An examination of my appreciation for my name and why names signify more than just what people call you

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Recently, my friend and talented blogger Dion Hudnall wrote about his name and the origins of his first name and why he goes by his middle name. It was a story that clearly inspired me to write about my own experience with my name, but also was resonant because I believe that it is a story in which many Black folks can relate. Many of us have an older sounding family first name or a nickname that escapes the clutches of family into the public sphere. Some of us have names that we may feel needs to be hidden for white acceptance, usually in professional settings, as a form of code switching. And, still some folks may create or organically grow into a nickname as part of a selective in-group identifier or persona. …

Examining the lies that make America

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Photo by Ludovic Gauthier on Unsplash

Welcome class to a new semester where this course, Mythology 101, will test your knowledge of what’s fact and what’s fiction.

We’ll have discussions that galvanize and create friction, depending on the subject. But, this course will test your currently held belief of truth and myths while researching the rest.

As you look upon the syllabus, you may be wondering where’s Achilles? Where’s Hercules? And, where’s Damocles and other warring figures? Instead, you see familiar tropes, not characters, because myths — past and present — are remembered for their scope and resonant messaging. The characters are interchangeable vessels who drive the message to action. …

The fight has begun and we all need to be a part of it. This cannot not be for naught or some interregnum of Trumpism.

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Congratulations Mr. President-Elect Joe Biden & Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris!

You’re election to the highest offices in our great nation is historic and ushers in a bee era for the nation and the world.

We rallied around your calls for the restoration of truth, decency, and respect from our leaders. To respect all who call America home — citizen or refugee. To lead with morality and compassion domestically, and with consistency and collaboration abroad.

We believed that it was time to elevate the standing of women, particularly Black women who have supported the Democratic Party, exceedingly and abundantly time and time again, by galvanizing around Kamala Harris. …

Contemporary take on James Baldwin’s words

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As Jimmy B said:

“To be Black is to be in a constant state of rage.”

It is to be set on fire.

The fires that burn within contains anger, hatred, shame, death, integrity, courage, respect, and life continuously reborn.

We are the Phoenix, constantly dying — murdered — to be steeled — forged by new threats to our lives.

It is to be the fire.

We are ablaze amidst the perdition of our being.

Never asking to be Black and never asking to be anything else.

It is to be.

The current relativity of Audre Lorde’s work

Audre told us that

The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house

the tools that were given








These tools form modern — white — society

These tools institute “order” and reinforce station

These tools preach unity yet act on divisiveness

The master’s tools, made in America, made America

The master’s tools beget war only to be destroyed by it

The master’s tools creates money only to be run by it

The master’s tools marries policy & patriarchy only to be failed by it

The masters used these tool, to seize and infect land — creating cities, states, and nations — that didn’t…

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Black trauma, its connectedness to the Bible, and creative blockage

For a month now, I have not been able to write. I have written down over 10 topics that I would like to write about yet I have not felt the energy, mental clarity or focus, creativity, or passion to write. I have had writer’s block before but this feels different, I feel disconnected from writing.

Because I haven’t felt like writing, I haven’t stated my thoughts or how the Jacob Blake shooting has affected me. …

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My story of colorism, bleaching creams, and facing past trauma

The title of this piece comes from a Pharrell Williams song called “Freq,” which goes “[y]ou gotta go inward | To experience the outer space | That was built for you | You gotta go inward.” In going inward, I realized that I would need to write about topics related to lifestyle and race that I struggle with or am working on, otherwise I’d be doing readers and myself a disservice. With that in mind, one of my most persistent, though subconscious, struggles has been with colorism. Colorism is a prominent racialized topic within many ethnic groups including Asians, Native Americans, Latinx, and more. However, it is most insidious within African & Black communities, primarily due to its legacy with slavery in the Americas. Colorism is a surreptitious byproduct of slavery, miscegenation or rape of slaves, and much more. …

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When Life, COVID, Work, and Other Shit Has You Down, Exercise Your Right to Enfranchise

I’ve been stuck in a rut. I’ve been in a mental and physical funk. This has been going on for about a month now. It started off with a sluggishness, mainly trouble getting to sleep or getting out of bed. Then, I started having weird dreams like…really weird dreams. Next was the mental funk or haze that was a jumble of melancholy meets inadequacy meets apathy. Followed by weird eating habits — 3 weeks of ice cream binges, 4 trips to McDonald’s (I’ve gone to McDonald’s maybe 4 times in the last 5 years), inconsistent eating patterns, and higher sugar intake. Finally, it was energy and focus issues. …

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The Case for the Capitalization of “Black”

Words matter. Words matter, particularly in contemporary society, where misinformation is rampant, and where “facts” are deemed subjective depending on the ideological bent. Words matter to me because I am a creative, specifically a writer, who has paid attention to what is said, how it is said, when it is said, who is saying it, and what is not being said more closely than most people. Words should matter to you too; however, the words that have mattered to me, recently, have been boss (to a lesser degree) and Black.

“Boss” has always been a word that I have never used or liked very much. However, it is a word that white people are more apt to use than Black people in the workplace or in life; and, maybe that is because they have historically been in the position to be the “boss” more often than not. The contemporary origins and usage of “boss” dates back to slavery, typically, to describe the overseers of plantations or the owners of small plantations (“boss man” and other derivatives). As a child, my Dad told me that I only had 4 “bosses:” God, my parents, and my Grandma. In fact, I never heard him describe his employers or supervisors as “boss,” and that has stuck with me as I’ve never referred to my supervisors or employers as “boss.” Also, I have come to believe that the term “boss,” when examined with its historical context, doesn’t just mean a supervisor of work but it also implies a lack of agency or autonomy or consciousness which further reemphasized the view of Blacks as property or a tool. Furthermore, it implies a permanence that’s transcends the boundaries of work and into other facets of life. When considering that most supervisors of Black people are white, that has subconscious resonance on self-worth and self-esteem. Ultimately, that is why you will never hear me say the words “boss.” But, the more troublesome word, and the word that caused me to write this piece, is “Black,” and its capitalization. …

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Is it time for Suave and Pantene to make room for Shea Moisture & Carol’s Daughter?

I want to begin this piece recognizing my inadequacy in speaking on this topic to the fullest extent as one could because I am a man. Though I share many of the same issues that any Black person has with their hair, I acknowledge the unique challenges, stigma, and stereotypes around Black women and their relationship with their hair and beauty. With that said, I will try not speak on specifics or keep specificity related to my experience as a Black man who recognizes a larger complexity for our Black sisters. This is a topic that I have, for a long time, felt is important to speak about publicly; but, I have felt conflicted as to whether I am the appropriate vehicle. I still have those questions; so, in that vein, I am hoping that this piece sparks a larger dialogue that is Black women-led and that my male privilege is the entrypoint for the conversation to be had. …


Karlton Laster

Cleveland | 30 | Seeking to make small change with my words and thoughts. More material available on The East by West

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