Happy Pride Month, family!
This Pride, we’re calling in more compassion for each other, resting and healing ourselves, divesting from systems that don’t care about us, and investing in the path to liberation for all Black people. We continue to look toward our elders for their wisdom and applaud our youth for their courage. We’re grounded in our truths and boldly proclaiming that our identity is not up for debate. This Pride Season, we’re celebrating the beauty and hope in our community while also grappling with the fact that we have so much more work to do to liberate ourselves from the oppressive systems that have viciously ramped up their attacks on Black queer and trans lives.
We hope that this community-made issue of The Tea is an affirmation in your inbox of the endless beauty that our community brings to the world. We’re so proud of our community, and we can’t wait to celebrate together with this issue.
Each year, we put out a call to our community to Submit Your Brilliance. We receive an overwhelming response, which is further proof that our community is full of talent, authentic expression, and the desire to be an inspiration to others.
In this issue, you’ll find a handful of amazing submissions from our Tea community: a music video by one of our rising stars; a documentary and song by a rap veteran who spits with the passion of a new artist; a live performance by an incredible violinist and singer duo; an experimental flash piece using fragmented, provocative wordplay; a beautiful visual-art piece made of synthetic hair; and a final word from one of M4BL’s Mass Engagement table members about how we can take an active role in liberating ourselves from oppressive systems!
Thanks so much for reading. Wishing you all a joyful Pride Month.
I’m a producer, singer, trumpet player, and performer from Brooklyn. My musical influences range from classical and jazz to Afrobeat and R&B. This is the music video for my song “Crashing Down.” It’s a song about going back to what’s familiar but not serving you.
I am a Black nonbinary writer currently based in the South. I write, play games, and garden, and am trying to bridge my interests somehow, slowly but surely. I focus-write and play around with gender, race, sexuality, off-pulse spirit stuff, and the body, to explore identity. My story is a flash piece where I am trying to experiment using wordplay and fragmented and limited detail to create movement. This story has a lot of playfulness in it for me, mostly in how I wrote it and where the story sort of took itself. I didn’t plan it, just let it be and go from there.
There is a hole where the black dog peeks up from.
There is a hole in the center of the hood, which is the center of the world, which is the center of black, which is the center of molted hot hearts.
There is a hole in the people. Many holes. Several generations deep.
Generation after generation, soul exits into pit formed through violent erosion.
Wind tipped like tongue, lapping around the lolli-loop.
And in the center is a big black dog.
Big black dog is big black god.
Big black god who speaks in curling howls and prowls with a funky staccato, nerve wrecked, shuddering under bass.
Big black dog peaks its head over the hole, pointed ears fixed on a rumbling object. Object rotates into form, hard and metal. A car. A noisy contraption, engine clean and violent. The big black dog ain’t too familiar with the make—but it does not have the mark of the great-wound. Its not collapsed in on one end from trying to ram itself out of the concave, heaved out by god itself. The car doesn’t putter and punch. The car don’t got no rhythm. The car doesn’t fit the crumble and swoop. Seems lost. Seems suspect.
Big black dog rears up on its hind legs. Watching the car twist around notches in the slumped road.
It is a road isn’t it?—a black stretch, rounded by rubber, throbbing with multipled pulses. There are homes—people inside, white and blue light flickering through windows.
Yeah, there are windows here. Surrounding the hole, like eyes. There are granma’s peeping their round eyes through blinds. They see the fancy car, they see its shine and think that ain’t ____. And it ain’t. It ain’t no one they knew.
There is a party happening in the third loop—that’s the other side of black dog, that’s the side of the hood where younglings hang around. The younglings are smoking, joking and bumbling for the night.
Squint around the chasm—see the neon lights.
For the low, low cost of your low down soul, come party with laTesha, Lafayette and Lore.
Triplets. Pulled from their mother’s wreckage—they are little more than half-ghosts. But they do alright. They live undulating between here and there. Crossed, knuckled through hemorrhaging ether. They are so curled in with holes, they are inside out. So close to the rattle from before and after—their parties gorged and gouged with hymn and haunt.
Come, come, come to the third loop—come down, get down, get lost.
Get lost and get gone—that’s the fine print. No one reads the last bit of the poster, duck taped to a cop wall in protest.
It’s not they fault when white kids feel self-invited.
Read the fine print: black people welcome all hours to jam in this place of half-holy. white folks beware of big____dog.
Dog gets confused for god—white boy thinks me, me, me.
Flyer states: BEWARE DOG. DOG. GOD.
Big black dog stares through the blasting high beams, pulling apart the dark. A hot white blast.
The high beams of a man and his fanciful car with lowed eyes and glimmering white skin.
He enters voraciously, the sight of a tragedy, careening his car into god.
He swears on white jesus to no one but the ether he didn’t see the damn thing, he swears, even as it rips through his neck—he didn’t see it. He didn’t see the black bulb budding up and up and its great white jaws. He doesn’t see black. Colorless he says—he’s colorless.
The center fluxes and folds, eating him.
He is later found dead, puncture marks in his throat.
‘how it happened’—says a granny in a blue gown.
‘god bit, like always,’ says a kid. ‘he entered here with ill intention and no offer, and god ate him. don’t they know the rules?’
the granny knotted herself into a noiseless ball and nodded.
The kid rolled its shoulders and howled.
rules be like this—don’t speed into black dog territory without offering a slab of meat.
–don’t come through, stranger in a strange place without greeting grannies.
–don’t come through, if you only come around for sex and slum-it food
–don’t come through, if you have quiver in your step.
–don’t come through, unless you smeared in earth and wear the tongue of the sun.
–jus’ don’t come through, this place isn’t for you.
It’s not really a place, now is it?
It’s not really a place, but a tear in a black kid’s lung, gauged by pulsing bullet.
It’s a lonesome place, void, gapping begging for people to feed it—feed the suffering heart. feed the black kid and the great growing pit.
Generation after generation—it grows and grows.
A new head and new body–another name rolled over the carcass and heap.
The black dog grows hungry.
The black god grows.
Remedy for the wound—
Plant the granny into the tear-wetted dirt where she will grow into a
Hand knead seed into dark skin, the blood will bloom into lavender and
Lullaby lull the black girl, until her hair twists into a galaxy, dream-loop
Kiss the black boy on the cheek, three times, to coax softness and smile
Tell the black mother, her kid will come home.
The kids will make it home.
I am an artist, a writer, and survivor of gun violence. I teach courses on visual and cultural narratives of death in contemporary art. My studio work draws upon mourning practices that activate hair as a material exchanged between the living and the dead.
“Angela uses a spectrum of color and other phenomena of light to expose mythologies of identity. Ephemeral and celestial forms are constructed by everyday gestures of domestic labor—washing, wrapping, stitching, weaving, brushing, and braiding.”
Learn more about Angela’s work here: www.angelahennessy.com
Bizzy BalBoa is a songwriter, independent recording artist, podcaster, and more. She’s been dedicated to her music career for over ten years, possessing the passion of a brand-new artist. There’s no limit to the talent and creativity Bizzy has, and she plans to continue evolving in every aspect of her life.
“Bad Luck” is an anthem for anyone who’s ever been doubted, neglected, or abandoned by someone they loved and trusted. It’s an empowering track made to remind you of who you are and the power you hold. We all are special to the world in our own way, but this is just a reminder that no matter what people say about you or who doesn’t believe in you, you should always believe in yourself and show them better than you could ever tell them. Listen to “Bad Luck” here!
Watch this documentary about Bizzy’s career. No time to watch it all? Be sure to check out the track at 16:38! One of our faves.
Soara-Joye Ross is an award-winning Broadway/tv & film actress, singer, dancer, coach, speaker, and type 1 diabetic luminary. Mazz Swift is an award-winning Juilliard-trained violinist, composer, conductor, singer, bandleader, educator, and autism activist. Swift & Ross, a new couple, have traveled all over the world individually as artists and are excited to now be working on their show together in NYC in between performances here and abroad! Love wins!
And that’s a wrap, Fam! Thank you all so much for joining us for another Community Pride issue of The Tea! As you all know, the meaning of Pride Month goes far beyond the events, rainbow filters, and paraphernalia. Pride Month is about demanding our freedom and our rights to personhood and radical self-expression—an ongoing fight catalyzed by the hard work and dedication of our Black and Brown ancestors and elders. Is it a time to celebrate? Yes, indeed. But y’all know we tryna do more than that.
As we celebrate and uplift the stories, art forms, and actions that reflect our experiences, it is imperative that we also acknowledge the current war on our community. This year, in the U.S., more than 500 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills have been presented within the legislative landscape—and we are not even halfway through the year. Most of these bills center queer and trans participation in sports, gender pronoun usage, education, gender-affirming care, and legal recognition. These bills have significant negative consequences for trans youth, trans young adults, and their allies. These consequences are even worse for Black and Brown folks with intersecting marginalized identities.
Without access to safe gender-affirming care, Black and Brown queer and trans folks are at an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Without access to legal-recognition documents, this same group is at an increased risk of unemployment, houselessness, wrongful incarceration, and chronic negative health outcomes—and the worst part is, we won’t even be able to identify them. While many of these bills are set to take effect over the next few months, we are seeing the dangers of this legislation in real time; at the end of April, we lost our trans sibling, Banko Brown, following an altercation he had with a security guard at a Walgreens in San Francisco. Politicians help perpetuate harmful stereotypes that have and continue to put our lives at risk by criminalizing and invalidating our identities and leaving us with little to no resources.
Black and Brown queer and trans people deserve to live full, happy lives in which they are safe and supported by their communities. Period. Our responsibility is to cultivate a sense of belonging, safety, and solidarity that counters the erasure of our people, culture, and history.
We know that was a lot. Trust. We know.
But here’s what we can do about it.
Stay up-to-date on anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation by visiting the following 2023 Anti-Trans Legislation Tracker. This site tracks active anti-LGBTQIA+ bills, and important political events, as well as breaks down how each bill affects the community. As things progress politically, it is important to educate yourself and share these findings and updates with people in your network.
We also wanna plug TransLash Media’s podcast. This podcast, hosted by Imara Jones, centers on the experiences of trans people in an effort to spread life-saving awareness to people within and outside of the community. Each year, the TransLash podcast offers a series called “The Anti-Trans Hate Machine” that explores complex issues within the LGBTQIA+ community. This season focuses on the disinformation ecosystem constructed by the Christian Nationalist movement, anti-trans lies that are laundered through some of the country’s biggest and most respected newsrooms, and how this effort creates a world where the existence of trans people is questioned. Check it out here!
We invite everyone to sign the Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative (SnapCo)’s Pledge to Protect Black Trans Lives. Following the losses of Ashely Burton, Koko Williams, and Lynn Shaw, three Black trans women murdered by way of anti-trans violence, SnapCo has invited us all to stand up and be a courageous voice for Black trans people. You can learn more about the pledge and sign it here.
As anti-trans bills continue to rise, access to gender-affirming care will worsen, making it harder for queer and trans folks to feel safe and affirmed in their bodies. During uncertain times, many of us rely on mutual-aid campaigns to help reduce barriers and address inequity. You can support people in the community by donating to gender-affirming care campaigns here!
Over here at The Tea, we promise to continue to amplify the voices and experiences of our queer and trans siblings, as our stories help light the path to our liberation. We are committed to cultivating a sense of community and camaraderie with you all as we continue fighting for a world where every Black and Brown queer and trans person can exist, share, rejoice, and thrive.
We want to express our gratitude to each and every one of you for being an essential part of The Tea’s content and community. Your willingness to share your authentic experiences and vulnerabilities, as well as uplift the stories and talents of other Black queer and trans folks, is what makes The Tea possible! Pride Month is every month with you all. But it’s June, so—-Happy Pride Month, yall!
* The M4BL Mass Engagement Table is a space for folks to dream, scheme, and take action toward Black liberation by engaging with Black people at a massive scale. We seek to activate and build collective consciousness with Black folks on mass-centering our voices, stories, and culture. We do our work by focusing on five key areas: Communications, Narrative Power, Tech, Culture, and Direct Action.