An Open Letter to Jessica Krug — From an actual Brooklyn Born Black Latina

Dear Jessica,

You mind if I call you Jessica?

I write this letter less from a place of anger and more from a place of fatigue. I am not really wanting to do a deep analysis on why you did what you did but I wanted to talk to you. See… I actually AM a Black Latina/Afro-Latina — seriously, I am. By way of credentials — my mother is a very brown skinned first generation born Bajan American — born right here in Brooklyn. My father is a very white skinned Puerto Rican who was forced to migrate to New York when he was 10 years old — it was traumatizing for him.

I was raised in a pre-gentrified Brooklyn during the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s during the height of the crack epidemic when Brooklyn had been divested of any resources — it was not Kansas. Unlike my sisters, I chose to remain here though, always came back home and am living currently through the impacts of gentrification on the block and building I was raised on — where as you gentrified your community. I attended New York City public schools my entire childhood where I met few teachers after 4th grade who were invested in my success or even saw me. I barely made it out of junior high school and talked my way into a private college because no one wanted me and I had very little direction. When I turned 18, my mother threw me a surprise party, something very unusual in my household — but she did it because she really thought I wasn’t going to live long enough to turn 18… that’s how I was rolling.

But I’ve done okay though — 10 years as a legislative analyst turned chief of staff with the New York State Assembly, a quick uber racist experience with the New York City Economic Development, and 11 years in education administration focusing on governance and equity, and currently working on my doctorate… I think I’ve done pretty okay in spite of how my intersectional identities are received in America. And my area of doctoral studies focuses on the impact of the educational system on Black girls cause… I lived that.

Being Black and Latina — Caribbean American — in America looking as I do also means I have had to navigate a world while not actually fully fitting in anywhere. I wasn’t Puerto Rican enough (white enough) for the Latinas in my school nor for my Puerto Rican family members with whom I no longer have a relationship — I am after all a “morena” as is my daughter. While my Black, Caribbean, and African American crew accepted me, we have scars from racism and colonialism that play out in subtle and obvious ways. Although I have definitely benefited from light skinned privilege, the reality is that for White folks, I’m still clearly non-European, I have curly hair that I will no longer straighten yet I can get away with saying certain things. But I am big boned, unapologetic, and still Black… so I get “intimidating” a lot… standing at a full 5'3 and a half, I am pretty intimidating to some…

I share this about myself because for years you stole and sold MY story and the story of many of Afro-Latinas like me. You pimped our pain and pride. You received accolades while failing up and spoke of experiences that were never yours to speak of or share. For my sisters who are angry, I agree there is righteous anger to be had, for sure. But for me, I think it’s more important to point to history — there’s a history of problematic behaviors and the types of treachery White women explicitly have engaged in within this country that needs to be named. There is very little difference between you and Rachel Dolezal. There is nothing in what you’ve done that can be viewed as an appreciation of stealing my culture. And if you aren’t stealing it, you are erasing it. You’ve erased someone’s real life experience by stealing it. You have erased the voices of all of those Black and Brown students who saw within you a reflection and connection in the academy… and those of us to know or understand the academy recognize how critical it is to see ourselves there.

I was mad… now, I’m just tired. I started this week hearing about Adele’s appropriation/ appreciation controversy and ending it with a White female scholar who stole my identity. Between this shit, COVID19, and Trump, I’m just tired of y’all having no capacity or creativity to build off your own backs, your own stories, your own culture, or just having your own. We are constantly forced to exist in comparison to and in spite of you. And I’m tired.

In her choreopoem, For Colored Girls, Ntozake Shange wrote from a Black woman perspective, the thievery of someone (a man typically) walking off with your shit… To quote a portion of the poem that is applicable to you -

“i want my own things
how i lived them
& give me my memories
how i waz when i waz there
you cant have them or do nothin wit them
stealin my shit from me
dont make it yrs
makes it STOLEN”

Now you go ahead and give us back ALL of our stuff.

Akilah Rosado aka Mama Scholar

Full Poem Below

“Somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff”

Ntozake Shange

somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff
not my poems or a dance i gave up in the street
but somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff
like a kleptomaniac workin hard & forgettin while stealin this is mine!
this aint yr stuff

now why don’t you put me back
& let me hang out in my own self
somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff!
& didn’t care enuf to send a note home sayin
i was late for my solo conversation
or two sizes too small for my own tacky shirts
what can anybody do wid somethin of no value on ​a open market?

did you getta dime for my things?
hey man
where are you goin wid alla my stuff?!
this is a woman’s trip & i need my stuff to ooohhh and ahhhh abt

daddy I gotta mainline number
from my own shit
now wontchu put me back& let me play this duet
wit this silver ring in my nose
​honest to god!
somebody almost run off wid alla my stuff!
& i didnt bring anythin but the kick & sway of it
the perfect ass for my man & none of it is theirs
this is mine
​her own things
that’s my name
now give me my stuff
i see ya hidin my laugh
& how I sit wif my legs open sometimes
​to give my crotch some sunlight
& there goes my love my toes my chewed up finger nails niggah
wif the curls in yr hair
mr. louisiana hot link
​i want my stuff back
my rhytums & my voice
open my mouth
& let me talk ya outta
throwin my shit in the sewer
​this is some delicate leg & whimsical kiss

i gotta have to give to my choice
without you runnin off wit alla my shit
now you cant have me less i give me away
& i waz doin all that
til ya run off on a good thing
who is this you left me wit?
some simple bitch
widda bad attitude!
i wants my things
​i want my arm wit the birth mark
& my leg wit the bike burns
i want my calloused feet & quik language back in my mouth fried plantains
pineapple pear juice
​sun­ra & joseph & jules
i want my own things
how i lived them
& give me my memories
how i waz when i waz there
you cant have them or do nothin wit them
stealin my shit from me
dont make it yrs
makes it STO…LEN

somebody almost run off wid alla my stuff!!
​& i waz standin there
lookin at myself
the whole time & it waznt a spirit took my stuff
waz a man whose ego walked round like Rodan’s shadow waz a man faster than my innocence
waz a lover
i made too much room for
almost run off wit alla my stuff
& i didnt know i’d give it up so quik
& the one runnin wit it
80 ​don’t know he got it
& i’m shoutin this is mine
& he dont know he got it/
my stuff is the anonymous ripped off treasure of the year did you know somebody almost got away wit me?
me in a plastic bag under their arm
danglin on a string of personal carelessness
i’m spattered wit mud & city rain
& no i didnt get a chance to take a douche

hey man!
this is not your prerogative
i gotta have me in my pocket
to get round like a good woman shd

& make the poem in the pot or the chicken in the dance what I gotta do
i gotta get my stuff to do it too
why dont ya find yr own things

& leave this package of me for my destiny what ya got to get from me?
i’ll give it to ya
yeh i’ll give it to ya

round 5:00 in the winter when the sky is blue­red
& Dew City is gettin pressed 105 ​if it’s really my stuff
ya gotta give it to me
if ya really want it
i’m the only one
can HANDLE it”

Afro-Latina Brooklyn Born Race Scholar — I write about anti-Black racism and systems of oppression in schools, politics, and policy.

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