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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Legendary.

When I was very young I found a book on my grandmother’s coffee table.

“I Dream A World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America” was the title.

In my mind these women were legendary. They were icons. They were the almost untouchable dream because I couldn’t grasp the concept of ever being that good at life that I inspired others. 

Every time I would visit my grandparents I would go through that book and read every biography and run my fingers across the faces of these strong women and be in awe. I often wondered if I could write another one. Write another one that would include all of the legendary women and men in my life that seemed to change the world for me.

I was surrounded by adults who showed me strength, beauty, resiliency, laughter, and prayer. But most of all they showed me the power of love.

For the people that know me, hearing me say the words “I have social anxiety” or “I’m shy.” might come off as a lie. It’s not. I’m also an incredibly private person. Not out of shame, just out of the desire of not wanting everyone to know everything about me. Let’s bring these three together. I often feel overwhelmed by how much I feel. I very rarely feel things halfway. Whether it’s a negative or positive emotion that emotion is at 100%.

Even though I was surrounded by love through family and friends, I had a hard time loving myself. I stressed whether loving myself would bring pain to my family. I was convinced that my mere existence would harm them in any way. Society placed doubt in my mind that my family’s love would continue if I told them who I was. So I hid myself. I decided it would be best for everyone if I kept myself secluded internally. I refused to open up to anyone. I refused to be myself around anyone in order to protect everyone.

I was 10 years old when I made that decision.

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It took me another 10 to realize that it was time to love myself.

10 years of a battle with depression. 10 years of loneliness. 10 years of self hatred. 10 years of denying my own existence.

Even now I still have moments where I allow external voices and the words of strangers seep in and tell me that those 10 years were truth.

When I turned 20 years old I was exhausted. I was running on the fumes of unsaid lies. I was no longer allowing myself to feel the love and strength that my family had surrounded me with.

I came out and never looked back.

I didn’t wave a flag. I didn’t lead a parade. I didn’t throw up rainbows.

I just...started loving myself.

I stopped apologizing for my heart. I stopped hating my existence.

I stopped hating my maker for creating me the way I am.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. Before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” - Jeremiah 1:5

I have always been the prophet that love can heal the world.

There are so many different forms of love in the world. I spent 10 years denying myself love in any form and it almost ruined me. I will forever be an advocate for love. Loving my family. Loving my friends. Loving my neighbors living in some house in some place I’ve never heard of.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  - 1 Peter 4:8

I don’t expect everyone to approve of my life. I actually expect that I might lose a few friends. But I’m not writing this to seek approval or permission from anyone.

I’m writing this because I am an advocate for love and I am not ashamed of it. I’m proud of the work that I do that allow others peace, support, and happiness. I'm writing this because this is me striving to be someone's legend. Striving to be in that book that inspire someone else.

I’m proud of the amount of love I put back in the world.

Neighborly love. Relationship love.

Spiritual love.  Agape love.

Self love.

So from my heart to yours,

Go. Be happy. Love others. Love yourself. Love the earth. Just love, ya know?

Jordan Scruggs

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Making Changes

This past week I flew to Houston, Texas and attended the Creating Change conference of 2014. It was my first time attending and I definitely believe it was well worth it.

Let me just start by saying my attendance almost didn't happen. Thanks to Snowpacalypse Jr. I missed my first flight. Not only that but the lovely people that were getting me there were trapped in Atlanta for the same reason. But once I got there the education began.

Seeing old friends. Making new friends. Being in the presence of Laverne Cox.  Education at Creating Change 2014.

Seeing old friends. Making new friends. Being in the presence of Laverne Cox.  Education at Creating Change 2014.

I had the impression that I would learn information about networking, activism, and get a general understanding of how to make things happen back home in Chattanooga. I definitely got all of that. But I also got a better understanding of myself and revelation of what life is like for others like myself. 

As I've stated in one of my previous posts, I didn't always like what I saw in the mirror. I suffered depression and felt a distinct feeling of isolation. With every session and workshop that I attended that was a resounding sentiment that kept recurring.

(Mental health and mental care have been given such a stigma in our culture. No one wants to talk about it. No one wants to be tested. No one wants to seek help. No one wants to seem "weak". )

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It never occurred to me until this conference that I needed to congratulate myself on doing the things that make me...me.  I've never had the notion of congratulating myself on doing the things that have kept me here. I've always given others the necessary shout outs for helping me get through rough moments. But I've never given myself the shout out. I've never thought about the brilliancy and beauty of my mind and soul that kept me here. 

There was a session I went to that focused on liberation. Which is the one thing I didn't know I needed but once it was revealed to me I realized it was everything I needed.

I'm already taking selfies of myself to give myself the confidence. But this session helped me see the second part of what I need to do. Take the control back that I let people have over me. Take the power back that I've given to people because I want others to be happy. 

It's okay to want other people to be happy. Just like it's okay to want and demand happiness for myself. Because I deserve it. I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be proud of the things that make me happy. 

I deserve to be free from the self punishing mentality that I often put myself in.

I deserve to be free from the limitations that society puts me in.

I deserve to be free.

That's what I'm taking away from Creating Change 2014. 

Next time I go (which will happen without a doubt...) I want to see more of this. I want to see more liberation. I want to see more brown faces. I want to see change happening while I'm there and not just when we leave. I want to see less lectures and more interactive training sessions.  I want to do all the things that are important to me. I don't want to have to choose between one subject and the next. I want more combinations.

I want more change. 

#BlackPowerIsForBlackMen: Letters from Brothers Writing to Live

#BlackPowerIsForBlackMen: Letters from Brothers Writing to Live

We are a collective of black men dedicated to challenging the ideas of black masculinity and manhood through the written word. Through our work we explore the ugliest parts of ourselves and our community, in the hope that we can illuminate the beauty that we know exists as well. We challenge each other daily to create and be more than what this racist, patriarchal society has raised us to be. But simply wanting it will not do. It requires tons of hard work, and much of that work includes listening to our sisters, black women, who tend to bear the brunt of our messiness. Unfortunately, in this regard, we have been woefully absent.

 

When the hashtag #Blackpowerisforblackmen, created by Ebony.com editor Jamilah Lemeiux, took over Twitter, it was a clear sign that we haven’t been doing enough. Thousands of our sisters (and brothers) tweeted for hours about the imbalance in our community. We, black men, tend to pride ourselves on our anti-white racial supremacy activism but often fail to reach out and consider the pain and trauma faced by the women in our lives. Our culture actively denigrates the very existence of black women. We take their love, support, nourishment, and spiritual presence for granted. As a whole, black men have not reciprocated our love and support in a way that affirms the humanity and dignity of black womanhood in the face of white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, sexual violence, physical and verbal abuse.

#Blackpowerisforblackmen became the call, and as black men dedicated to fighting alongside our sisters, we have taken up the responsibility of answering. As individuals, we recognize where we have fallen short, and as a community we make a promise to participate in deep self-reflection and correction. 

This ain’t just an apology; it’s a commitment.