Updated: Feb 15, 2019
I left home when I was 15 years old. At the time, I found my environment oppressive and abusive. I did not run away in the dead of the night. I sat down and had a conversation with my mom to try to negotiate changes in my environment, but she didn’t agree to any. After our talk, I looked her straight in the eye and told her I was leaving. I grabbed a jacket and walked to a neighbor’s house to call a ride. Shortly afterward, my mom helped me with emancipation paperwork so that I could get my own apartment, get a job, etc….
I lost my virginity at 15 years old. At the time, I thought myself deeply in love with a boy I believed I would spend the rest of my life with. That wasn’t the case and I have had multiple sexual partners since.
I was detained by the police for the first time when I was 16 years old. Someone called 911 after hearing an altercation I was having with my boyfriend. I refused to talk to the officers dispatched by Austin Police Department (It’s always been fuck the police because that’s how I was raised and what I was taught.) so they handcuffed me and put me in the back of a squad car. Since then, I’ve been detained or arrested by the police over 15 times. Most times for activism, but not always.
When I got my own apartment at 16, my boyfriend and I would steal veggie burgers from the frozen section of WalMart and women’s underwear out of overpriced packages because I couldn’t afford to pay rent, buy underwear, and eat dinner every night.
At 24 years old, I was raped by someone with whom I organized. I learned shortly afterward that I was pregnant as a result of the assault. I decided to have an abortion. I struggled with how to deal with the person who assaulted me and didn’t always behave in ways that most people would attribute to a survivor of sexual harm.
I have made mistakes as an organizer. I have had to work on my own integrity, my own decision making, my own ability to relationship build. Most significantly, I’ve had to learn and am still learning how not to allow my own hurt and trauma to negatively impact the folks I love most, the folks with whom I organize, the folks I follow, or the folks I lead.
Now before you get this twisted, this is not a “transformation” or “glow up” testimony. I am not ashamed of the life I’ve lived. I am not ashamed of being a runaway, of breaking the law, of being an imperfect victim, of having an abortion, or of the moments in which I’ve failed. I’m sharing this because I want those who read it to ask themselves if it changes the way they feel about me as a human being.
I want those reading this to ask themselves if all that I’ve done and all that I’ve been through makes me less deserving of a life free of state sanctioned violence or oppression. I want them to ask themselves if all that I’ve done and all that I’ve been through signify that I’m not a good person. Do they take back all the times they called me brilliant or beautiful or brave? Does my story invalidate the fact that I give countless hours, all my money, and most of my psychological and emotional energy (some goes to Kristina) to pursuing the liberation of Black people? Does it change the fact that every semester, I give my last dollar to make sure that a little Black child attending Kuwa Kubwa has school supplies, that I stay up until the wee hours of the morning making school lunches, that I never have to be asked twice to intervene when law enforcement is victimizing a member of our community, or that I helped plant 30 backyard gardens for Black families on the East Side? Does it mean that, if I got arrested tomorrow, and every detail of my life came out that you would care less about the fact that I’m in jail, that my basic human rights are being stripped away, and that the system continues to oppress me?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you have some work to do. If you answered yes to any of those questions, it means that you are pro-system and anti-Black. It means that you don't yet understand what it means to be oppressed or pursue freedom. You still think that only the respectable Negroes deserve to make it to the promised land.
If you answered no, I want you to think about why little girls like LaTashia, women like Sandra, or people like Korryn were criminalized and dehumanized by the media, by their communities and by the people they needed to support them when the world found out that they, too, were imperfect victims of racial and economic oppression.
Black Lives Matter. No matter what those lives have consisted of or what led up to the moment those lives were jeopardized. Black girls and Black women are whole, are worthy, and are deserving of our protection no matter what navigating this fucked up system has meant or continues to mean for them.