Case of the Mondays 11.28.16

cotm112816It’s been awhile since I’ve written about it—love, that is. I find it as fascinating a concept, now, as I ever have. More than vodka, and more than whiskey, love is the single most intoxicating concoction that I have ever known.

There’s something dangerously alluring about unapologetically loving someone, and it stems from having an organic, near-effortless connection with that individual. But love is risky business, as maintaining that connection, and that chemistry, can be a battle. A battle of internal and external warfare, for which is sometimes indecipherable.

Yet, I’ve come to appreciate the experience of love for the tremendous source of self-knowledge it has proven to be. Because in loving someone else, one acquires essential lessons about themselves, and about life—as love teaches practicality, resiliency, and commitment. And through those lessons, one learns how to be both patient and efficient, how to overcome, and ultimately, how to never quit.

That’s my Case of the Mondays.

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Signed Sirelle: “Battling Rape Culture in the Locker Room of Society”

I find myself to be stuck somewhere between a loss for words and a racing mind.

Where are we, truly, just as a people, when men (and women) are flagrantly excusing sexual assault — and more so, justifying it?

Listen, in this context, this has nothing to do with politics. I don’t give a damn about politics, as it pertains to the commentary I am reading and hearing in the media over the last several days. For me, this has everything to do with having a mother, a sister, an array of close girl friends, but most importantly, a conscience.

I don’t know if I can adequately summarize how infuriating it is that a man — albeit a scuzzy, rotten and vomit-inducing example of a man — can exclaim, essentially, that he is entitled to a woman’s body because of his status in society — and then, be socially pardoned for it, due to political reasons.

Make no mistake about it, there is absolutely no excuse, nor justification known to man — or woman — that allows sexual assault to be acceptable.

For victims and survivors of sexual assault, I cannot imagine how disheartening and haunting it has been to watch television over the past week. I cannot fathom how traumatizing it may be to see those who look like you, and are susceptible to the same mistreatment as you, trivialize the concept, and dismiss the notion as harmless wordplay.

It is being labeled as “locker room talk” — just that. As if boys and men merely discussing groping women, without consent, is inconsequential. Bullshit. This rhetoric, these ideas, it isn’t just words. It is a mindset, and it is an ideology that ultimately has the potential to create a rape culture epidemic, if it hasn’t already.

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This breeds entitlement. Such a philosophy enables a predator to feel entitled to a woman because of the dress she wore, or the way she danced. As if either is some sort of mixed-signal calling card.

But there is no calling card alternative to a woman’s body, the only calling card is yes. And the opposite of yes is no. Therefore, turning a no into a yes, without consent, based on the aforementioned factors, is the very embodiment of rape culture.

Look at your daughter, crusading through an office, often doing twice the amount of work as her male counterparts just to prove she belongs, and still falling prey to unwanted advances from those in power who deem her inferior — and undeserving if she dare shun them.

Look at your granddaughter, who was touched inappropriately by the star athlete at school, because he felt he could — because it had been subconsciously ingrained in him, by a panel of women on television, that he was “just being one of the boys”.

This, again, breeds entitlement.

When you foster a sense of entitlement, you create a reality where your daughter, or your granddaughter, can be taken advantage of — whether she is intoxicated, unconscious, or not. And with entitlement, often trails privilege; and privilege, more times than not, excuses sexual predators, of a higher social status, of consequences deemed to potentially have a “severe impact” on that social status, and to hell with the victim.

That is what this is about. Not an election, nor political gain, but the message.

And in saying the right thing, if it so happens that your candidate suffers as a result, then so be it — they shouldn’t be your damn candidate, at that point, anyway. It doesn’t matter when it was said. There is no societal statute of limitations for being a sexual predator. We don’t all is well! Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer just because they have been dead for decades — it doesn’t work like that.

You are what the evidence says you are.

Men, women represent the very best in us. They bring out the best in us, and often, they protect us from ourselves. But they cannot protect us, in turn, if we do not protect them. So when you hear the phrase “locker room talk,” perhaps it is best to question what locker room that individual has spent time in.

Because the notion of the locker room is figurative. Where, in actuality, the literal, modern day, locker room consists of the boardroom, the golf course, the fraternity house, and places of power that should not have power. This is the culture we are breeding, and sustaining, when we trivialize and demean the barbaric reality of sexual assault.

Howbeit, for the patriarchs and matriarchs that feel this is just the way of the world, the holidays are coming up. So picture this: as your daughters, or granddaughters, fill the Thanksgiving table around you, and they reveal to you the times they may have been violated, touched or groped, without their consent. You be sure to let them know it was “just boys being boys”.

Signed,

Sirelle 

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SMS (7.10.16): Pokémon & The Flashes We Show

If someone would have told me that I’d spend a little more than two hours chasing Pokémon around Arizona this weekend, in 110 degree weather, I would have had them committed. Twenty-four hours ago, I didn’t even have the app on my phone.

But several hours later, there I was. Sitting in a taco shop with my best friend, Sam, as he tried to catch the Abra that had magically appeared on my forearm. “Scottsdale is lit,” he advised. Sam then explained to me the basics of this present-day Pokémon game, and the details took me on a mental trip down memory lane.

I thought back to the euphoria of my childhood, and the times when my younger brother’s Nintendo Gameboy Color would mysteriously go missing. There I’d be on the other end of a locked bathroom door, device in hand, completely entranced and unbothered, as my mother and brother searched every corner of our house for it. It’s funny looking back on it, it wasn’t when they found me.

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Fast-forwarding back to reality we’d found ourselves at the mall, which upon immediate notice had been transformed into a temporary gaming convention. I kid you not, there were groups upon groups of people stumbling around trying to catch ‘em all. And that’s when the fear of missing out kicked in.

I downloaded it, and before I knew it, I was holding my Zara bag in one hand, and trying to corral a Rattata with the other. Sam was right, this was lit.

Somewhere between Sam attempting to score Yeezy’s in a sneaker vending machine, and my Dodge sedan almost ending up in the trunk of his BMW, during my battle with a Zubat, we ended up at the town lake. And it was even wilder than the scene at the mall.

There were people everywhere. And this is where the bigger picture came into play for me. With all the tragedy and division we witnessed this past week, here was an illustration of our society at its best – united. People from all races, cultures, social groups, and backgrounds unified by a similar interest.

As I surveyed the interactions between African-American and Caucasian, sorority girl and fitness freak, jock and skater boy, I was overwhelmed by my feelings. There was a sense of pride, but also an inquiry of “Why can’t we always be like this?” It was the latest example of the good that can result when we give people, who we think we may have nothing in common with, a chance.

Magician Penn Jillette once said, “If you like the stuff I do, my chances of liking you go up.” In all my life, I’ve never found that to be a false declaration. So I issue a challenge to all who may read this: give people, relationships, opportunities – and ultimately, life – a chance.

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Signed Sirelle: “Letter to My Future Son”

I write this guide to life in the event that I never get to tell my future son myself. 

My darling boy,

I have so many thoughts, I don’t know where to begin. There is a lot going on in our country right now – some of which you may one day read about in history class. These times I’m living in seem to be spontaneously perilous. Our country is gripped by turmoil, tragedy, and division. And the common denominator among all these factors is race.

As a Black man in America – the world, rather – people will almost always form an opinion of you before you even open your mouth to introduce yourself. That is out of your control. What is in your control, however, is the power you possess to either prove them wrong, or right.

LTMS ImageYou will never be able to change what you are, son. And never should you want to. Be proud of who you are, and be proud of your history. But understand, in your life, you will encounter a gauntlet of obstacles that many people will never even know exist. All because of the way you look. And there will be people, even friends, who will never face a tenth of those challenges, who attempt to tell you how you should act (or react) in certain situations. Block it out, always. A bird can’t teach a cat how to climb a tree.

Be respectful in all that you do. They say that “the true measure of man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” Understand that, embrace that. You are no more important than the next man, but you are just as important as him, too. Nothing, including – but not limited to – respect, will be given to you in life.

There will be times you feel like the deck of life is stacked against you. Never let it discourage you. You must work hard, and most times, harder than others. As your grandmother always told me, ‘you are more than a conqueror’. Take as much pride in the process as you do the success; only then will it be fulfilling.

I wish I could promise you that adhering to all of the aforementioned would guarantee you a life free from conflict and hardship, but I’d be doing you no favors. The road ahead is rough. But there is a road. And Gods be good, it’ll lead you to victory.

I love you.

Signed,

Dad

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Signed Sirelle: “Untitled”

In the aftermath of the most deadly mass shooting in our nation’s history, we have reached peak hypocrisy in America.

Nightmarishly, in the early hours of Sunday morning, a gunman entered a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and opened fire on countless patrons. As of press time, 50 people were killed, and many more were wounded. The gunman, dead.

Needless to say, this was a terrorist attack. It has been reported by several media outlets that the gunman, an American-born man, called 911 at some point to pledge his allegiance to ISIS.

The gunman used an AR-15 to carry out his attack. And if that weapon sounds familiar it is because it was the same that was used in other mass shootings such as: Sandy Hook and Aurora. However, we don’t classify those tragedies as terrorist attacks.

Those attacks, according to many Americans, were merely “mass shootings”. Modern day executions carried out by troubled lone wolves, who didn’t have any friends and showed no signs of ever doing anything like this.

You see, in America, when James walks into a theater, followed by Adam into an elementary school, and then Dylan into a church, the events that follow are unfortunate incidents. The result of mentally unstable minds. Their religions aren’t to blame, nor are their parents, or where they’re from. All external factors are detached. Radical Christianity has a hall pass that causes even the most serial swinger to cringe.

The troubling truth about America and mass killings is that we always claim to mourn – and pray – but we don’t always condemn. Because ultimately, condemnation is driven by agenda, and what fits the benefiting narrative. Learning about a new mass shooting in America is like watching a pirated new blockbuster, because there’s this instantaneous lag. And during those minutes when details of the story – and perpetrator – are still developing, America is deciding how much attention they are going to give the attack, all based on the individual(s) who carried it out. And that, my fellow Americans, is what you call hypocrisy.

When the common denominator is terror, it doesn’t matter whether the equation is based around an Adam or a Dzhokhar, the objective remains the same: promote violence, fear, intimidation, and hate. The act of terror in Orlando was no different, as it specifically targeted the LGBT community.

President Lincoln once said that, “America will never be defeated from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” There was a reason they called him “Honest Abe”. Nearly two centuries later his declaration still rings true. America cannot falter to what happens on the outside by succumbing to bigotry and fear mongering on the inside.

Signed,

Sirelle

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Opinion: You Are Not for Sale

While recently strolling down the cereal aisle, I became mortified as I approached a section of Frosted Flakes. Not due to that box of artificial sugar – though it should have been – but because of the realization that I had reached a place in my life where I was reduced to grocery shopping on my lunch break. It was my tipping point.

Society is witnessing a fascinating era of extraordinarily gifted millennials. In a revolutionary approach, they are challenging – quite successfully – the status quo in countless industries. Although for every boldly innovative mind, there seems to be several more far too at peace with mediocrity, and merely existing.

I find myself increasingly troubled by the trivial justifications offered by many of my peers and fellow millennials, as it pertains to their roles within their respective institutions. They often do not feel valued nor appreciated, and the unfortunate truth is that they typically are not; but, “the pay is good”.

Internalizing, and worse, subscribing, to such a sentiment is dangerous. It establishes a low standard that conveys a message that you can be bought. This, in turn, sets a dangerous precedent, because it transcends other aspects of an individual’s life. If you can be bought at your job, you can be bought in your relationship. You can be bought in your friendships, and in any and every interaction throughout your life. It’s a slave mentality, quite frankly; and you cannot go through life content with sowing the seeds of crops you will never benefit from.

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One of my favorite actors often says that, “You’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.” You may justify submitting yourself to a life that lacks fulfillment and self-gratification, essentially, because “the pay is good”. But all the while, you’re numb to the pain that you can’t take that pay with you at its conclusion.

Somewhere along the way, you must decide whether you want to be the difference, or the indifference.

I believe with every bone in my body that every individual on this planet was graced with a predestined gift. And while others may identify your gift, it is only you that can open it. Your gift is unique to you, as it – if tapped into – is your destiny. You must claim it.

“You cannot let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game” is more than just an old MySpace status. It is a rallying cry for every individual who has ever felt that there has to be more to life than just existing in it.

There’s a stark, often uncomfortable, difference between living and existing in life. Recognizing, utilizing, and – ultimately – capitalizing off of your gift is the key to living your life. Ignoring your gift is the key to simply existing in it.

Recognizing your gift dares your mind to dream. Utilizing your gift, enables one to chase that dream. And as I stated in the summer of 2014, “Chase three things in life: your liquor, that person who gave you goosebumps at first sight, and your dreams.”

You and your gift are priceless. You oughta let the world know you are not for sale.

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Signed Sirelle: FEBRUARY 2016 – “The Significance of Black This, Black That: for People Stuck on Stupid”

“There shouldn’t be a Black History Month. We’re Americans. Period. That’s it.”

From the moment we begin our grade school circuit of history courses, we’re taught a “wide-ranging” curriculum of American history. The Reconstruction Era, Western Expansion, FDR’s New Deal, and – hell! – even the British monarchy are several exam subjects many dreaded during their school days. But that about covered it.

Certainly there were the three to four paragraphs beneath the Lyndon Johnson unit that glossed over the Civil Rights Movement, neglecting substantial evidence that the president was a notorious racist; but aside from that, “American history” is about as white as Apple’s board of directors.

The term black serves to be a vessel of empowerment for those under the umbrella. An identifier that breeds a sense of belonging, and purpose. Its concept is far too complex to be seen merely as an adjective.

The “we’re Americans, period” argument is an illusion, that can only be a reality when six Arizona schoolgirls — and the imbeciles who influence them — understand that a derogatory slur is more than “just a word” that certain races “shouldn’t be so offended” by. That such a word was often the last one scores of African-Americans were savagely taunted by seconds before nooses snatched their final breaths.

Students, today, are gut-wrenchingly clueless that some of our most essential daily mechanisms were invented by African-Americans. They have no idea who Garrett Morgan is, nor that his traffic signal innovations revolutionized transportation for centuries to come. But one can bet all the power on their block those same students believe Ben Franklin invented electricity — to hell with nature.

Duke Ellington

The societal need for “black history,” the month, the days and weeks beyond it, is paramount. And frankly, we need Black History Month because that history isn’t represented within American history.

When a group isn’t represented on platforms deemed, arguably, as primary or mainstream, it manufactures platforms to represent itself. Thus, you have Black Entertainment Television.

“But just imagine if we had a White Entertainment Television channel!” Well, we do. It’s CBS, with the casts of “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Big Bang Theory,” just as there was NBC with “Friends”. Sitcoms comprised of all-white casts are essentially a television norm. Yet, outside of BET, one would be hard-pressed to discover several of the opposite.

As a result, and understandably so, some find the aforementioned to be continued evidence of privilege. But it doesn’t stop there. Just the same, privilege is, also, the roar for justice when the black mayor of Michigan’s first largest city is tried for a “pattern of extortion,” followed by the enabling silence when the white governor essentially poisons the seventh. When the black quarterback is chastised for his on-field jubilation, while his white counterparts are heralded as passionate for theirs, attempting to dispute that might leave you all dressed up, with nowhere to go.

To some, this may be a conflicting ordeal. But the most critical aspect in comprehending this ordeal is to understand that people aren’t asking you to state you are the problem, rather that there is a problem. And if you can’t do that, you might be the problem.

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