Nothing will go as planned: a Q+A w/ Erin Brown

Tell us about Ferine Magazine, its origins, where it’s at now and where you want to see it go!

My co-founder, Jen Sinkler, worked as a fitness editor for magazines for many years and had decided to launch her own magazine. She and I had discussed a position for me with the publication but when we got together to hash it out decided it was a joint project.

We wanted to create something that represented a whole new lens on topics “traditional women’s magazines” cover but with much more diverse perspectives.

No “very special editions” where perspectives that aren’t heteronormative and white centering are present. Which makes for a more fun and interesting take for everyone.

You have THREE published books, congratulations! How does it feel to be a published poet?

It honestly took until the 3rd book to feel like I could call myself an author. Imposter Syndrome is something I’ve always dealt with.

Now it feels accomplished, even though I have self-published all of them. I’m very comfortable in the scrappy, DIY space.

What is something we often get wrong when talking about women’s sexual health? And/or sexual liberation?

Not talking about pleasure. Consent is almost always presented as a way to avoid crime or trauma, but centering pleasure as a primary aspect of sex is a way more exciting way to understand consent.

Taking pleasure out of the conversation about sex, even in early stages of education, leads folks to discuss sex like a conquest and not an exploration of desires.

Did you always imagine yourself as a poet? When did you start writing?

I started writing when I was in elementary school. I have stacks and stacks of journals full of terrible poems about puberty and relationships and growing up. It’s always been an outlet for me to process whatever is happening in my life.

What’s something you wish you could say to your 16 year old self?

Nothing will go as planned. It will be perfect. Trust yourself.

Who do you go to when you’re needing support and guidance?

One of my oldest friends, Kimbra. She always answers, is always honest and never lets me down.

What’s something you’re currently working on that’s both super challenging and exciting?

The magazine is taking most of my time right now. There are so many different skill sets involved and it’s fun to figure it all out, and learn how to work in intuitive ways.

It’s a lot of making art, collaborating with others, and learning new skills online and off. It’s the most excited I’ve been about a project and the PEOPLE involved make it exciting every day.

What’s one challenge you face in your work that you’re still working on navigating?

Managing my time well and not forcing myself to feel inspired when I’m not.

When was the last time you practiced self-care and why is self-care important to you?

Every day! I lift weights 3 times a week. I take a lot of baths. When it’s nice out I try to spend time in my hammock.

It’s not something that’s negotiable for me. It’s the first thing I address every day before I do anything else.

What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?

If the places I move are not safe for everyone, I won’t be there. That’s been clear since college.

I’ve walked out of and been fired from lots of jobs, organizations and relationships behind my values and I wouldn’t change a thing.

What’s something you’re working to unlearn?

I am currently working on letting go of resentment and reminding myself that someone else succeeding doesn’t take away from me.

It’s frustrating to watch people I had to push to make small moves toward liberation work begin to move when I finally had to walk away from them out of fatigue.

I’m sure plenty of folks who share decades of social justice work with me are having similar experiences now.

Who are a few amazing people that we should follow and why?

@ihartericka -comprehensive sex ed/sexuality/gender

@wholeheartedcoaching life coaching advice, JOY    

@jensinkler strength and stories     

@ethereal.1 spirit work, constant reminders about self-care    

@nikkiexperience – touchless orgasm, orgasms for health, lot of interesting sexual health options

It’s years in the future. You’re on stage to accept an award for your life’s work.  What’s your five word acceptance speech?

I did my best.

Learn more about Erin + connect

Erin Brown is an activist and writer from Lawrence, Kansas. Her work focuses on liberation, autonomy and personal narrative as a political act. Two decades of activism have mostly taught her there is always more to learn. Instagram. Twitter. Website. Fernie Mag!

The world needs what you have to offer: a Q+A with Black Panther’s Constance Ejuma

What’s one way your life has changed since being a stunt performer in Black Panther as a Dora Milaje?

One opportunity that came my way as a result of working on ‘Black Panther’ was being invited to work on a Jennifer Lopez music video where I played an African warrior queen.

Not only was it a lot of fun but it was interesting to have people embracing the idea of a regal female warrior who wasn’t pigeonholed as an angry black woman.

What was one challenge you overcame when preparing for your role in Black Panther?

It was my first time working as a stunt performer, so my biggest challenge was not allowing myself to be too intimidated by all the experienced people on set.

Fortunately, we had a couple of weeks of training before the shoot so I had plenty of time to practice. I also had a LOT of help and support from my colleagues on set before diving into the deep end.  

When we met at Blerdcon, we briefly talked about the unpredictability of the movie industry. How do you stay centered and balanced when you don’t know where your next role will come from? Also, what keeps you centered in general?

Being an actor can be a pretty tough profession especially if you’re spending more time looking for work than actually doing work. So you really have to get clear on why you’re doing it and identify tools that help keep you engaged with your passion in spite of the ups and downs.

Finding ways to express my creativity regardless is essential and that can take form in a number of ways including taking classes, taking up passion projects on your own or collaborating with friends on independent projects.

I also love listening to artists I admire talk about their work and creative process; it’s incredibly inspirational.

My spiritual practice has supported me a lot through the years and I find that when I’m struggling, meditation helps me get centered and allows me to reflect on the causes I’m making that lead to suffering.

It’s hard to see the big picture when all your focus is on your problems but I think spiritual practice is most effective when it allows you to look at your life more expansively and recognize the fact that you’re connected to everyone and everything around you.    

As a Black woman, where do you find strength and community in your industry?

It’s not always easy finding a creative community that feels like family in this business. I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with organizations like the African Artists’ Association which is a community of artists of African descent who meet regularly to network, encourage each other and get insights from professionals in the industry.

You can feel really isolated when you don’t have a strong support system so it’s really important to cultivate strong relationships.

I honestly don’t think I would be able to accomplish much if I didn’t have good friends and family providing moral support.   

What’s something you wish you could say to your 16 year old self?

Don’t worry so much about living up to other people’s expectations. It’s ok to be yourself.

What’s something you’re working to unlearn?

That I’m not enough. That’s a huge one because it colors so many aspects of my life – am I good enough?

Strong enough?

Smart enough?

Fit enough?

Attractive enough?

It’s never ending and just leads to paralysis or giving up on things before I even start.

So I’m actively working on turning my mentality around on the subject of worthiness through my spiritual practice and pursuing the task at hand in spite of the negative thoughts that come up.

We also talked about the power of storytelling, especially when it comes to the stories of our ancestors. Tell us about a story you’ve been working to tell.

I’ve been working on a project about telling my grandmother’s story. I have been on and off for the past few years actually.

It started years ago when I realized that I didn’t really know much about her so I embarked on this mission to learn more about her by asking her and other family members about her life.

The entire process made me realize how much we take for granted and how important it is to engage with older people in our families while we still have them. Working on the project has not only allowed me to get to know her better, but it’s made me feel far more connected to my heritage than I ever had before.

It’s easy to dismiss the past, but you carry it with you everyday whether or not you realize it. I’d rather look at it and learn from it than pretend it never happened.


Don’t worry so much about living up to other people’s expectations. It’s ok to be yourself.

Constance Ejuma

When was the last time you practiced self-care and why is self-care important to you?

I’m not always great at practicing self-care to be honest because I spend so much of my life giving away my time and attention to work, friends, family, etc. that I forget to set some of that aside for myself.

When I do remember, I make it a point to do something about it. It’s really important to refuel in order to be able to function properly in life.

What’s something that’s been bringing you joy lately?

I just discovered the work of Octavia Butler and for a minute there, I was losing sleep because I wasn’t able to put her books down.

She was an incredible writer and the fact that she wrote sci-fi/fantasy – a genre that black women are traditionally not associated with but consume as much as anyone – just warms my heart.

What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?

That every human life has value, that we are all interconnected and that karma don’t play (lol).

I’ve always had these values but when I started practicing Buddhism, I was able to articulate these ideas far more effectively.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to an actress struggling with self-doubt and feeling like giving up on their dreams?

Don’t give up. The world needs what you have to offer.

It’s years in the future. You’re on stage to accept an award for your life’s work.  What’s your five word acceptance speech?

 It has been my privilege.

Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you truly believe to be true. What would you say?

Shakespeare said it best with these words which will eternally ring true: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances.”

Learn more about Constance + connect

Constance Ejuma is an award-winning actress and producer with credits in television, film and theatre. She has been featured on shows like Scorpion, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders and Southland. She also worked as a stunt performer on the hit film Black Panther where she was featured as one of the famous Dora Milaje. Her work as a producer has led garnered her numerous awards including the coveted African Movie Academy Awards for her film Ben & Ara. Instagram. Twitter. Website.

Do things that get your closer to you dreams: a Q+A w/ Bria Butterfly

What’s something we often get wrong about sex work?

One thing a lot of people assume about sex work is that every single person in the industry is rich. This is wrong and also erases low income workers or survival sex workers, who are still very valid.

What’s something you’re currently working on that’s both super challenging and exciting?

I’m working on building my career in sex work. It’s challenging because I do all of the work on my own, but it’s super exciting for me to see my success.

I’m working on building a better life for myself. Self healing is always challenging but it’s super exciting to see the growth in yourself and your life.

What’s the best thing about being a Pisces?

The best thing about being a Pisces is being super emotional and in tune with your emotions. I’m not sure if that’s just a Pisces trait but it is one of the best things to happen to me.

I’m very sensitive and in tune with beautiful feelings in life. I’m very understanding and empathetic. I’m able to put myself in another’s shoes very easily. I’m mystical and flowy like water.

What’s something you’re working to unlearn?

I’m working to unlearn insecurity, shame, fear, self doubt, hating my body, hating my natural hair. I’m working to unlearn associating my own chubby body to not being beautiful.

I only feel this way in regards to myself and I would like to release this because I know it’s not truth. Rewiring your brain is possible, it just takes a lot of everyday practice.

Some days are easier than others.


No one else’s beauty and shine takes away from mine.

Bria Butterfly

Who do you go to when you’re needing support and guidance?

I go to my partner, my mom, my close friends. I appreciate and am super grateful for them always. I follow individuals on Twitter who are in tune with collective energy and seeing their tweets at times really benefit me. I pray and speak to the universe and my guardian angels.

When was the last time you practiced self-care and why is self-care important to you?

I practiced self care a couple days ago by taking myself to get a mani/pedi. It was relaxing and I enjoyed treating myself in this form of self care. I also have taken some time to reflect today on my life, my dreams, my behaviors and what causes me to be the way I am.

I’ve been healing a lot of heavy energy lately and I truly do consider self reflection a form of self care.

What’s something that’s been bringing you joy lately?

Sex work brings me a lot of joy when I’m doing well. Hanging out with my partner and my family brings me a lot of joy as well.

When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?

I struggle with self doubt every single day. It’s something I struggle with quite badly actually but like I said previously some days are better than others!

Being in the adult industry is a struggle sometimes because it’s so easy to compare yourself but I always try to remember that I’ll always have clients that like me for me. No one else’s beauty and shine takes away from mine.

Who are a few amazing people that we should follow and why?

@SacredStrippers is amazing.. I love everything about this community. @afrosexology is amazing. Beautiful black images and sex positivity for everyone. Both of these pages are centered around healing.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone struggling with self-doubt and feeling like giving up on their dreams?

Steady progress is better than none at all. Be kind to yourself and do your best to focus on the bigger picture. Do things that will help you feel better and get you closer to your dreams.

Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you truly believe to be true. What would you say?

I would say that you should experience all of the different spectrums of life that you can while you’re alive. Love yourself, your life, and your people hard.

Connect with Bria

Bria Butterfly has been a part of the adult industry since she was 18 years old. 18 was when she first became a webcam model, since then sex work has been a passion of hers, and she is really excited to make her mark in the industry. Bria Butterfly is a natural lover and friend. Twitter. Website.

Sometimes, I’m left in tears: a Q+A w/ Jessica Lakritz

What are the origins of your Skin On Sundays project?

It was a quiet November afternoon in Barcelona. The year was 2015. I was smoking weed with a young rapper, discussing the universe and our places in it.

The young rapper asked me: “How are you going to get people to read your poetry.”

It had honestly never occurred to me that my poems would spread much further than my Facebook friends list, so that was an interesting question. In our visionary mental state, we began letting the ideas flow, and that’s when it arrived. I would write my poems on people’s skin.

Just like that, the idea was born, taking into account not only my passion for writing, but the world we live in full of instant gratification often beautiful visual media.

It took a little bit more brainstorming to bring it to life, but in less than a week, the first post was published.

View on Instagram

Your work is so personal, your words, your photos. Yet every picture includes someone else and you have also collaborated with other artists and a doctor, addressing miscarriages. How do you collaborate in work that is so deeply personal?  

I was initially drawn to write poetry because of my curiosity and desire to explore and understand emotions. Couple that with my love for intimacy, with myself, with others, with ideas, and it’s easy to see how this project flows as a natural progression of that.  

I place extraordinary value on the deeply personal both in this project and in my life; I let myself become immersed. It’s just how I am. This project is so much about talking about experiences, both the light parts and the dark parts, in the form of physiopoetry, so I go in prepared to hear whatever people want to share with me, prepared to get emotional, even.

Sometimes, I’m left in tears. I invite the deeply personal into my work because the closer I can get to the root of what we’re looking to share in the physiopoem, the more impactful the final result will be. I want people who see Skin on Sundays to feel connected, so it’s important to go into the process with an open mind and heart.

Jessica Lakritz

What do we get wrong when we talk about bodies?

There are some implied “shoulds” when we talk about bodies. How we should look. How we should dress. I don’t think this is healthy. So much is about selling, so there’s no question as to why these bodily shoulds exist.

They work to enhance consumerism.

But then it spreads, and people who aren’t even selling things make it their personal goal to tell people how to look and dress. Even our own egos reward us for judging others, sadly. That’s probably the most unfortunate part about what we get wrong when we talk about bodies. We become bullies, sometimes under the guise of “caring.”

For instance, people say, being overweight isn’t healthy, as if it’s their job to police other people’s health, often strangers at that. Unsolicited advice is generally unwelcome, and I find it even more unwelcome when we’re talking about others’ bodies.

Our bodies are our homes, so it’s natural to take it personally and to feel profoundly impacted when others talk about them. It would be helpful if everyone could remember that before making comments.

Another thing we get wrong is that nudity and sexuality are one in the same. They’re not, and it’s only because we’ve been trained by society to feel sexual when we see a naked body that so many people can’t separate them.

The “training” is largely in the form of withholding. Nudity, even women’s nipples, are considered too obscene for social media platforms, regardless of whether or not it’s art. But nudity does not necessarily have anything to do with sex. Sex is just one of the things a naked body does. It can also just exist, and it can be beautiful without creating arousal.

View on Instagram

What do you love about photography?

Before Skin on Sundays, my contribution to the art world rested solely in my words. Now, I have become a photographer of sorts. I love how photos can express emotions, and I’ve become particularly attracted to portrait-ish photos that work with all the ways to move and bend a body, photos that bring in other (perhaps strange) objects to create something truly emotive in the juxtaposition.

I also love how the photography I do for this project creates a connection between myself and the canvas, because it has to happen in person. I’m not just adding words to a body digitally on a screen. It happens in person, we interact with one another in the same physical space, creating an energy that helps the physiopoem comes to life.

What’s something you’re currently working on that’s both super challenging and exciting?

My poetry coloring book Seasons of Yourself is coming out this month, and that has been a long process. I can’t draw, so I collaborated with another artist who drew my poems, but man do things go a lot slower when you’re not working alone.

That’s just the way it is.

That delay was challenging for me, not to mention publisher delays and having to reschedule and re-plan the release of the book. I know these delays are all very normal, but I had to take a lot of deep breaths. That being said, this book is so special to me because a fantastic artist, Claudia Sahuquillo, drew my poems, dug her way around inside of them and translated them into actual images. And now it’s all coming out in a book, the poems alongside the drawings that people will be able to color. Who wouldn’t be excited about that?

What’s something you’re working to unlearn?

I am an emotional person. One of the emotions that can get the better of me is frustration/anger. It makes me scream, cry, growl, and sometimes say things I don’t mean. It’s been a lifelong process unlearning how to deal with my anger.

When I was growing up, I dealt with it in that screaming/crying/growling/mean-talking way I mentioned earlier, so I really do have to unlearn those behaviors.. Sometimes I’m better at it and sometimes I’m worse, depending on my mental state at the time.

The goal is to always deal with anger with an innate calmness and collectedness, regardless of the amount of stress I might have already going on.

View on Instagram

When was the last time you practiced self-care and why is self-care important to you?

Self-care has kind of become built into my life. Leisure and relaxation are necessary to me, and I really don’t function well or feel happy if there is too little of those things in my life. We live in this workaholic world, but I don’t buy into it.

It’s not for me.

I work hard, and I also chill hard. Without the chilling, my work isn’t even as good, as I’ve found out. I need that space to allow my creativity to flourish and think properly.

My most recent deliberate act of self-care was leaving Mexico City for a weekend to a small town where it’s summer year round. Just relaxing in a garden for a few days surrounded by tropical fruit trees and silence was divine.

What’s something that’s been bringing you joy lately?

Recently, I realized I’ve gotten over this photography plateau I’d been sitting on for awhile, where I felt the creativity in my Skin on Sundays photos was not growing. My solution was to seek out photography that inspired me and force myself to do more than just enjoy it.

I started analyzing why I liked it, and applying those principles into my own work. Now I’m starting to see my own photos stand out more than they have before.

Working hard and seeing the work pay off in my photography is bringing me loads of joy.

What’s something that’s been pissing you off lately?

The holiday season has this pressure associated with it, and with December just passing, I was feeling this sense of obligation to do things I didn’t want to do just because other people wanted me to.

Using guilt to try to get people to do something is an ugly kind of manipulation that society just sort of accepts for some reason. I don’t accept it, and it does not and will never work on me.


I work hard, and I also chill hard. Without the chilling, my work isn’t even as good, as I’ve found out. I need that space to allow my creativity to flourish and think properly.

Jessica Lakritz

When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?

Dedicating so much of my life to poetry and art can be hard on the psyche, because the process of “making it” often comes with financial struggle. I had a breakdown a couple years ago because I was so broke and I thought maybe everything I was doing was pointless.

I began thinking my art wasn’t any good because it wasn’t making any money. That’s what the world so often teaches us, and try as I might to ignore it (because I know so many factors are involved in financial success, not just talent), it seeps in and can really damage my self-worth at times. I’m happy to say I talked myself out of it, but I was seriously considering giving up and disappearing from the world of art.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone struggling with self-doubt and feeling like giving up on their dreams?

All of our emotions come and go. That’s the nature of them. Self-doubt is no different. If you can remember that while you’re going through a bout of self-doubt, it will be easier to not only deal with, but probably faster to get out of it too. Just know that self-doubt, too, will pass. And when it does, you can get back to your regularly scheduled dream-fulfilling.

It’s years in the future. You’re on stage to accept an award for your life’s work.  What’s your five word acceptance speech?

Poetry is everywhere. Just look.

Connect with Jessica

Jessica Lakritz is a writer and artist based in Mexico City. She is the creator of the multimedia physiopoetry project Skin on Sundays, where she uses the human body as a canvas for her words. Jessica loves the sea, hammocks, strangers, her dog Luna, and not taking herself too seriously. Instagram. Website.

Becoming braver day by day: a Q+A w/ Ashley Pena

What does body positivity mean to you?

To me, body positivity is loving your vessel fully for what it is. It is easy to get carried away and discouraged by societal body image. Body positivity is not only about loving yourself from head to toe, but about being kind to yourself and making a constant effort to speak lovingly and positively to yourself.

Have you always wanted to be a model? How did that deam transpire?

I have ALWAYS desired to inspire and impact the world in a large scale. I have always loved music, art, creativity, writing, dance, painting, pretty much anything that allows me to use my creativity.

Due to the many many years of self doubt, low self esteem, and insecurity, I didn’t even think modeling was something I could ever do. When I started my self love journey, I was inspired to share my results and confidence publicly.

I started to work closely with myself to become a better version of myself. I was deathly afraid of my body. I couldn’t even change in front of people. Through stepping out of my comfort zone constantly and becoming braver day by day, I slowly but surely built up the courage to do my first photo shoot.

The experience was INCREDIBLE and so empowering. I was so nervous the day before that I was going to cancel the shoot but I forced myself to do it anyway and it kick started my career as a model. I fell in love!

When was the last time you practiced self-care and why is self-care important to you?

Today. I practice self care EVERY DAY. Through small actions and sometimes bigger actions. Self-care is so important for my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health.

I neglected my self-care for such a long time because I put everything and everyone before me. Self-care is how I show myself that I truly care about me.

What’s something you’re currently working on that’s both super challenging and exciting?

Being an entrepreneur is extremely challenging and every journey I embark on is equally exciting and challenging. At the moment my career is growing in every aspect but I specifically want to see my music and modeling career skyrocket. I aspire to host seminars and do a lot more paid photoshoots as a freelance model.

What’s something you wish you could say to your 16 year old self?

You are loved. God loves you. You are not alone. Never have been, never will be. At this age, I was at my lowest. Struggling with eating disorders and substance abuse. I had almost thrown my entire life away and God saved me time and time again. Knowing what I know now, I would have used my shortcomings in the way I do now, then.

What’s something you’re working to unlearn?

Limitation. We are conditioned to believe that we cannot accomplish certain things. It has taken years to decondition any limiting beliefs about myself and it is still a daily struggle. I am constantly trying to unlearn that we can’t ALL be extremely successful.

Who do you go to when you’re needing support and guidance?

God first always through prayer and meditation. My mom, my best friends and closest family members.

What’s one challenge you face in your work that you’re still working on navigating?

Keeping my authenticity. In the industry I am in along with many other industries you are expected to fit a mold. My goal is to break those molds and stay forever true to myself, but it definitely is a challenge.

When was the last time you practiced self-care and why is self-care important to you?

Today. I practice self care EVERY DAY. Through small actions and sometimes bigger actions. Self-care is so important for my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health.

I neglected my self-care for such a long time because I put everything and everyone before me. Self-care is how I show myself that I truly care about me.


You were made perfectly and have been given everything perfectly in your favor, even the obstacles.

Ashley Pena

What’s something that’s been bringing you joy lately?

Life itself. Travel, family, the many little beautiful moments filled with love and laughter.

What’s something that’s been pissing you off lately?

The people that want to stay in your life even after they have mistreated you, and you have made it clear you don’t want to keep them around any more.

When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?

The moments where I worked extremely hard and no matter my efforts, I found myself with a bank account that didn’t reflect it made me doubt myself and my ability to obtain and maintain success heavily. Not being able to provide for my family crushed me and gave me moments on not believing in myself.

What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?

Put God first. Love and respect yourself and those around you. Love yourself and others unconditionally. Be true to yourself no matter what you are offered. I became clear on these values throughout my self love journey and over the past three years live by them religiously.

Who are a few amazing people that we should follow and why?

These women are so inspiring and their stories are incredibly powerful. They inspire me every day.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone struggling with self-doubt and feeling like giving up on their dreams?

We all struggle with this, you are not alone. We have all been taught and conditioned to doubt our potential but with God’s guidance and unconditional love, there is nothing, NOTHING, you cannot do.

You were made perfectly and have been given everything perfectly in your favor, even the obstacles. Appreciate them and force focus on how magnificent you truly are and were meant to be.

It’s years in the future. You’re on stage to accept an award for your life’s work.  What’s your five word acceptance speech?

Nothing is impossible with God.

Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you truly believe to be true. What would you say?

The truth is, we are all here to experience all of it. Love, hate, joy, sadness, anger, peace, freedom, sweet, sour, hot and cold.

We do not have to do anything more or less than that. We are spiritual beings living in a physical body to experience. So, experience.

Learn more about Ashley + connect!

Ashley Pena is a 23 year old, Puerto Rican/Dominican self love influencer, model, and mind body soul life coach born and raised in Miami. She packed her car and drove across the United States to California to pursue her dreams, find and follow her true purpose. Through taking many leaps of faith, she beat statistics, broke molds, and transforms lives on the daily. Instagram. Twitter.

An Open Letter to First Time Black Fathers Anywhere

Dear Brothers,

I won’t begin to assume what you’re going through, for there’s a spectrum of Blackness and man-ness and person-hood that exist, but I just had to write this as I sit in the delivery room hours before the arrival of our firstborn child.

I’m mostly writing to connect, reach out, and encourage.

To let you know that you’re not alone, and to remind myself that I’m not alone.

See, there’s this perception that a lot of black men aren’t there for their children. That a lot of us are either dying, killing, being killed, imprisoned. But, we know the truth: we’re not a monolith and a lot of us are here for our children, our families, our communities, our world.

Some of us are graduating from college. Some of us are owning businesses. Some of us are the best gamers, chefs, delivery men this world has ever seen. And some of us are struggling to get out of bed because of ancestral pain and trauma.

We come in so many shapes, sizes, belief systems, and lived experiences, but there are some things that connect us:

  • Many of us will have the talk with our child, especially our sons. We’ll let them know how different they are and what to do when they’re pulled over and how they’ll feel the need to be two steps ahead of their peers.
  • Many of us have experienced some type of othering in our lifetime. Personally, I was called too white and not black enough as a child. That’s part of what led to the self-hate I’ve been working to unlearn in my 30s.
  • Many of us had fathers or father figures who were really really tough on us. Who hit us, or swore at us, or made us feel like we were worthless in order to help us survive a cold world. They inherited much of that from their fathers and so on. If this is your story, you may often find ourselves at the crossroads of restoration and resentment.

And many of us are trying to figure out what type of dads we’ll be, and we’re doing everything we can to break generational patters and curses, and do better.

I know I am.


For we are enough and we’re exactly where we need to be: in the life of someone who we mean the world to, before we even utter a word.

Sinclair P. Ceasar III, First Time Black Father

I feel the pressure to do well with this baby that will come any hour now. With this black baby that will live in a world that often weaponizes, sexualizes, brutalizes their body (see Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates).

A world that doesn’t understand what it means to “always be thinking about race” or to “often be wondering if we’re code switching or actually saying the right thing for the moment”.

I will make an assumption now.

I assume that some of you are reading this and going, “Oh, no. This author clearly isn’t in touch with his true self and his roots. He needs to read up on his history and learn.” And you’d be correct. I have a lot to learn and ways to go, and also, I’m right where I should be — that’s a big takeaway I hope most new dads have from this letter.

photo x allee illyse photography

We are exactly where we need to be.

We are ready as we are to be stewards of this new life form that is before us.

Who can say what a whole, sound, and perfect black man looks like? I’m sure someone can, but what matters most to me is being a father — a parent — who shows up every single day to his child.

As someone was raised by resilient and loving grandparents with middle school educations, one of the best things they did for me was be present.

Present to invite me to sleep on their bedroom floor when thunderstorms rolled through. Present for the tears I cried after bullies had their way. Present for the times my hands couldn’t stop shaking after my own father stopped by to berate and abuse.

Presence.

That’s what’s required, dear brothers. And if you can, some grace, love, and patience.

Grace is the space we hold for someone to be imperfect and unfinished. Love is the acceptance and validation we fill that space with. And patience is what we give ourselves to do better at the former at the latter.

My heart both panics and smiles as I think of holding my newborn child.

What will become of them, what will they dream of, will I be enough for them, will we succeed in keeping them safe?

What will they accomplish?

How will I ruin them?

How will I help them thrive?

And so, I find myself overwhelmed with favorable and unfavorable outcomes, and it’s imperative for me to give myself the same grace, love, and patience my child will require. The same you require. The same we all are so desperately needing as we parent, teach, lead, and guide.

For we are enough and we’re exactly where we need to be: in the life of someone who we mean the world to, before we even utter a word.