pictures of the horrid “little diva” and “Iittle player” ensembles they force upon their unwilling 8 months olds. I think people who bring their kids to a bar (I don’t care how good the fried ravioli is, Donna) are shitty. I was the only person in my 10th grade health class to leave during the birthing videos, where I didn’t even make it to the bathroom down the hall before puking in a janitor’s garbage can. Being in the same room as a pregnant woman makes me obscenely uncomfortable. I hate feeling sticky.

But I’m also the person who plays peek-a-boo with toddlers on public transportation. I’m the one who humors your child while you argue with customer service. At family functions I disregard all of my closest relations and opt for playing restaurant with my cousin’s four year old daughter. I make goofy ass faces in public just trying to get your squishy newborn to smile. I also worked as a full time nanny, and it was the most rewarding job of my life. I like kids. I love kids. I think kids are infinitely better than their adult counterparts, full of love and wonder and uncorrupted by the world.

But I don’t want to be a mom. 

When I tell people I don’t want to be a mom, they tell me things like “oh, you will someday” and always raise their eyebrows in the same way that eludes to them envisioning the filthy act of my procreating. It’s fucking creepy. I get told things like how I would be a great mom, how I’m so good with kids, how any kid would be lucky to have me as a mom, etc, etc, etc. Great compliments, believe me, but I don’t need them. I don’t need to be told what kind of mother I would be. I don’t need to be reminded in monologues about the glory of pregnancy and the beauty of childbirth. I don’t need to be lectured as if I am failing somehow, as if not having a child is the same thing as dropping out of college and developing a heroin addiction. I don’t have to bombarded with unwanted encouragement, when I’m sure my partner has never been asked from the age of thirteen why he might not want kids, or have his uncertainty about wanting kids deliberated upon by anyone who strikes up a conversation with him.

I’m sure I would make a great parent, in other ways. I don’t think I’m selfish for never wanting to become pregnant. I don’t think refusing to go off of my bipolar medication for nine months, refusing to give up my lifestyle and possibly my career, for a human being who got no say in being created. If I became pregnant, I would cease to be my best self. I would become unmedicated, mentally unstable, possibly dangerous to myself, and would put both myself and an unborn child at risk every single day. That, to me, would be selfish.

My own mental health aside, even if I were perfectly “well-functioning” and stable and healthy and the kind of person who could actually eat kale and not live off of sushi and martinis, even if I offered no danger to the parasitic little person hanging out amongst my organs, I still would not feel right about bringing a child into this world. I am terrified of the future. I am terrified of war, illness, hate, violence, and all the other atrocities people commit against each other every single day. I don’t foresee it getting any better, or at least better enough to the point that I would want to bring one more person into the garbled, chaotic mess. I could never justify bringing a new, pure human life onto a dying planet. I won’t. I refuse. I don’t want to be a mom.

But, as I said earlier, I could be a parent. I could offer my home and my love to a child who is already here. I could try to give them the best life that I can. I would try my best to make sure i help them become the best person they could be. I would teach them not to hate, not the judge, not to be afraid, not to engage in violence, not to turn a blind eye away from those in need. I would teach them to respect and protect life, to reach out to others who need help, to be an example. Maybe, if I am very very lucky, I could raise a person who would find a way to make the world better. Who would solve problems. Who would mend hearts. Who, if they wanted to have children of their own, would feel confident enough in mankind to do so. That, I would try my very hardest to do, and maybe, in that sense, I would be a good mom. 

Who Benefits From Being Woke?

By Keisa Reynolds

Over the years, online dating websites and apps have been a way to meet new friends and lovers who share your interests and want to talk about them, and maybe make out. These days, dating platforms are useful for finding people who share similar social and political views—a criterion that has become increasingly important to people seeking new dating prospects and friends.

OkCupid recently added a fill-in-the-black question for users to answer: ____ lives matter. The options are Black, All, and I’m not familiar with these movements / no opinion. If someone has been paying attention, they'll pick black lives matter as their answer. They might pick it because they want to get laid. Ideally, they will pick it because it reflects their beliefs.

After seeing the new OkCupid match question, I searched Black Lives Matter on the site and saw mostly white and non-black people of color in the results. During my usual search for potential dates, I often somehow land on the profiles of white people who say they have no tolerance for racism, and they only won't speak with you unless you believe black lives matter. I see #blacklivesmatter on Tinder profiles of white and non-black people of color. White queer people also write in their OkCupid and Tinder profiles that they are intersectional feminists. I don’t feel more or less inclined to swipe right or send them a message. Most of time I wonder, is their feminism truly intersectional? Does black lives matter belong on a dating profile of a non-black person? When did this become a thing?

People deserve the opportunity to weed out potential matches, their political and social beliefs are one way to start. For people living in smaller cities and towns, being able to weed out the purposefully ignorant jerks is necessary for their self-preservation. Same for those with marginalized identities, namely queer, trans, and gender nonconforming people who don't have enough spaces in person to cruise or seek partnerships. That aside, it feels like social consciousness is being romanticized and used for social currency. And as usual, it benefits the people who are not directly impacted by specific issues of social injustice.

I go to men's profiles and see a disclaimer: only interested in feminists. What does it mean for a man to declare a preference for feminists? Men should be engaged in feminism, but not through romanization or sexualization of feminists. White men write that they support for Black Lives Matter and care about issues that impact black people and other people of color. I don’t see as many black men or other men of color state the same, presumably because it is likely obvious through the other information on their profile. Hetero men of color are also likely to mention they are mostly interested in women who are feminists.

In a recent interview with TimeOut, Feminist author Roxane Gay said, “I think woke men are great, but sometimes they’re not really woke, they’re performing wokeness. What’s even worse is they want cookies, they want to be congratulated for being aware of their privilege and the benefit they have as they move through the world, and I’m not going to play that game with them.” “Performing wokeness” is an excellent way to describe it. People, not just men who identify as feminists, who align themselves with struggles and movements tend to spend too much time making sure everyone knows how woke they are.

One of my favorite sweatshirts is from AfroPunk, says NO RACISM, NO SEXISM, and continues a list of oppressions. I have pictures of me wearing it, I look cute and conscious—does that make me more dateable? Being open about my intolerance of social injustice has me perceived as an angry black woman, not a caring, socially conscious person. Being woke online is for white people, particularly heterosexual cis men. And many of us are guilty of praising white male mediocrity when it comes to them understanding the importance of social issues.   

It is innocent enough to mention black lives matter or intersectional feminism on your dating profiles, but it is as annoying as it is a relief there’s a small possibility you are not a terrible person. I can’t tell if they are speaking to me as someone with a marginalized identity, or people who share their privilege and also want to feel good about their wokeness.

To be a queer black feminine person in online dating is already a hard enough feat; having to make sure my profile shows a certain level of political engagement makes me feel like I am appealing to non-black people. Funny enough, I may scare them away. It doesn't help that online dating is already difficult for marginalized people, especially black women, heterosexual or LGBTQ-identified. For many of us, our interest in social justice is not about gaining popularity, it is about survival, it’s for the sake of liberation. This isn’t to say white people can’t also feel this way, however, it is fair to say for those trying to prove their wokeness, it’s not coming out of necessity.

My blackness is political enough in a space where black women and femmes are still seen as least desirable and non-binary people are viewed as confused. My feminism can't be described in a single word, and it won't appease men. A white or non-black person believing black lives matter doesn’t mean they also have to date me or any other black person (besides, we know dating or sleeping with a black person doesn’t absolve people of their anti-black racism). But there is something to be said about romanticizing people’s commitment to social justice and giving too much credit to mediocrity.

#ReadBeforeYou: Thoughts on Disability and Representation in Cinema

By Rosie Accola 

Credit to Warner Brothers

Credit to Warner Brothers

~Spoiler Alert~

The film adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ novel, “Me Before You,” is already being hailed as a summer box office Blockbuster, with a star-studded cast including Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and Sam Caflin (The Hunger Games). Based on trailers, soundtracked by the quintessential indie woes of The X Ambassadors and Ed Sheeran, the film seems like an opportunity for air-conditioned cinematic escapism at its’ best … and a purveyor of bullshit stereotypes surrounding disabled people’s quality of life at its worst.

The film follows Lou (Emilia Clarke) as she starts her job as a caregiver for a quadriplegic billionaire, Will Traynor, (Sam Caflin). Will and Lou fall in love as she attempts to help him see the good in life. She is infectiously bright and quirky, like any good manic pixie dream girl, she rocks snail buns, brings him flowers— yet to no avail. Eventually Will decides to kill himself via assisted suicide in Switzerland so he won’t hold his friends and family back.

The idea that disabled people are burdens, that there is no possibility of a quality life if that life happens to include a disability, is incredibly toxic and disappointing. One would think that having a disabled person as a main character in a film, especially as a character that is desired rather than desexualized, something that mainstream cinema rarely does, would be a positive thing. Even the saccharine nature of Will falling for his caregiver and vice versa seems almost forgivable, because for once a disabled character exists in the spotlight as someone with romantic interests. Yet, the fact that Will actively decides to end his life for fear of “holding [his partner] back” makes the film's execution a disservice to any sort of mainstream disability representation.

The notion that this experience, of caring for and loving will, somehow makes Lou a better person also perpetuates the narrative of inspiration porn— i.e that the existence of disabled people is noble just because they managed to exist and get out of bed despite being disabled. It’s best exemplified by experience rather than critical terminology, it’s when people tell you they “can’t even imagine” living with chronic pain/having to think through walking down stairs/being they shouldn’t drive etc.  Also by saying Will changed Lou, the film furthers the idea that in narrative art, disability is best used as a plot device or a prop rather than a real, nuanced experience.

This film serves as yet another opportunity for able-bodied actors to profit off of disability narratives. Rather than seek out an actor who was actually quadriplegic, Warner Bros decided to cast Sam Clafin— perhaps this decision was made due to the chemistry between Clafin and Clarke, or Clafin’s Hunger Games allure. Yet it speaks to Hollywood’s overwhelming tendency to utilize experiences of disability without consulting disabled writers, actors, or directors themselves.

Take for example, 2014’s Margarita with a Straw, the Bollywood film follows a young Indian girl named Laila with cerebral palsy as she attends college to study writing in New York. Laila deals with various bullshit aspects of existing while disabled in a university setting, she gets assigned a writing assistant even though she never requested one, but demurs because her writing assistant happens to be hot.  She wins the Battle of the Bands competition at her high school because “a disabled musician wrote the lyrics.” Laila responds to the announcers request for a few words by flipping her off, and it’s triumphant, the middle finger that inspiration porn always needed.

The film is also one of, maybe the only, film that honestly depicts sexuality and disability as coexisting entities. Laila masturbates. She makes out feverishly with another boy in a wheelchair, wheeling up close so she can better loop her arms around him. Once she’s in America, she falls in love with a feminist activist named Khanum, who happens to be a blind woman.  Their relationship gets all the trappings of a hetero box office smash, complete with a loved-up montage featuring two disabled women of color and it’s wonderful

Yet, the woman who plays Laila, Kalki Koechlin, is able bodied. Her movements, her attempts to move her arms in a stiff, titled manner, her head tilt, read as a parody there’s a hollowness. Koechlin has never actually dealt with the immense amounts of frustration that can be felt towards ones own body and knowing this almost feels like a betrayal. On one hand, I know it’s called acting for a reason, but I also know that disabled actors exist. At least, with Margarita,the disability rights group ADAPT was listed as a coproducer in the credits, which insinuates that the film got some input from people who are actually disabled. According to The Guardian, “The film, she says, took its cues from her cousin, Malini Chib, who was born with cerebral palsy and wrote about it in her autobiography, “One Little Finger”. The cousins are just a year apart in age, so they grew up together.” Throughout the film Leila’s mom also makes a point to explain to her college caregiver that, “Cerebral palsy only affects her fine motor skills, it has nothing to do with her intelligence” this is a display of empathy that Me Before You clearly lacks. It implies that disability is a facet of identity, a piece of a complicated whole rather than the defining factor. At the end of the film, Leila takes herself out for a drink, in a classic “treat yourself” fashion. She grabs a margarita, complete with a bendy straw she brought for herself. She asks the waitstaff to pour it into the cup she brought as well, one with a handle and a top, thus making it easier for her to hold. They oblige, and she sips her margarita contentedly, admiring herself in the mirror. Oftentimes in mainstream narratives, we rarely get to see disabled characters content by themselves— any modicum of personhood is always held in relationship to a caregiver or a partner. So to see Laila, out drinking by herself…reveling in her independence and her new haircut is downright affirming.

The tagline of Me Before You is #LiveBoldly, and Margarita with a Straw serves as a necessary reminder that disabled people can do just that, while ironically, Me Before You does not. Margarita With a Straw is the sort of representation that we need; we don’t need to see any more smarmy Forrest Gump bullshit, or any disabled people that exist merely as plot devices or life lessons. We need to remind people that disabled people can and do live boldly, margaritas in hand.



It's FEST season, and with early bird passes going on sale yesterday, we're celebrating this year by collaborating with some incredible bands for a special "Bands You Can't Miss" piece - highlighting some unreal talent on this year's line-up. 

Check out some of our must-sees and what we have to say about them!


Boyfriend Material - Gainesville, FL

By Rosie Accola

An effortless mix between garage rock and dream pop,  Florida-based Boyfriend Material is fronted by Shauna Healey. Healeys lyrics toe the line between cheerily self-deprecating and raw with lines like, Ive always been a mouse with/uncomfortable opinionsbolstered by dreamy baselines reminiscent of sixties girl groups. Healey only recently started playing with a full band, her first two releases, 2014s Little Boxes and 2015s Far From Home feature mostly vocals and ukelele for instrumentation. These tracks are imbued with the same lyrical wit, but Healeys full prowess as a front woman is truly allowed to shine with a garage rock bass-line to back her up. Boyfriend Materials latest E.P.,  S/T will be available as a cassette via Community records. Snag it if your hearts still aching post Dum Dum Girls breakup.

Youll Dig It If: Secretly you know Kristin Kontrol will never come close to the magic of Bedroom Eyes, you have a soft spot for ukeleles and compact lyrical narratives about the process of writing and pals.


The Girls! - Columbus, OH

By Rosie Accola

A punk band that knows the power of a good vocal harmony, a festival experience that includes solid bands and minimal miseryboth of these experiential anomalies await you at The Fest, thanks to The Girls! Classifying their music as both punk and power pop on their Soundcloud, The Girls! music acts an opus of confessional punk pouting stylistically similar to Liz Phair, which makes it the perfect soundtrack for any summer fling. Their latest single, Meet Me by the Pool is the perfect song for sneaking a forty and a glance at yr summer crush. The chorus, crooning tonight/ tonightis begging to blasted beneath the window of your beloved with a boom box Say Anything style.

Youll Dig It If: Your summer goal is to rock a crop top and French a stranger, you need something to dance in your unswear to during balmy summer nights


NO FUN - Nuremberg, Germany

Photo by Arne Marenda

Photo by Arne Marenda

By Jonathan Burhalter

Can you imagine no fun with an inflatable whale and naked man in a wrestling mask? That’s what German punk band, No Fun, has already brought to the table in their debut video. Who knows what will be next! Regardless of shenanigans in the crowd, the trio on stage is a group you won’t want to miss. No Fun brings together garage rock, post punk, and pop in their most recent album, How I spent my Bummer Vacation. Check out “Pull the Trigger” and “Ode an Die Freude” (Ode to Joy) to get ready for this show. No Fun’s sound is similar to Brooklyn based band, Chumped, with more pop, or like Colleen Green with more garage rock.

You’ll Dig it If: If you get down to bands like Bully, appreciate sharing some miseries with a good scream, or want to be able to say you saw No Fun at Fest!

Insignificant Other - Gainesville, FL

Courtesy of  Caitlin Elsesser/Triptych Productions

Courtesy of Caitlin Elsesser/Triptych Productions

By Jonathan Burkhalter

Lo-fi, queer acoustic bedroom pop group, Insignificant Other, will pull at those dusty romantic longings in your heart in a way that might renew your hope that true love might actually exist (but so do unrequited feelings). Their newest EP, Cop Kisser, is a step out of their usual ukulele-dominant sound by bringing in distorted guitars, drums and other percussion, a bass guitar, a trombone, and more to accompany their dreamy vocals. Imagine the floating sounds of Adult Mom with ukuleles, and you’re in Insignificant Other’s ballpark. If you’re a fan of the uke, you should check out their soundcloud page, in particular a song titled “there is a hell and it is called orlando florida”, and their album la gente guapa come fruta fea. Other songs to check out pre-show are “kehaar”, “con artist”, and “choke”. Reflecting on their lyrics might make you more self-aware.

You’ll Dig it If: You like bands such as Patron Saint of Bridge Burners and Yvette Young, have some time alone that you want to spend dissecting your feelings, or if you want to walk away from a set feeling like you grew.

Amanda X - Philadelphia, PA

Photo by Jonathan Minto

Photo by Jonathan Minto

By Jonathan Burkhalter

Amanda X is a 90s alternative, pop-punk, wave, all-female trio from Philadelphia that features vocal harmonies and a dreamy, distorted guitar. Their most recent single, “New Year”, treads lightly with an electric guitar through idyllic harmonies, keeping an upbeat vibe. Albums Amnesia and Ruin the Moment show off their forward guitar and cool style. They blend pop and punk well, using distortion nonchalantly and not adding any over the top finishing or background noise so that the resulting tones are grungy but not overbearing; just solid songs. You really don’t want to miss the chance to see this group.

You’ll Dig it If: You are looking to avoid overabundant reliance on feedback noise and just want to listen to good music wrapped around lyrics that strike beautiful images. If you like bands such as Frankie Cosmos or Eskimeaux, Amanda X is for you!

Bad Cop / Bad Cop - Los Angeles, CA

Courtesy of Mark Richards

Courtesy of Mark Richards

By Charlene Haparimwi

You will wish the four badass women who make up the L.A. based heavy laden pop punk band, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, were your very best friends. Formed in 2011 by singer/songwriter Stacy Dee with lead vocals and lyrics by Dee and Jennie Cotterill, these boss ladies signed with legendary punk label Fat Wreck started by NOFX lead singer Michael Burkett. With the influence of 90s punk bands like The Muffs and Face to Face, Bad Cop/Bad Cop mixes Joan Jett like vocals, in your face instrumentation and Beach Boys-esque three chord harmonies to create their catchy, hard hitting songs. After relentless touring they released their debut full length album, “Not Sorry,” and you won’t be sorry to put this banger on any chance you get. Full of anti-love songs, cheers to friendship, and facing mental illness head on, Bad Cop/Bad Cop does not shy away from diverse topics. The lyric from their not-so-subtle song, “Rip You To Shreds,” truly encapsulates the band’s no-fucks-given mentality: “I may be kind, but I’m not a sucker/I’ve got no time for stupid motherfuckers.” Catch them at The Fest and Riot Fest this summer!

You’ll Dig It If: You need to have a nice long drive with your female identifying friends, grabbing gas station slushies and frayed denim jackets as you blast “Not Sorry” on the car speakers as loud as you can.


War on Women - Baltimore, MD

By Charlene Haparimwi

“I’m not going to dance around the fact that there is a war on women. I’m not implying it. I’m telling you,” lead singer of the Baltimore feminist hardcore band Shawna Potter said. Her co-ed band, War On Women, released their eponymous debut album in 2015 on the contemporary hardcore punk label Bridge Nine Records. War on Women is really fucking punk, differentiating themselves from old school punk and riot grrrl, and aligning themselves with their heavy metal influences such as Metallica. The blistering lyrics, powerful vocals and thrash metal accentuates the commentary of pervasive sexism in modern day America. War on Women makes people listen; and you will love their bluntness, energy and understanding of social issues that plague our daily lives.

You’ll Dig It If: You need to scream your heart out along with Shawna Potter while dismantling the patriarchy and tackling sexist issues in the most creative, kickass way possible.


AJJ - Phoenix, AZ

Courtesy of  FEST

Courtesy of FEST

By Nic Deadman

AJJ has left behind their old name and a portion of their manic-depressive folk roots in favor of a full band that spans from goofy minimalist punk to something more closely resembling a symphony. Even when they dive into upbeat, poppy sounds and themes they're still pouring out the darkest heart of humanity - "I Wanna Rock Out In My Dreams" is a good place to see how easily frontman Sean Bonnette transitions from the fantasy of playing a Gibson Flying V in black leather pants to lamenting how he's finding it harder and harder to even define love and sincerity. Their performances match the music - high energy, good-natured, might make you cry, and always ready to upset expectations for a laugh. (If they cover Slayer as an encore, it wouldn't be the first time.)

You'll Dig It If: You're into Ramshackle Glory, Paul Baribeau, Folk punk goodness.


Kamikaze Girls - London, UK

By Laurens Vancayseele

They liked going to Fest so much they wanted to play too. Though last year was singer/guitarist Lucinda's first time in Gainesville, drummer Conor had two Fests under his belt before taking the stage with Kamikaze Girls at Fest 14. DIY in every way, this London, UK two piece plays fuzzy punk rock with a catchy edge that fares well with the Fest crowd; be prepared for melodic singalongs in a packed venue.

You'll Dig It If: Muncie Girls, Milk Teeth, feedback.

Amygdala - San Antonio, Texas

By Rivka Yeker

Amygdala is brutal. Coming from San Antonio, Texas, the 5-piece's sound is passionate and angry. The drums are fast, the screams are blood-curdling and powerful, the guitar is quick and melodic. The band is aggressively loud and they aren’t afraid to embrace it, nor do they shy from confronting important issues like assault, colorism, misogyny, and the patriarchy. Don’t miss your chance to get down with some of the best Anarcho hardcore punk in the game and make sure you snag their upcoming album Population Control.

You’ll dig It if: you’re into Punch and early Cerce and if you want to feel the room shake.

The Winter Passing - Dublin, Ireland

Courtesy of Brixton Agency

Courtesy of Brixton Agency

By Rosie Accola


Ireland-based The Winter Passing provides raucous, soaring, tunes that are perfect for anyone who is still reckoning with the last vestiges of their emo teen phase. The vocals of siblings, Rob and Kate Flynn, coexist to form a comfortable ache, a tension that drives the music and makes it seem all the more earnest. There is something to be said about this urgency, it denotes importance rather than anxiety.  With such an innate hunger for life it’s no wonder that The Winter Passing became an integral part of the Dublin DIY scene.  Above all, The Winter Passing believes in what they are singing.  “The Fever” is what can loosely be described as a killer opening track, with a hammering drumbeat and triumphant guitar riffs that call to mind “Head-on” era Pixies. Their current record, A Different Space of Mind, available for streaming via Spotify. Go ahead and blare it with your windows down while you drive to your dead-end summer job; this record is for anyone toeing the line between reckless and restless.

You’ll Dig it If: You’re curious about the DIY scene across the pond, you stand in solidarity with women in pop punk scenes. You love an aesthetically pleasing music video or two.

Slingshot DakotaBethlehem, PA

Courtesy of The  FEST  

Courtesy of The FEST 

By Laurens Vancayseele

After thirteen years of being a band and three years of being married, Slingshot Dakota’s combination of catchy keys and pounding drums has become a staple of Topshelf Records’ catalog. This charming duo is returning to Gainesville for the fourth time in support of their newest record “Break”. Singer/keyboardist Carly Comando also bolsters an accomplished solo composing career that netted her an Emmy award in 2008.

You'll Dig It If: You're into Football, Etc. and Lemuria but with keys.

Gouge Away - Fort Lauderdale, FL

Photo by  Farrah Skeiky

Photo by Farrah Skeiky

By Rivka Yeker

This is the hardcore band you’ve been wanting to listen to. They’re fast, political, and ready to wreck everything around them. Vocalist Christina Stijy stirs unrest with her lyricism about veganism, assault, and reclaiming strength in a world that tries to snatch it. Gouge Away is raw, angry, and ready to tell you about it. You can listen to their new album on their bandcamp by clicking here.

You’ll Dig It if: you’re into aggressive hardcore and woman-fronted power.

Jabber - Oakland, CA

Courtesy of  Jabber

Courtesy of Jabber

By Rosie Accola

They say never judge an album by its’ cover, but the Josie and the Pussycats-inspired cover for Jabber’s latest release Well... Just Jabber made my heart swell with love. I was even more delighted by the energetic tracks like “anymore” which boldly proclaims, “I don’t wanna be in love with you anymore” beneath an estatic drum beat. It’s the sort of record that oozes femme power, just like the 2003 live action Josie and the Pussycats film. It’s simultaneously snarly and sweet, just like all the best femme punks. Sonically, there are hints of early ‘90s The Donnas and Lindsay Lohan’s garage band in Freaky Friday, as someone who owned a copy of Disney! Girls Rock!circa 2002- - this record is practically a dream come true.

You’ll Dig it If: You know all the words to “Three Small Words”, you’re in need of a post break-up pick me up

The Island of Misfit Toys - Chicago, IL

By Johnny Fabrizio

By Johnny Fabrizio

By Rivka Yeker

This is one of the most exciting bands to see live, as they cover the entirety of the stage with a Slipknot-sized band of nine people. Island knows how to give you a performance, as vocalist Anthony Sanders brings his theatrical charm to the mic, the band works perfectly together, all clearly enamored by their time on stage. Everyone in the band is remarkably talented, and holds something special in what they each individually bring to their unity, and it’s genuinely just a joy to watch, and if you know the music, a blast to sing along to. Listen to their most recent album I Made You Something on bandcamp.

You’ll Dig It if: You’re into Say Anything meets an orchestra meets a musical.

Shellshag - Brooklyn, NY

Courtesy of  Shellshag

Courtesy of Shellshag

By Brooke Hawkins

Shellshag is a power duo from Brooklyn, NY comprised of members Shell and Shag. Their most recent album, released on Don Giovanni in 2015 is a ripper, and definitely an album not to miss. Appearances on the album come from members of Screaming Females, Tweens, Vacation, and Black Planet. From their stand up drum kit, to their giant light-up amplifier with antennae speakers for each member, they sure know how to liven a crowd, and start a punk rock party. After you check out their show, watch their Shellshonic Shag O' Vision webseries for more punk-fueled internet fun.

FFO: Screaming Females, Tweens, Aye Nako, and Big Eyes, Don Giovanni Records

City Mouse - Riverside, CA

By  Faith Cardelli

By Faith Cardelli

By Brooke Hawkins

City Mouse delivers jammy pop-punk straight from California. Their sound is melody driven, with strong '90s sounding leading vocals. Check out their upcoming release this fall/winter on It's Alive Records.

FFO: Murderburgers, Spraynard, The Plurals, Costanza

Additional notable mentions on this year’s lineup:
The Flatliners, Lemuria, Tenement, PUP, Rozwell Kid, Jeff Rosenstock, Cheap Girls, United Nations, Antarctigo Vespucci, The Menzingers

For all information regarding passes/hotels/merch for this year's FEST 15 - please visit

Check out the full line-up by clicking HERE.

See you in Gainesville!

Riot Fest Proves Once Again That Punk Isn't Dead, and Festivals Can Be Exciting

A collaborative piece by L. Mounts and Managing Editor, Rivka Yeker

Since 2005, Riot Fest has brought a variety of legendary bands to Chicago, but only in 2012 did it start its festivities down from a five-day venue-hopping challenge to a weekend of mud, madness, and music that’ll make you really think twice about who you want to add to your concert experience list. Appearing in Denver September 2-4 and Chicago 16-18, Riot Fest has brought together an incredible collection of artists in its 11th year, and here’s a rundown of some of what they have to offer in their first wave of bands.

L. Mounts:
The Original Misfits: "They said it would never happen…” was the tagline that appeared last week when Riot Fest made a separate announcement that Danzig, Jerry Only, and Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein would be reuniting for the first time in 33 years as the Misfits on the Riot Fest stage. In 2013, Danzig performed with his band at Riot Fest and invited Doyle on stage for some Misfits tunes, and it was easily in the top five craziest mosh pits I have ever experienced. With the original lineup at the top of the list, it should be nothing but an all-out brawl between punks, young and old.

Morrissey: It’s easy to clown on Morrissey. The dude is a known asshat and intolerable fancy boy, but he’s undeniably an incredible songwriter and music icon. Though he’s appeared in Chicago every so often over the last few years, this will be his first major festival performance in the city and I will definitely be there to watch him cry on stage about meat.

Death Cab For Cutie: A band I’ve always wanted to see live, but I’ll be catching them at Summerfest in Milwaukee, just in case this next act appears at the same time.
Rivka: But they also put on a killer show playing all the songs your heart has ever wanted (and needed)!

Rob Zombie: I have seen Rob Zombie perform once before in 2007, and it actually was a super fun show. But, I am genuinely stoked for this specific performance because he will be performing the 1995 White Zombie album Astro-Creep: 2000, which was one of my favorite heavy music albums growing up. A lot of it is very off the wall and I’ll be interested to see how he recreates it in a live setting.

The Specials, The Toasters: The English Beat just played two back to back nights at Space in Evanston, and I’m still kicking myself for not catching it. Perhaps just as good are fellow ska legends The Specials, who I don’t think have performed in quite some time, at least not in Chicago. The Toasters, just as legendary, will be making one of their first appearances in a while as well. Catch me skanking with the moms as they try to convince themselves I’m not 20.

Deftones: I haven’t seen Deftones since they played with Alice In Chains in 2010. They were great then, and I don’t expect anything less from them this year, especially following an excellent new record, Gore.

Jimmy Eat World, Motion City Soundtrack: Give me the first two albums and alternative women I’m too intimidated to speak to, and I’ll be there (jokes aside, this is MCS’s last show ever and I’ve never seen them so I’ll be there regardless).
Becky: Seconded ^

Descendents, NOFX, Bad Religion, Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, GWAR, Andrew W.K.: All Riot Fest standards and all bands that are worth seeing. I missed Me First, the punk rock covers band featuring Fat Mike of NOFX, the last time they played Riot Fest, so I’ll be making an effort to see them for sure. Descendents will definitely be an act to catch since their new album and first in 12 years, Hypercaffium Spazzinate, will be released in July and I can’t wait to hear the new songs live. NOFX and Bad Religion are punk standards that I’ve loved since I was in 5th grade, and if I have the time, I’ll make it out to see them both again. Andrew W.K. plays the same set every time but if you love to party then don’t miss it. GWAR is GWAR, like it or don’t.

Refused, The Hives: Two of Sweden’s finest punk exports return to Chicago for performances that should be nothing less than high-energy fun. I got to see Refused on their first reunion tour and they were incredible, and I’ll be excited to hear songs from their new album Freedom for the first time. The Hives are a band that is so difficult not to enjoy, and you’re a liar if you think that you don’t pretend to know all the words to ‘Hate To Say I Told You So.’

Bob Mould: The Hüsker Dü vocalist/guitarist has been experiencing a wave of revivalism since his stellar 2012 album Silver Age, a return to loud rock music for the first time since his days in the band Sugar. I’ve seen him three times so far, and there’s no reason I won’t aim for four at the festivities this year.

The Hold Steady: Absolutely one of my favorite bands in the world, but this performance is particularly special to me. Brooklyn’s alternative rock masters The Hold Steady are returning to Riot Fest this year performing the album Boys And Girls In America in its entirety. The album is in my top five favorite albums ever recorded, and I will be front row, with every word shouted out, annoying the people next to me, with no cares in the goddamn world.


Meat Puppets, Fucked Up: Two bands whose live performances are incredibly fun and worth catching. I’ve got two Meat Puppets shows under my belt and one of Fucked Up (the latter I haven’t seen since 2011), and they’re both classic acts in their own right. Watch Meat Puppets jam at the rodeo, watch Fucked Up smile while punching.

The Dillinger Escape Plan: If you don’t see them you’re wrong.

Girls Against Boys: The strongest ‘90s reunion Riot Fest has had next to Faith No More and Drive Like Jehu.

Fu Manchu, Dee Snider: I WANNA ROCK.

Big D And The Kids Table: My favorite third-wave ska band who somehow I’ve missed until now.

Billy Talent: Catch me front row losing my voice. Canada’s finest. I have been listening to them for 13 years. That is insane to me.

Touché Amoré, Diarrhea Planet, Plague Vendor, The Dirty Nil: New bands I’m always excited about. Some of punk’s newest and finest faces.

Rivka Yeker:
While Logan covered most of the solid bands playing at Riot Fest this year, here are some that I’m pretty stoked about myself!

White Lung: This band has that post-punk dramatic sound you want to hear live. To be honest, I hope it rains during their set, just so the music fits the mood.

The Wonder Years: The best band in modern pop punk. While I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to see them at a venue at this point (because of how much their fanbase has grown since I first got into them and it’s overwhelming), I’ve seen them around seven times, including Riot Fest 2013, and they always come forth with an incredible energy you can’t find anywhere else.

Bleached, Tancred, Worriers: A solid list of bands that will get you movin’ and groovin’. Lead by some talented women, bordering on pop punk, but including those consistent rock rifts keeping them interesting and exciting to see.

Laura Stevenson: If you like Bomb! The Music Industry, sweet and stunning voices, and unreal lyricism, you need to check out Laura Stevenson. I saw her do a solo set last year and at Riot Fest 2014, and I was blown away. Her voice carries and hits ya right in the chest.

All Dogs, Eskimeaux: Bedroom-pop jams, the kind of stuff you wanna listen to in the summer with the windows down. I saw Eskimeaux with Mitski last year, and literally melted into vocalist Gabrielle Smith’s voice. It’ll make you feel things, even amidst the muddiness and restlessness of Riot Fest.

Underøath, Thursday, Set Your Goals: Honestly, if you have nothing else going on, how could you miss these bands? I think SYG is one of those bands I’ve seen like seven times on accident, but I have not regretted any of those times. Embrace your emo and pop punk roots! You’ll have a good time!

Tickets and more information can be found at

Lemonade, Black Femininity, and Vulnerability

By Keisa Reynolds

From Beyoncé's song "Love Drought" featured in her visual album  Lemonade  

From Beyoncé's song "Love Drought" featured in her visual album Lemonade 

Black women are often relegated to less than desirable emotions: anger, jealousy, sadness. Beyoncé allows herself to feel every single one in Lemonade, her sixth studio album and second visual album. Whether it's autobiographical or a work of fiction, Beyoncé creates a world where black women and femmes do not silence themselves.

The visual album reminds us of novels written by 20th century black women writers, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, who beautifully capture black women, their relationships, and their allegiance to black Southern traditions. It is not only the imagery that reminds us, it is the way Beyoncé fully humanizes herself, Jay-Z, and men who have caused harm to women and femmes they love.

My mother once told me, a man will never tell you the truth as long as he loves you. It is damaging to believe women and femmes must settle for dishonesty, and it is not our responsibility to guide a man through his shortcomings. By choosing ourselves, as women and femmes, we create a world where our desires are centered. And our stories are shared with each other; none of us go through it alone.

We know from Miss Zora: if we are silent about our pain, they’ll kill us and say we enjoyed it. Beyoncé, whether she is playing herself or all of us, creates space for black women and femmes to be vulnerable and name the sources of our pain. She questions her own emotional responses like many of us do. She affirms those emotional responses, they are hers to own.

As a sensitive black girl and someone who loves hard, Lemonade validates my sadness and anger and praises my happiness. Lemonade depicts the rollercoaster of love and relationships I’ve entered hopeful, left broken and wondering if I could do it again. Beyoncé tells us, through the words of Warsan Shire, we deserve more, we deserve love. Often we will find it within ourselves and among other women and femmes.

Watching Lemonade, like reading Their Eyes Were Watching God or The Bluest Eye, is an experience I would want to share with my sisters, my mother, and the young girls in my family who will grow up being told to give themselves to men. But it is not solely about our relationships to/with men, it is about the space we deserve to feel every emotion however undesirable they may be. We deserve our full humanity, which is not given to us; it is something we take, and as the most disrespected person in America, we fight for.  

Lemonade can and should be enjoyed by everyone, however, it is for the black woman or femme. Beyoncé doesn’t speak for every single one of us, but her work is an offering for those of us struggling to articulate how we feel or needing validation for our feelings. It puts our stories of pain, loss, and grief into the mainstream spotlight without removing us—we define ourselves, we shape our worlds. This album is a treat for all and a testimony to the power of black femininity and sisterhood. Good job, Bey.


On Being Unapologetically Black

By Charlene Haparimwi

I sit in my multicultural literature class as we sit and read Frederick Douglass’ autobiography. I enjoy the read, relating to his struggle and wisdom, lost in the translation of his oppression until I am called on by my professor. The trance is broken and I tensely wait for him to ask me the inevitable. I am the only black student in this required multicultural class.

“Charlene, tell us what you think. What is it like to be African-American in the present day?”

First off, I am not African-American. I was born in the summer heat in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1995. The Zambezi river runs deep in my veins, the Victoria Falls crash against my skin, the soft grass and roots of the Earth grow in my natural hair.

I am African, I am Zimbabwean.

Second, I cannot and will not speak for the plight of an entire race. Would I ask you professor what it is like to be white? I can only talk about my own experiences, my personal struggles and joys as a young black woman living in Chicago. I can only talk about how some people look so reserved and fearful when they see me walk down the streets of Lincoln Park, when I enter restaurants and shops in Wicker Park, when I visit my white boyfriend in Logan Square. I see the look of relief flood their faces when they realize I’m one of the good ones because I “talk white.” I am not like other black people in their eyes, they do not see my skin, they see themselves. I am the model minority and that hurts me more than it appeases them.

I am unapologetically black.

I love my deep melanin, my rich culture, and the voice I have to speak about important issues. I am absolutely here for the gum popping, finger snapping, fast talking, weave wearing black women. I am here for the basketball playing, rap loving, fashion forward black men. I am here for nerdy black girls and boys, quiet black boys and girls, entrepreneurial black boys and girls. I am here for every stereotype and every exception to the rule of blackness the world sees, imagines, perpetuates or try to eradicate.

There is no me against them, we are all one voice, one people.

So when you ask me what it is like to be African-American in the present day, let my voice be silent while the voice of others rise high. Listen to the histories of Langston Hughes and James Baldwin, listen to the truths of Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison. Hear the words of Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar, do not try to explain to us, think for us, be us. Let our culture breathe and live on its own.

It all begins with listening. This isn’t a piece about perpetuating white guilt, claiming ignorance or prejudice. I am glad that my professor wanted my voice to be heard. I am glad when people try. But the first thing to do is just listen. Let us speak when we want to speak, when we want to be heard. Let us educate you on our personal oppressions and struggles, whatever they may be. Help us help you formulate the right questions in the right way. I am so proud of who I am, who I want to be. And whenever someone wants to just sit and listen, I will be unapologetically me. 

Tinder and Casual Sex: The Social Double Standard for the Sexes

By Annie Zidek

Courtesy of  Giulia Bersani

Courtesy of Giulia Bersani

Sex has always been coupled with social scrutiny, both separating agency from sexuality and scrutinizing people who personally partake in casual sex. Today we see this through the perpetuation of double standards for the sexes with dating apps. Even though the apps are meant to be a level playing field for the sexes sexually, there is still a major disconnect between what men and women can ask from casual partners.

Now, it’s important to realize sex wasn’t always as normative as it is today. The Social Purity Movement, which moved sex from its religious context and into the secular sector in the late nineteenth century, was essentially the middle class policing sexuality and regulating it socially. The Social Purity Movement advocated a single view of morality for both sexes, critiquing men—married and single—who had sex with prostitutes outside of marriage reinforcing young women’s purity for marriage.

Not only was the Social Purity movement the start of the modern regulation of women’s sexuality, but it was also brought sex into public eye. Even though the movement consequently resulted in years of the push and pull of sex in the public eye, it was a necessary step towards its destigmatization. Thankfully, we have had feminists throughout history who have championed the efforts to normalize sexuality and its presence in our everyday lives.

In fact, feminism’s push for the normalization of casual sex pushed back the age of marriage. An Atlantic article from 2013 notes, on average, American women are ringing the bells of their first marriage at 27. So now your twenties are the time to take advantage of your own sexuality comparatively to when marriage was the standard. So now young people the cusp of adulthood engage in hook up culture and casual sex.

Though painted as a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah, hook up culture is meant to be the encouragement of sexual exploration with respect towards yourself and your partners. Casual sex is good; it’s beneficial. A cornerstone for third wave feminism, casual sex is meant to be empowering; it is about the self—with respect towards your consenting partner(s), of course. It is taking control of one’s own sexuality and expressing it liberally. Casual sex is about the self, about owning one’s sexuality. And dating apps cater to this sexual liberation while simultaneously feeding into social currency, the idea that social apps create your sense of self worth.

Dating apps like Tinder allow people to connect with others and meet up do what they want, no strings attached. It gives people a sense of sexual freedom, of agency and control. Casual sex isn’t harmful if done in a safe way. In her Ted Talk, sex psychologist Dr. Zhana Vrangalova even says casual sex is beneficial: The day after casual sex, most people experience positive emotions: adventuresome, pleased, desirable, and excited, for example. She also says casual sex encourages communication, which adds to a heightened sense of self-awareness.

But that’s the hypothetical, and we live in a world where the hypothetical isn’t necessarily the reality.

Nowadays, dating apps perpetuate slut shaming and double standards and, in turn, create an atmosphere of social inequality and an unsafe environment for casual sex, especially for women.

Apps like Tinder are meant to level the playing field—to allow men and women to find partners without shame through new technology. But it doesn’t. There’s a discussion surrounding the topic. In my History of Sex class, we discussed how women knowingly put themselves in positions where they can be harassed online through these apps: men use dirty pick up lines, dehumanizing the women and seeing them as something to be won.

One of the girls in my class, identifying as bisexual, opts to match with both men and women on Tinder, and she sees the striking differences in the communication from the genders: the women say, “Hi, how are you?” or “Hey, what’s up?” whereas the men can blatantly say, “hey wanna fuck?” There is a problem within the social currency of online dating. Women are harassed through chats on Tinder, and they know this. In a way, by using the app, they are submitting to (and expecting) harassment from the some of the men that use online dating apps. They’re willingly putting themselves in this position because they are so used to it offline.

Calling back on the Social Purity Movement, there still is a double standard for men and women when it comes to casual intimacy. Sure, a resurgence of “slut shaming” for men has come up like the word “fuckboy,” but women have had years—their own history, even—of sexual oppression and slut shaming:

Prostitutes were blamed for venereal disease throughout history (during the late nineteenth century, during World War I and II).

In the early 1900s, promiscuous women were often deemed feebleminded when institutionalized, and they were often sterilized.

Until the pill in 1960 and Roe v. Wade in 1973, contraceptives were scarce, and abortion was illegal, so women went to great lengths to terminate their pregnancies, ultimately hurting themselves.

When the pill came out in 1960, only single women in the cities and married women had access to the contraceptive, limiting access to people who needed it.

In 1991, people questioned the validity of Anita Hill’s case against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas regarding Thomas’s sexual harassment towards Hill.

(To name a few.)

Basically, women have faced a series of micro and macro aggressions throughout history, and today it translates into their treatment in online spaces. Their social currency is comprised of hyper-sexualization and societal expectations, which some men then warp and use to harass these women on online platforms. Sexual self-awareness, which can be achieved with the help of Tinder, is stripped away because men are dominating dating apps and leaving women in the confines of their gender roles and stuck in within the parameters of double standards.

In order to change the way we talk online, we must first reform the way we interact in person. While there are steps being taken, there are still many more steps to take:

Stop slut-shaming women. You cannot make women feel guilty for the number of sexual partners they have. They have agency and have ability too many sexual partners, and you cannot shame them for that.

Do not shame women for being blunt and assertive; she’s not a bitch: she knows what she wants. She is self-aware. If anything, she should be commended for

There needs to be more portrayal of single women in media. Hollywood needs to produce pieces of work where women are not chasing down lovers, where women are not relying on men emotionally and sexually. Literature needs to publish works that portray women as single women without a subplot of love interests. Get movies and lit to pass the Bechdel test.

These are only three ways to help revamp the way we look at women in regards to their sexcapades, two of them being moves you can make. Though small, they can start with you and help change the bigger picture of the way we treat women.

As for the portrayal of single women, Hollywood should make moves to release movies that show women as single women—happy ending or not. They should portray real women. If Hollywood, an influential industry, can change the way they see and show women, then the way women are viewed and treated as single people can change for the better. They can be seen as people that have autonomy and sexual expression.

Give women the sexual freedom they deserve.

Instagram, Doughnuts, and What it Means to be Popular

By Jaclyn Jermyn

I’ve had my Instagram account since early 2011—I like to think that somehow makes me ahead of the curve since the app was launched in October of 2010. In a way, I’ve watched it evolve and through it, I’ve watched myself grow up. A lot has changed—I started with a first generation iPod Touch in a hot pink case—and some things don’t—five years later and I still take a lot of pictures of my socks and dogs.

If we look at the apps we’ve had for the longest amount of time, it’s not hard to consider the relationship we have with our technology. Like any good relationship, our needs evolve over time. I went from using Instagram to edit grainy photos to put on Tumblr to cultivating and curating my view of the world. And like any relationship, once in awhile, you may find yourself seeking attention.

For the past two years I have had one elusive social media goal—I want to qualify for Popular Pays. For those of you don’t know, Popular Pays is a perfectly crafted marketing ploy that sets small items from local businesses (think a biscuit from Bang Bang Pie or a slice of pizza from Dimos) as rewards for Instagram users posting pictures of their treasures and tagging the store and their company. The only catch is that each reward has a qualifying number of followers tacked on to it. For those of you who do know what I’m talking about, you’re probably either in the same boat that I’m in—pining away for free stuff or you’ve already made it and you’re rolling in free doughnuts. Congrats if so. 



Why do I want free doughnuts so badly? Well, to be fair, I really do love doughnuts but I’ve bought plenty of doughnuts on my own accord before and it hasn’t done extensive damage to my bank account or my psyche. But with my 460-something follower count, I have been deemed “not popular enough to deserve free stuff,” and damn if that isn’t a weird psychological blow when you think about it.

I will be the first to admit that I probably spend too much time on Instagram but I find it hard not to have plenty of excitement about seeing the personal worlds of strangers and friends alike. These are the things that people want to share. Here’s what people are eating. This is where people are living. If I do something that I think was beautiful, I don’t feel silly for posting multiple times a day. Last year when I road-tripped to 16 states in a week, I was posting pictures constantly. I wanted people to share some of the raw joy I was feeling waking up in the Grand Canyon or playing in the Pacific Ocean. 

So it’s not all bad. I may be crossing my fingers daily that I get a sudden influx of followers and I can achieve arbitrary entrance into the “cool-kids-club” but while I wait that out, I’ve found a way to share my life with people, wherever they are. Screw authenticity—who doesn’t like a little validation occasionally?

Also, follow me on Instagram @tinyhorsestatue and maybe one day I can share my free doughnuts with you. 

Women Have An Entire Day To Themselves and It Was Last Tuesday

By Ivana Rihter

Courtesy of  LaborRights

Courtesy of LaborRights

I remember waking up on March 8th every year of my young existence to something. It was my aggressively Serbian father waking me up for school with a rose in his hand and two other behind his back for my little sisters. It was a skype call from my grandmother SHOUTING on the other line because any understanding of computer microphone systems has confounded her for decades now. It was my mother, bra-less and in a stained sleeping shirt, making Nutella waffles downstairs and lecturing us about how useless it is to depend on a man for anything.

International Women’s Day holds weight to me. It has a history just as profoundly badass as the women who celebrate it and everyone everywhere should know about it.

In 1909 the very first International Women’s Day was celebrated in the United States as designate by the Socialist Party of America to honor the 1908 garment workers strike. This holiday was born in the wake of women protesting unfair working conditions and only got more intense from there.

In 1913, International Women’s Day became a mechanism for protesting World War 1. Russian women joined the peace movement and held rallies and led protests against the war and with solidarity with other activists.

In 1917, Russian women were still protesting and striking actively until the Czar abdicated and the government granted women the right to vote.

In 1975 the UN started celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8th.

In 1995, The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic roadmap signed by 189 governments, focused on 12 critical areas of concern, and envisioned a world where each woman and girl can exercise her choices, such as participating in politics, getting an education, having an income, and living in societies free from violence and discrimination.

If you didn't do anything out of the ordinary on the Tuesday that was women's day this past week. Don't fret because it is annual and now you have almost an entire year to plan what you are going to do next year. I am going to give you a comprehensive guide on International Women’s Day comprised of global information, gentle suggestions and flirty tips to help you celebrate this day to its fullest potential.

Things all the lovely ladies of the world can do on Women’s Day:

·      call your mum immediately

·      also call your grandma/sister/aunt

·      buy yourself some flowers

·      dance naked in front of a mirror in awe of how exciting and beautiful it is to be you

·      read feminist poetry

·      show your genitalia some love and fight anyone who tries to tell you it equates gender because womanhood is not comprised of a collection of ‘female’ body parts

·      buy a coloring book and color it with your choice of crayon, marker of colored pencil

·      think about child birth

·      think about placenta flowing out of you post child birth

·      write in your journal

·      buy $60 worth of clothing you already kind of own but just want better versions of

·      read anything you can find by rupi kaur

·      yell at any man who has ever transgressed against you

·      take 4 naps

·      skip all your classes

·      look at your acne in the mirror and try to overcome it because that shit happens and it is always horrifying and you are stunning anyway

·      scream at everyone who passes you about how important this day is

·      talk about the wage gap

·      do laundry

·      buy really pretty bras that make you feel like you are god damn flying

·      don’t wear a bra

·      put a lot of lotion on

·      take a 3-hour bath and don’t get out until someone is yelling at you

·      listen to a load of TED Talks done by other women

·      honestly anything you want to do because this day is about the inherent beauty and pride of being a woman on this earth.

The UN’s 2016 theme for International Women’s Day was “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”. Behind this theme was the hope to build momentum for the 2030 Agenda and the implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals and focus on legislation under the UN Women’s Step It Up initiative. The UN recognizes the holiday and is trying to close the gender gap, end violence against women and work tirelessly towards gender equality. Although this may seem very bureaucratic and complex in nature, the key targets of the 2030 agenda are ethical, feminist-minded, and wonderful steps in the right direction:

  • End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.

·      By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education.

  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education.
  • Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

(UN Sustainable Development Goals)

The International Women’s Day official website’s 2016 theme was Gender Parity, which centers around the relative access to education between males and females at any given stage. The celebration also brings an awareness about the state of gender parity today, which needs work fast. The 2015 report by the World Economic Forum predicted that the gender gap would not be closed until 2113. The pledge created to fight this bleak prediction reads:

“Everyone - men and women - can pledge to take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly - whether to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias. Each of us can be a leader within our own spheres of influence and commit to take pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity.” International Women’s Day Pledge for Parity

Overall, the focus on International Women’s Day in a broad scope is doing massive things in the fight for equality. Women’s voices should be heard, represented and respected within the context of international politics. This day brings awareness to the inequality plaguing our world as well as awareness to the work of brilliant women everywhere. On a smaller scale, it is a day of self-love and simple adoration for womankind. I remember seeing the men in my family celebrate this holiday with just as much zeal as the women, with flowers and lectures about the work my mother and grandmother did as artists, academics and human beings. I saw this day as a time to draw inspiration from all the feminine forces around me and define what being a woman was going to mean for me.

Everyone creates their own ideas of womanhood which is also why I firmly believe that Women's Day should not exclude any woman, anywhere in the world. Equating Women's Day to a day of vaginal celebration, is exclusionary in nature and looks past a slew of stunning individuals who deserve to feel ownership and joy of this celebration. This day extends to cis women, trans women, women of color, disabled women, women without iPhones, women of all body shapes and sizes, mean women, vegan women, women who write for the odyssey online even though it is often horrible for women, women who only truly love their dogs, women who never went to college, women who don't consider themselves feminists, women with snakes as pets, women in bad relationships, women who do not ever want to get married, blonde women,  women who have survived the horror of sexual assault, women who go by neutral pronouns, women who have no kids, women who have 9 kids and one more on the way…overall all women. This is a day to reflect on everything you adore about your personal and intimate definition of womanhood and the other brilliant women who have inspired you to get there. Celebrate as hard as you possibly can next year. 

My Self-Acceptance Falls into "Formation"

By Chantal Johnson

Courtesy of Tidal

Courtesy of Tidal

To be represented positively in this media-driven society is crucial for self-acceptance. Unfortunately, it’s all the more rare to find that representation for people of color, and women specifically. And if it exists, it’s hardly accurate or relatable. Luckily, I’ve found representation on platforms both big and small that aid me on this journey. Women in comedy like Akilah Hughes and Franchesca Ramsey remind me I can be smart and make people laugh at the same time. Essays by bell hooks and Roxane Gay have helped shape me as a thinker, while writers like Ashley Ford and Jazmine Hughes show me that I am allowed to tell my truth—that I deserve to. Music like that of Janelle Monae, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and most importantly for me: Beyoncé, move me in ways I didn’t think were possible.

Beyoncé and her growth as an artist throughout the past few years have directly correlated with important events in my own life. As her unprecedented self-titled surprise album dropped in December of 2013, I was taking one of my last finals as an undergrad student and had started my first round of therapy that semester. When I attended my first show of hers in 2014, her combined concert tour with husband Jay Z, I was a lost college grad trying to find her place in the world. And just this past weekend, the drop of “Formation" and the historical music video that came along with it, she meets me on this journey of womanhood and being comfortable with the skin I’m in.

The harsh truth that I wrestle with when it comes to my identity is that I have not always been proud to be Black. For most of my existence, I’ve tried to diminish my Blackness. I’ve always been afraid of what it meant to be Black, partly because that knowledge comes from a world that rewrote the narrative. The majority of my life has been spent in an academic setting, where one month is dedicated to learning my history and for the rest of them I am nonexistent. Fortunately, outside of school, I have learned from television, film, books and music—my classrooms of life. Though not always abundant, through these mediums I have come into my own—slowly leaving those feelings of shame and doubt behind.

“I wanted people to feel proud, to have love for themselves,” Beyoncé said coming off a Super Bowl performance that mirrored that exact pride of her latest hit. Of my 23 years of living, in this moment, I feel most celebrated and acknowledged. Bey has definitely succeeded with her mission.

Listening to “Formation” for the first time will forever stand as a significant moment for me. In almost 5 minutes, Beyoncé sinks a New Orleans cop car, shows her carefree daughter running around in all her innocence, performs an immaculate dance routine, celebrates her Southern roots, and dons a new anthem for Black women and the LGBTQ community.

“I like my baby hair with baby hair and afros. I like my Negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils.”

“I slay, you slay.”

“I got hot sauce in my bag, swag.”

The lyrics still ignite me. A pride so blatant that it’s overwhelming. It’s fun, informative, and a piece of art that makes you think. In my video review, it is clear the impact it has made on me. However, days later and the Beyoncé effect is global.

Having been a subject to whitewashing in her career before, Beyoncé is clear on this track: she’s proud of herself and she wants you to be too. Blackness is so often scrutinized and criminalized that its moments of celebration are rare. Finding my acceptance has been exhausting. To be conscious and aware has been a long road of realizing I exist in a space that doesn’t always want me here. But as I watch the video over again and keep the song playing repeatedly, I am reminded of my worth. I feel refreshed and motivated to keep learning. To keep finding inspiration. To keep using my voice.

While mainstream—so much that possibly everyone knows her name—Beyoncé is still a Black woman. I hesitantly compare our journeys because her celebrity is out of this world, but she is still a person. A person who expresses their life through art; an expression that changes as the person does. So it’s apparent with “Formation,” we are witnessing Beyoncé’s change. And I wait with a nervous but excited energy to see what comes next.