Advocate

Since May 30th, our global society has been transforming itself into a chaotic wake up call with the issue of police brutality and the continuous evidence of minorities not having the same equity of life as those who fall under white privilege.

I’ve had my share of unlearning the white man’s knowledge of American History, and growth over the years when it comes to American History, and I continue to put aside my own trauma and issues to sit and radically listen to my peers to hear their stories and allow them to provide me facts and evidence of their reality, while I proved my own radical listening, empathy, and understanding.

Right now they are tired. They are tired of talking without anyone listening. The are tired of the questions from those who simply have a hard time comprehending. They are tired of the “All Lives Matter” debacle that goes against the reality of blacks being 3x more likely to be shot and killed by police. They are simply tired.

I have a responsibility of a film maker and a film lover, to take the time to put together my top ten favorite strong black lead films and/or series that provide legitimate educational value for those who want a better understanding of the systematic oppression our fellow Americans have suffered through for the past 400 years, as well as, some of the greatest icons in black history that may or may have not been in your history textbooks growing up.

All I ask from this list is be aware of the fictional aspects of the films and take the time to dig into a deeper research of the events within the topics and figures provided with each film. I am asking, for those willing to listen and learn to do with empathy, while watching these stories, and don’t forget the Kleenex, because you will need them.

  1. Roots (Hulu): An adaptation of the 1977 mini-series, Roots chronicles the history of an African man sold to slavery in America, and his descendants. 

  2. Harriet (Rent/Vudu): The extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman‘s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes, whose courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.

  3. MalcolmX (Netflix): Biographical epic of the controversial and influential Black Nationalist leader, from his early life and career as a small-time gangster, to his ministry as a member of the Nation of Islam.

  4. 13th (Netflix): An in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation’s history of racial inequality.

  5. I Am Not Your Negro (Amazon Prime): Writer James Baldwin tells the story of race in modern America with his unfinished novel, Remember This House.

  6. Selma (Amazon Prime): A chronicle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.

  7. The Hate U Give (Rent/Vudu): Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressure from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what’s right.

  8. DETROIT (Hulu): A gripping story of one of the most terrifying moments during the civil unrest that rocked Detroit in the summer of ’67.

  9. Just Mercy (Rent/Vudu): World-renowned civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson works to free a wrongly condemned death row prisoner.

  10. When They See Us (Netflix): Five teens from Harlem become trapped in a nightmare when they’re falsely accused of a brutal attack in Central Park. Based on the true story.

    Honorary mentions: Marshall (Netflix), LA92 (Netflix), Teach Us All (Netflix), Ali (Amazon Prime), 12 Years a Slave (Rent)…

Even though my adjustment to civilian life has been a struggle, due to being consumed in today’s society by so many political opinions, and truths being revealed… it certainly has been a hard pill to swallow…

Working DFac (fDining Facility) Guard

While most people gather, illegally and legally, I’ve kept my distance and silence, as well as decompress my mind, to gather my thoughts over this weekend as it reminds me of two things…. 1) my best friend at the time being KIA on June 3, 2007 (three days before my 21st), and the fact that tomorrow is legitimately my fifth year anniversary from being medically retired from the military.

Yet, there is still a pride in me for serving this country for the purpose of the bigger picture and not for myself, but for ALL the people in this country who chooses not to or simply can’t for medical purposes…

I continue to look at the positive things of serving like having the opportunity to embrace and experience so many various cultures and individuals through the battle buddies I’ve met over the years and the various global contractors and local people that I had the opportunity to befriend and worked with while in Iraq.

Local Interpreters, Taji 🇮🇶

Also, without serving, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today nor accomplish the things I’ve accomplished over my adult life…

While the mass crowd defines us a basic stereotype of typical sheep and murderers, I will not let those voices define me nor the good-hearted people I have come to serve and meet, who take the call to risk their lives for their own beliefs of serving…

What comes down to my reality vs. their reality, is that we all have a story, we all have educational value to share through our livelihoods and experiences, and we all can learn from one another… we just need to be able to have an open mind to learn from those who haven’t experienced a similar life than our own and that’s where empathy comes in…

Unfortunately, the majority of us, as humans, struggle with having empathy for the rest of the world, if not, our own country and that’s why we are in the “Divided States of America” we are currently in.

Super Bowl Party. |Chicago Vs Indianapolis|
Go Manning Go!
🏈

The relief of today was fulfilled with distractions and productivity while distancing myself from the crowds and social media, while I regain my attentiveness and confidence with my purpose and knowledge in the world during my five-day weekend and I’m only half way through.

Goofing off before meeting
the Iraqi Army General. 😳

Also, what helped me through today is having one of my battle buddies that I relate to reaching out to me today with his music playlist and amazing descriptive reflection of his day, because he knows how much music and storytelling gets me through difficult things.

Thank you, Deneen, and stay well. 👍🏻

58372592_2216331162014665_1137123691474190336_nAs April comes to a close on Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a message for my kindred spirits, the beautiful and the broken who may still be in the path of healing…

Nothing of the trauma and the abuse you may have lived through in your childhood and/or your life was ever your fault. You never asked for it then, and the pain you may encounter still today, will get easier in time.

Don’t live your life in denial. SPEAK UP about your demons. None of us are perfect.

There are other beautifully broken souls looking for the same love as you do. When one presents itself, let it flow. We all deserve an abundance amount of unconditional, strong, and deep love. You don’t have to fight your demons alone.

Healing takes time and everyone’s in a different stage in their life with that healing. Don’t fear the process. Accept both the parts that have healed and the parts that haven’t. This life is not of the destination, but the journey.

Most importantly, do not be afraid of the storm. Healing is nowhere near a walk in the park and we must be ready to fight with all of our wills and inner strength.

DSC_0367.MOV.00_00_35_09.Still003K. Sankofa isn’t your ordinary music artist. With a dab of hip, a splash of jazz, and a spruce of Caribbean flow, he surely knows how to keep his sound original, while eclectic in the ears of his listeners. That isn’t the norm produced in the music rooted from Wisconsin, or from the stereotype from Wisconsin, but here we are. K. Sankofa isn’t going anywhere else anytime soon. Music isn’t the only knowledge K. Sankofa possesses. He proves that with us in this recent interview with the young man, himself, as well as the song lyrics he creates for his content.

K. Sankofa is such a unique stage name, yet a beautiful name as well. Would you tell us the story of how you came up with that name for your musical presence?

K. Sankofa: For the most part, I learned of the term ‘sankofa’ while in college. It is a proverb from Ghana, Africa that means, “Go back and get it.”

Being involved in many social justice efforts I was able to see how the term was used in fighting for justice. Reclaiming culture and heritage in roots of indigenous, as well as, revitalizing the spirit of justice that swept over those who fought through momentous periods like the Civil Rights Movement.

For me, personally, it has become a motto for continued self-development, while never leaving behind the upbringing that made me who I am. I celebrate every part of my past and every lesson that I have learned. This includes being raised in south central L.A.,  and being raised to reverence God in everything.

I started writing and experimenting with music early on in life. However, when I got to college, I told myself that I’d have to leave music behind to focus on things that I believed to be more important. I soon realized that when times got hard it was music that could make me feel whole and revitalize me in the way that I needed to move forward and carry on. With that I took on the stage under the philosophy of sankofa, going back, and getting the music.

For someone who might not have listened to your music before, can you tell us a small description of what your music is about?

KS: My music is about liberation. For me, I feel a sense of freedom in the creation of my music. Even more, I hope to reflect the struggle of the people who may not have the voice to speak out against injustice. My music is spiritual. I try to keep God in everything I do.

My music reflects my own pain and my own adversity that I have experienced. I feel like it might have a blues feel to it with how saddening the content can be sometimes. My music is about rising up against the forces that are here to keep people in inequitable socioeconomic conditions. My music is about love, hope, truth, and justice.

DSC_0380How did you find your voice for the music industry and how did you find your gift for writing music and your ability to rap?

KS: I started rapping in the 7th grade. I first discovered my love for rap music during that time, because a friend of mine urged me to get into some writing sessions with him. I loved putting the pen to the paper and expressing my thoughts. I try to make sure I let my influences and life philosophy speak through me. I try to stay in tune with God. I think it is a confluence of these thing that helped to develop the voice that I have.

Are there any current musicians who have helped influence your style of music?

KS: Definitely. Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Jay-Z are a few people who influenced me the most, but even today I have been influenced by newer artist like Chance The Rapper.

Even though your music focuses on your life stories, music is actually not your priority goal is it? Care to tell us what is your main goal in life is?

KS: My main life goal is do what I believe is right. I want to do what God has set out for me to do in this world. I believe that encompasses organizing towards justice and being a voice for the oppressed and the unheard. I believe that it is our great mission as a race of humanity to serve our fellow man and put our focus into achieving a well-fare state. I know that the task is endless and bigger than any one individual but I believe that we all have a part to play. My main goal in life is figure out the part that I am best suited for and fulfilling the duties of that role to the best of my ability.

_DSC0008You’re not actually from Wisconsin, but you are originally from California. How did you find yourself in Madison?

KS: I got the Posse Foundation full-tuition scholarship to come to UW-Madison.

Not only are you gifted and talented, but you are a young, well-educated human being. Can you tell us what you are studying and/or majoring in for your Bachelors degree? What drew you to choose your field of study?

KS: Sociology was my major. I chose this, because I had a mentor who opened me up to the major. I fell in love with the pursuit of understanding the development of our world through a societal lens. I was drawn to how interdisciplinary sociology is. You will learn about the law, history, the economy, politics, and so much more. I graduated back in May.

Does Sociology have a part in your influence to make music?

KS: Most definitely. It gives me perspective. If there is one thing that I have learned it is that we are social creatures, and that people are generally a product of their social environment and upbringing. I try to equip a broader lens of understanding of this in my music.

_DSC0250In December, you dropped your first mix-tape album, The Audacity. I must say my top three songs on that album are “Young, Gifted & Black”, “Surrender”, and “Say Less.” What were your top three songs you enjoyed creating the most in the studio process on this album? Why?

KS: I enjoyed creating every song because they are all different and require different approaches in the creation process. But if I had to pick a top three it would be “Sing Sankofa,” “Surrender”, and “Go Down.”

“Sing Sankofa” was the first song I recorded for the tape, so it was exciting to jump into it with full intensity. I got to work with the brother, Lucien Parker, at Strange Oasis Entertainment. Lucien is cold with the audio setup and the vocal production.

“Surrender” was an interesting recording process, because we incorporated live instruments. I was literally rapping the track to the beat while the homie, Mandell, went to work with the saxophone. Then, later on, we brought in the home girl, Jada, to hit a violin outro. So overall, music collaborative process was just powerful in “Surrender.”I can’t forget to mention that I was able to record the first hook with DJ Pain 1 who actually made the beat for the song.

Last, but not least, I gotta go with “Go Down”, because of the intensity of the recording process. I felt like I put my all into the spitting that song in the booth.

With all the access to many independent artists on various music platforms like Spotify, ITunes, SoundCloud, and ReverBNation, I see a transition within the music industry in itself. Do you see or feel a change with the music industry changing or reconstructing?

KS: With social media and a wave of independence it seems like music is in the hands of the people. There is no telling what’s to come. Hopefully major labels don’t get to control what we listen to in the future. Hopefully that power is transferred to the hands of the people.

Do you feel the polarization of modern politics has an influence with the transitions of the music industry? Why or why not?

KS: Not really. I think the music industry changes are because of social media, technology, and massive access to information. However, I think these same factors have shifted modern politics too.

Where do you see the music industry in five years from now? Where do you see yourself?

KS: Nothing new is under the sun. I think the music industry will still reflect a variety of perspectives and thought. However, I do think as we evolve as a society drawing nearer knowledge, purpose our music will reflect that growth. Hopefully we elevate the musical leaders in such a society. I hope to be one of those leaders.

Majority of artists out there, whether it be actors, musicians, painters, singers, or whatever, always has that one role model or influence with their pathway in life and/or artistic missions. Who has been the most significant role model in your life?

KS: My older brother Eric. He was the first in my family to go to college. He was amazing. He lived a life of service and integrity. He was also a rap artist.

If you could write a letter to your younger self in one sentence, what would it say?

KS: Don’t let anyone try to define you and always stay tight with God.

This is simply a challenge, rather than a question. Give us a random playlist with the first ten songs that come to your mind.

  1.     Jay Rock: Win
  2.     Michael Jackson: Human Nature
  3.     Outkast: Ms. Jackson
  4.     Ice Cube: Today was a Good Day
  5.     Kendrick Lamar: Mortal Man
  6.     Tupac: Changes
  7.     Lauryn Hill: Ex-Factor
  8.     Cardi B: I like it
  9.     Beyonce: Halo
  10.     Bob Marley: Get Up Stand Up

Oh, there is plenty more coming from this young individual. Currently on a light tour, just to increase his presence in the scene. K. Sankofa also has a new album in the works! Stay tuned for how the founder of #RebelGang turns up!

For now, enjoy the new single, “State of Emergency.” Make sure to just hit play right down below and check it out.

It’s. That. Simple.

Just. Push. Play.

 

Screenshot_20180609-142434~2I don’t apologize in advance if this is a long ass blog, fore things need to be said. Everybody is more focused on mental health when a public figure is found dead in their home or hotel room,  rather than when a veteran or regular civilian is taking their lives due to the lack of resources and education provided to help these individuals.

Even so, the pattern is the same. We all mourn for a week or so, and move on, while the families of these public figures continue to ask, “Why?” -OR- loved ones are stained in survivor’s guilt or guilt in general for not speaking up sooner about these individuals’ problems.

In the past week we have lost two more very successful figures, Kate Spade & Anthony Bourdain. In the past week, we’ve shared sadness as fans, but also ignorant opinions arise again for those who have passed:

“He/She had all the money in the world.”

“Why would he/she leave their families behind?”

“He/she seemed so happy, they had everything.”

etc..

etc..

When will we wake up to the fact that mental health is an actual plague? It doesn’t matter what skin color you are, what sexual orientation you prefer, what identity you go by, or probably the most segregated label, what class you fall in. Rich and poor are victims of mental health, but until we all come together about this issue, fight over who has it worse on this Earth, and end the stigma.

What bothers me more than my own personal battle with mental health, this society lacks compassion and understanding for one another. It’s selfish. That in itself, is truly depressing.

I may not have followed Kate Spade much, but Anthony Bourdain was and still a favorite of mine as a writer, traveler, and foodie. He’s the reason I became a huge fan of the Travel Channel and started with culinary first at the beginning of my blogging career. He is also one of my main inspires for traveling.

This past weekend, while I was reflecting on the news, these amazing artists also made me realize, it doesn’t matter what your passions are or what you do in this lifetime. When someone stoops so low that the only answer they see is suicide, are we even able to prevent it when most of us don’t even see it coming until it’s too late? My insight, it’s fucking scary. Especially for artists’ who are consumed or battle darkness daily.

Regardless of my revelations and questions in this blog post, I want to keep fighting and educating people on mental health. I’ve been down that road and I am pretty open about it. We all go through shit in life, but it’s how well we skill ourselves towards resilience and self-care. KNOW OUR LIMITS! KNOW OUR BOUNDARIES! KNOW OUR TRIGGERS! Most importantly, know that we are not alone in this world and that we are flares for change.

If you are feeling that low currently, I want to give you a reminder; a poem I wrote in 2011 for suicide awareness called, “Not The Answer”:

“Not The Answer” (Suicidal Awareness)

To the victims,
I wish I could show you,
The beautiful side of life,
You relentlessly walked away from.

To the silent ones,
I wish you would speak up for,
The ones suffering in strife,
Reach out to the ones feeling succumb.

Don’t just turn your heads,
It could be your own kid!
Don’t be afraid to tread,
Don’t fear the worst, hope for the best.

How can I convince you?
The ones that try to run your life,
Are not your master.

How can I convince you?
That suicide is not the only escape route,
It’s really not the answer.

There shouldn’t be secrecy,
If you need help,
Find the courage to ask.

Let this poem
be your mercy.
When you’re overwhelmed,
And remove the mask.

My friends call me brave
Very few have seen
where I’ve been,
Compared to where I am now.

My main motivation,
Is my own ambition, my own talents,
So you can show the world
your own endowments.

How can I convince you?
The ones that try to run your life,
Are not your master.

How can I convince you?
That suicide is not the only escape route,
It’s really not the answer.

This poem isn’t just directed,
To those bullied in high school,
~Or~ those who dare to be different.

I also want to make a special shout out,
To the combat veterans who struggle with PTSD,
Traumatic brain injury, or depressed
for missing a limb or a few.

I’m not trying to make it all about me,
But my whole life is far from a fantasy,
Most the things I’ve listed,
I’ve been through.

I pray you see my stories as inspirations,
To find the desire and affections,
survive Lucifer’s fire.
How can I convince you?

So, how can I relate? Why did I write this poem back in the day? As an advocate for PTSD/MST, I am not afraid to share my shit. Some people fear my story, others are inspired. My name is Heather Marie and I have chronic post-traumatic stress and attention-deficit disorder. I take Zoloft & Ritalin every day and it’s sometimes a challenge to balance the two medications. Even though I first experienced trauma at the age of four and struggled years on end with school and home, as well as, deployed to Iraq at 20 years old, I was not diagnosed until the age of 23.

The past nine years was a roller coaster, but it is starting to smooth out with the knowledge I’ve gathered over the years and the boundaries I’ve set for most people and the triggers in my life. Writing has been my main outlet with years of oppressed memories and emotions. I still have my bad days when therapy gets intense with washed up memories coming back to the forefront. I also lean on music and film to distress my symptoms and express myself. I don’t drink anymore due to my past of carelessness with alcohol and medication abuse in the past. I know what my triggers are, so I avoid them to the best of my ability. I also have alternative therapies that assist me medically.

I know I’m here for a purpose. That keeps me moving forward, never backwards. I hope we don’t just toss this subject aside until the next public figure decides it’s the only answer to escape the pain in this world. We need to end the stigma for ALL who suffer or strive with mental health.