**Monique Quintana** is the author of Cenote City(Clash Books, 2019), Associate Editor at Luna Luna Magazine, and Fiction Editor at Five 2 One Magazine. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from CSU Fresno and is an alumna of Sundress Academy for the Arts and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Her work has appeared in Queen Mobs Teahouse, Winter Tangerine, Dream Pop, Grimoire, and the Acentos Review, among other publications. You can find her at [moniquequintana.com]Read More
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. They are the author of Sirs & Madams, The Gods Are Dead, Marys of the Sea, & Xenos, No(body) (forthcoming, Madhouse Press, 2019) and is the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing by Survivors of Sexual Assault. They received their MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is the founder of Yes, Poetry and the senior managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine. Some of their writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Brooklyn Magazine, BUST, and elsewhere. Joanna also leads workshops at Brooklyn Poets. joannavalente.com / Twitter: @joannasaid / IG: joannacvalente
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. They are the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (ELJ Publications, 2016) & Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016), and is the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017). They received their MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is the founder of Yes, Poetry and the managing editor for Civil Coping Mechanisms and Luna Luna Magazine. Some of their writing has appeared in Prelude, BUST, Spork Press, The Feminist Wire, and elsewhere. Joanna also leads workshops at Brooklyn Poets. joannavalente.com / Twitter: @joannasaid / IG: joannacvalente
cw: mentions of abuse & violence against women
Phantasmagoria, the PC point-and-click adventure game from 1995, has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My parents were very young when they had me, and this seemed to consequentially lead to a certain leniency in their parenting that my friends seldom experienced. Mostly, it meant that if they wanted to watch a movie/TV show, I would be watching it, too.Read More
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016), and Marys of the Sea (The Operating System, 2017). They are the editor of A Shadow Map: An Anthology by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017). Joanna received a MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College, and is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, a managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine and CCM, as well as an instructor at Brooklyn Poets. Some of their writing has appeared in Brooklyn Magazine, Prelude, Apogee, Spork, The Feminist Wire, BUST, and elsewhere.Read More
Identifying as anything other than the norm can be isolating. At best, you become the token at the party, the token friend; at worst, you're excluded, silenced, abused. Coming out and identifying as transgender or nonbinary can be scary, especially considering the current political climate. It's vulnerable to be ourselves, but especially when that self is being discriminated against, and even killed.Read More
Next month, you are turning 15. It’s almost December and you have Joan Jett hair and you are so excited to just have been kissed. You haven’t told anyone about being kissed, however, because you were kissed by two girls near the restrooms in a mall—and that’s the only place you can find privacy when your moms don’t let you close your bedroom door. When you can’t be alone.Read More
It isn’t all bad here. I hope everyone knows that. I hope everyone could grow to love the walnut trees that line my driveway. Love the tea that everyone drinks here. Love the way that I have always been amiable and able to talk to strangers on a basic level. I’m not sure that I have accepted these things are beautiful or good yet. This place, my place, has left me so empty that I cannot call it home. I’m trying to love it without thinking about the horror I have seen within it. But can you do that? Can you leave it behind? Everyone must think I hate the state of West Virginia and its people. My family thinks so. They call me Miss Lydia or Lydia Alexis when they feel that I’m being snotty. They think I hate them all. Some of them are right.Read More
They're not broken boys. They're racists.Read More
INTERVIEW BY LISA MARIE BASILE
LISA MARIE BASILE: I love to hear about women creating amazing communities and making a space for voices that aren’t always provided a platform in mainstream media. Can you tell us a little about Spoken Black Girl?
ROWANA ABBENSETTS: Spoken Black Girl started out as my own little space on the internet to talk about struggles with anxiety and depression. During my lowest points in life, I felt completely alone and I wanted to create a space where I could discuss mental health freely and without stigma. I was amazed by the support that I received from my growing community of readers and fellow bloggers. Since then Spoken Black Girl has transformed into an online publication open to all women of color.
LISA MARIE BASILE: What sort of vacancy did you see in the digital media landscape that spurred the creation of SBG?
ROWANA ABBENSETTS: There aren’t many publications dedicated to true holistic healing for women of color; by that I mean not only covering yoga and meditation, but allowing for women of color to explore mental and emotional healing from mental illness and or trauma. In the Black community, for example, the stigma of mental illness and mental health is strong. Black women are taught to be strong and to hide our pain and vulnerabilities.
This problem of stigma is reflected in the limited or warped focus on mental health that we see in popular publications. Mental health is often a passing topic that popular culture would suggest can be remedied by spa trips and candles. The truth is, the conversation is much deeper than that. Women of color need to heal, mind, body, and soul, in order to continue building together.
LISA MARIE BASILE: I have learned so much from the content SBG has published, and I really appreciate the words I’ve read. Diversity and inclusivity is so important to SBG—I know how marginalized voices have been silenced or reduced. What is your goal with SBG, to confront and disrupt that?
ROWANA ABBENSETTS: It’s important to empower young, marginalized writers. I know that for women of color in particular, it’s easy to become discouraged. The world is always telling us that our stories don’t matter, that out skills aren’t good enough, and that we are somehow encroaching on a traditionally white, male space. This is not true, but there are many that think this way, evidenced by the severe lack of representation among women of color in the publishing industry. At SBG, we take our time to work with writers and help them develop their skills and grow as writers. We want writers to gain confidence by sharing their stories with a supportive community that sees the value of marginalized voices.
LISA MARIE BASILE: What sort of message would you like to send to potential contributors and readers alike?
ROWANA ABBENSETTS: Have an open heart and an open mind. Spoken Black Girl is a platform that values and respects vulnerability. I feel privileged to be able to publish deeply personal stories of growth, so it’s important to me that we all show each other love and support as a community of readers and writers.
LISA MARIE BASILE: I always find that engaging readers and fans is probably one of the hardest and yet most important aspects of running a publication. How can new readers support SBG and its authors—and how do you want to support your readers?
ROWANA ABBENSETTS: To our readers, I encourage you to share and show love in whatever way feels right to you. We plan on having more events, so I would definitely encourage our supporters to participate in all of our events and initiatives. Our ultimate goal is to be able to pay writers at market rate so we can do even more to improve the lives of WOC writers.
SBG will continue to support its readers by helping them explore their own growth journeys, whether it’s through powerful content, events, workshops or challenges. We’re more than a publication, we’re a community, and we’re constantly striving to add value to the lives of our community members.
LISA MARIE BASILE: Something I find really interesting about the digital landscape is that people WANT to share their stories. Where that maybe used to be called ‘weak,’ it’s now strong and I love that. There’s a focus on well-being and healing from trauma at SBG. How did you come upon that focus?
ROWANA ABBENSETTS: When it comes to mental health, a lot of women, in particular women of color, have experienced trauma that has impacted their mental health. Of course, there are many women who begin their exploration of mental health having struggled specifically with anxiety, depression, bipolar or other mental illnesses. It’s often impossible to tease mental health away from trauma, especially because marginalized women experience sexism, racism, and homophobia as a fact of life, and those microaggressions often amount to trauma. We also deal with generational trauma, having absorbed the pain and fears of our mothers and grandmothers. Heal one woman and you heal all those that came before her.
LISA MARIE BASILE: What sort of submissions are you looking for?
ROWANA ABBENSETTS: We’re looking for authentic, uplifting voices. I like submissions that are informative and clear, but reads like advice between girlfriends.
LISA MARIE BASILE: You talk about the transformation from SBG the blog to the magazine in your piece, “How to Step Into Your Season of Transformation.” What is SO good about this piece is that you straight up outline the reasons people don’t always move forward with their dreams. They’re afraid, or they have no confidence, or they haven’t found a way to set themselves free. Can you talk a little more about that and how people can tap into their ability to transform.
ROWANA ABBENSETTS: At a certain point in life, you have to let go of worrying about what everyone else thinks and listen to your intuition. Tap into what you want. Women in particular spend too much time sacrificing our own mental health and well-being out of a sense of obligation or duty to others. We’re so preoccupied with what we should be doing that we rarely pause to ask ourselves what we really want. I always find that the more honest I am with myself, the more likely I am to manifest the changes I want to see. My suggestion is to start with deep, personal reflection. Find the tools that will help you achieve this, whether it’s journaling, meditation or prayer. Discover the best way for you to reconnect with your innermost self.
Rowana Abbensetts started Spoken Black Girl in the spring of 2015 as a personal blog about her own struggles with anxiety and depression hoping to find other women of color who could relate. Two years later, realizing that women of color lacked a centralized place to share their mental and emotional journeys, Rowana decided to turn the blog into what is now Spoken Black Girl Magazine.
Chica/Mujer is a collection of vignettes about women and for women who are biracial but hide their identities or who wear them on their sleeve. It is also for women who grieve the loss of an unborn child or who resist motherhood after giving birth. It is for women who were raped, and for those whose wounds are raw. It is for women who have sex for empowerment. It is for women who are going through menarche but don't quite know how to welcome it or for those who deem it a beautiful, strengthening, cleansing ritual. It is for women who studied so hard to end up working in an entirely different job than they first envisioned or who forewent a full-scholarship due to an unforeseeable traumatic event.Read More
F. Asma Nazim-Starnes was born in Kandy, Sri Lanka and left her country at a young age to pursue a college education in Graphic Design. She studied for a BA in Graphic Design at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, FL, minoring in Art History, and took four years of painting in addition to studying digital design media. She decided to further her studies and attended Florida Atlantic University in Fort Lauderdale, FL to obtain an MFA in Graphic Design.Read More
BY LISA MARIE BASILE
Stigma Fighters is a mental health non-profit organization dedicated to helping real people living with mental illness. Stigma Fighters has been featured on Good Day New York, Psychology Today, Women’s Health Magazine, and The Washington Post. You can support the current anthology by donating here.
LMB: What I love the most about your work with Stigma Fighters is not only that you're pushing for awareness in general, you're pushing for awareness in the everyday. I think that's where the conversation slips through the cracks: the high-functioning person with anxiety, the role model or public figure with panic disorder, the happy-go-lucky people-person with quiet depression. This is what I am so thankful for — because, as a public-facing person, I am always wondering when and if my cracks with show, and what will happen if they do. How did you approach this goal? What message do you want to tell?
SARAH FADER: I can relate to the high-functioning person from personal experience. I grew up in the 90’s when it was shameful to speak candidly about living with depression or anxiety, both of which I experienced on a chronic basis since age 15. I became adept at hiding my illnesses, and I was an excellent actress. This continued into adulthood, and I was hyper-fixated on other people being able to tell if I was "normal." I wanted to call attention to this type of situation in particular because it's one that people don't speak about often.
We are surrounded by people who have mental health issues, but whether or not they speak about them openly is debatable. That is one of the main reasons I started Stigma Fighters is to provide an open forum for people who have been dying to speak their truth about living with mental illness but haven't found the right area to do so. Now people who have a variety of mental illnesses have a place to tell their stories. Whether you are living with Borderline Personality Disorder or Panic Disorder, Stigma Fighters is here for you.
LMB: Can you talk a little about the history of building SF? It seems like a huge undertaking!
SARAH FADER: Stigma Fighters began as a blog series. I reached out to people in the blogging community who I knew were open about living with mental illness and I invited them to share their stories on www.stigmafighters.com. It grew and grew and eventually it was a burgeoning mental health community.
One day, my life changed for the better when I met Allie Burke, who became my business partner. Allie lives with paranoid schizophrenia, but she is so much more than her illness. She is a best-selling author and writes a column for Psychology Today. She has been featured in Women's Health Magazine and runs The OCH Literary Society. Allie and I took Stigma Fighters from being a blog and transformed it into a 501C3 non-profit organization. My inside joke with Allie is that my anxiety loves her paranoia. I adore her and with her leadership and my tenacity we were able to make Stigma Fihters what it is today. We were featured on the front page of The Washington Post!
LMB: What will the anthology feature? How can people support it and your organization?
SARAH FADER: The third volume of The Stigma Fighters Anthology features stories from people living with a variety of mental illnesses. It tells the stories of people who have been continually silenced by our society. I am fortunate to be able to unify so many voices into a volume of text. I want to tell the stories of people who have been told (in one way or another) that they do not matter. Society tells people with mental illness that we are burdens, that we are people to "put up with," and that we shouldn't speak about our challenges. These are all falsehoods and I want to make sure we debunk these statements simply by telling our stories.
LMB: What would you say to the person who may want to contribute to SF by sharing their story, but might be afraid?
SARAH FADER: First I would say, you can tell your story anonymously if you are not ready to share it with your name on it. If you want your name attached to your words, I encourage you to speak your truth. You don't know how many people you are reaching by telling your story. Think about the person who is suffering from depression right now who could benefit from knowing that she is not alone. Mental illness can be inherently isolating. When you open up about your experience, you give hope to people who are yearning for it.
LMB: How can we, in the everyday world, create an environment that is compassionate and kind to those around us (who we either may or may not know are living with mental illness)?
SARAH FADER: We need to speak openly about mental illness period. It's important to combat against the shame associated with having any sort of mental illness. You are a human being first and foremost with feelings and a soul. You have a right to your story and no one can take that away from you. The more we speak openly about mental illness, the more normalized it becomes in society. Next, people who are listening to a friend or loved one who has a mental illness, truly hear what they are telling you.
Maybe you've never experienced bipolar disorder, that doesn't mean you can't be empathetic toward a friend who has it. Lastly, empower the person who has mental illness to know that they CAN when they think they CAN'T. When I say that they can, I mean that sometimes knowing you can means asking for help. Simon and Garfunkle claimed that they were both a rock and an island, but I disagree with that. We are not islands, we are people and we need to ask others for help sometimes.
Want to fight against the stigma? Donate here.
Sarah Fader is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She has been featured in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Quartz, Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good Day New York. Sarah is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Like six million other Americans, Sarah lives with panic disorder. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to change the world, one mental health stigma at a time.
Lisa Marie Basile is the founding editor-in-chief of Luna Luna Magazine and moderator of its digital community. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Bustle, Bust, Hello Giggles, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping and Refinery 29, among other sites. She is the author of Apocryphal (Noctuary Press), war/lock (Hyacinth Girl Press), Andalucia (The Poetry Society of New York) and Triste (Dancing Girl Press). Her work can be found in PANK, the Tin House blog, The Nervous Breakdown, The Huffington Post, Best American Poetry, PEN American Center, The Atlas Review, and the Ampersand Review, among others. She has taught or spoken at Brooklyn Brainery, Columbia University, New York University and Emerson College. Lisa Marie Basile holds an MFA from The New School. She is an advocate for foster youth. @lisamariebasile
BY KYLI RODRIGUEZ-CAYRO
Dear White Women,
I’m writing to you because I know we can do better.
We, white women, have historically erased black women from the feminist narrative as long as feminism has existed. Many of our first-wave suffragettes such as Susan B. Anthony were blatant racists, and our second-wave heroes co-opted the civil rights movement to create the women’s liberation movement. That does not determine we must feel white guilt or dismiss the accomplishments of historical feminists - it just means our modern day movement has more opportunities to grow.
No more excuses, no more convenient silence, no more exclusive feminism. We must definitively and directly stand with Women of Color.
Here are 6 easy ways to practice intersectionality:
Quit It With The "Not All White Women" Nonsense
American white women failed this election; 53% of us voted for Donald Trump. I know, you didn’t vote for him personally, but drop the defense when Women of Color call us all out. It is our sole responsibility to educate our communities and initiate difficult conversations about race and privilege. As allies we must confront our loved ones, whether at holiday gatherings or on social media after your cousin shares her tenth "All Lives Matter" post of the week. I understand how disheartening these confrontations can become, but we cannot resort to inaction when we face the backlash black women experience on a daily basis. Feminism that excludes adversity faced by Women of Color is not feminism, period. Remember, our personal comfort is not and never will be paramount to another’s life.
Your Fight For Reproductive Justice Needs To Include Racial Justice
Reproductive justice encompasses more than merely birth control and abortion access. It also includes the right for Women of Color to raise their children without fear that they will fall victim to the school-to-prison pipeline, or be murdered by law enforcement for simply living while black. Fighting for body autonomy encompasses fighting against the systematic oppression People of Color endure.
I’m Sorry, But Love Alone Will Not Trump Hate
First, let me say, I am proud of you for participating in the Women’s March.
We came together and empowered millions of women, which is no small feat. However, this is just the beginning of our budding resistance.
As white women, we need to go further, faster. Ask yourself: Do you stand in solidarity with People of Color? Are you willing to join the frontline when ICE separates more families? Are you using your resources or skills to aid marginalized communities? Historically, black activists such as Angela Davis, Medgar Evers, and Marsha P. Johnson were met with police brutality, and violence, DESPITE peacefulness or positivity. The only difference between The Women’s March and Black Lives Matter Movement is racial disparity.
F*CK the normalization of white supremacy, bigotry, and high-fiving police officers. We need to be outraged, passionate, and 100% willing to support People of Color.
Stop Trying To Make Cultural Appropriation Happen, It’s Not Going To Happen
Do I need to even explain what cultural appropriation is in 2017? If you need examples, just search for images of "Ko-opted Kardashian Kornrows" or white Women’s March attendees with "Lemonade" lyric signs. You may wonder why appropriation is an important topic to address while our political system is in disarray, and here is the simple answer: Women of Color have repeatedly asked us to refrain from exploiting black culture, so let’s just refrain. You can love Beyoncé and sing along, but do not bottle up her Black Girl Magic to sell on Etsy.
Enough. Gynocentric. Feminism.
AKA, drop the trans-exclusive pussy hats and feminism that centers only women with vaginas. Juniperangelica Xiomara wrote a wonderful piece about this on Wear Your Voice. Go read it and share with your cis-identfying friends.
Lastly, just LISTEN.
How many of you hate being mansplained about sexism and your experiences? If you vigorously nodded yes, then why do you keep whitesplaining Women of Color? Race is not a tool to divide feminists, and the injustice of others does not invalidate our own experiences.
We need to be honest with each other about the problematic aspects in the feminist movement. Activism is not a performance and injustice works around-the-clock; we have benefited from our white privilege, lucky enough to not feel the impact of oppression in our day-to-day lives. Accepting that as a simple truth rather an accusation is the only way our modern day feminist movement can progress and thrive.
So, want to truly "get in formation?"
Let’s step up and support Women of Color.
Kyli Rodriguez-Cayro: Writer. Mixed Media Artist. Activist. Latina. Owner of PaperTrail Pendants. Manic Pixie Coffee Drinker.
I am a Somali Muslim American woman. Like many others, the unpleasant 2016 presidential campaign is still vivid in my memory. The campaign engaged in words and actions that violated long fought for civil sentiments of equality, respect and the peaceful transfer of power. Our country is more polarized than ever. There were many times that I was taken aback by the strong emotional war waged against certain policies and certain groups. The campaign rhetoric is over; we have a new President and yet the emotional distress continues. For the first time in our lives many more of us are afraid of the policies of our government and this is not historically the American collective attitude.Read More