i ain't your unicorn.

“You know what we call you guys, right?”

I knew immediately that this was heading in a direction that I wanted no parts of. Before I could decide if I wanted to play dead in the backseat, he answered to amuse himself.

“Unicorns.”

I was in an uber. I had spent hours at my friend’s house in Lake View, a small community in San Francisco, where my parents grew up and where I was raised. I was taking an uber from her house to Balboa Bart station where I would take the last train home to Oakland.

My driver was from a place he had to mumble the name of. I had just told him that I was born in San Francisco. Before I could say my usual “and so were my parents and my parent’s parents,” he’d interrupted me to say the unicorn shit. I felt anger building in my chest when I realized that they call us unicorns because there are so few people who were born here, still here.  Still being visible. So rarely seen that a sighting of us is considered mythical.

I could have kicked something if I weren’t being conscious of my budding non-violence practice (which is still deeply under construction, so please don’t test the infrastructure heavily, I am still a student of the “my Mama ain’t raise no punk” school).

Don’t get me wrong—I’m totally a unicorn. I’m quite queer. I’m Black, fiercely. I live a colorful life (not just as revenge). I enjoy frolicking and being magical as hell. And I give myself permission to marvel in the benefits of my work toward self-actualization. But I ain’t your unicorn.

And I damn sure ain’t going to be called no cute little name while my people are violently being disappeared from our homes. I won’t let the process of gentrification and police violence (that literally erases my community) be formed into a process of myth-making and laughed away.

Long before anyone in my family arrived here, this Ohlone land was called Yelamu. It would be invaded and colonized by the Spanish. It would go on to be called Yerba Buena. In 1847 it would be named San Francisco.

My grandmother grew up in San Francisco. In Hunter’s Point. She was 10 or 11 when she first saw a white person that wasn’t on television. It was the first time she had gone downtown in the City. She said it felt like she was in a dream. Her grandmother had come over from Port Arthur, Texas. She’d moved to San Francisco to join other family members working at the naval shipyard in Hunter’s Point. She migrated for a better life for her children. If you’d called any of them “unicorns” today, you might surely be backhanded.

When I was growing up in this place, the trains turned from orange to silver one day on my walk home from school. As I got older they only let us in five at a time at the 7-Eleven on Ocean St. When I was in high school I happened upon white neighborhoods that looked like houses made for dolls and couldn’t believe this was the same city I lived in. I experienced the losses of first Capone, then years later, Antwanisha and so many more becoming mourned younger and younger as I somehow managed to get older each year. When I was growing up in this place I danced in African print to gospel music for school assemblies and performed the Huki Lau in first grade. I went on a field trip to Alcatraz when my dad was fresh out of prison and my belly felt afraid the entire time I was there. I played a slave in a school play and didn’t know, until I was older and saw a picture of myself, that the repetitive motion I was taught to do simulated to the audience that I was picking cotton.

................

San Francisco has the highest displacement rate of Black families since post-Katrina New Orleans.

 There’s an estimated 3-5.8% of us left in the City. This sometimes looks like tightly hugging people (whom I didn’t get along with in middle school) because I am glad to know that they are still alive. This looks like driving through my old neighborhood past certain houses and remembering that someone who used to live there had a mother who passed away some years ago. Then remembering, with greater devastation, that they themselves had been killed not long afterward.  This looks like being the third generation to organize for a goddamn grocery store that sells affordable fruits and vegetables that aren’t rotten anywhere in District 10. ANYWHERE. This looks like a very sad dating pool, ‘cause I literally know everybody. And their mama. This means that when I remember my city--the place where I learned me before forgetting, I am remembering a place that no longer exists.

Sometimes, it’s like walking through a hologram.

We have history here. We are not unicorns. We are in danger. Erasure does not make us into myth.

 

* If you were born and raised in San Francisco and you find yourself to be in the back of an uber, approaching your destination and feel anger rising in your throat, remember this: 1) you ain’t nobody’s unicorn. 2) if you choose to be your own unicorn, then know this—unicorns are not easily defeated. They get to be beautiful and have a sword on their heads to protect their magic from anyone who dare come too close.

 

 

 

 

  

wildness and freedoms

why 2017 (and every year after) is my year of wildness and freedoms. 

The germseed started in 2015, really. I ended that year in Maui hanging out the window of a three door rental car with one of my best friends, driving down a road with copper streetlights and no other cars in sight. I was crying and laughing and spitting (and completely sober!) out the window. My hip bumped agains the window frame the more wild I got hanging out against the wind. 

I had just made the decision to quit my job and live on a loan for the remainder of my six months in graduate school. After making the decision, the tension in a knot at the top of my head relaxed and I felt high. I had made the decision for myself to be free of something that was depleting me. We had driven to a nude beach for a Sunday party--we'd missed it because I was crying and babbling in the car about the job. People began to emerge from the beach parking lot, letting us know that the party had ended. I had made my decision. I am blessed to have this friend, who didn't ask questions when I half-way apologized about something I needed to do that might make her uncomfortable while she drove. This friend who turned the music up for me to match my volume when I shouted with my throat and my chest outside the window alongside Kendrick Lamar. Me and Kendrick both said we was gon' be alright and I imagine a lot of Maui heard us and was convinced. I felt accomplished at the end of the song. The wind had dried my eyes, my braids had whipped my face several times, there was drool and snot. I felt a buzz all through my body. I had made the decision to be wild.

On my last day at work, there was cake. Half of it said, "Good Luck Tanea" while the other half of the cake said a happy birthday message to a new co-worker. I chose to admire the level of pettiness (instead of..). Throughout a go-round, coworkers gave me acknowledgements about my "headstrongness" and other characteristics that are often code for shade about how you're hard to get along with. 

I had diamonds for eyes. It was incredibly difficult to leave this work and yet so evident that it was my time. I cried as people talked about me because I realized that I had honored and validated my wildself by following through with my decision to leave. People sitting next to me rubbed my back while I cried and had no idea why I was really tearing up. I was leaving this place because I no longer wanted to be there. I was leaving to work on a novel I had started the year earlier. I was bustin' loose and I was happy enough to cry about it! 

Over the course of the next 6.5 months I would go on to learn to climb for protest, to be so deep in the reality of my fictional project world that I woke up in the night like one of my main characters, to fall off a rock into a river while hiking and laugh through my nose rising to the surface unscathed (entirely. it was a real-life miracle), to get my IUD removed and have a first real period in years, to be accepted into VONA and feel life a real writer for the first time in life after having been rejected the year before, to graduate with my Master's degree, to be so depressed and devastated by the murders of Black people by police that I couldn't tell if I was real and didn't leave my house or talk to others for a while, to come to myself in dreams with loving messages, to get a darling dog with healing powers, to break and let a little light inside, to burst all the way open with bright joy afterward, to write my book (to know it like the best lover), to answer this calling that graciously keeps calling no matter how long I leave the phone off the hook. 

In 2016 I didn't know the degree to which I was demanding the terms of my own inside-outting. But the stakes.was.high. I leapt like a motherfucker (sorry for cussin' on the internet, grandma). I was real wild. And it was the most growingest shit I ever did on-purpose. I felt everything. Running through me like water. 

I traveled to New Orleans. I was out at a party and a girl came in with a sweatshirt that said "I am my ancestors wildest dream". I had to leave and take a walk around the block with friends and hold on to something and cry. I cried a lot at beauty in New Orleans. During an Easter Sunday second line I had to put on my sunglasses because I was bawling seeing all my people dancing through the streets of their communities (anyway/despite/in spite of). This was the germseed of a recurring lesson I learned--my favorite one in 2016: joy is yours, it is given to you as a gift from your ancestors, it is your right/rite and it has a mystical power and ability to actually fight back by laughing (and dancing in praise of each other and of music) in the face of evil. 

2017 (and every year after) is my year of wildness and freedoms because my sensitivity became my super power in 2016. The softer I became, the stronger I felt. When I was anxious I breathed in and felt inside for my gut (who is always sending fire alarms, often without signs of any smoke). I learned to fill my belly with air so I had less room for anxiety. I reminded myself readily and often that no one turns me to dust so easily.