P / P Essay: The Water Inside (Can You Hear Me?)

Written By: Alanna Bailey

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Photo By: Joshi Daniel Photography

The word claustrophobic came to mind. I’ve never been one for small, contained spaces, let alone small, contained spaces that swallowed sound—so this was starting to fit-the-bill for pulling the fire alarm in my lizard brain. Survival mode, hyper-vigilant, I surveyed every detail of the small, angled room, a series of rectangles stacked and repeated in different orders: rectangular ceiling mirroring the rectangular floor, pulled out and mirrored again in three-dimensional rectangular blocks, steps, one on which I sat, directly across from the standard rectangular door and an adjacent tiny rectangular window, across from a rectangular speaker fastened in the opposite corner. And as if this rectilinear closet wasn’t unfortunate enough, everything, save the door, window and speaker front, was covered in entirely drab slate-grey, carpeting, institutional, no doubt special ordered from a company that made the dowdy material with a special ability to absorb acoustics.0

The soundlessness magnified my breath and heartbeat, now entirely in my throat and head, but consumed anything else. The ad for the material or it’s corresponding ‘Yelp’ reviews must have been equally alarming—‘Wish your son and his band weren’t into death metal? Cover his room with this soundproof material!’; or ‘I’ll bet Ted Bundy wished he had this! What a great invention!’; or ‘Now my small farms slaughterhouse doesn’t scare the other employees!’. The list goes on. And horrors aside, I was shaking my head at the designer. I imagine some interior architect fell asleep in front of a bottomless Auto CAD galaxy and woke to see their toddler had stacked up shoe boxes and wood blocks on the floor nearby, and simply said—brilliant, I’ll just do that. Lazy… But perhaps fitting for a great torture chamber, or audiology testing booth, as it were.

I shifted on the scratchy carpeted step and adjusted the large leather headphones waiting like a noose around my neck, which was now starting to itch. I felt hot despite the moderate-to-cool-temperature, standardized, as the grey room. I focused on my hands, my nails, then looked down and studied my boots, shiny calico toes illumined under a fluorescent bulb; they looked like a pair of leopard’s-eye stones waiting on the dusky granite cushion of a jewelry box, snapped shut, yet to be gifted. How lonely. How the hell did I even get here?

My entire life I’ve been a water-baby, half fish[1], beach bum, and I never got ear infections[2], which seems funny to consider since I was such a sensitive kid. I would get hay fever from too much dust or cat dander, occasional hives from cat or dog saliva, full-on allergy attacks from over-chlorinated swimming pools, or my cobble stones[3] would get activated and my eyes would be so itchy I couldn’t stop rubbing them and they’d swell shut. I’d sporadically get laid up and miss half a birthday party with an ice pack on my eyes, waiting until the magic medicinal eye-drops I had to carry with me kicked in (sometimes I’d totally score extra cake because the supervising parents felt bad, though it rarely made up for the discomfort). What caused this horrifying allergy? No one knew. Some swimming pools set it off, some didn’t. I eventually grew out of some allergies, but never my love of the water. Something about it, free from gravity, suspended, an alternate atmosphere, sky’s parallel universe, immaculate symmetry split by only the horizon. Perhaps it’s the closest thing to tangible proof of magic I could experience, though I’m certain there’s also something to it akin to the womb— a fluid abyss of infinite, quiet calm, the whole body swathed in slow time and a cool cloak or velveteen warmth. Continue reading

P/P Book Review: The Future Generation (Anthology) – Atomic Books

Written By: Jordannah Elizabeth

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I’m about the same age as Clover, the inspiration behind the 90s underground parenting zine, The Future Generation. She is 28 and I turned 30 late last year. My mom is nothing like her mom, the anarcho punk momma essayist, China Martens. My mom is not a punk. I became a punk because I found out about Riot Grrrl through a book about Kurt Cobain (maybe earlier around 12 years old, but I remember when I became truly aware of the movement at 14 or so) and was a little jealous of one of his first girlfriends who made zines and seemed super cool. Legend has it, he wrote song about her called, “About A Girl”, a song I sang off key one time as karaoke in a deadhead bar in a small mountain town in Colorado when I was 19.

Anyway, I like China and her writing because it’s out of the box. I like everything that defies the binary, breaks patriarchal social codes and tells the unadulterated truth. The Future Generation: A Zine-Book for Subculture Parents, Kids, Friends and Others is a well printed anthology of the 14 issues of her self made zine that spans over 14 issues and 17 years. You can read and watch Clover and China grow up together and it is quite incredible.

China is a sweet writer and a hardworking mother who was acutely aware that motherhood sucked – correction, through her experiences it was stressful to align her reality with her beliefs and lifestyle as a radical punk, and to make ends meet for Clover and herself. Nonetheless, the anthology is deeply touching and eye openingly intimate.

All in all, I find the book to be  a small miracle for weird girls. a) I don’t have kids because I suspect the truth that raising a kid as a radical woman is super hard and no one has ever told the truth about it except for China. b) She gives you the opportunity to check into reality in a way you’re not quite prepared for. c) she shows you how much empathy she had for other mothers as she worked to find solidarity in her lonely experience, convinced that there were other young women like her who needed a support system and network through her zine. Continue reading

P / P Editor’s Picks: Best of 2016

Written By: P / P Editors
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Apparently, many people feel like 2016 was the worst year ever. I beg to differ. I would think 1968 when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated was a pretty tough year.  I believe our country has been through numerous turbulent and violent years. Nonetheless, I do not forget Alton Sterling and the string of televised assassinations that inundated our news feeds and television screens this year. I do not forget Prince, David Bowie, Sharon Jones, Phife Dawg, Leonard Cohen and others who have passed away this year. I will never forget that this is the last year we get to experience one of the classiest First Families in history. It’s been heavy. One thing I did learn though, was the power of prayer. The Standing Rock protests showed us how peaceful protests should be done, which revealed itself to me as a reminder of Martin Luther King Jr’s immense strength and capacity for love when it came to his and this country’s style of peaceful protests. All in all, I traveled this year, loved, lost, danced, sang and cried. I know this will happen every year until it’s time for me to leave this great Earth, so I am just going to simply bid 2016 ado and let go.
Publik / Private senior editor, Michael Martino and I put together a short list of our personal Best Of 2016 experiences. Hope you enjoy it. -je
Best Book You’ve Read This Year:
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Jordannah: Amiri Baraka’s “Black Music”
Michael: Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet”
Best Album You’ve Heard This Year:
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Jordannah: MIA – AIM
Michael: The Avalanches – Wildflower

Continue reading

P/P Year in Review: Best Books of 2016

Written By: Olivia J. B. Baxter

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Editor’s Note: Here we are at the end of 2016. I am sitting here working on my computer while listening to James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” as a book on tape. I wrote a poem about being so tired that I couldn’t read Baldwin, but of of course, like him, I have a morbidly effervescent determination to find a way around my exasperation. I have over 200 books stacked up in my small apartment in Downtown Baltimore. “Discovering Your Past Lives: The Best Book on Reincarnation You’ll Ever Read…In This Lifetime!” jumped out at me as I am currently doing research for my second book, “The Warmest Low and Other Essays & Poems” which is a surrealist love story and collection of writings about reincarnation, karma and relationships.

Anyway, my new friend Olivia wrote a list of the Best Books of 2016 for Publik / Private. We met at a reading in Philadelphia a few weeks ago and immediately recognized that we had a lot in common. After hearing each other read excepts from our own upcoming books, we walked over to one another, noted our literary similarities and exchanged information.  She and I are both autodidacts, feminist women of color and have a deep love and affinity for the written word. I am so thankful to have met her and that she was able to volunteer to write this list. If you want to get ahold of her, email us at info@publikprivate.org. Happy New Year! -je

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Into the Light- Aleatha Romig  

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Into the Light prompts an examination of the Duality of light and dark. This psychological thriller accentuates human motive and underlines inter-connectivity as we follow two women protagonists existing in different environments having disparate experiences. A prodigious mind f*ck. Continue reading

P / P Outreach: We’re Accepting Blankets & Warm Clothes for the Homeless

By Publik / Private Team:

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Publik / Private is accepting warm blankets and clothes in the downtown Baltimore City area. We’re moving into our coldest months and we’re working hard to get warm clothes, socks, hats and blankets to the homeless. For drop off points please email us at info@publikprivate.org. Please cc founder, Jordannah Elizabeth: jewriting@outlook.com

  • Blankets
  • Winter/knitted hats
  • Sweaters
  • Warm, thick socks
  • Unopened boxes of sanitary products

Please contact info@publikprivate.org before donating clothing or financial contributions. We hold a fiscal sponsorship 501c3 through Independent Arts and Media.

P / P Poetry: I’m So Tired I Don’t Want to Read Baldwin

Written By: Jordannah Elizabeth

“Willing Scapegoats for the Male Ego”

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I’m so sick and tired I don’t want to read

Baldwin.

I’m so sick and tired I don’t want to read

James Baldwin.

Wake up. Wake up.

To be at this point,

surrounded by systems, white women

sexual threat, secret white guilt.

Buried tears too prideful to say,

“I’m racist. I was wrong.”

Misogynoir.

Continue reading

P/ P Introspective: A Brief Woman’s Guide to the End of Freedom

Written By: Jordannah Elizabeth

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Yes, Coretta Scott King was a Feminist.

(This piece is very simple with no bells or whistles. It is geared towards heterosexual women. We’ll have LGTBQ voices speak here and in other outlets I contribute to very soon. I love you all. And I love American men, but we really need to get real.)

I am pretty used to men’s drama. I’ve been told I am “too pretty” (to do pretty much anything intellectual), I’ve been called names, fired after not adhering to sexual advances, overheard the most lewd sexual jokes in office environments, and of course, I’ve been working in our culture’s male dominated music industry for over a decade. The patriarchy is a minefield I’ve learned to navigate as a professional and as a female identified human being.

Trump is a human manifestation of an unchecked pattern of male privilege induced by self hatred, insecurity and capitalistic manipulation. Trump says what he needs to say to manipulate sexist men and self hating white women. Trump hates women. Trump wants popularity and power, Trump is an American man (respect to all the complex, thoughtful men who don’t subscribe to traditional masculine stereotypes).

I believe influential American Black men have indirectly played into Trump’s persona and triumph by having artists like Lil’ Wayne, A$AP Rocky and others denounce Black Lives Matters while rapping about sexual exploitation and treating women horribly in their personal lives. Kanye West spent millions of dollars to make a life sized naked body double of Trump to sleep in bed with him and his wife…it looked like an endorsement to me. American men are taught to hate and objectify women and prioritize money and material goods over us and our children. It is how it is. Continue reading

Helping Myself to Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited”

Written by: Paul Haney

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Since it was announced that Bob Dylan had won the Nobel Prize in Literature, there has been no shortage of Bob Dylan commentators, theorists, critics, praise-givers and waxers philosophical, and no shortage of backlash against them. One might wonder if any of this commentary is necessary, or if it’s picking apart something that needn’t be touched, or if these would-be scholars even have anything valuable to say.

I don’t really know much of anything about Bob Dylan’s life or his music – I seem to have missed that train. But my good buddy Paul Haney knows quite a bit about both, and the insightfulness to pick apart some of the points of tension in opening up a new door in music (and literary) criticism. Check out more of his series on Bob Dylan’s albums on Instagram. – Michael Martino Continue reading

P/P Journalism: Trigger Warnings for the 2016 Presidential Campaigns

Written By: Kaila Philo

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Photo Credit: Max Goldberg

What a year for mental health, eh?

This year trigger warnings have come under fire for, for lack of better phrasing, shielding university students from troubling topics and, thus, hindering their education.

Triggers are subjects, themes, pictures, videos, etc, that may elicit panic attacks or other terrible mental/physical consequences that are direct results of past traumas. Trigger warnings are defined by dictionary.com as “stated warnings that the content of a text, video, etc., may upset or offend some people, especially those who have previously experienced a related trauma”. Trigger warnings began as a tool for Tumblr users to feel more comfortable navigating discourse around the Internet. The purpose of these warnings is to give trauma survivors some sort of choice in what they’re exposed to; they allow them the space and time to brace themselves for the impact of what’s to come or avoid them altogether.

There have been a cavalcade of thinkpieces about trigger warnings in the past few years—including Jonathan Chait’s highly-circulated “Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say” for New York Magazine and the University of Chicago publicly denouncing trigger warnings in a letter to incoming freshmen—and most pundits have taken one of two sides: Yes, trigger warnings are necessary for students with traumatic pasts or no, trigger warnings are an insult to their intelligence. Somehow.

Sexual assault has also been a widely and oft debated topic lately, from the Nate Parker’s accusation (and subsequent foolish ramblings excusing himself for it) to the seemingly neverending Brock Turner mishandling. 2016 has become a year rife with discourse surrounding rape culture, for better or for worse considering this discourse has been spotty at best. So, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that sexual assault survivors are going through a difficult time seeing as they’re forced to relive their own violent experiences in order to address current events or even turn on the news these days.

This wasn’t helped by the deplorable Donald Trump, who’s dominated headlines since he announced his presidential candidacy. This week the #TrumpTapes hit the internet and began circulating at rapid speed due to one reason: He talks about how easy it is for him to sexually harass and assault women. He infamously describes how he gets to grab women “by the p***y”, among other things, and later describes this discussion with Today Show host Billy Bush as “locker-room talk”.

Ironically, this isn’t the first, nor the most offensive, statement from Trump that’s surfaced during his bid for the presidency. He’s had a history of bigotry, spanning all the way back to the ‘80s and ‘90s when he declared that “Laziness is a trait in blacks”. He even incorporated that bigotry into his political campaign by proposing that he will build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, blaming “illegal aliens” for most of America’s woes in the process and calling them “rapists and murderers” in the process, and calling for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration, which racializes Islam whether he understands it or not. This all came to an absurd head right before the October 9th debate in St. Louis when Trump attempted to counter the #TrumpTapes by holding a press conference with the women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault. Continue reading

P / P Writer to Writer Series: Walter Mosley’s Advice on Writing With Teenagers

By: Jordannah Elizabeth

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I sat in the back row of a talk given by author, Walter Mosley last night at Red Emma’s Bookstore and Coffee Shop not knowing what to expect. I arrived slightly lethargic as I had meandered through the city, arriving with no plan. Be that as it may, I had bought a brand new notebook hours before and slipped off the seal and opened the fresh pages as Mosley began to walk towards the microphone. I began to write notes, paraphrasing what stood out to me during Mosley’s time in front of the quiet crowd.  To describe his new book, Folding the Red into the Black, Mosley read a written introduction and synopsis as he stood next to an almost empty glass of red wine and an unopened bottle of Coca Cola.

I did in fact write down a few notes, but there is only one thing I truly want to share:

Walter Mosley’s advice on teaching marginalized Black teenagers to write theater.

During the Q&A portion of the reading, an exasperated teacher stood up and asked how he could teach his students who were male identified Black teenage students, female identified male and male identified female students (these were his descriptions of his students) who attended Baltimore City Public Schools. The teacher asked Mosley, “How can I get them to see how beautiful they are? How can I get them to see themselves the way I see them?”

As a teacher, I’ve asked myself this very question as I have taught students from age 4 to 21 in Baltimore City, and my teenagers were by far the hardest to inspire, who as the man expressed, “fought me tooth and nail on everything.” I empathized and desired a technique as well.

Here are my notes on what Mosley said:

A Writing/Theater Technique for Marginalized Teens

[A projection]

Ask them
Who do you love?
What do you wish for that person?

The feelings are there, they just may not be pointed at themselves.
Find out where their feelings are pointed.