Slay All Day

Slay All Day /slā ôl dā/  slang. – to consistently do something or perform exceptionally well or impressively. The slang, specifically ‘slay,’ began in the 1980s and 1990s ballroom culture where LGBTQIA+ people of color used it to compliment each other.  See also. Formation by Beyoncé, Slay by YG ft. Quavo, and Slay by Kirby

Interview with Emmisha

Tell me about yourself. What’s your background?

Well, my name is Emmisha and I am originally from Kansas City, Kansas. I grew up in a LGBT home as my mother was in a LGBT relationship, as well, and I have two siblings who are a part of our community and they also reside in Kansas City, Missouri. I am the youngest of my siblings. I have recently started an organization by the name of Live at Five Charity and the sole purpose of my charity is to reach out into the community and support the ongoing crises that we can….just by hosting any type of raffles or fundraisers to generate funding to have available and to access funds to assist those people in crisis or in any type of dire need situation.

And well, that’s still a little bit about me and where I’m from and what I’m currently doing in our community… I’ve recently partnered with Starzette Palmer, I’ve known her since my childhood, she’s good friends with my mother, and she offered me on board with the Collective Force organization that we’re currently working behind and working on various different projects for and just trying to launch it and get it off the ground, currently. So that’s where I am currently.

How would you define beauty?

Beauty is everything created on earth. I think that everything is beautiful. Everything has its own unique beauty to it. Regardless of what it is that you’re looking at…beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. So, you know, whatever it is that you’re looking at, finding that beauty and then being able to embrace the beauty in whatever it is that eye that’s beholding it.

“Being Black makes our beauty more unique because we can shade from various different tones rather than just being one tone or one complexion.”

How would you define Black beauty? 

Black beauty is just the elegance of being Black. Just being Black naturally. Being Black is just the beauty itself. From our skin to the, to the various different complexions and tones that we can all carry. That just makes it more unique. Being Black makes our beauty more unique because we can shade from various different tones rather than just being one tone or one complexion. We have various different complexions here in our African American community. You’ll have lighter complexions which, you know, some classify lighter people to be more beautiful, some might have a preference for dark. So it’s just really based on the preference of what it is that you prefer.

What does Black culture make you feel?

We all have the same togetherness, the same empowerment. That we’re all, you know, one force together is so empowering. It’s the fact that we’re just uniquely made. We’re all uniquely made, I don’t think that anyone is identical when it comes to it because we’re all just so divinely made. Everyone’s made so divine in our culture. Everyone has their own way of expressing themselves — whether it’s how we wear our hair, we can wear various different styles, various different styles of clothing, we can change up our walk, our talk, it’s amazing the rhythm where we dance. Just everything is amazing about being an African American in our community. Being an African American lesbian, itsself, is just amazing. You get a lot of different responses from people. You know, some might not care to disclose a lot of the compliments that come along with being a Black African American lesbian woman is just amazing. And especially when we can compliment one another for just being so powerful and just being so unique.

What societal pressures do you feel because of your identities — whether your race or being queer?

Well, for the most part when I’m in my workplace, preferably, I try not to disclose my uniqueness… my sexuality…I can’t help the fact that I’m just automatically Black… but as far as my sexuality, I prefer not to disclose in my workplace because of the judgment that could come from others. If someone inquires, I would probably be proud to let them know. But if they don’t inquire, you can’t necessarily look at me and say, Oh, she’s a Black lesbian. It’s not tattooed across my body anywhere or, you know, I don’t wear it. My sexuality…I think people judge it completely wrong when it comes to stereotyping or making my sexuality who I am, and that doesn’t define who I am. And sometimes that can be a bit of pressure. Like, people don’t understand. Some people might not understand why I like or have my desire for women and what, what my preference is. And I think that because of the different things that are being said and different people being put under the spotlight for their sexuality, it makes it seem as though it’s a bad thing and it’s nothing bad. It’s just who we are.

Could you share any experiences of the pressures that you feel about being a Black woman?

Well, the pressure is keeping your head up. Keeping your head up when you’re in a society of others who are not the same, who are not African American or, you know, exist in a setting where you’re the only person….you have to keep your head held high in those moments. Because the moment that you let your head down, that’s when you’ll feel overpowered by the majority of whoever it is that whatever other race that may be the majority in the moment… Just keep your head held high, like the beautiful Black woman that you are. I encourage myself and anyone else to do in that situation is just keep your head held high. That way, you know, your tiara doesn’t slip and you’re not worried about how anyone else is looking down on you because you’re looking up so you can’t really see the eyes looking down on you.

Have you ever experienced racism or discrimination? If so, any stories you would be willing to share?

Absolutely. I experience racism more so on a daily basis… Here recently… attempting to reach out to partners for my organization and kind of being shut down because of the fact that I didn’t have any knowledge or expertise in the partners that I was reaching out to. It was just like, Well, if you don’t know anyone or if you don’t have much knowledge as to what it is that we do here, then you don’t belong here. And it was quite tough, but I had to kind of brush it off because, you know, whatever is meant for us, we’ll get that. And I have to remind myself of that. In any hard situations, I remind myself if it’s meant for me, I’ll get it. And that’s kind of how I dealt with that situation rather than to actually allow it to affect me. I try not to allow racism to affect me. People think that it’s, you know, 2020 and racism no longer exists, it certainly does. And just keeping your head held high during those moments is what helps me get through it.

“I experience racism more so on a daily basis… People think that it’s, you know, 2020 and racism no longer exists, it certainly does.”

What do you feel you have accomplished in your life? What are you proud of?

I am proud of Live at Five Charity. Live at Five Charity pushes me every day to just want to do more and more for my community…more and more for the people out there. Myself, I was kind of raised in various different settings — one being a private Christian school where the majority was white and so I kind of adapted and adjusted…. So when it comes to my communication or just being able to adapt to certain settings, that’s natural for me. But I know that there are a lot of people out here who don’t have that charisma to work in those different settings. So just being able to continue on with Live at Five and partnering with various different people to help out our community and help those people who just only know how to be who we are, who just only know how to be a Black person and not know much outside of just being Black in America. Helping them learn and implement new things that are a part of our culture that people may not be aware of and just reminding them that it is important to embrace who you are, embrace your naturalness, embrace your beauty, and embrace the fact that you are very strong and powerful. I enjoy everything about being a part of Live at Five and what I’ve started and the way it started. Live at Five is definitely something that is making me proud each day. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on how proud others are who have witnessed my growth and witnessed what it is that I’m out here doing for our community. And it just pushes me each day.

What are your personal dreams?

My dreams are to branch off…sorta soon. I plan to move to Florida and as I reside there I will expand more with my charity. It will be more nationwide, rather than just being here local and I just plan to make it really big someday and really have Live at Five to stand on and have a really good image for my organization.

What is one major problem minorities face that you would like to bring awareness to?

One of the biggest problems is the lack of education. Our education system is definitely starting to go downhill. They are taking away from our schooling for our children. Not only that…the hardship of getting education on the adult. So education, just all around education, for our community.

“My dream for society is to one day be equal, be treated as equal. To one day no longer have what we call a “minority”. I want it to be equal.”

What are you dreams for society?

My dream for society is to one day be equal, be treated as equal. To one day no longer have what we call a “minority”. I want it to be equal. I want everyone to have equal rights, like actual equal rights. And Blacks not be shined upon or not be treated any differently than the way that the majority is treated. So that would certainly be my dream: to be treated equal.

How do we make progress on your dreams for society?

We have to love one another. In order to bridge that gap, in order to take away the segregation and separation between whites and Blacks, we have to love one another.

You mentioned growing up in a LGBT home and I know that there can be negative perceptions about that. What are your thoughts or experiences on the actual realities of growing up in a home that is LGBT?

Well, my mom she was more so one of those sheltering parents. So she didn’t expose anything to her children that a heterosexual household wouldn’t disclose to their children. She showed us love and pampered us with love just as well as a single mother or a mother with the father or mother with another man would have shown love and compassion towards her children.

Um, a lot of the times what I’ve gotten, even from my dad’s side side of the family, was, Oh, you’re gay because your mom is gay. And that has absolutely nothing to do with it. I’m Black because my mom’s Black, but I’m not gay because she’s gay. I’m gay because that’s something that… I’ve always been attracted to women. My mom said to be someone you can trust, be with someone that you love, be with someone that you’re attracted to. Those are the things that she instructed me to do. She never said be with a woman. She never said don’t be with a woman. She allowed me the freedom to be who I wanted to be and express myself the way I chose to express myself.

And I love her for that because there are some people out here who hide behind their identities and can’t be true to themselves because of the fact that they’re worried and concerned about the shame coming from their parents. So, I’m actually grateful for my experience of growing up in the household that I did with a homosexual mother because it allowed me to be…, you know, not, not her sexuality at all allowing me to be who I want to be… It was just the mother that I had. The natural, accepting, respecting mother that allowed me to be who I want to be.

Why do you think it’s so hard for individuals to understand that your sexuality or your preferences are going to be different from other people’s preferences?

I think it’s because people think they have an idea of what life is supposed to be like for each and every person. When everyone is different, everyone is made uniquely. And in order for people to feel comfortable expressing themselves, people have to understand and respect that. People have to respect each other more. Regardless of who you are, what your status is, or any of that….Just being able to respect the next person regardless of what their status or predicament is. They could be a homeless person on the streets and if he chooses to share love or show love to someone else, then he has every right to do that. Doesn’t matter if he’s homeless, he still has the right to love or show up for someone else. As long as we all can accept and love and respect one another, then it’ll be a lot easier going for people to be themselves.

“Even from my dad’s side side of the family, was, Oh, you’re gay because your mom is gay. And that has absolutely nothing to do with it.”

What advice would you give to other Black people?

Be yourself, love yourself, love one another, and respect one another.

What advice would you give to non-Black individuals to help them understand the Black experiences?

Understand that we’re all going to be different. No one’s going to be identical to the next person. Understand that there’s so much to us. So much beauty, so much talent…There’s a lot of distinctive things about us and I think that if you all would embrace and look forward to the beautiful things that we have, then you see it as well.

And my last question to you is: What advice would you give to your other Black LGBT+ individuals?

Live your dream. Don’t be afraid to be true to you, be true to who you are. Be true to yourself. Don’t change your identity, don’t change your identity. You may change a lot of different ways about yourself, but don’t change your identity. Don’t change who you are for anyone.

“Understand that we’re all going to be different. No one’s going to be identical to the next person. Understand that there’s so much to us. So much beauty, so much talent.”

Additional Information

Interview Date: February 24, 2020

Story posted on June 29, 2020

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