How Prince helped me be Black and genderqueer in America’s Bible capital

I still remember when Prince sang on “Muppets Tonight” in 1997. I was seven years old in Chattanooga, Tenn. It was a few years after he started using his symbol instead of his name, which the Muppets played up for laughs. I remember him wearing these overalls in one scene for a farm skit and a ridiculous chartreuse turtleneck for a music video in the next. Even the Muppet-ified Prince had a pompadour.

I watched him sing about Cynthia, the Muppet who didn’t care what people thought: “If you set your mind free, baby you’d understand.”

After that, I wanted more. I looked for Prince in music stores and online. I’ll never forget seeing the cover of his 1988 album “Lovesexy.” Here was this naked black man on the cover of his album with flowers behind him. And people loved him.

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The End of Selfie 2K14

It's been a year.

A year since I decided to conquer my self doubts about my appearance and take selfies. As many selfies as I could take. No matter what the situation was I needed to take more selfies. 

I did it. 

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I took so many selfies that I had to leave out some. Looking back at this time last year I only had a few photos to choose from. A few times in which I took pride in my appearance. So for 365 days out of the year I tried to do that. 

Halfway through March I realized that I didn't have to always like myself.

I just always had to be true to myself. 

Years of insecurity and self doubt no longer to the front seat in my mind when I looked in the mirror. Instead I saw myself. I saw myself existing with happy moments. I saw myself existing with moments of struggle. 

I saw myself existing. 

That's all that mattered.

Seeing the moments of joy and sadness in which make my life. I enjoyed being able to go back and recall those moments. To see how I got threw them. To see how I got under my own skin and pushed through. I realized that I was allowed to cry just as much as I was allowed to laugh. I was allowed to feel whatever I felt at any moment in time because all of my emotions were valid.

2014 overall was not a friend of mine. Talk about being on the struggle bus and making every struggle stop on route to get to Struggle Central the capital of Struggletopia. It was rough. 

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But then there were also a lot of highlights. 

I got to be brave and tell my story. 

I got to meet amazing leaders and personal heroes that have inspired me. 

I got to meet and working with amazing young activists who are going to change the world even more than they're already doing. 

Beautiful humans doing amazing things. SPARK Media Justice Camp QP 2014

Beautiful humans doing amazing things. SPARK Media Justice Camp QP 2014

I got to grow and love my body, soul, and existence more than I ever thought possible in 2014. Which is what I'm always striving to do. I'm always trying to grow and push myself beyond my comfort zone for the better. 

So here's to you, 2014.  Nah. Scratch that.

Here's to you, Jordan Scruggs.

You set out to love yourself more. You set out to remind yourself of your inner and outer beauty. You decided to take action and love yourself despite what external and internal voices might say. 

And you did it.

Unforgettable

I was asked by a friend last month to list 10 Unforgettable Books. These were off of the top of my head the first 10 books that I can think of that meant a lot to me. Obviously these aren't all of them and these aren't the ones that I would consider my favorite books of all time. 

  1. "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf" by Ntozake Shange (1975)

  2. "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou (1969)

  3. "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" by Alex Haley (1987)

  4. "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker (1982)

  5. “Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe (1958)

  6. “Women, Culture, & Politics” by Angela Y. Davis (1989)

  7. “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More” by Janet Mock (2014)

  8. “The Giver” by Lois Lowry (1993)

  9. “Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling (1997)

  10. “Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling (2007)

So why these books?

Books are often a means to travel without moving. Stories have been a way for me to escape my world that I know and enter both the worlds of fantasy and reality that belong to other people.

Whether it was an educational trip into a culture that I’m unaccustomed to, a battle of good and evil, or a look into the past that all too often predicted the future, I’ve grown and have become the person I am today because of books.

It’s International Literacy Day as I’m writing this post write now. It’s because of books that I can write this post. The power in giving a child a book is endless. Which is why I’m constantly in shock and honestly enraged when people treat our education and our teachers the way they do in America.

They’re underpaid, underappreciated, and are blamed for a broken educational system.

I’ve had bad teachers and I’ve had great teachers. The great teachers are more than the bad. But when I think about the bad teachers I’ve had it’s because they’re the result of a broken educational system.

Our current educational system makes the learning of minorities an extra course or class that isn’t mandatory to know. Too many times I heard the stories of the founding fathers who dreamed of this country. Too little times have I heard the stories of Black, Latino, and Asian revolutionaries, inventors, dreamers and doers that did the physical labor behind those dreams of the founding fathers.

That’s why my book list is the way it is.

Only three of these books were ever on my school reading lists from elementary to college.

Only one of these books was on my list before college.

I had to take the initiative and learn about my culture and my life outside of school because I knew I wasn’t going to learn about them during school. Which also made me realize that others weren’t going to understand my culture or my life if they didn’t learn it in school. That’s where a lot of us get our understanding about life. We know about our families and our own personal customs. But where else are we most likely going to get a chance to learn about the lives outside of our homes? Schools.

I believe in our teachers just as much as I believe in the minds of the children across the country. We’re doing ourselves an injustice as a country when we devalue the importance of an educated mind.

I’ve listed some links below that are about book donations and places where you can support schools and teachers. Our libraries and schools are in need. So this is a call to action to take action and believe in our education system once again.

Reader to Reader =  American Library Association = Books for Africa

Books for America = Help CPS = Library Friends

 

Absence of Hope

I've made previous mentions about my battle with depression here.

But I've never really spoken about it until now. 

Which is a mistake. 

If you've ever met me face to face, then you've probably noticed that I like to make people laugh. It makes me feel good and it makes others feel good. So why not do it? Why not make jokes? Why not make others forget about their problems and have some endorphins flowing through their mind and soul instead?

What you never saw was the fact that I was depressed. Severely depressed. As in I attempted suicide at the age of 16 and later on came close at the ages of 18 and 19. 

Most of you reading this right now are in a sense of disbelief. That's because you know me. You know that I support people to the fullest and I support them in being who they are and loving who they are. 

But that doesn't mean I was/am always okay with loving who I am 100%. 

Know this.

Depression is a real disease. 

Mental health in general is something that a lot of cultures throw to the side. It's something that's shunned. Seeking help for mental health is often seen as a weakness. It's seen as something that one can "get over". 

We need to stop this. 

Why did it take me so long to get help about my depression?

I didn't know it was a real thing. By that I didn't know it was a real thing that people could get help for. I thought that it was me making up problems. I thought it was just me. I wrote it off as something that wasn't serious. I wrote it off as another part of me that I needed to get over. 

I needed to get help. 

I never knew that it was more than "being sad". It's almost exactly as J.K. Rowling described. 

"It's so difficult to describe depression to someone who's never been there, because it's not sadness. I know sadness. Sadness is to cry and to feel. But it's that cold absence of feeling...It is that absence of hope."

And it truly is difficult to explain to someone who's never been depressed. But the loss of hope is the number one thing. 

I think the biggest problem is that people don't know what to do. They don't know what depression looks like. They don't know that there are resources out there for them. People don't know the facts about depression or suicide. People don't know that it's different for everyone.  

I also wasn't sad 24/7. I was happy. I was and still am surrounded by a loving family. Yet it's not enough.

My heart sincerely hurts every single damn time I hear of suicide. Whether they were a stranger, celebrity, or a friend of a friend. My heart hurts. 

All this to say I believe the best way to diminish depression and suicide. Is to take them seriously. Take mental health seriously. Don't blame people for their depression. It's just as serious of a disease as cancer. It's just as invisible until it isn't. Check out the links below for more information. 

If you are depressed and overwhelmed and don't know what to do... 

Please reach out. Take that first step. Your life matters. Your existence matters. Do not be ashamed of needing help.

Click the links below. I want you to find the help you need. I want you to understand the statements I just said above.

I may not know you but I care about your existence and the life you have.

Much love.

- Jordan Scruggs

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The Trevor Project

National Institute of Mental Health

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:Preventing Suicide

10 Things I've Found Out So Far In My 20's.

My birthday was June 1. I'm now 24 years old. Which means I'm a year away from the big 25. Every year on my birthday my dad asks me, "Any words of wisdom?" This year I wanted to deliver in high style and have few words of wisdom to share with the group.


1. Treat your money right: I mean this seems obvious. Until you realize that you're an adult and people (family) will no longer be obligated to bail you out. Have fun. Take chances. But be smart with how you spend your money and what you spend it on.

2. Be responsible: Again obvious. But come on. If you want to be treated like an adult you gotta take on the tasks that adults have. No cop outs allowed. Step up to the plate and get your priorities in order.

3. Listen to people: Being in your 20's is like being a sophomore in high school again. You're no longer a freshman, but you sure as hell aren't a senior either. Put those ears to use and learn something. You might learn something from someone else that leads you to learning about yourself. Remember Pocahontas from 1994? You'll learn things you never knew you never knew.

4. Talk to people: Online. In person. Both. Put yourself out there. Get to networking. Build those relationships. Because it's these connections that are going to impact you for the rest of your life. (At least that's what it's done for me so far...)

5. Be vulnerable: It's okay to have weaknesses. In fact you should embrace your weakneses. Put yourself out there in your vulnerable state. You might fail. But you might find something...that's going to make you better. Something that will make you stronger. Something that might unleash a strength inside you that you don't know about.

 
It’s only when you risk failure that you discover things. When you play it safe, you’re not expressing the utmost of your human experience.
— Lupita Nyong'o

6. Keep learning: You're probably sick of school by this point. You don't want any more finals. You're probably glaring at trees as you pass by them because you know they're to blame for that 15 page thesis you were forced to print out. So damn the grades. Get rid of the proposals. Get rid of the scantron. Get rid of that #2 pencil and that godforsaken bubble that must be filled in all the way. Learn without the stress. Learn beyond obligations.

7. Look out for others: You're not at the top. You're on the way. But pull yourself out of your journey up the ladder to take a glance back at the ones behind and beside you. If you can help. Do it. What goes around comes around and you never know what will happen in the future. Plus it feels great.

8. Remember your journey: *sings Started From The Bottom* Don't punish yourself when (And you will) you fail. Remember that everyone's journey is different and you're further along in yours than you were the day before. Setbacks will happen but so can dreams.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
— Maya Angelou

9. Self Love: Love yourself. Love yourself before you even understand yourself. Love yourself before you love someone else. Love yourself before you listen to someone's opinion. Love yourself from beginning to end. Love every single part of your body and being. Even if your self identity changes, love your spirit and your being above all. You're the only you in the world. Being someone else is only ever going to get you second best.

10. Keep on Dreamin' On: Crappy job? Check. Student loans to pay off? Check. Crappy roommates? Check. Some/All of these may be relevant to your current life. But they don't define you. They also don't last forever. You might be drowning in student loan debt and you might really hate your job. But there are other jobs. Loans will eventually be paid off. But something that should never stop is your ability to dream beyond your current situation. Big dreams or small dreams, they matter. They matter and you should fight for your dreams no matter what they are.


So there you have it. 

That's all I got. 

I realize that some points they were a little lengthy and wordy and yada yada yada. 

But I think it's important to learn and teach as you go on in life. That's what Maya Angelou taught me. She passed away on March 28 and I took it as a personal blow. I was still learning from her. I was still embracing the fact that she considered me one of her children despite the fact that she never knew me.

I'll take her energy and teachings with me wherever I go. 

Until next time.