Warming Up: A Poem For Malissa Williams, Timothy Russell & Tamir Rice

I’m feeling quiet…
Shrunken into myself

Unsure of the direction to go
Fight, flight, flee, freeze

My skin is black and chilly to the touch.
Something in my toes is whispering
“You matter.”
But my brain remembers

That my skin is black and chilly to the touch
I’ve become accustomed
To this shame
To this grief
To this inability to move and phrases like
“weary, wounded, and sad” come alive more than
they ever did in a pulpit.
I keep hearing “be peaceful”
“don’t tear up our city”
funny how possession is only granted
when it’s in protection of assets
that have long been snatched from our palms
we built this city
on rock & roll
on steel & roads
and we’re told to be peaceful…
not to burn the rotting spaces
that have made it clear our lives
only have worth to a certain point
on basketball courts… we matter
on football fields… we matter
on itunes sales… we matter
heaven forbid we destroy what’s destroyed us.
My skin is black and chilly to the touch.
There is no scrubbing this sorrow away…
No wailing that is heard from the mountaintops
I’m relegated to poems & protests
My time is spent telling white people about themselves
Because they won’t stare their shame in the mirror
I said I wasn’t going to do this again.
Write from this pain.
But my skin is black and chilly to the touch.
Peace is said to be a period of harmony between
Different social groups that is characterized by
Lack of violence, conflict behaviors and the freedom
From fear of violence.
Peace is not a one-way street.
Peace is not the responsibility of the oppressed.
Peace is supposed to be Shalom…
Which means… justice, good health, safety, well-being
Prosperity, equity, security, good fortune…
So if you want peace…
Give us the space to create our own shalom.
Release the inequitable strong holds,
And hand me these punk ass magical boot straps you been
Waving around as the key to the American dream.
What are you afraid of?
That we’d be just like you?
That the foot off our necks would mean a foot onto yours?
What a sad existence you must live
To find your freedom in bondage of others…
My skin is black and chilly to the touch.
But warming up.

-Eris Zion Venia

Jigaboos & Wannabes: Fox News Anchor & Accidental Racism?

Jigaboos & Wannabes: Fox News Anchors & Accidental Racism?


This morning, and Cleveland Fox News Anchor Kristi Capel used the word Jigaboo in reference to Lady Gaga’s musical styling after Gaga did a stunning tribute to the Sound of Music at the 87th Oscars. As Capel rattled off this statement that I’m sure was intended to be a diatribe dipped in jest, it fell completely flat because she used a word that had nothing to do with the subject at hand. Though I’m typically the first to jump on the “she may be a bigot” bandwagon, I slowly climbed into the wagon versus tucking and rolling into the shotgun position.

More than being upset about her rattling off a very charged word, I’m more upset that she as a professional, and a person that we in Northeast Ohio trust to be the voice of our local news, decided to try out unfamiliar vocabulary on live television. Kristi Capel should have a relatively high command of the English language, and with said command, should know how not to use a word that she doesn’t fully understand.

Had Kristi said “No shade… Lady Gaga’s music is perpetually on fleek; but I didn’t know her vocals could turn up in that manner! I was delivert!” We would have shook our heads, and probably laughed with her. But many people aren’t laughing at all.

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Of course people took to Twitter to challenge what Kristi had to say, and she pretty much used a canned tweet to reply to multiple folks before she gave up all together. A word of advice? A copy & pasted apology seems more disingenuous than just one tweet that apologizes for it all.

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Implicit Bias is very real, and often times, we all have the propensity to say things we didn’t know we had tucked away in our psyches. This type of bias is not just the problem of an individual, but it is systemic and incredibly difficult to see and understand, especially if you’ve been blind to it.

Perhaps Kristi can spend some time scanning the Racial Slur Database. Yes. It’s a real thing. Though it’s been updated over the years, when I first took a gander at this database almost 25% of all the slurs were directed towards Black/African-Americans. It’s incredibly difficult to know that a particular subgroup of people with African decent makes up one fourth of all the slurs worldwide. But that’s another conversation for another blog, on another day.

Jigaboo Definition:
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Source Racial Slur Database

We often times are more forgiving when a racial infraction is candy coated in sheer ignorance. But I think we should really challenge ourselves to be equally as enraged by micro-aggressive statements such as what Kristi said, as we are about police violence and other forms of oppression. We have to be intentional about seeing the connections of oppressions both great and small. I believe that John Legend & Common did an awesome job of alluding to that during their Oscar acceptance speech. When John Legend said “There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850.” Our minds should be readily available to see the connections of why the work has to be done on multiple levels for us to journey toward a world with decreased disenfranchisement.


There’s a clear reason why people are upset with Kristi’s oblivious ramblings. People look to News Anchors with trust, and though local Fox 8 News Cleveland is leaps and bounds better than Fox News itself, people are now looking at this station, unfortunately, with greater scrutiny.

So it comes down to this. Don’t use words you don’t know. Don’t use words where you might be unsure of the definition. Don’t use words that you struggle to pronounce. And always… when in doubt… just smile and close your mouth


The Choice of Change: Congressman Tim Ryan’s (D) New Outlook on Abortion.

220px-Rep._Tim_Ryan_Congressional_Head_Shot_2010Today Congressman Tim Ryan took a bold step away from the pack and told the Akron Beacon Journal that his stance on Abortion has shifted. In his fourteen years as a politician in the state of Ohio, Ryan has remained true to his political and religious stance on abortion, which led him to publicly proclaim himself as Pro-Life. But after hearing stories from women across the state and the nation, it was virtually impossible for Ryan to carry on with business as usual while carrying the narrative of these women’s trials with him.

Congressman Ryan quoted Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro writing that, “Nobody celebrates abortion.” And this is indeed true. Would we love to live in a world where every single pregnancy is chosen? And every single fetus can be carried to term without any complications? Yes. I think we can all agree that, this is a world we’d all love to live in. But it is not, and until we can make it to that day where we live in that utopia “the heavy hand of the government must not make this decision for women and families” as Congressman Ryan stated.

So what happens when there is a paradigm shift in regards to choice? Perhaps the work shifts to comprehensive sex education. Study after study has shown that when students are educated early on they are more likely to make better decision for themselves. Across the globe, we see that comprehensive sex education is working, and is continually driving down the teen pregnancy rates in countries like the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.

What Congressman Ryan has decided does not make him a traitor. It makes him aware that this country cannot be headed towards, and retain, greatness if we do not support programs and legislation that “have the ability to play a significant role is in giving women and families the tools they need to prevent unintended pregnancies by expanding education and access to contraception.”

Both Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio and Planned Parenthood Federation of America are elated to have a new ally in Congressman Ryan. “We are humbled by Congressman Ryan’s heartfelt commentary about a topic that is too often politicized and stigmatized,” said Stephanie Kight, CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio stated in a press release. “We look forward to working with Congressman Ryan to ensure that all women — no matter where they live or how much money they have — can access the care they need without political interference.”

“We’re grateful for Congressman Ryan’s honesty and courage in sharing how his views have evolved to support access to safe and legal abortion,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Abortion is a complex and deeply personal issue, and Congressman Ryan’s journey is not unusual.  Congressman Ryan joins the overwhelming majority of Americans who want women to have access to abortion and don’t want politicians to interfere in women’s personal medical decisions. We thank Congressman Ryan for standing with women across Ohio and around the nation, and we look forward to working with him.”

If we are to hold tight to myth that we as Americans should be able to pull ourselves up by our proverbial bootstraps, those bootstraps for women are shaped in the unwavering need to have full autonomy of our bodies. I applaud Congressman Ryan for honoring and acknowledging that our stances and should consistently be questioned and when appropriate should be shifted to accommodate a new way of thinking.

Dear White People: A reflection on the “Selma” Film.


Dear White Folks…

We are done fighting for what is already ours. This is not a matter of competence, nor a matter of worth. We are living, breathing humans that dwell on this land. This fight is not ours. It is yours. We are done fighting for our lives, our humanity. This is your fight. This is your civil war. It’s your turn to take to the streets and disrupt what has always been a source of comfort. We are tired of being the exceptions to your rules. We simply want to live our lives unscathed.

The work of the civil rights movement was all about white consciousness. For a veil to be lifted from off of your eyes to see that we, black folks, we are not the issue here. You are. We’ve done our share of code switching, and it has not been beneficial. We’ve straightened our hair, and our backs… our backs that have been bent by you. We’ve set aside our language, our customs, our ancestry in pursuits of assimilation only to be met at assimilations door with a “you are not welcome here sign” …we’ve lightened our skin, our hearts, and our memories, to “get over” what we can’t get under. We’ve adopted the rituals and relics that come from worshiping God in the manner you do. And nothing has been enough. Which is why I know that this is no longer our fight. It never was.


One should not have to brawl to be whole. This is not about having the same blood that runs through our bodies, because you have made it clear that is of no consequence. This is about your fear; your apprehension; your perpetual unease; your entitlement; your terroristic ways. White people have been a terror. You’ve terrorized us by your actions and/or your silence. We are not asking you to save us in the manner in which you save whales, and children in some far off land. We are asking that you use your white guilt to save yourselves. Not to pour out fountains of charity, but to place a mirror in front of the silent inequity you endorse and uphold by living your life day in and day out absolving yourself from historic and present sins of inaction.

It is my hope that you figure things out, before America falls from grace. All great lands fall from grace. Have sight beyond what you see white people. Where will you be when the narrative changes? What side will you stand on? We know the impact of being on the wrong side of allies. Don’t expect us to stand with you, when you have always stood on us.

-eris eady

35 Questions

35 Questions
Eris Eady

What has hate done for you?
Has it helped you to sleep at night?
Has it brought you through grief and turmoil?
Has it held you close when you’ve felt your loneliest?
Does hate and apprehension of the different make you feel less legit?

Are you less of you when someone is more of themselves?
Has making excuses based on difference justified a wrong?
What do you think will happen if you thought differently?
Will your head explode?
Will people stop liking you?

Will you start liking yourself?
Did you ever love someone in secret because it was too scary to love them publicly?
Have you ever feared for your life?
Did you wash your hands today?
Was that scary for you?

Has death ever been as familiar as washing your hands?
If color or gender really doesn’t matter… how would it feel to wake up the opposite of who you are now?
Would it change your trajectory?
Would you do everything in your power to become who you once were?
Have you ever felt an aching love?

Do you remember what made it stop?
Do you keep the artifacts of that aching tucked away?
Is it your “break in case of emergency” thing?
Do you have things you break or tear open when you need to feel something?
Anything at all?

When’s the last time you were numb?
I remember when I was last numb.
Are you fingers and toes still cold from it?
Do you own a snuggie just in case it happens again?
Don’t you wish snuggies had a zipper on the back?
How did you survive?

Did you ever put your tears in escrow?
Or postdate a night terror for a more convenient time?
Have you ever tried to find closure with someone?
Was it really finding closure with yourself?
Have you ever snuck a goodbye into the casket of someone you loved before it closed?

I have.

What Sasha and Malia Obama, Mike Brown, and Tamir Rice all have in Common.

Fifty-nine years ago today, Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat on a Montgomery bus. The rest is “history.” Behind that historic day was a girl name Claudette Colvin. Yes, nine months earlier it was Claudette that refused to give up her seat long before Rosa was handpicked to start the movement. This was an easy case of respectability politics. They dismissed Claudette because of her age, her darkened hue, and because she was pregnant. Though she was the sparked the movement she for all of these reason was not chosen to be the face of it.


For decades we’ve held the belief that to attack injustices, or to just show and prove, we needed a perfect storm of acceptable attributes that would allow us the best chance to succeed. It is for that reason young people are typically left out of the “grown folks business” that is social justice. The burden of intersectionality is so heavily skewed towards race, that often times the very children/youth/teens we fight for rarely have a voice in their cause. We as adults sweep in ready to scream “no justice, no peace” without asking the young people what exactly is that they need? How can I be your best ally? How can I help you find your voice?

Kids, especially black kids, are asked to posture themselves as adults. To not be intrigued by the candy in the supermarket checkout lines (me), to walk in the street on your way to your destination (Mike Brown), to wear a hoodie when it’s raining (Trayvon Martin), to remain demure in stance while bored out of their minds (Sasha & Malia Obama), to hang with your friends with your favorite music on fleek (Jordan Davis), to stifle the desires to play outdoors with the toys you’ve always wanted (Tamir Rice), to knock on a door of a stranger when you’re in need (Renisha McBride). The youth of today must dress a certain way, enjoy their music a certain way, speak a certain way, be and breathe in a non threatening manner. Daily we walk past businesses that have signs posted on the door: “Only 2 Students Allowed At A Time” or “No children without Parent or guardian” …and as adults we quickly forget how disenfranchising that was.

Over and over again I’ve seen and heard comments that “they should have known better” but even when you do know better, and you’re raised right, and you go to church, and you get good grades, did you always follow the rules? Were you everything your parents demanded of you?

I’ve heard no one talking about Youth Oppression. It is the underlying current that has been completely ignored. So here it is adults; regardless of race… can you take a moment to acknowledge your privilege as a grownup? Can you take a moment to look at yourself in the mirror, reflect back to whatever era comprised of your “back in the day” and think about what you wore that your parents and teachers looked down on? What music was unacceptable?  What slang was inappropriate?

Your ability to remember could literally save a child’s life.