Captured Voices Free Thoughts
by Stephen John Hartnett

Oppression and a Call to Action

by DeAnna Albright

We women are the most oppressed group on the face of the planet. In every culture, nation, and religion, we are second-class citizens. In our male-dominated society, we have had to fight the right to vote, to work, to own land, to divorce, to not be treated as the property of our fathers and husbands. Patriarchal forces have abused us since the time of Eve! We have been subordinated by men, dominated sexually, and deemed biologically inferior and suitable only for sex and reproduction.

But we have always been far more than this.

In 1968, the first Miss America pageant was held in New York City. The women’s movement was there. In fact, this was where the feminist bra burning myth began! The movement asked the fundamental question: “Can make-up mask the scars of our oppression?”

The beauty fanatics crowned a 16-year-old child Miss America, declaring that a teenager exemplified the pinnacle of beauty and womanhood in the United States. This industry created and enforced standards of beauty that are upheld to this day.

A national survey conducted by Rita Freeman, author of Body Love, asked 200 women the following question: “If you could change one thing on your body, what would it be?” Not a single woman answered “nothing.” The survey asked, “At what age do women reach the peak of their attractiveness?” The winning answer was 33 – apparently it’s all downhill from there!

Whether we want to admit it or not, women are active players in the beauty game. We lower our self-esteem, as well as that of other women, by absorbing the unattainable ideal of beauty fashioned by the beauty industry. We then compare that falsehood to our actual appearance.

So here is how I propose that we begin to solve the problem:

  1. Boycott the practice of comparison.
  2. Start a letter campaign protesting the small range of women’s sizes and shapes depicted in magazine advertisements marketed towards women.
  3. Resist the wide range of plastic surgeries, including labium plasty, otherwise known as “designer vaginas.”
  4. Raise awareness of the social and medical risks of plastic surgery. With each surgery, we bow down to the societal abuses we’ve fought against, allowing ourselves to be identified exclusively as sex objects.

And now I need to ask you to start to visualize a different you…

Picture your ideal self… Maybe you’re 20 pounds lighter with shapely hips, or 10 years younger and have a flatter stomach. Or maybe you’re big breasted with thin thighs…

Now tip that mirror over and shatter it.

See yourself instead in your every day appearance – that’s beauty.

The 56 year old career woman who speaks four different languages and closes multi-million dollar deals – that’s beauty.

The woman with a scar on her knee from partying too hard a Pride – that’s beauty.

The women who can give you laugh lines with just the thought of her – that’s beauty.

So let us start now: love your body, love your mind, and learn our histories, because women, we are so beautiful.

Looking Out From Mona’s

by Shontel Lewis

Looking out from Mona’s

Wanting more for my people

Why aren’t we able to unite?

Ignite an uproar

That will demand the attention of the world

I adore my people

How deep can we go

To reach our full potential?

Wishing community unity was a given

Not a hallucination

Or just a saying

Wondering where my place is in this dream

I need the right team

So we can be a powerful machine

Spread our wings

And achieve

The Black American dream

Give our community the means

Necessary for healing

Cultural uplifting

Erasing self-hatred

And remember that this very spot

Was the epitome of blackness

Business, expenses, parades, celebrations

A collaboration of our people

United as one to achieve

The Black American dream

How will we achieve that?

Looking out from Mona’s

I see my people hurt, confused

Lost in poverty lifestyle

Wondering as to how

I as a child

Hung out with this same crowd

Yet avoided the life of my friends

Addicted to drugs

Used like rugs

Trapped in a gang

Loss of their real name

Being called “Lil C Loc Cuz”

Looking out from Mona’s

I wonder how this family business was able to strive

When everyone suffers hard times

And Blackberries still remains in our minds

Where corners are all lined

With our youth

Decked in their true blue

Chasing the dream they have been shown

On the videos

Alone in their homes

Parents gone

Grandparents step in

But when will we step up?

My people must get up

Wake up

And no longer accept defeat

I wonder what they see

Hopefully the same conviction as me

While looking out from Mona’s

Editor’s note:Mona’s is the soul food landmark in Denver’s Five-Points neighborhood, the historical center of African American Denver. Blackberries was a local, alternative coffee shop that closed in the summer of 2010.

Violence & Loss

by Jacquelyn Bond

A life inside slowly began to die, even before taking his first breath in the world. With every beat of my heart and every blow from their hands, Death was ticking closer. I tried to curl in a tight ball and I prayed for God to keep this child and me safe. While he clung to life, still inside my womb, I began to foresee his death, and possibly my own. Questions ran deep through my mind, and in my heart I was screaming, “I’m sorry, my child, no more fight can I find!” In the end, my son did not escape death that fateful night, and even though I am alive today a part of me died with him.

To place your child into the ground knowing that you will never hold his hand or watch him play is the hardest situation a mother can face. A mother’s primal instinct is to protect her child no matter the situation, but I must tell you that there are some situations so out of our control that no matter how much we would wish to trade our lives for our children’s, it can’t be done; the power is not in our hands. This happened to me. It is my loss and my tragedy.

This is my story.

On October 10, 2009, I was nine months pregnant with my second child. I was the wife of a street hustler and drug dealer, who was also my best friend. I was five days away from my due date and was supposed to have been out of the state, in Indianapolis with my husband. Instead, I stayed home because I was having pre-labor contractions. My husband and a partner of his had quarreled a few months into my pregnancy, and there were a lot of threats in the streets between the two of them. On the night of October 10, I was home alone, just getting out of the shower, when two men broke into my townhome and proceeded to rob us. One of the men was my husband’s ex-partner and the other was an acquaintance of his. My presence startled them. They clearly hadn’t expected to find me there, assuming I had gone out of town with my husband. Because I had seen their faces and would be able to identify them, I would receive the most dreadful beating one could ever imagine. The tow of them pistol-whipped me and beat me into oblivion. I could hardly hold myself together with all the blows. Even so, my primal instinct kicked in and I did everything in my power to protect my child. I would not give in. I remember one of the guys saying, “Hey man, she isn’t going down without a fight and I am not shooting her. I’m out!” The other man kicked me in the back and I feel hard into the corner of the sink, slamming the middle of my nine months pregnant belly. I immediately felt fluid running down my legs. I clutched my stomach and all I remember from that moment was that I was on my knees praying to God to save my child and me.

The next thing I remember was being told that my child was brain dead with a severed spinal cord, and that the surgeon had almost lost me due to blood loss.

I held my child several days later. He was swathed in a powder-blue jumpsuit and wrapped in his blanket, as if he were only sleeping. For two hours, during his celebration of life ceremony, I held this innocent child who had lost his life to a vicious death. I placed my child into the casket instead of a bassinet; I put him into the ground instead of into the car to go home.

I still feel loss, I still grieve, and I still wake up clutching my stomach with silent screams. I have been through grief and loss counseling and I have sought out emotional release. And even though my child is dead, I remember that he still breathes in my soul and lives in Heaven. Somewhere, Dequarius Ke’Shawn Marques Bond is free. He is my angel, always watching over his family and me.

Having been a victim of violence and one that resulted in death, I pledge to walk out of these fences and take my place in “Stopping the Cycle of Violence.” I will find somewhere that I can volunteer, speaking to, and maybe even counseling, youth at risk, gang bangers in juvenile halls, or kids in group homes. I will enlighten them on recognizing the needless violence behind the “dope game” and the “street life.” They are too someone’s child, once innocent in the womb. The fact remains that we are guaranteed only one thing after life is created, that is death, so let it be timely and arrive only after much living. Don’t let it happen from needless violence done to someone you love, or to yourself.

So please, take a stand with me against violence by helping to promote peace and understanding.

My Beautiful Child

by Laura Martinez

I can’t be there

Because of choices I made

I knew they would hurt you

But couldn’t stop

Because of my addiction

The only thing I can ask you

Is to please learn from my mistakes

Make the right choices

And surround yourself

With caring, positive people

I’m not made at you

I’m mad at myself

I will always love you

My beautiful child

I Have to Love Myself

by April Murphy

Hope was gone

Only faith was left

For the love I needed

Was lost doing meth

Now I’ve had four years in prison

To contemplate life

And have learned

That love I want

Won’t come without a fight

Now I know

The love I need

Has to start with me

I have to love myself