The following is an open letter to 2016 from our potentially deranged Managing Editor, Robert Mateo Keegan Burbano. Read at your own risk.
An Open Letter to 2016
Robert Mateo Keegan Burbano
31 January 2016
I think we can agree that 2016 has been a huge motherfucker of a year. And I’m not just referring to the giant tire fire waiting stage left. I don’t know about the rest of you, but 2016 has been relentlessly stomping on my genitals. Some examples: One morning, I’m already annoyed at having to be up so early on a Saturday to go teach at 9 AM, and I go to open my car door and the outside handle just comes off right in my hand. It fucking comes off. And I’m just standing there, dumbstruck, staring at it in denial. Like, wait, this is a thing that can happen? This actually happens to people? Or does it just happen to me? So, now I volunteer to give people rides so I can have someone open the car door from the inside.
Fuck you, 2016. This year was the first year in about a decade that my mother went back to Spain to visit our family there. She’d put it off for years because she was worried about my dad’s health and that something would happen. So, she finally plans this two-week trip, and I agree to stay at my parents’ house to watch over my father. She flies out and I get back late after teaching a night class. I open the door and something immediately feels off. The lights are on, the dogs are loose, the TV is on. In theory, everything is normal. I creep into the living room, and I start to notice these latex gloves, and ripped open plastic bags, and facemasks on the floor. I pick them up, not thinking much of it because if my father drops something, it’s staying on the floor until someone else picks it up. But then I notice there’s a ridiculous amount of gloves and facemasks lying around, and no father-type person in his father-shaped indentation on the couch. Panic sinks in and I search every room in the house a dozen times, I search the backyard, the front yard, and the garage. Every closet and bathroom. I’m on the phone for an hour and a half, talking to multiple police departments and ambulance services before I figure out that he called himself an ambulance and is at Banner hospital. How hard would it have been for them to leave a note? Something simple, like, “hey, we took your person.”
Fuck you, 2016. We need to all collectively break-up with 2016. Tell it we’re ready to start seeing other years. 2016 has been like living with the most abusive partner or roommate. I’ll be in the kitchen, bent in front of the open fridge, digging through the crisper drawer, trying to make myself a sandwich. 2016 will lumber in. Rub itself to completion against my bent ass, and then ask me to make it a sandwich. It’ll even have the balls to ask me to put Miracle Whip on the bread, and as I struggle to open the jar I bought three years ago, it’ll tell me, “You should lift more, dude-bro.”
Fuck you, 2016. You’ve been a real shitty partner. Romantically, this year has been like one of those meet-cute rom-coms, but just with the meeting, and then the unfortunate misunderstanding that leads to conflict, and zero of the cute. The prospects of finding a significant, long-term relationship seem to keep dropping exponentially. Maybe, it’s that women in my age group who are still single are psychologically incapable of being in a long-term relationship. Maybe I’ve subconsciously decided that I’m not built for long-term relationships, but my subconscious is too much of an ass to actually clue me into this useful factoid. Whatever the reason, the highlight of my 2016 dating career was getting to check ‘being stalked’ off my life goals list.
Fuck you, 2016. A month back, I decide I am done, this year, trying to get anything going romantically. Make a vow of celibacy, shave one of those cool helicopter-pad bald spots in the back of my head, old-skool monk-style. If man buns are cool, I figure tonsure is making a comeback. Plus, the bald spot gives pigeons full access to crap all over me. I am all set for some intense self-reflection, but then I meet someone. We’ve been on a couple of dates and things seem to be going well. Doesn’t seem like she has any outstanding DUI or domestic violence charges, #lowbar. We’ll see. 2016 has been a huge motherfucker, but maybe there’s a small victory to salvage out of the dumpster fire. With 2017 waiting in the wings, in its full-toupeed, orange skinned, drooling majesty, maybe all we have left is the connections we make with others. At least, before the world goes up in atomic hellfire. Happy fucking New Years’, everybody!
SlashnBurn’s Spooktacular 2016 US Election Coverage
28 October 2016
Welcome to SlashnBurn’s special, 2016 election opinion feature because, we know if there’s one thing you haven’t read or heard enough about, it’s the 2016 United States’ election.
As I’ve written in previous editorial columns for the site, while SlashnBurn was founded with a specific political intent, I did not expect the site to become directly involved with commenting on current political realities. Unfortunately, events occurred in the real world that I felt could not pass by without comment, criticism, and/or vocalized grief. The 2016 election, in particular, the presidential race, is one of those events.
I’m not going to comment on the race, directly. If you personally know me, then you know who I support. SlashnBurn has a diverse staff, with diverse views and voices. I wouldn’t dare to try to speak for the site or for the rest of the staff. Instead, we’ve asked a number of writers and artists to contribute pieces about the 2016 US election. Please enjoy their work. Reflect on their words and views before reacting and, if any of our contributors have offended you, good. You probably need some offending.
Robert Mateo Keegan Burbano
SlashnBurn founder and managing editor
Our first opinion piece is from Nicole Walker. Nicole Walker is the author of five books: Canning Peaches for the Apocalypse, Egg, Micrograms, Quench Your Thirst with Salt, and This Noisy Egg. She also edited Bending Genre with Margot Singer. She’s nonfiction editor at Diagram and Associate Professor at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona where it rains like the Pacific Northwest, but only in July.
My Blind Spot(s)
Max and I were reading Mary Pope Osborne’s The Hour of the Olympics from her Magic Tree House series. In this episode, Jack and Annie are transported back to the Ancient Greece where they meet Plato and watch the Olympics. Well, Jack and Plato watch the Olympics. Annie, who is a girl, is forced to stay behind with the women. Women aren’t allowed at the performances of Greek plays or in the stands to watch marathoners.
I get it that history had been written by men and men underscored their accomplishments as the main players, but it wasn’t until it was dramatized and illustrated in the Magic Tree House that I realized how deeply women were not a part of the fabric of western civilization. If you can’t see a Greek play, how can you write one?
I went to Reed College which required some deep reading of books from Ancient Greece. We began with The Iliad, which we were to read over the summer before our Freshman year. Then, The Odyssey. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Plato’s Republic. Aristotle’s Poetics. Hesiod, Herodotus, Thucydides. We read Sappho. Clytemnestra was a hero. Antigone, we empathized with. Jocasta, we understood. Virgil’s Dido echoed Homer’s Calypso and Penelope waited for Odysseus, weaving and unweaving her tapestry until he came home. There were women inside the books, but, except for Sappho, not outside of the books. Not writing the books. Not even reading the books.
It’s a blind spot I have. I was raised by progressive parents who really didn’t think there was anything girls couldn’t do as well. Dad took us skiing. Mom took us to soccer and baseball. We did math at home for fun. If my dad would have preferred sons to daughters, he never said so aloud. I already told you about my obnoxious shirt that read, “Anything Boys Can Do, Girls Can Do Better.”
When I was a junior in high school honors chemistry, Mr. Vanderhooft (Picture Crispin Glover) asked me to please consider taking AP Chemistry. I was good at significant figure calculations. I loved the idea of quantum chemistry. I loved chemistry and I loved Mr. Vanderhooft’s teaching. But I also loved the literary magazine. I wanted to take humanities with Becky Lees. I told Mr. Vanderhooft that I thought I should take honors physics instead because I wanted a “well-rounded” science background.
The truth was, few girls were taking AP Chemistry. None of my friends were. My boyfriend had barely graduated from high school (Did he graduate? Maybe not.) I didn’t see a path for my future by taking AP Chemistry and so I didn’t take it.
At Reed College, two of my best friends were chemists. They were both boys. How I could sit and listen to them talk about inorganic chemistry until four in the morning. They were good writers too. Perhaps if I had known better that William Carlos Williams had been a doctor, I would have known I could do science and writing too. But if I had seen a woman scientist being a woman writer, well, maybe I could have seen a clearer path.
I was talking about leadership with my kids the other day. People aren’t necessarily leaders, at least not all the time, which was why I have loved watching Hillary Clinton lead—all of the time. Being the first is a lonely gig. It must be impossible, up there on the national stage while everyone judges her smile, her voice, her pantsuits, her wrinkles, her hairstyle. Does she look smug? Does she sound too polished?
I have blind spots about gender on purpose. I would like to think I have free will, that I made choices because I loved writing more than I loved chemistry, that I loved my friends over Mr. Vanderhooft, that I liked hanging out with my boyfriend more than I liked doing chemistry homework. But this election is forcing me to shine a light on those blind spots. There are things I didn’t do because the path was invisible.
It would have been hard to have taken AP Chemistry—not because chemistry was hard but because it would have been weird. One thing I have tried to do since then, and that I try to teach my children, is to be the weird one. Weird makes change. It will be weird to have a woman president. It took me a long time to figure out that weird is good.
Nicole Walker’s piece is a part of a regular series of letters she writes entitled “Dear Governor Ducey,” addressed to the current governor of Arizona. To read more from this series, check out her website, http://nikwalk.blogspot.com/
The next opinion piece is from Sam Rapine. Sam Rapine is a firefighter/EMT, runner, and traveler who writes when nothing is on fire and nobody’s bleeding. Check out his work as Sam Rapine on MatadorNetwork, and as Owen Rapine on Flash Fiction Magazine and Everyday Fiction, and follow him @RiotousRapine!
A Plea to Not Vote Intelligently
With the election circling above the American populace like a vulture stalking a starving desert wanderer, I feel that the time has come for a plea, a call-to-arms in the name of civic duty.
In light of our choice between an orange avatar of bigotry, The Aggregate American Politician, and two astonishingly misinformed independents, I recognize that I’ve got precious little to work with here. Specifics on economic plans have been laughably vague. There have been enough lies, subterfuge, and corruption to make the IOC look like Girl Scouts.
Three of the four candidates collectively might know enough about foreign policy to win a game of Risk, but only if their opponent were piss-drunk and possibly under the impression that they were playing Yahtzee. The fourth would, in this game of Risk, almost certainly pile on cannons and cavalry to bolster her defense of Australia after said opponent passed out, which, while encouraging for winning the continent bonus, brings us back to that integrity issue.
Nevertheless, at this stage in the game I know you’re already pretty set on who’s getting your vote, and whether or not I agree with you, I’m not going to waste your time proselytizing any further. The people I’m looking to reach here are the ones who have opted to sit this election out as a show of disgust at our paucity of legitimate candidates. I’ve spoken with a number of reasonably intelligent people who have told me in no uncertain terms that on the eighth of this November they plan to put their feet up, crack a beer, and make some popcorn to watch the free world tumble off the edge of a cliff.
I feel you, hypothetical friend. I really do. And I can’t fault you all that much. I respect what you’re looking to say–that given the choice between hemlock and the noose, you’re not going to give ’em the satisfaction of accepting the sentence. It’s a statement in the spirit of great thinkers from Thoreau to Social Distortion, and at this point, if I can’t bring myself to agree with it, I certainly can’t argue with what brought you there. Over the past year the Idiocracy references have all but made themselves.
I only ask that you revise your stratagem by a smidge: instead of not voting, please go to the polling station and select the “blank ballot” option.
It might seem trifling, but consider the difference: with the latter, you’re letting the establishment know that you are an informed, voting citizen and you’re not amused by this bullshit; with the former, all you’re doing is adding to the depressing percentage of people who didn’t vote. It’s like giving somebody the finger while wearing mittens: you might pour all the rage you’ve got into that upraised digit, but all they see is the oddly-angled back of your hand.
So that’s what I’ve got. In the fifty-eighth round of what is perhaps our greatest exercise of civic responsibility and democratic efficacy, our shining torch against the dark horrors of fascism and rule by force, all I ask is that you intelligently tell your government to shove it. It’s a reflection on the sad state of affairs that I cannot in good conscience urge a candidate to back; only that if you’re not going to vote, that you at least not vote in a way that matters.
The next piece is from Gabriel Matthew Granillo. Gabriel Matthew Granillo is pursuing a B.S. in Journalism at Northern Arizona University. In 2015, he graduated with an A.A.S. in Audio Production Technologies from Scottsdale Community College. His fiction and poetry has been published in both print and online journals including Vortex and Postcard Poems and Prose. He currently lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Bernie Sanders, the Aging Piano Man
Before entering the Prochnow Auditorium in Flagstaff, Arizona, a young man with a grisly beard and dark glasses handed me a yellow piece of paper. When I turned it around, I saw a photograph of Beyoncé Knowles with the text: Beyoncé is a democrat. Are you?
It was a difficult task dodging bullshit flyers and voter registrations and strange men with buttons and stickers, and I thought of Captain Rex Kramer in Airplane!, understanding that, although throwing punches and flipping people over my shoulder was a simple solution to this problem, it would more than likely lead to my arrest. Finally, after nudging and shoving my way around, I found a seat near the North East corner of the auditorium.
The stage was lit like an interrogation room flanked by two flags: the good old stars and stripes and the Arizona state flag, a star bursting with red and orange rays. In the middle, just beyond the podium was a Clinton/Kaine poster, and pretty soon, the once presidential hopeful, Vermont senator, and grumpy old man, Bernie Sanders, would be encouraging the public to get out and vote for Hilary Clinton.
A woman approached the podium and set a clear glass of water atop a stool. As she made her way back through the curtains, the crowd of mostly Northern Arizona University students erupted with adulation and delight, and from across the isle, someone took a photo and gave it the hashtag, Bernie’s water.
It’s rare to drive around our small city without spotting a Bernie 2016 campaign bumper sticker peeling off of the side of someone’s Subaru Outback, like a sad sticker for an honor roll student who ended up becoming a cashier at Wal-Mart. Despite his victory here in Coconino County, with 53 percent of the vote, Sanders lost the Arizona Primary Election, garnering only 41 percent of the vote, compared to Clinton with 57 percent. And, now that Clinton is the official Democratic Party nominee, Sanders is out campaigning for her, attempting to convince young voters that she isn’t as bad as he once convinced them she was.
Sanders eventually took to the stage, hobbling toward the podium like it was the adult table for Thanksgiving dinner. I was excited, though. As with many other smiling, naïve students, this was my first political event and it was for someone whom I actually admired. But the whole event felt like what I imagine going to a Billy Joel concert now feels like. Bernie Sanders, the aging piano man, playing his hits and getting the crowd to sing along, “the top one percent need to pay their fair share” and “free tuition” and “free healthcare.” It felt like church, like mindless adoration for intangible ideas: recite the words, give us your money, and go home.
Exciting things did happen. A man from Infowars hosted by Alex Jones, interrupted Sanders’ speech by ripping open his button-up shirt and boasting a t-shirt that had the word rape underneath a photograph of Bill Clinton, much in the same vein as Barrack Obama’s hope illustration. Security escorted the man out with haste and it failed to put a skip in Sanders’ stride, but I wondered which claims were more ridiculous: free college tuition or that Bill Clinton is actually an asshole.
As he spoke, a moth circled around Sanders’ podium like the infamous Bernie bird, and it was evident that Mr. Sanders himself no longer felt the bern. After a few minutes of kissing babies and signing ticket stubs, Sanders waved his wrinkled fingers goodbye and drove away and, almost as if God had planned it himself, a silver truck drove past the auditorium, waving a flag that read Make America Great Again. Sure it was Flagstaff, Arizona, but it was still Arizona.
The following film, “2016!” is from independent director, Winter Kane. The film was completed in those halcyon days when the United States election was still in the primary cycle, when democrats argued between idealism and pragmatism, and most of us joked there was no way a reality star could become presidential nominee for a major party. Ah, those were the days.
Winter Kane is a visual artist focusing on cinematography and directing. She grew up immersed in musicals, classic films, John Hughes’ flicks and 90’s gold. Realizing she spent more time watching behind-the-scenes footage than the films themselves, Winter decided to step behind the camera. In her six years as a filmmaker, she has made dozens of short films, worked on web and TV series, music videos, has been cinematographer for two feature films Road Trip (2013) and Overwatch (2015), and was content director for Eyes Upon Waking (2017). She dreams of one day filming a soap opera on Mars. Just kidding. That sounds terrible. — https://www.facebook.com/winter.kane, winterkane.com.
The next piece is written by Chris Stamos. Chris Stamos is the former COO of and Director of Corporate Philanthropy at Sterling Stamos Capital Management (now Stamos Capital Management), and a copy writer at Saatchi and Saatchi, Taiwan. He studied philosophy, politics, and international relations at Stanford, Oxford, and the International University of Japan, and Mandarin and Chinese philosophy at Wenhua University in Beijing and Taiwan National University.
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” No you won’t because the stars are a lot further away. If you shoot for the moon and you miss, you will drift in space. You won’t even make the next planet, and even if you did “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids.” (lyrics from the song “Rocket Man”, by Elton John). “Shoot for the stars and you might land on the moon” makes a lot more sense. What makes the most sense is to spend the time doing your homework so that you can shoot for the moon and land on the moon. But that takes time and patience. As a country, we are young and impatient. And illogical.
I think the ‘protest voters’ are shooting for the moon when we need to just make sure Trump doesn’t get elected. In short, it is time to keep our feet on ‘terra firma’. If not, America under Trump is also going to be the wrong place to raise your kids. And you really haven’t done your homework when it comes to Jill Stein or Gary Johnson because if you did you would realize that neither is qualified to be POTUS.
We shot for the moon with Bernie and they moved the moon. Now it is time for Plan B: stop Trump. America is illogical enough already. When it is obvious that minorities are the victim of racism, police brutality, and injustice, white Americans reply with “all lives matter”. Of course all lives matter — we are just doing a terrible job at applying that concept to minorities. We are told that “all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” but for most of our history we have had to convince Americans that this belief doesn’t sit well with slavery, and that it applies to minorities, to women, and to gay people and that if you don’t have basic healthcare, or are born into poverty your so-called ‘right to the pursuit of happiness’ is not a right at all and in fact a privilege of the wealthy. Pretty soon access to clean air and water will also be a privilege. Ask the protestors at Standing Rock or the citizens of Flint.
The battle to explain to Americans what our constitution and our Bill of Rights really mean rages on to this day. We are the flat Earthers, the church holding back science and the same people that locked up Galileo for telling us that we aren’t the center of the universe. Sorry Americans, we still are not the center of the universe.
Note: If you are a fundamentalist and a Trump supporter, then please do shoot for the moon and use the Bible and your unique sense of logic to calculate how to get there. Just bring a juice box because “I think it’s gonna be a long, long time.” There’s another line in that song that says, “I am not the man they think I am at all… I’m a rocket man!” I will let the business, military, and economic experts, and all former US Presidents, a long list of Republican politicians and smarter people than me tell you why Mr. Trump is no business man, no Commander-in-Chief, and NOT what is right for our economy. And am smart enough to know that he is no “rocket man”. More like a ‘racket’ man, selling you something you don’t need for a problem that doesn’t exist.
Our final piece is Zaira Livier. Zaira Livier is currently the Regional Director in Southern Arizona for Prop 206. She began her organizing and advocacy career as the founder of Latinas for Bernie Sanders. Zaira is founder and current President of Progressive Minds of America at the University of Arizona where she majors in neuroscience with a minor in philosophy of mind. Zaira has also recently been elected president of Progressive Democrats of Southern Arizona (PDoSA) a club aimed at propagating Bernie’s progressive platform within the Democratic Party.
Dear fellow, pissed-off Bernie Sanders supporters,
Listen, I know you’re mad. I am too.
If we all got a dollar for every time a new leaked email correctly proved our suspicions of DNC corruption, we’d each have our 27 dollar contributions back, times three.
This corruption was, in large part, responsible for the swift and irrevocable killing of a Sanders presidency. This is no longer a theory of conspiracy. This is a documented fact.
Our rage is justified. We deserve vindication. Goddamn it, someone should have to pay.
I get that.
So where do we go from here?
To begin, I’d like to say please, everyone, take a massive dose of chill. We have become a drowning echo chamber of self-pitying victims on social media, and elsewhere, who cannot seem to move past this point. Every new email is the same as the last: They did not play fair. They’re terrible. Okay, I get it.
Now, let’s start looking to the future and stop dwelling on the past. Stop being so reactionary. Bernie Sanders didn’t sell out; he just isn’t as self-centered as you are.
We are in a constant state of finger pointing. And while we continue with this witch-hunt, our political revolution is stalling. Let’s start looking beyond the now.
This is the system we have. It is not ideal. I understand.
Some of us will hesitantly give Hillary our vote, while some of us would rather burst into flames before doing so. And then there are those of us who are voting third party. The choice is yours and you have the right to cast your vote as you see fit. I am not here to tell you who to vote for but, it is incredibly important to start getting involved in down ballot elections.
How can we move our political revolution forward this November 8th?
Voting down ballot might be the answer. The progressive candidates and the progressive propositions are out there, we just haven’t been paying attention. This isn’t an all or nothing movement. Change takes time and it takes a lot of effort.
If the political revolution is to move forward then change should be our end game. So pick up your pride, wipe off your liberal tears, and get to work.
Vote down ballot.
An Editorial and Creative Response to the Issue of Police Misuse of Force in the US and the Targeting of African Americans
27 July 2016
Robert Mateo Keegan Burbano, managing editor.
When I started SlashnBurn, I did it because, after years of working on other journals, I wanted to work for myself and felt there was a space for a particular aesthetic that many literary and arts journals avoided. A space where all arts and culture, from highbrow to lowbrow, could coexist. While SlashnBurn does have an anti-establishment stance, I didn’t necessarily see the journal as a vehicle for political activism. Then Orlando happened. Then terrorist attacks in the middle east took the lives of hundreds. Then two African-American men were gunned down by police.
Last I looked, the Washington Post reported that one hundred and twenty-three African Americans were killed in 2016. According to the Post’s “Fatal Force” counter, five hundred and forty-four people have been killed by police officers in the United States. The list of horror continues: Police officers were attacked and killed in Dallas and Baton Rouge. Then a madman drove a refrigerated truck through crowds of innocents celebrating Bastille Day on a promenade in Nice, France. Multiple attacks occurred in Germany, and on, and on, and on. Every morning, the CNN app on my phone notifies me of some new atrocity. In the face of all the hate and death, to remain silent would be condoning these acts. We have a platform here, with SlashnBurn, to respond and speak out against these atrocities.
In early July, I attended a #blacklivesmatter vigil held at Armory Park in Tucson, Arizona. It was a hot day. At a rough estimate, a couple hundred of people attended to show their support. There were a number of speakers throughout the evening, all arguing for peaceful change. Most of the speakers emphasized the need to take action, to create change, and they were hopeful that this change was possible.
University of Arizona student speaks at Tucson #blacklivesmatters vigil.
The tension in the vigil’s crowd was broken by the dragonflies and the fig-eater beetles dive bombing people and the random squeals of fear and surprise ringing out, followed by laughter of embarrassment. While the crowd had gathered in response to the killings of two black men by police, and the many other black men, women, and children killed by police in this year alone, the bugs’ intrusion had allowed a space for lightness and hope amidst the anger and grief.
Tucson #blacklivesmatters vigil attendees.
A friend, Najima, spoke about being the mother of a young son. She spoke about, when he was young, everyone loved him. Everyone complimented him on his black curls. She asked, when did her beautiful, black son, become a threat? She pleaded with the crowd to remember, when they saw a group of black men, that each of those men were someone’s son.
Police monitor vigil at a distance, and vigil attendee with #blacklivesmatter sign.
As the day darkened, the vigil became a peaceful march. We wound our way down the major streets of Tucson’s downtown. Chants of, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” began. Police, a constant presence at the vigil, facilitated the march by blocking off traffic. Where #blacklivesmatters marches and protests in other cities had led to clashes between protestors and the police, the vigil and march in Tucson was peaceful, and neither the marchers and police did anything to provoke each other. As we marched through downtown, chanting, those who were out enjoying a Saturday night downtown, paused and watched. Some joined their own voices with the marchers in solidarity. Many took photos or shot video on their smart phones. Others seemed perplexed and even angered as the march interrupted their fancy dinners.
The march ended back where the vigil started, in Armory Park. The vigil ended in a drum circle and the final speaker urged everyone to enact change on the local level, by electing out politicians and city officials who were part of a racist and oppressive system. One march, one vigil, one protest, will not change the issues of systematic racism that plague our American justice system but, with each voice that’s raised, every demanded “enough, is enough,” it will be harder for those in authority to ignore us. We can’t let these deaths be brushed aside by the constantly shifting new-cycle. Change will require focus and perseverance.
Following are editorial and creative responses from the SlashnBurn staff to the recent police killings of black men. First up is a powerful poem from Khara House, “115,” speaking to the rage, sorrow, and despairing hope that is near impossible to hold onto given the staggering number of black lives taken by police in this year alone. Next is an essay from Case Duckworth, who lives in Baton Rouge and has seen some of the most heated clashes between #blacklivesmatter advocates and police. He writes about navigating what his role is as a white, cisgendered man when confronted by the oppression and the assaults on, minority groups. Following that is a response from fiction editor, Emily Hoover. Finally, from staff reader Kayin Johnson, comes a response and a poem about how, being a woman of color who can pass as white, she holds those who claim to be allies to minorities to a certain standard.
I’d like to thank the staff for the incredible work they put into this editorial. As every new story of terrorism, hate, injustice, misogyny, and prejudice comes to light, it becomes clear that it’s impossible to keep pace with horror.
SlashnBurn is an all-volunteer operation. This is where you come in, dear reader. Submit to SlashnBurn essays and creative responses to topics that impact you and your communities. If there’s a feature or topic you’d like to work on, and need help, feel free to contact us and we can work with you to complete your project. It might be a banal platitude to say this but, we at SlashnBurn, genuinely believe in the power of words and art to change the world.
Khara House, poetry editor.
The rule, my son,
is to keep thy hands up
and for godssake
my spirit to the
One of these
it won’t be
You will look for me—
but I’m already gone.
Maybe I will rise up
Maybe I will go down
And lord—if I die
let my life be more
Let my legacy
Save the hashtags
The year is 1865.
The year is 1955.
The year is 1990.
The year is 2003.
The year is 2015.
The line is “Still breathing.”
The line is “Still trying.”
The line is “Still aching.”
The line is “Still dying.”
we are magic—
does not mean
we are not also …”
Reeling—trusting there’s a lifeline
to hold on to.
Caught on the hook
praying for an end
to the tide.
All I have are words.
Buzzing like bees, running like water,
piercing like knives,
heavy as the weight of Atlas.
Where are you, oh mighty ancient,
when the world
rolls heavy and southward
and pins us
to thy mighty spine?
Please don’t tell me
how to save my own life
when the radio sign is Double Oh Seven.
The streets have a license to kill—
and all I have is a black card.
Take a moment—
a moment to breathe deep the last breath of
male, black, sitting on a swing—
impossibly young when two shots
ripped youth at the seams,
rattling, baby breaths. And silence.
In time, child, you, too
can be forgotten, etched memory in
earth beneath which you once dared to run.
What were the magic words
that taught our people to fly?
Where is the spell
that will keep us alive?
I don’t think I can go on—my tongue
too thick with words unspoken,
a pain too deep and heavy to bear
in the space between breath
and the anchor of teeth
that would rather shatter than speak
one more time enough
is enough …
And my insides are hollow.
I fill the space of my womb
with the dreams of kings
and the hope
that someday we shall overcome.
What will be the afterbirth
of another tomorrow?
When we fear the night’s darkness, we turn on a light.
See, we shudder the dark, but don’t tell it to die.
We cherish the stars, yes, in spite of the sky.
There’s peace in the night—we don’t tell it to die.
There must be a reason.
There must be a reason?
This reaching ever for a why
is as barren as strange fruit
dangling from the vine for any hand to pluck
but before it hits the ground we ask it—
Mother Emmanuel—I almost forgot your cries.
The river of pain flowing in yellow lines
from iron posts that hold your upright frame.
spinning fragments of God
You wrap your arms around the living—
you who mad men made a grave.
There is nothing to fear but fear itself.
And what fear can do.
And that fear is the obsidian spider.
And that fear is the hand
that sweeps it down
and stomps it out.
And that fear is the hammer
and the stop
and the bullet
and the blood.
And there is nothing to fear—
but fear, itself,
and what fear can do.
America, oh child of the new world, you kiss
with iron and steel. You never heed
your mother’s warnings.
To look both ways
before you cross that road.
To kill with kindness—
no, with kindness—
no, with kindness.
Maybe pain won’t conquer.
Maybe we can use our hands
to make the world beautiful again.
Maybe hate won’t win.
Maybe we can make us,
all, beautiful again.
Son—we cut you from the evening sky
and dotted your dreams with stars.
We forget the darkness in you—
we forgive the darkness in you.
We watch you laugh and scream with joyous fists
against your ancient home and wonder
where the world will spin you
—maybe to the grave.
We hold you up in twilighting shadows
praying even the moon rays
don’t pierce you like the forked tongue
of modern justice.
We pray you never fall
blood for blood.
We pray you—
blood for blood.
I hear sirens singing Emily Dickinson—
because I could not stop for Death …
hear the roar of a world I tremble to touch,
to tough, to toast: To walk. To death.
To breathe. To death.
To kneel. To death.
To reach. To death.
I hear sirens singing
—He knew no haste …
Daughter—I carry you in my mouth
with the names of every sister whose name
goes unspoken when the day is done.
I give you all the names there have ever been,
secreting only one for myself,
and that is my own, and that you take with you.
My every breath, your every breath—
and forgive me when I don’t hold back,
clench my jaw to keep you safe,
not sambic with the melody of death
that breathes its own cadence
to the rhythm you dance upon my vocal chords.
I speak you every moment every breath
into being, and leave you
every breath every moment
at death’s door.
Black is a magic
that cannot be qualified.
To hash, to hold,
to rise in the wake of another wake …
One of these mornings—it won’t be very long
Magic spread deep
from a home of darkened hips,
the hyssop of our Mother’s womb.
To hinge, to hope
—you will look for me—
spread wings of corvus
over and over
in dreams we ache to real,
to peel back this sorcerous skin,
and I’ll be gone.
Emily Hoover, fiction editor.
After what happened in Dallas, I vowed to quit Facebook for a week. Yes, it was for selfish reasons: I simply couldn’t handle the bullshit. I was tired of seeing the #BlueLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter hashtags slapped onto memes of police officers at their best when it is clear that there is injustice going on, systemically. Of course, I am sorry for ALL the lives lost in Dallas (blue lives as well as the lives of protestors); of course, I do not align with the shooter(s) who were moved by frustration and hate; of course, I believe all lives are special and all folks deserve the right to live. But #BlackLivesMatter. They just do. And I’m tired of seeing these other hashtags being used as a way to dissolve the movement. This divisive tactic, whether inadvertent or intentional, reinforces the idea that black lives DO NOT matter to most Americans. 126 black lives have been taken by police in 2016 alone, according to The Washington Post, so it is clear that black lives DO NOT matter to the police. A movement should emerge, and it should make people in power uncomfortable. After thinking about this for a while, I realized I was wrong in exiting Facebook for the week, in exhibiting intolerance for opinions not like my own. I realized in being silent, I was being neutral. And I don’t think I can forgive myself for that. So, I say it again: #BlackLivesMatter. Trayvon Martin’s life matters, Michael Brown’s life matters, Tamir Rice’s life matters, Freddie Gray’s life matters, Sandra Bland’s life matters, and, of course, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile’s lives matter. I will #SayTheirNames because it matters. The unnamed–their lives matter, too. Their lives matter to me, they should matter to you, and they should matter to the police, who risk their lives daily. Police have killed, in total, 574 people as of July 7, 2016, according to The Guardian. I don’t want to get into the specifics of their deaths–that’s not relevant here. Instead, let that number sink in. Instead of calling for some kind of manufactured equality with hashtags like #BlueLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter, hold the system accountable. We cannot allow them to shoot first and ask questions later. We cannot continue to pay for their stun gun training if they are not going to use them responsibly, as a precursor to deadly force. We cannot allow them to make excuses for their fear and their poor training. We cannot allow this institutionalized racism and authoritarianism to govern us any longer.
Case Duckworth, poetry editor.
DISCLAIMER: This essay is about race. I am a white cisgender man. I understand that I am, like all of us are, trapped inside my body, though as a white cisgender man I am afforded the privilege of speaking only for myself, and that I haven’t felt, and cannot feel, the walls of my body as thoroughly as women, people of color, and LGBTQ individuals — society affords me the privilege of pretending to step outside of myself. That is one reason I’ve been silent on social justice issues until now — but when, within the space of two weeks, fifty people in Orlando, one person in Baton Rouge, one person in St. Paul, and five people in Dallas are killed simply for who they are, it’s enough silence. I do not write this essay for gold stars , though I understand I cannot control how it is received. I accept all judgments on this text. I write to add my small voice to the chorus of those chanting, “Enough.” Hopefully, soon our chant will be loud enough.
I moved to Baton Rouge a year ago this month. It’s the most visibly segregated city I’ve lived in. This morning, I heard Baton Rouge described on the radio  as “a tale of two cities:” mostly-black North Baton Rouge and overwhelmingly-white South Baton Rouge. I live sort of in the middle, just south of Downtown. When I drive around town, I pass through black neighborhoods and white neighborhoods, and the lines between the two are pretty clear. It’s also clear that this ad-hoc segregation isn’t equal: in Baton Rouge, “bad” neighborhood is a synonym for “black.”
I have a feeling the situation in Baton Rouge isn’t unique, and I know it isn’t new. De facto segregation resulting from white flight is a phenomenon that has played out in cities across post Jim Crow America. I also know that police murders of black people, especially black men, is nothing new — before Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, before Freddie Gray, before Sandra Bland, before Michael Brown, and around and during these killings, police have been killing a disproportionate amount of black people who didn’t have a witness to their lives and deaths. I’m ashamed, and I think we all should be ashamed, that we as a society have been blind to these murders, of if not blind, largely silent. But with Alton Sterling’s death, I’ve had enough. My eyes have been opened, and I cannot be silent anymore.
People who’ve had their eyes and mouths open for longer than me are working hard to stop police brutality. Last week, I attended a protest organized by Wave, a group of Baton Rouge youth activists who are tired of growing up in fear of law enforcement . We walked from a church down the street from my house to the Louisiana capitol building, where leaders of the youth movement spoke and recited poems. I went home pretty soon after we got back to the church, so I wasn’t there for the headlined police standoff and arrests. But I do know that the march was peaceful, and that no one, to the best of my knowledge, did anything illegal. When we got back to the church, and some people were close to the street, a woman came by asking us to get out of the street for the children’s sake. Everyone did — no one wanted to escalate the situation.
Except for, apparently, the police — who were in full riot gear and with armored trucks parked on the side of the road. They escalated the situation and began making arrests. I don’t want to paint anything with too broad a brush — police officers do have an incredibly hard and dangerous job, and society needs them to function — but I think Baton Rouge Sunday evening illustrates the problem we have as a nation. Too often, the police see the communities they’re supposed to protect as the enemy in a domestic war. It’s apparent in the equipment they have and the tactics they use. This needs to change.
To that end, the Wave March for Justice speakers at the protest rally closed with five demands for the police force in Baton Rouge:
- We demand sentencing equality. We believe all people should receive the same punishment for committing the same crimes.
- We demand a statewide police registry. The state police force should make detailed records of police officers readily available.
- We demand a community developed police code of conduct. We believe the police force should adopt the code of conduct developed by the people.
- We demand that all police officers who use excessive force resulting in death be indicted, convicted, and sentenced.
- We demand that all police officers undertake a pre-employment ethics test. During employment they undergo a semi-annual ethics training.
As I’m writing this essay, three police officers (so far) have been killed in a shooting in Baton Rouge, and others are wounded. We don’t know anything right now, except that this has to stop. I’m writing my lawmakers today to tell them I’ve become a two-issue voter: police reform and firearm reform. I have a lot of other problems with the country right now, but they have to wait. The problem here is that it took something happening in my back yard, in my city, for me to say, finally, “Enough.” I worry that it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. I worry that it’s going to take a low-key war in every city before we’ve all had enough. Don’t let it take that long. Take action now: write your lawmakers. Demonstrate peacefully. Remember to see the humanity in everyone. More than anything else, be kind and listen.
- Read this essay for what I’m trying to say, said better: https://everythingisfinehereblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/16/its-not-getting-worse-its-been-there-all-along/ .
Kayin Johnson, staff reader.
Pre-Cursor: I have been delaying writing this for a while now. Writing about topics like police brutality and systematic racism is difficult to navigate. I do not want to stay quiet and remain tacitly complicit, but it is essential that I, as a white-passing young woman who has never been threatened or harassed directly by people of authority, do not speak over voices of people who have had more relevant experiences than mine. This is not directly about Black Lives Matter. It is about what these discussions coming to the surface of everyday social explorations and conversation has elicited in me. I recently saw a post by Jubilee Sharpe that struck a chord with me. It was a place where our experiences intersected. Jubilee is an undeniably gorgeous black girl from season 20 of The Bachelor. She posted a very simple, matter-of-fact status that read, “Blessed to be black…and alive. #blacklivesmatter.” Going through the replies on her status I read countless comments by men who dedicatedly comment on each of her posts telling her how beautiful they think she is, how much they wish they could date her or be with her, arguing with her about her profession of thankfulness for her life. I am biracial. Ethnically, I am East Indian and Irish, and in this brisk mountain town where I can’t leave my house without four layers of clothing, I am the color of coffee the way my grandmother takes it- mixed with copious amounts of cream until it’s a clotted shade of beige. While I am undeniably “not white” it is difficult for people to discern where I lay on the spectrum, and what they can get away with saying in front of me. I have a huge amount of passing privilege, and this colors the reception of what I have to say. However, this does not erase the way my upbringing has shaped my perception and daily interactions with the world. Being white-passing places me in a surreal middle ground that protects me from the blatant racism experienced by my mother and sister, while simultaneously allowing me to hear comments made by often well-meaning people who may be more self-aware in front of my family.
When You Say “I Do” to a Mixed Girl
When you say “I Do” to a mixed girl
You cannot be saying “I Do” to me as a snapshot in time
Standing before you in a wedding dress
Blood stained underwear in the middle of the night, massaging my
abdomen when my period wasn’t due for a week but thank fucking
God I am not pregnant.
You are not unnoticed or unappreciated through these ticking camera
clicks, but when you say “I Do” to a mixed girl
I need a promise of more.
Like the statement:
“I have a black friend!”
“I’ve dated a Cuban girl.”
“I love that you’re ethnic, it’s so mysterious!”
“I LOOOOOVE Exotic Women!”
are not absolutions from oppressive thinking patterns.
It just means you can get hard for hot women. That’s it.
(DON’T get me started on “Jungle Fever”)
When you say “I Do” to a mixed girl
You cannot be saying “I Do” only
to my adult life experiences as a middle class,
educated, white-passing woman
a good job and a voice that is heard. You are saying “I Do”
to a family of women
not handed the same upward mobility, who yell louder than I
but, aren’t listened to.
You cannot be saying “I Do” to my neurosis
sensitivity and temperament as a flaw to fix in just me.
You are saying “I Do”
to tackling the systems inflaming symptoms. You are saying
to my father, with no high school diploma and no place to sleep.
You are saying “I Do” to a defense
of police brutality against the homeless and knowing
Means saying it is okay to say that about my dad.
This means taking things personally
“Minding Your Business” is a privilege
saying “I Do” throws away.
You are saying “I Do”
to exhaustion. You are preparing
to argue with strangers
and friends about what you used to let go
or not see. You are preparing to analyze to the point of exhaustion
if the abrasions of micro aggressions are not
inherently apparent You are saying “I Do”
to no longer overlooking, even accidentally.
You are saying “I Do” to conversations and explanations
tears as you marry into the groups these comments
are aimed at.
As you create a daughter that these comments
are aimed at.
As you create a daughter who will be hurt
by comments processing her as “less.” If this does not come naturally
you are saying “I Do” to hard
critiques of conversations and character evaluations. Until
this becomes intrinsic.
I am saying “I Do”, to helping you
and you are saying “I Do” to,
when you tire of this,
trying to understand
how tired we are.
You are saying, “I Do” to your bones
aching by the end of each day
spent with people who
said “I Do”
said “I Do”
Editorial on the Orlando Killings at LGBTQ Club Pulse
5 July 2016
The past few weeks have shown, while terror and hate chooses specific targets, grief and loss doesn’t know race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious belief. The following photo essay, poetry, and responses from SlashnBurn staff focuses on the attack on the LBGTQ club, Pulse, in Orlando, Florida, but the staff of SlashnBurn equally grieve for the near, three hundred victims of terror attacks these past few weeks in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, and Israel. In Iraq, more than one hundred and sixty people were killed, and more than two hundred injured, as they filled the streets of a popular shopping area, to celebrate the final week of the holy month of Ramadan. In the face of such staggering death tolls, and such hate, it can be easy to lose hope and feel powerless. We must continue to struggle and fight, as a people, for the right to life and dignity for every human being, wherever they live.
Tucson’s Response to the Orlando Shooting
Robert Mateo Keegan Burbano, SlashnBurn managing editor
2 July 2016
The facts are well known. Just after 2 am on Sunday, June 12th, a shooter armed with a semi-automatic, Sig Sauer MCX .223-caliber rifle and a Glock 17 9mm semi-automatic pistol, entered the popular Orlando, Florida, LGBTQ club, Pulse, and killed forty-nine people and injured fifty-three others. Since then, we’ve learned the names and seen the faces of those killed and, innumerable questions and debates have arisen about the attack: the gunman’s motivations; his tenuous connections to opposing, foreign terrorist groups; the availability of certain types of guns to the general public; the public display of grief of certain politicians versus their record on anti-LGBTQ legislation, and more. What is indisputable is that the events in Pulse were the greatest act of gun violence perpetrated by a lone gunman in United States history, and this massacre targeted a very specific community.
I first heard the news in the middle of the night, as the events were still unfolding in real-time. I saw a CNN notification on my phone of a shooting at a club in Orlando, but no details beyond that. While unpleasant news, I wasn’t particularly shocked given the frequency of gun violence in the US. I rolled over and went back to sleep.
The next morning, I followed up on the story out of curiosity, and woke to the same immeasurable shock the rest of the nation woke to when the full immensity of the massacre was revealed. Forty-nine young lives snuffed out in minutes, and fifty-three others damaged, potentially irreparably, forever. Those numbers don’t account for all the family members, loved ones, and friends of the killed and wounded also forever altered.
I, like so many others, was struck near dumb in shock. I have family, loved ones, and friends in the LGBTQ community, but that wasn’t what knocked me off my feet. Just as after Sandy Hook, or the killings in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, what sent me into near shock was the sheer enormity of the numbers killed, in moments. Moments I was sleeping, by one man with easily purchased guns.
I didn’t know how to respond so, as I often do when feeling lost, I called my mother. She hadn’t heard about the shooting. She went silent as I told her what happened. I knew the same shock I experienced struck her. The awfulness of the event was so great that no words provided an appropriate response. I spent the rest of the day at my parents’ house, watching as further details slowly unfolded on cable news. I didn’t go to their home because they had cable and I don’t. I went there because I knew, just like in similarly to other moments of national tragedy, that it was the time to be near loved ones.
Through Facebook I heard of a vigil held downtown that evening for the Orlando victims. I headed down there early, worried parking would be a nightmare, but I easily found a place to park. The vigil began at IBT’s, a downtown LGBTQ club established in 1985. A few people were clustered around the front entrance, mostly news photographers with long-lensed cameras, and a couple of videographers and reporters from the local news stations. As I reached to open the door into IBT’s, I noticed a dead baby bird on the ground and pushed it to the side. I didn’t know what to make of the symbol. I flashed on my mother’s warnings of being careful and her fear of the appearance of anti-LGBTQ protestors.
It was 7 pm and the inside of IBT’s was packed. Many non-regulars swelled the crowd’s numbers. The room was loaded with voices and the air heavy with the scent of food from IBT’s own kitchen and the box of pizzas sitting on the bar, brought in from Magpie’s across the street. With all the people loudly talking and eating, the inside of IBT’s had more of an atmosphere of an out-of control block party than it did a vigil. I assumed many of the people inside were allies of the LGBTQ community, or older members of the LGBTQ community who didn’t normally do the club scene.
I felt nervous in the large crowd, so I got myself a whiskey from the bar and went out onto the back patio where I scored a remembrance ribbon from an older, mustachioed man handing them out. It had two looped ribbons, the back one in the rainbow colors representing the LGBTQ community, the one in front in orange representing Florida.
Vigil memorial ribbon. Photo Credit: Judith Audelina Rivero
I ran into a few acquaintances on the patio with connections to people in the LGBTQ community in Orlando, Florida. One was pacing and near manic as he explained he’d been trying to contact a friend who he wasn’t even sure was in Florida. One of IBT’s staff members, from Florida, had avoided the news and all forms of social media for fear she’d discover someone she knew or loved had been killed at Pulse.
On the elevated area of the back patio, people, including children, made posters showing their solidarity with the Orlando victims and their desperation over continued gun violence in the US. There was also karaoke, like it was just a regular Sunday at IBT’s. Maybe that was the point. Life goes on and no degree of terror would stop people living their lives because, what was the alternative? Crawling into our homes, drawing the shades, turning off the lights, and jumping at every noise.
People in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and other faraway places we, as Americans, only hear about during one-minute snippets on the news, lived in a world of constant terror and murder. Despite the terror, they laughed, they discussed politics, they sat down for meals with family and friends. Life always wins out over death.
Around 7:35, the vigil organizers herded everyone outside onto Fourth Avenue. The sidewalk became congested and, despite the efforts of police officers on Segways, the crowd pushed out onto the street.
Vigil participants line the street outside IBT’s. Tempest Dujour surveys the crowd.
The vigil line stretched to the north past the School of Rock building and south to Sky Bar. Electric candles were handed out and I collected one. I moved down the sidewalk a ways to where I could find a little bubble of space away from the crowd, using the need for a cigarette as a cover for my anxiety of large crowds.
The crowd easily fills Fourth Avenue.
The vigil line moved south down Fourth Avenue until we reached the staging area in the parking lot next to Creative Arts. I made my way to the front where a stage and microphone was set up. Tempest Dujour, a renowned, local performer, made a few brief remarks and then went on to introduce the individual speakers in turn.
Tempest Dejour at the vigil’s stage.
One of the first speakers was from Tucson’s interfaith community.
“We are stronger than this and bigger than this. Religion didn’t kill those people; a crazy man with guns killed those people.”
I crawled under the police tape stretched out behind the stage, assisted by a helpful vigil attendee who held the tape up for me, out to the alley behind the parking lot. I sat on the ground behind the stage so I could more easily take notes. This act was practical, but also allowed me to move away from the crowd’s near overwhelming outpouring of grief. I put the electric candle in the front pocket of my shirt as I balanced my small notebook on the inside of my knee. Another speaker took the stage.
Tempest Dujour introduces the next speaker.
The speaker warned against responding to the hateful act in Orlando with more hate.
“Islamaphobia, transphobia, and homophobia are all equal acts of oppression.”
The next speaker cautioned against scapegoating the mentally ill, as often occurs after mass shootings.
“We must look in the mirror to see how we are complicit (…) we live in a culture of hatred and guns.”
A few more of Tucson’s faith leaders spoke and then there was a moment of silence.
The police presence at the event was obvious. A number of police SUVs blocked off the ends of the alleyway and police flanked the stage while others roamed the alley on their Seqways. As the speakers took the stage and tried to inspire the crowd to move past grief and to avoid hatred, a number of the officers nodded in agreement. It was the police who responded to the attack at Pulse, in Orlando, and who put an end to the danger the shooter presented. These acts of random violence impacted those who work in law enforcement.
One of the upcoming speakers was Tucson’s chief of police, Chris Magnus. He is the first out of the closet homosexual police chief Tucson has had. I’m handed a flier by a young, female gutter punk. I glanced at it briefly. It detailed the protestations of some unnamed group to the police’s presence at the vigil, seeing the police as oppressors of the LGBTQ community. There was also a paragraph attacking IBT’s for its lack of inclusiveness. The flier was unsigned. I folded it up and stuck it in my pocket to look at in more detail later.
Before Chief Magnus took the stage, the next speaker was from the Southern Arizona AIDs Foundation. This was the first speaker who addressed anger as a response to the Orlando massacre. He began by reading the names of the victims that had been released so far. As he spoke, sirens from an ambulance rang in the background. Someone in the crowd had collapsed and needs medical assistance.
When Chief Magnus took the stage, one of the protestors against the police presence jumped onto the stage, trying to shut him own by yelling that the police are murderers. Members of the crowd yelled back to let the Chief speak.
Female protestor takes the stage as Police Chief Magnus begins to speak.
So far, the police were restrained in their response to the protestor and the other protestors who began to flock near the stage. A man in the crowd yelled about the many times he’d been harassed and arrested for living on the streets downtown. A female officer brushed past where I sat on the alley ground. I apologized and moved out of the way, worried I’d be caught in the undertow of some police action, but she said it was okay. I still moved away from the stage and the group of protestors.
More police officers flooded into the alley but they kept back, not antagonizing the protestors. Just moments ago, I watched an officer take a photo of one of the stage speakers with his cell phone, swept up in the emotionality of the vigil. Most of the vigil audience yelled in support for the chief, calling solidarity and inclusiveness, not name-calling and exclusiveness.
One of the female protestors had a large, white patch on the back of her jean jacket that read “Cops Kill Queers.” Chief Magnus stood to the side of the stage as the female protested his presence. The officers flanking the stage mirrored his patience. The protestor, who handed me the flier, was led away by officers in handcuffs to the south end of the alley, as was the homeless man in the audience. The rest of the protestors followed. I watched the action and took a few pics, but also kept another eye on the stage. The female protestor was eventually led away and the police chief made a few comments, but he was obviously discouraged and wanted off the stage to minimize any more backlash. I am saddened that this has been the response to Tucson’s first out gay police chief speaking on an event that has so clearly impacted the LGBTQ community.
Someone in the crowd set off three Chinese lanterns. Two safely floated off into the night sky.
Setting off of Chinese lanterns during the vigil.
One of the lanterns floated down into the alley behind me. A friend ran out of the crowd, grabbed it and blew into the lantern’s underside to get it back into the air. The lantern floated only so far as an overhead power line, where it caught and collapsed on itself and began to burn. There’s a murmur of panic through the crowd. The lantern came loose from the power line and drifted over to a neighboring roof. A helpful vigil attendee gave a boost up to a police officer with a fire extinguisher to put out the lantern. By the time the officer scrambled onto the roof, the lantern had put itself out. The officer stood at the edge of the roof, looking and trying to figure out a way down.
The protestors had mostly dispersed, and the fire drama had ended. I turned my attention back to the vigil. The vigil ended with a chorus group singing “We Shall Overcome,” leading into “Lean on Me.” We returned our electronic candles and the crowd dissolved. I followed those heading back to IBT’s, where karaoke is in full effect. A friend arrived late to the vigil, and we squeezed in a few drinks, a few songs, and a few kisses. The rumination on death, and how it has just devastated the LGBTQ community, has made everyone more frisky and eager to feel alive than normal.
Sunday, June 19th. I came to IBT’s around 7:15 pm; the fundraising benefit for the Orlando victims started at 7:00 and the bar is already packed. The drag show had started in the side room from the main bar. All the chairs in the room are occupied, and the opening into the room is jam-packed with people standing and watching the show. I tried to position myself where I could get a peak, but the best I could see is one sliver of a sequined arm pinioning in the air.
Music played on the back patio. The music swung from upbeat dance tracks to mournful R&B ballads. The patio was filled with smokers, older loners who awkwardly shuffled around, looking as if they haven’t been to IBT’s in years, and drag queens and drag kings chatting with each other as they wait for their slot on stage.
The temperature in Tucson was 115 degrees, and I sweated as I scrawled down my notes as quickly as possible so I could get back inside. Inside the bar, the mood was celebratory. People crowded the bar and the bar back ran frantically back and forth from behind the bar to keep it stocked with alcohol and ice from the ice machine on the back patio.
The crowd at IBT’s might have been there for the evening’s benefit to show their support for the forty-nine killed and fifty plus injured at the shooting at Pulse, but they were also there to celebrate life and choice. A week ago, we gathered outside IBT’s to march down the street in a vigil to mourn the shocking slaughter of so many innocents at Pulse, a place known as both a home for those in the LGBTQ community, and a hotspot for those who worked and lived in the area regardless of sexual orientation.
Janee Starr wearing “Pulse” makeup.
The mood had shifted since last week. Now was the time for solidarity. It was the time for showing that hate would not alter how we lived our lives, how and who we chose to love.
In the past week, we’d seen the traditional opponents of LGBTQ equality ascend microphone podiums to express their shock and disgust at the slaughter in Orlando. They’d offered up prayers of support. Within the same week, many of those who put on their false masks of grief, struck down a bill ensuring federal contractors couldn’t discriminate against their workers because of sexual orientation or gender identity, confirming, for anyone who may have been momentarily confused, that the Republican Party continued to cling to their anti-LGBTQA agenda.
Despite the lack of political action in the past week, tonight wasn’t about anger or polemics. By refusing to alter their lifestyles, to hide in fear from hate or try to disguise who they truly were, the patrons at the benefit, those in the LGBTQ community and their allies, were making a political statement. Love, as a statement, an argument that a community could stand together in the face of terror and intolerance, could support one another in the wake of the tragic, avoidable events in Orlando, and could show their support for Orlando’s LGBTQ community. Love, as a phrase to describe a political response, seems trite in its overuse following last Sunday’s massacre. Regardless, no better word captured the moment of community and the enthusiastic embrace of life in the face of hatred and death occurring at the benefit, than love.
DiVa, mistress of ceremony for the benefit, with the other performers.
IBT’s would post on their Facebook page, the next day, that the event earned $3,179.16 for the victims of Pulse, with an additional two thousand dollars contributed by the owners of IBT’s. With the unsurprising news coming out of the state capital of anti-LGBTQ discrimination bills and moderate gun control laws both being struck down by the Republican controlled senate and house, the fight will have to continue over the next weeks and months to bring significant and needed change to our country. Yet, the night of the benefit was the time for dancing, for watching some excellent drag performers, to be with friends and loved ones, and to drink toward a good cause.
IBT’s Pulse Benefit performers. Photo credit: Anthony Bands.
It was time to put my notebook away. It was time to order my first whiskey and coke of the night, and try to squeeze my way to where I could see the drag show. Afterwards, it would be time to give a giant fuck you to hatred and intolerance by shaking it out on the dance floor.
From SlashnBurn’s fiction editor, Emily Hoover:
Everyday, it seems, we awake to another tragedy, another act of senseless (gun) violence. I grieved with the world after Paris, after San Bernardino, after Turkey, after so many others. But nothing could’ve prepared me for the heartache I experienced the morning after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, a city I once called home. Quickly, I messaged friends and allies within the Orlando LGBTQ community, quietly thanking Mark Zuckerberg for creating the “safe” feature on Facebook. Slowly, my friends got back to me, letting me know they were okay following the shooting. Even though I did not personally lose someone in this attack, I feel loss. I am grateful, but also grieving; I’m happy the people I love get to live another day, but also, I’m shattered because so many people lost their lives for dancing, for smiling, for living with pride. I cannot be silent; I cannot remain neutral. I can only open my heart and stand up for those whose lives we, as a culture, have shamelessly politicized. Have you ever felt like you can feel the pain of the entire universe? I felt it–the tears, the groaning, the sickness–the morning after Orlando, and if you believe in love, if you believe in life, you can too. Together, let’s open ourselves to suffering and have an honest dialogue about violence. Together, for them, for all of us. ❤
Yesterday, we remember,
‘a man walked into a bar’
only meant a punchline–
now headlines bleed
the American Dream to a flat
We pray for a Pulse–but words
and wishes fail
faster than our kindred on their knees.
for something, someone, to blame–
ache, for the enough
to resuscitate the heart
with the cadence
of ‘philos’, ‘adelphos’.
We are no longer enough.
fifty souls short.
And need more–
We need hands to hold
the gaping wound
For All That It Matters
Gave it all tonight, my chains, for love
my fear, for hope, my life, he exchanged,
for cold steel. Pierced by fleeting hate,
once more, my heart braved, a burst of light
in terror. We were always here, behind
stool, under table, the dead -and me
I am no fallen soldier; I am
you. It was mine, the last
word that crossed the air, forever floating
above rays of death. My lips, the embouchure
raw, primal angst. Then, a smile, from the crushed child pressed
against the floor
Eyes that loved, shut. Son, brother, the lamb now
sleeping. From death, a circus fueling slashing flame, burnt by those
who’d let this night fall. Bugler’s horn silent, flooded with tears,
unwept. A God-full show. Now, all my secrets, kept
For all that it matters
I am free, mother,
I am free.
To learn more about who the victims of the Orlando shooting were, click here to see a video released by The Human Rights Campaign, produced by Ryan Murphy.