Connect with us


Driving While Black, Female, and Queer



Public spaces include highways, and getting from ‘Point A to B’ safely, can be challenging for black women. I am #SandraBland a sister-activist, or any one of the Black women silenced and wiped away. I feel like Black people are walking and driving targets for white supremacists. Many of which include police officers. Add driving while Black, female, and queer to the equation, while examining history and you will see, that the deaths of Black people at the hands of police brutality, has changed me.

Dignity Matters

The lack of dignity they were served has pushed me to do more as an activist and to raise pen with consistency in fighting oppression. It’s a matter of survival.  Black women are dying from white supremacy and laws that do not protect us.  The world is more concerned about securing animal rights than spaces for Black people to breathe.

Driving While DWB

When we talk about experiences people have with “Driving While Black or Brown, (DWB)”, we generally think of men. My experiences speak to the reality that there are incidents that go unreported where Black women are targeted, because of race, gender, of non-gender conforming dress, or perceived sexual orientation. I have helped in the under reporting in the past, by not filing.  

It Could Have Been Me

The courage of Sandra Bland and Korrine Gaines, even in the face of death—doesn’t allow me the comfort of silence.I have been stopped for being both black and female, and adding the queer twist to the list, is too much for some people.   I should note, two of the six times I was pulled over, I was dead wrong. One stop involved a left-hand turn (not my forte). On another occasion, I was rushing to pick my kids up from daycare after work and earned the speeding ticket. My being late was no excuse to put anyone in danger, including myself.

I began to think about the many interspersed unjustified stops and the link between the stress of driving in a police state with an always present, undercurrent of death.  For me, silence resulted in feelings of anxiety and helplessness from suffering police abuse, and electing to “let it go.” Self-questioning dogged me.

Why Didn’t I Do More?

As a Black woman, I pick my battles letting some incidences of human and civil injustice slide. Though, each time a video from #SandySpeaks graces my timeline I see a determined sister’s face. Confident and beautiful, I see Sandy, speaking truth to power, that somehow, justice would prevail. Sandra Bland was about life and living, the world in her hands, a new job, and an action plan for returning to Texas to fight injustice. The character assassination and ad nauseam regarding past mental health issues have nothing to do with being pulled violently from a car, or why she was found dead in a holding cell. The truth remains relevant.

What’s In A Look?

#IamSandraBland, my dress for fifteen years included (African clothing, locs, and a nose ring). Law enforcement had several labels to slap on me if they chose to do so. My appearance, was as far from European dress, as I could muster. Along with my pro-black or militant (depending on who was judging) physical appearance, my car and by proxy the driver (me), were labeled as, Q-U-E-E-R, ‘Super Black’, and with an expressed affinity for women.

My rear bumper was riddled with progressive messages, in support of anything, not white and male. They included stickers on, “Keeping Black Families Together”, LGBT stickers with colorful rainbows, and an array of colorful stickers suggesting, “Women Unite Globally!” I don’t think it too far fetched to assume, that these self-indulgent acts, which strongly affirm self-love and pride in who one is, moved the cops enough to show me favor.

I Felt Completely Vulnerable

One particular traffic stop stands out. On a poorly lit and severely unfamiliar suburban street, I was lost I made a u-turn into a cul-du- sac to find my bearings. Upon pulling out of the exit, cop lights were in my rear-view. At twelve forty-five in the morning, on a back road, the loudspeaker on the squad car blared the voice at the other end commanding me to pull over.

I hesitated for about ten seconds that felt more like an hour. What if they were not real cops? It was dark and eerily quiet. Would anyone hear my screams if they tried anything? I read, and knew if the going advice for women traveling alone at night and believed they were being followed, was to go to the nearest police station.

Different Rules Apply

I wasn’t being followed, but I wasn’t sure I was safe either. Besides, that may be a set-aside rule for white women. With the light from the taller officer’s flashlight shining in my face, images of Black women being abused in the south,  by law enforcement and left to find their way home bloodied and traumatized, flashed through my mind

I certainly feared the possibility of physical attack, including rape, and maybe even, death in those minutes. I felt totally alone in that situation, some police officers lie and may get extra points when a Black woman is involved.

Profiled and Detained

My crime that morning was being in an unlit suburban area, in a vehicle that racist media painted as “hot” for drug dealers. My car was down and mother gifted me her older Pontiac 6000 when she purchased a new ride. Neither of us was aware, that the car was “branding” me when I drove in certain areas. That morning I was lost and when I turned around in the dark and unfamiliar area, the cops were sitting duck for me. They pulled me over, questioned me about where I lived, and what I was doing in the neighborhood of Farmington, a suburb of my hometown of Detroit, Michigan.

My Trunk Was Full Of Goods, Queer Ones

They had me walk the line (I was sober), searched my vehicle (inside and trunk), without a warrant. I wanted to challenge them but decided that may not be the wisest decision given the darkness, and not particularly Black or queer friendly neighborhood I was being held in. As they went through my trunk, I explained that I was staying at a friend’s home in the neighborhood who was out of town, while my girlfriend moved out of our place. Geesh, I was going through a breakup and now this! The queer newspapers and boxes of conference materials filling my trunk were left over from a Transgender Youth Conference where I had presented earlier in the day. The peace officers took care to go through each copy.

Finding nothing, but queer gear, they continued to detain me. I was handcuffed in the rear of their squad car for almost thirty minutes as they called in my license plate. My outfit in case it matters was an African bou bou, shoulder length locs, and a nose piercing. The only noise aside from the police radio feedback was from my bangles shaking as I prayed for a quick exit. Prayer works and thankfully, God kept me from harm. The rear door opened, and I didn’t receive a citation when my hands were uncuffed. My license, insurance, and registration were returned and the shorter officer decided to play nice cop, telling me to “Get in safely.”

My Voice Returned

Out of nowhere, with my dignity assaulted, my voice returned. I wanted badge numbers and the names of commanding officers. The “nice-cop” laughed as if I were joking. Still shaken, I committed the two badge numbers to memory, got in my car, and with them watching to make sure I wasn’t going to double back to retrieve or drop off bundles of dope in my “hot” Pontiac 6000, I found my way back to the main street.

I #SayTheirNames, because they matter and should never be forgotten. The Sandra Bland Act is a strong statement. It forces us to address the stigma of mental illness while holding law enforcement accountable to the people and communities they serve. White supremacy is a system that can only be dismantled by countless acts of resistance and people deciding to stand for right. Walking, driving, and breathing while Black, are all human rights, I stand for.


Love It, Leave It: The Miami Edition



Hi There! I’m Erin Oliveri — a sarcastic, yet unexpectedly friendly native New Yorker. My obsession with travel might be borderline unhealthy, but I’ve learned to combat this affliction with my pre-flight multivitamin. I’ve been to more than 35 countries and 6 continents, exploring the finest food and drink establishments a city has to offer.

In each city, there are those “can’t miss” hot spots that locals and tourists alike are queuing up around the block for. But, let’s be honest, many of those are overrated. I’m here to let you know what’s worth the hype and what’s not. And, maybe, just maybe, there are some under the radar places that should be on your checklist instead.

Love It, Leave It: Miami Edition

Ah, the 305. It seems like Miami is an ever-bustling scene that seamlessly transitions from beautifully buff and bronzed sunseekers during the day to slick suits, stilettos, celebrity sightings and nonstop revelry at velvet-roped South Beach clubs. Somewhere between the beach and the dancefloor, it’d be advisable to hit one (or a few) restaurants; otherwise, you may not make it to last call. With hundreds of restaurants to to snag a reservation at, you have to be careful not to fall victim to the tourist-ridden, glitzy beach spots just because they’re conveniently located.

Love It: Wynwood.

When a friend of mine took me to Wynwood for the first time, I was a bit bothered that I hadn’t discovered this hipster, art-obsessed mecca earlier. The area is most well-known for its epic, hand-painted and graffitied walls. Just search #wynwoodwalls on Instagram and you’ll get the picture, quite literally. The reason why most travelers might miss this constantly evolving community is that it’s a slight trek from the beach. From the iconic Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach to the main drag of Wynwood, it’s about a 20-minute drive (or Uber, let’s get real about it).

But, much like Williamsburg in Brooklyn, the hipster scene also churns out culinary works of art that compliment any budget (yes, even if only old movie stubs line your Velcro wallet). Let’s start with the budget-friendly joints – Coyo & KUSH. Coyo, a bustling Mexican spot on 2nd Avenue (where you typically start Wynwood excursion) dishes out reasonably priced, flavor-filled tacos, and also houses a hidden speakeasy in the back. Wait—is that possible? Yep. Go there. And KUSH by Lokal, sitting on the outskirts of Wynwood (awkwardly straddling the train tracks), has tons of local craft brews that wash down substantially sized, award-winning burgers. The Johnny Utah – which I had to try – is smothered in a homemade sauce and topped with a hearty handful of pastrami.

If you can tap into an expense account or you just saved up for one top-notch dinner, pull up a chair at Alter. This warehouse-turned-fine-dining-hot-spot is tasting-menu driven. Choose from the five or seven courses for $69 or $89. But, if you’re going all out, the ‘full chef’s experience’ comes in at $165. Bold flavors and artistically-plated entrees ensure the food tastes as good as it looks.

To keep you there all night long, Wynwood has microbreweries on what seems like every other street. From the popular Concrete Beach Brewery, with the kitschy “Drink art. Make Beer.” slogan, to the smaller J. Wakefield Brewing, decked out with the owner’s favorite Star Wars and superhero memorabilia, you’d be crazy to leave this trendy community without trying out a few taps.

Leave It: Lincoln Road Mall.

“The Beach” – Miami or South – is where nearly every tourist stays. With miles of soft sand surrounded by hotels, restaurants and clubs, dropping your bags here isn’t a question, it’s an innate decision. Yes, while one of these spots should be your designated ‘home base’ spot, venturing out a bit for your meals (and liquid refreshments) will be the highlight of your trip. The quintessential tourist trap, which I myself fell victim to and would certainly not blame you if you’ve been, is Lincoln Road. I don’t have many regrets in life friends, but this is certainly one of them. Jam packed with chain restaurants and shops, this road is one you may as well walk blindfolded down, since foot traffic moves at a snail’s pace. While shuffling down this mini-mall-esque street, you’ll see some names that might seem vaguely familiar: McDonald’s, Starbucks, Rosa Mexicano, SUSHISAMBA, ad nauseam. I kind of live by the motto that if you can eat dinner while staring at a Crocs store, you might want to re-evaluate some of your life decisions. How did I get here? Where did I go wrong? (All questions to ask your therapist in next week’s session.)

The week prior to my trip, my parents had gone to Miami and told me a horror story, brought to you by the aforementioned SUSHISAMBA. As far as chains go, this is a fairly reliable joint for slightly overpriced sushi (we have a couple in Manhattan). But, the service at its Lincoln Road locale was nightmarish – incorrect orders and exorbitant food wait times. Of course I didn’t dare step food in this establishment, but headed over to a meat-centric eatery aptly named Meat Market. Hello again, horrendous service. These restaurants are so overcrowded, and with a slim wait staff that has to service both indoor and outdoor tables, creating the “can you grab our waiter?” effect. You know it well. When you sit down, look at the menus, have been ready to order for 15 minutes, and no waiter is in sight. You start tapping bus boys, hostesses, even other patrons, just dying for someone to jot down your steak tartare appetizer. By the time the food is set down on the table, you’re so ravenous that cardboard dusted in truffle salt sounds appealing. The service – or lack thereof – just destroys the whole dining experience. Head to Lincoln Road if you need a few $10 tank tops from H&M, not if you’re looking for a quality dining experience.

Originally posted 2017-07-07 19:40:13.

Continue Reading


Rainbows Everywhere: Atlanta Pride 2017



June has come to a close, but just because Pride month stops doesn’t mean the LGBT+ community does. Whether you’re still sporting a rainbow shirt every day or reminiscing about the pride-react emoji on Facebook, pride doesn’t take a break. But how do you keep the celebration going?

Whether you’re queer or just an ally for the cause, pride festivals are an amazing celebration of love and equality for people from all walks of life. This year, Atlanta Pride¹ is yet again pulling all the stops to top last year’s festival and parade. With main events starting Friday, October 7, this year is sure to be just as massive, positive, and more powerful than ever. And thanks to the city of Atlanta, the streets are more colorful than ever, with the city’s June decision to paint it’s crosswalks with permanent rainbows². In memory of the Pulse nightclub shooting victims, the crosswalks are a way to remember the tragedy and why we need Pride parades now more than ever. Now you can’t just show off your pride, you can walk with pride too!  

You can spend your weekend visiting booths and food trucks at Piedmont Park, finding the hottest clubs to dance in, or just walking around, enjoying the sunshine and the smiling faces of people who want love and equality just like you. Atlanta Pride is a huge event, and you won’t find a sense of community quite like this anywhere else.

According to Atlanta Pride’s website, musical talent on Saturday features artists such as Kiiara, Zara Larsson, and Jody Watley & Shalamar Reloaded; Sunday includes performances from Starlight Cabaret, Deven Green (sponsored by David Atlanta), and DJ Citizen Jane. With all of this diverse talent, pride weekend in Atlanta is sure to be a wild party and a celebration of love like the city has never seen.

The weekend also features its various marches, including the Dyke March, the Trans March, and of course, the Pride Parade (sponsored by Delta Airlines). After the parade on Sunday, be sure to stick around Piedmont Park to revisit the booths, listen to music in the grass, and spend time with your friends or significant other. It’s an action-packed weekend but worth it for the chance to show your pride and support the rest of the LGBT+ community all in one place.

Originally posted 2017-07-07 09:58:52.

Also published on Medium.

Continue Reading


Donald Trump’s Failure to Declare Pride Month Proclamation is ‘Dissappointing’ and But Not So Surprising




President Donald Trump has still not yet (or maybe never will) issue a proclamation for Pride Month. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community groups call it ‘deeply dissapointing’ but not so surprising. It is a paradox to have former President Barack Obama issue a federal proclamation every year dating back to 2011, and seeing no recognition at this time.

Congressional Democrats are now criticizing the President for not showing any acknowledgment of June being LGBT Pride month. Sources say that Seventy-two congressional Democrats on Friday criticized Donald Trump for refusing to issue a proclamation. Fifty-three House Democrats signed a letter, while 19 senators joined a second letter, for Trump to take action. The effort in the house was led by New Jersey Rep. Donald Norcross, while Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin led in the senate.

“The White House’s decision to remain silent about Pride Month after eight consecutive years of presidential recognition sends a troubling message to the LGBT community that your administration is not committed to advancing equality for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We urge you to honor your campaign promise to be a ‘real friend’ of the LGBT community by issuing a proclamation and supporting lasting change and progress through policies that advance LGBT rights,” the letter states.

Ivanka Trump was the only Trump family member to recognize LGBT month with a series of tweets. The first daughter’s tweet said that she, “wishes everyone a joyful #Pride2017. This month we celebrate and honor the #LGBTQ community.”

“I am proud to support my LGBTQ friends and the LGBTQ Americans who have made immense contributions to our society and economy,” she said in another tweet, regarding the subject.

No one in the LGBT community was having it with Ivanka Trump for wishing a ‘joyful’ Pride this year. For instance, The Advocate which is a predominant gay magazine, had a few words for her.

“No rainbow hashtag can fix what the Trump administration is doing.”

Other well known gay social media’s like celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton responded to the tweet with his twitter account.

“Who is this ‘we’ you talk about? Because your father isn’t celebrating us – that’s for damn sure!!” Hilton said.

Ivanka is usually labeled as complicit as her father by the LGBTQ community. In NBC News and elsewhere showed that Donald Trump received 14 percent of the LGBT vote against Hillary Clinton’s 78 percent.

During last year’s election Donald Trump positioned himself as a pro-LGBT Republican. On the campaign trail Trump promised he’d be “better for the gays” than his opponent Hillary Clinton. The president even made history by mentioning LGBT issues during his acceptance speech at the Republican National convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

In February, Trump rolled back protections for transgender students which allowed them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity. It started the movement of “Trans equality now.”

Another attack Trump did to the community was when he rolled back protections in May by signing an executive order relative to religious liberty that pro-LGBT organizations say will only open the doors for further discrimination against gay americans.

Now, Trump broke the tradition at the start of Pride Month this year by not declaring a proclamation. Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association, called “deeply disappointing.”

In order to prevent the LGBT movement from losing ground after the most pro-LGBT White House in history under President Barack Obama, veteran activist and director of Rise and Resist, Ken Kidd says leaders like himself need to remain involved and continue to make their voices heard.

“We should celebrate the heritage of Pride and the gains that we’ve made. But we also need to stand and fight to hang onto them and fight for our future,” the longtime New York City activist said.

Originally posted 2017-07-01 18:55:58.

Continue Reading


Copyright © 2017 TravelPride | A Division of Brand Spankin' New Media