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Sincerely Brooklyn is a lifestyle blog that provides cultural commentary of my life in Brooklyn. With cultural insight and perspective, this is a creative outlet for the beauty obsessed, social and political observer in constant pursuit of great food, great company and fun times. 


Filtering by Tag: life

Lessons Learned in 2015



Functioning Crazy People

All those rumors I hear about people who know people who “do it for the ‘gram” but are secretly maladjusted, just has never been something I’ve witnessed in real life. No really. I’ve heard this of course from some of my social media-hating friends but I’d never actually met those people in real life. Until I found a few of those folks in my personal offline social circle. I learned that you could be amazing and be in shambles.  You can be like, extraordinarily gifted and dope and self-destructive. This year was the first year of my life that I had to actually deal with people that even I thought were “fine” but were far from it. It took some adjusting and I had to make some decisions on whom I’d be there for and whom I wouldn’t.


Things Don’t Need to Be Figured Out

In 2015, I had very particular instances that reminded me that people and things don’t need to be figured out by me and I should make conscious decisions to either stick through the learning phase or dash. Life will go one without me knowing the exact next step and that’s actually ok. So in 2015, I stayed a few places I didn’t think I would because I didn't have it all figured out.



I’ve said it a million times, I have incredible friends. Very thoughtful, warm, passionate, and intelligent people. I live in a friend bubble.  In 2015 though, I learned a few lessons I’d thought I’d known already about adult friendships. I learned  that you can have complete respect and love for people, and they still can kinda believe you don’t. And you can continue to have admiration for them and not talk to them again. And that’s ok.


Blackness doesn’t have to be sacared

I used to feel full when I hung around a lot of Black people (and still do). I’d go to Harlem, spend the day just walking around, eating soul food, shopping at Schomburg, feeling very affirmed. Outside of that weekend moment, I always felt my Blackness was slipping away from me as if I had to perform some neutralized actions in white spaces. Like not speak in slang unless I was intentionally breaking character in the workplace. Like not talking about racism, blackness, as much as I was actually thinking about it. Reserving a day or two, or even an evening to be comfortably Black no longer worked enough for me. I stopped saying I wasn’t watching ratchet reality tv, when I was. I stopped saying I didn’t catch the news, when I could barely function because a new Black person was shot by a police officer. I stopped only whispering to Black colleagues about issues of white supremacy faced daily in different spaces, on trains, and in hallways. I stopped holding it all in only to be released amongst my Black girlfriends. I stopped trying to suspend my Blackness to make others uncomfortable. And it hasn’t been easy but I feel so much better for it.

The Unfollow Button on Facebook

Who invented this and why? This is amazing! I don’t have to deal with the guilt of unfriending my family members but I don’t have to be subject to all their crazy news stories from unreliable sources and rants about child abuse. Thank you Facebook fairy!


What are some lessons you learned in 2015? 

A Girl's Girl


Something strikes me about a woman who is not interested in being friends with another woman. Something in my head clicks off when I meet a woman, of a certain age, who says, “I don’t mess with a whole bunch of females.”

Insert a crazy emoji here?

I’ve learned, through not that many trials, that being a friend to a woman is one of the best things I could do. Having the solidarity of gender is comforting, rewarding, exciting and enduring. Women of any sexuality. Women of any race. Women of any social standing and cultural norms. I’ve found that there is something particularly special about being friends with women.

One of my best friends!

One of my best friends!

And I’ve hit the jackpot.

Ever since my failed high school friendships of the late 90s and turn of the century, that ended in catfights and some girl sleeping with a guy I’d been crushing forever, I realized that the gift of discernment was key in creating mutual respect in adult sisterhood.

When I went away to college, I met many of my best girlfriends in my first two or three months. I entered college and created meaningful relationships with women I shared countless hours with talking about absolutely nothing. I learned the power of sisterhood as I moved to being an emotional wreck, melodramatic, deeply gendered, fearful of life with girls who were too. We ate, we pinched our waists, we watched one another put on makeup, we gossiped, and we kept one another in check. We got on each other’s nerves. But we seemed to move through life seamlessly with one another, always checking in, always filtering our thoughts to ensure we weren’t hurting one another. We took breaks when needed. We sat in silence together. We cuddled one another through breakups and sat silently in intimate spaces waiting for humorous interruptions that never came. And then we grew up, and out, and on.  And though graduation staggered for many of us, text messages saved us. We laughed out loud. We sent one another pictures. We stayed loyal to the history of our sisterhood and whenever we got back together we picked up where we left off. Homecoming was always great. Even when it was bad, it was great. The best part of it all was that I got to spend it with people who knew me. I didn’t have to remind them that I slept walked. I never hid myself when I undressed.  I never coded my words to sound more intellectual. We slept in bed together, as late adult women, updating one another on our love lives. We shared makeup and roamed one another’s closets. I feel like I’m with myself. I feel normal, and safe, and free. When we are around one another, I want to stay forever.

One of my great adult friends!

One of my great adult friends!

They are for me a retreat and I wouldn’t know life well, without them.

And then there are my adult friends. The funny, festive girls I met when I arrived in DC. We all shared a love for our people. A love for sacrificing. To see the greater good met through politics and government action. We weren’t particularly young in our minds, but old in our spirits. They talked me through many of my most notable decisions in life. They’ve kept my spirits high. They counseled me like no one else ever could. They remind me of a secret saliency sisterhood. They are like the navy seals. They do it all, they get it done, no applause needed. They reinforce my hope in the world. They are amazing human beings who do amazing things that no one will ever know about. They are humble, and sweet, and supportive. They are cheerleaders and humility seekers. They are funny and pretty. They get petty and throw shade. And we don’t know every detail of each others lives. We all have other friends. But when we get together, we share something that is unique, kind, and familiar.

And I wouldn’t know life well, without them.

 And then there are the many other, sprinklings of women whose friendships have tremendous meaning. The girlfriend who tells me to go for it. The girlfriend who helps me understand that teaching isn’t about getting a fat check, but a daily struggle with little rewards. And then there’s the girlfriend who rewrites my resume and pushes me toward every amazing opportunity she has access to. And then there’s the girlfriend who texts me every now and again just to see what’s up. And then there’s the girlfriend who loves to brunch. The one who catches me up on her life for hours. Then there’s the best friend. The girlfriend who’s known me since I was a girl scout. Who manages to pull every secret I’ve ever kept hidden deep inside? Who manages to keep me thinking, smiling, and growing in our friendship every year and in better ways.

And so I’m glad I don’t know what it’s like to know life without them. I’ve really had the pleasure of meeting some of the very best girls. They’ve impacted my life. Every square inch of it, in ways that matter impeccably. And I don’t see any of them every day. But they make me believe in the power of amazingly healthy, productive female relationships.

I’d recommend those relationships to all women. 

One of my college friends

One of my college friends

I prefer not to be friends with women who don't like or find something special about being in relationship with other women. Sure, women can be catty and all the other stereotypical things that people say of women. But I find that if you lack the emotional understanding to be in relationship with another woman, I just don't trust you. If you have, as a woman, warded off women as some subspecies, then I've got no time for you. I'm not interested in women who've had bad experiences with other women which clouds their judgment of the whole gender. I don't want to know a woman who is so emotionally dishonest with herself that she's separated herself from other women. After all, you are internalizing your own self image and should do some serious soul searching. 

Coming from where I'm from...



I just returned to what I consider to be home, Brooklyn, after spending just over a week in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Milwaukee is where I spent most of my childhood but I haven’t called it home for years.  

Milwaukee is considered to be one of the most segregated cities in America where close to 60% of the residents identify as Black or Latino. Milwaukee, like most other rustbelt, Midwestern, former industrial towns has seen an increase in crime, decrease in jobs, and a political push for urban gentrification that has displaced some of its poorest residents. Milwaukee is where my grandparents migrated after first settling in Chicago from Mississippi during the 1940s to escape the treachery of the south.

It is in Milwaukee though that my fondest memories were not great. Tuetonia and Locust is where I remember playing on the playground before bullets rang out. When I think of Milwaukee, I think of it as the physical place where my brothers failed to escape its destructible trajectory. It is in Milwaukee where I’ve experienced some of my scariest moments.  I remember waking up in the middle of the night to a burning house. It was in Milwaukee where several men beat me as a young woman with bats and the hardiness of the concrete. It was right there in that city, where I slugged on public transportation to get minimum wage just to buy basic necessities. When I think of Milwaukee I think of the food stamps, the hours of waiting for healthcare, the roaches on the wall, the desperate competition for school clothes, the long lines at Aldi, the boys who got shot, the men that went to prison, the girls who became mothers, the babies who were left alone.  It is there, in Milwaukee, where I learned the instant gratification of sex, drugs, and money. It is there where I learned the disillusion of basketball dreams and rapping careers.

It didn’t build my character, as people say poverty does, it built angst, dejection, and posttraumatic stress. It harbored in me, for years after going down south for college, a deep sense of inadequacy and eventually survivor’s guilt. I began to feel guilty that all of my greatest memories-falling in love, meeting lifelong friends, traveling the world, finding amazing mentors, becoming engulfed in life altering projects, getting married, graduating, starting a family-were not in Milwaukee. Even driving, learning to pay bills, becoming independent, discovering how to control my emotions, turning away from a culture of violence, and other basic life changes happened to me away from my family and surely outside of the small city I grew up in. I grew further and further away from the people whom I considered my family and visiting became much more of a chore and far less of a comfort.

Every time I returned to Milwaukee, I was forced to be 15 again. I was forced to remember people I had long forgotten about. I was forced to remember restaurants I could never afford to eat in.  I was forced to remember neighbors who had long gone to prison. I was forced to remember the playground I was beat up at, the goodwill store my mother shopped at, and the welfare line so many of us used to stand in. I was forced to have unnatural conversations with old friends I was disappointed in, who gained so much weight I barely recognized, who lived lives I was unacquainted with.  I was forced to hear old stories that were glossed up as if they were amazing ones. I was forced to remember all the people we never got to see become whole again.

Every time I step in the city limits, it conjures in me an uncertainty, an ambiguity, a deep sorrow that there are people here who I love but who will forever be faint memories.

There are times and people in Milwaukee that continue, and I hope will always bring me great joy. There are friends and family who I continue to speak about with great pride.  I remember buying laffy taffies and Okie Doke popcorn from the corner store on 38th and Meineke. I remember spending summer days at Afro Fest and summer nights sitting on the porches drinking Kool Aid. I remember shopping at Northridge Mall and going to Immature concerts down at the Riverside Theater. I remember as a teen getting all dressed to go to Vincent and King high school basketball games.  I remember, it was in Milwaukee, where my third grade teacher Mr. Smith inspired me to be anything. Milwaukee is where my Girl Scout troop became a place of solace. It is where the youth group became a saving grace. There are memories that are so vivid in my mind of important people in Milwaukee who, surely, without them I would have met the fate of so many of my peers.

Yet moving ‘away’ from Milwaukee as a teenager, was absolutely the best thing I could have ever done for myself. Moving away, going to college several states away, and then graduating with no desire to return to Milwaukee was probably the single most important act of courage I could have ever pulled off. Not because Milwaukee is some God awful place where no good ever comes, but because it was important for me to grow as a person without the weight of familial pressure and the destitute destiny of unemployment, violence, and generational poverty that awaited me on the Northside of Milwaukee.

The High School I graduated from 

The High School I graduated from 

I’ve struggled with telling this story, especially to my family and friends who compare what they consider to be a working class life to our poorer peers who met a much harsher fate. While neither one of my parents were addicted to crack, or died, or let us go nights on the street or without food, I learned that my own traumatic experiences weren’t less worthy to tell. My complaints of memories are seen as trivial and escape is seen as a reflection of some biological desire, divine intervention or intellectual supremacy. But I don’t tell the story of Milwaukee as some heroine’s dream of hard work and perseverance. I know I’m not any more deserving of freedom than my own siblings who did not survive generational poverty’s unquestionable destruction. I know I didn’t ‘work any harder’ or was given any more grace.

I am fully aware that what plagues my family and so many people in Milwaukee is a combination of poor public policy, mass segregation, over incarceration and an even poorer education system. I chose to move away from Milwaukee not the work. I choose to focus my energy and adult working life on public policies where zip code doesn’t dictate destiny, where parental income doesn’t so easily transfer, where schoolhouses can be an oasis of hope.

I left my burden somewhere on the sidewalk cracks of Hadley Street on the north side of Milwaukee just as I would in the torn up rubble of the Cabrini Green housing projects in Chicago. I’ll never get Milwaukee tattooed on my chest. I probably will never be able to vacation with my family members in some incredible safari resort in Kenya and many of them will likely never board a plane to see what life is like for their cousin, sister, friend in Brooklyn. And while I continue to mourn that Huxatble dream of going back ‘home’ to a place that is safe, supportive, and where people understand me, I’ve learned that the best I could do is be safe, supportive, and understanding to them.

I learned from Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie that: stories matter. I learned that stories empower, humanize and can also repair broken dignity. But, as Ms. Adichie often says, this is just one story. It is just one story of Milwaukee and the memories I bury at the airport each and every time I board my plane back to my home where my friends, job and family await me on the East Coast. I will reminiscence about Milwaukee as my grandparents once did of Mississippi, as a place with much history but with no future for me.

Editors Note: 

When I wrote this piece, I never knew that it would be tweeted, shared, and spread to over 21,000 people in just 48 hours. Not a lot of people knew I spent my childhood in Milwaukee. I've not seen a lot of stories of the intersections of poverty, segregation, and race told by young people from this place. I chose to write just one of those stories. But this story was my story. My story of poverty that goes beyond mere geography. This is my story of a village that was burning. Due to a whole host of political and economic reasons became an unsafe place for me where the outcomes were dim.  This is a story about how children inherit poverty and what that does to the human spirit. This is a story of luck, when it should never be about luck. 

This is not a story of why people should leave Milwaukee.This is not a story advocating for the mass flight of people from Milwaukee or even the 'hood.

I spend my life organizing and advocating for children like me. For children who because of generational poverty became victims of inadequate education and pitiable teaching, aggressive policing, etc. but who by no fault of their own are relegated to second class citizenship. I don’t advocate for escaping the ‘hood with no return. I’m an advocate for the inevitable defeat of poverty-anywhere, for anyone, always. 

The comments are a reflection of the inconsistent experiences people within this city and people who see, experience, and encounter poverty face everyday. Thank you all for your support and be well.