The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised  /T͟Hē ˌrevəˈlo͞oSH(ə)n wil nät bē ˈteləˌvīzd/  phrase. – a popular slogan used during the 1960s Black Power movements in the United States. The phrase alludes to activists not being able see the revolution on television, because they would be making the revolution, themselves, in the streets. In 1970, American soul and jazz poet Gil Scott-Heron turned the slogan into a poem and song. The lyrics provide examples of what “the revolution will not” be or do. See also. The Last Poets

Interview with Jessica

Tell me about yourself. What’s your background?

I come from Parkville, Missouri. My grandparents raised me. We went between Parkville and a couple of other little small towns around that area. We did some traveling. I went to elementary school, I went to high school and I kind of had a social identity crisis, if that makes any sense.

When you’re mixed, there’s three ways that you actually are: 1) How the world sees you. So if they view you as Black or White. 2) How you actually feel on the inside… do you feel Black or White. 3) How do you actually look. Coming from Parkville, there wasn’t a lot of Black people there. And so, we had those three conflicting ways. I felt Black on the inside, but I looked Mexican, and the world perceived me as White because I was raised by White people. So that created kind of a social identity crisis in high school.

--- Read More ---

In high school, I didn’t get great grades. I was that kid that was like it takes a C to pass this class, awesome, then I’ll get a C. I never really wanted to exceed expectations. I just wanted to be regular and blend in. Culturally, it was harder because I have giant hair and my skin is obviously darker. So, I didn’t really blend in hardly at all.

Then, when I went to college, I went to a community college. I didn’t really exceed there. I really just went for the experiences. Finally, I went to the University of Central Missouri and that’s where I found my passion of education. I was able to get on the Dean’s list. I enjoyed all the parts of learning. I just never learned inside of a classroom.  I found that I was kind of introverted and I enjoyed learning outside of the classroom more than inside the classroom.  So I graduated with two bachelor’s degrees… one in Emergency Management and the other in Business Continuity. It’s funny because I was actually a bank manager when I graduated college and now I’m a teacher. So, it’s kind of how funny how my life transferred. I teach in the urban core, teach at an all black school. It’s in the hood. Its great. It’s perfect. I feel at home there. I love the fact that I get to teach kids how to love be Black because I never got to love that. My family kinda hid it. And it was something we never really talked about and it was a conversation that wasn’t really had. So now, I get to teach other kids how to love being Black. That’s my favorite part about education.

“I love the fact that I get to teach kids how to love being Black because I never got to love that. My family kinda hid it. And it was something we never really talked about and it was a conversation that wasn’t really had. So now, I get to teach other kids how to love being Black. That’s my favorite part about education.”

How would you describe/define beauty? Black beauty? Black style?

I thought that beauty was like blonde hair, blue eyes. So Liz Claiborne, she had green eyes and black hair. She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen back then. Now, my vision and standard of beauty has changed because I know that my big hair is beautiful. Back then, it was kind of shameful. It was something that had to be straightened and always hidden away and it wasn’t something beautiful. So ,my standards of beauty have changed because now it’s like I view my body differently. My thighs and my giant hair and, my beautiful mix of a family… it’s evolved to where my standard of beauty is now. Angela Davis. There’s my standard of beauty. It’s less about her appearance and what she looks like. It’s more along the lines of what where her spirits are.

--- Read More ---

Our vision of a black woman used to be the angry woman who was yelling loudly and on Jerry Springer and now you’re seeing more beauty in a black woman socially and culturally. Black women are redefining themselves. They are becoming more conscious. They’re making decisions not for themselves, but for their families and their future families. So, black beauty has really changed into something that is not traditionally mainstream, because there’s more of us. There’s more of us now that are changing and revolutionizing; wearing our natural hair and wearing our natural bodies. I see that more white women are actually trying to augment their bodies to take on those characteristics of the black woman. It’s kinda like the tables have turned. Women are tanning. They’re augmenting their thighs and their butts and they’re changing their bodies to what 10 years ago was not how you were supposed to look like. When I took ballet and the ballerina was like, Your thighs are too big, you’ll never be able to stand en pointe. You don’t have a body designed for ballet, you’ll never be able to do pointe. You’re too heavy or thighs are too big, your body shape isn’t right. Now, we see a shift in the paradigm where we’ve got ballerinas like Misty Copeland and even dancers their body types are different and it’s beautiful.

I think a shift is happening because like we’ve always been here, right? Nobody ever talked about how in-here we actually were. Now it’s becoming more mainstream. More women are coming out with their bodies and they’re more comfortable. They become comfortable with who they are and what their bodies represents, and they’re able to move more freely and do things that they probably wouldn’t have done before when they were being seen against it.

What are some words you use to describe Black culture?

Conscious. Woke. Lit (which was probably my favorite one). It’s like Black is the new cool. Before being black wasn’t cool and now it’s like, everybody wants to be Black.  Now, it’s actually cool. Like it’s almost like a shift where it’s becoming more mainstream.

“The other day, I went and looked at my pictures and like the pictures I drew in (as a child), the pictures I colored in, the sculptures I made of myself from elementary school were Black. I felt Black before I knew I was Black.”

What societal pressures do you feel because of your race?

When I was younger. I felt this very, very innate need to just be as light and as White as possible to dress White, to be White, to act White, to speak White. The older I got, the harder that became. So, like in my mid-twenties, something happened and it was like a snap. I knew it just didn’t feed my happiness anymore. I am half-White and I am half-Black, I’m half-Nigerian and I’m half-Irish. So it’s kind of like I started educating myself more in my mid-twenties. Now, I don’t really feel the pressures because I wear my natural hair. But when I was younger I felt the need to straighten my hair out and to wear clothes that were “regular” and shoes that were “regular.” But the older I get the less I feel those pressures.

Have you ever experienced racism or discrimination?

Five years ago, maybe four years ago, I went to a job interview. First off, I had gotten a babysitter and I was just going to this job interview to up my interview skills and have the man look at my resumé. I had my natural hair down, which I never did for interviews. I always tried to straighten my hair and make sure, you know, I looked as White as possible. Well, I go in–it took me 45 minutes to get there, I had gotten babysitter, the whole nine yards, and dressed up in my suit.  I looked pretty good. I walk in, I sit down, I’ve got a resume about two college degrees, experience, all all of the things. And the man walks in and takes one look at me and he’s like, this job isn’t going to be for you.

--- Read More ---

And I was like, Whoa, he didn’t even look at my resume. He just took one look at me and just walked back out. 30 seconds in and was like this job isn’t going to be a good fit for you. And I left that place so shocked. I had enough degrees. I had enough experience. I’m an intelligent woman. I was dressed appropriately, my skirt was below my knee. After I left, it took me a couple of days, but I called him back and had a discussion with him because I knew what it was. It was my hair. The fact that my hair is very long and he saw my hair down and unruly. He took one look at me and was like, This isn’t gonna fit without even looking at my resume when really all I wanted him to do was give me feedback on my interview skills and work on my resumé. So a few days later I called him back and I had a very hard conversation, I have a love/hate relationship with confrontation, but I’d never wanted him to make another woman feel the way he made me feel when I left that interview.

So, I told him exactly what he had done and he immediately was like, Well, would you like this job? Uh, you know, we’ve got something for you now. And it’s like, nah, you’re not going to do a little backpedal. I don’t do business with people that treat other people like that. I just wanted him to be aware so that the next woman that goes in there he does not degrade her or belittle her by just taking a look at her and not even pretending to look at her resumé.

“If you don’t experience the culture and you just use what everybody else tells you, you don’t get firsthand knowledge and you don’t have insider knowledge.”

You mentioned being raised by a predominantly white family was difficult because of conversations that weren’t being had. Why do you feel like those conversations weren’t had?

I could be everything but Black. Literally. I could be Mexican. I could be Islander. I could be anything but Black. Not because my grandparents hated me, but because of what society had taught them about Black people. I mean, my grandparents were born in the 1930s. Life was different back then. So ,the fact that I was the only mixed child in a long generation of Irish people or people that had come from Ireland, and I’m the only one that looks like this in my family… It was different for me. Nobody wanted to talk about it. And when I asked about it, you know, it was you’ve got a tan. It was never the truth. I never got the truth until we got to be an adult and understood science, you know? So, it was very much hidden from me.

--- Read More ---

The other day, I went and looked at my pictures and like the pictures I drew in (as a child), the pictures I colored in the, the sculptures I made of myself from elementary school were Black. I felt Black before I knew I was Black. I didn’t look as Black as I did then. I still felt Black. And even though everybody tried to condition me to be White, I still felt Black. My hair had dreads. Like I drew a little girl with dreads in Brown crayon. But, that’s not what was acceptable. It’s almost like being left handed in a right handed school. They hand you the right handed scissors and make you learn how to use them. It’s, it’s, it’s the same way as being Black.

You know, if I danced too much… if I spoke too loudly or I was too opinionated, I was basically told, We don’t do that, you need to bring it down. You know, that hip hop music, we can’t listen to that…The city’s full of just drug addicts and alcoholics and criminals. I was raised very sheltered. I didn’t know what a prostitute was… I wasn’t allowed to watch the news or TV. The only TV I got to watch was Disney movies. I didn’t get to listen to music unless it was like classical music.

When there were other people that approached me about my race, my grandfather would have a fit. He would get upset about it. There was a time we were on vacation and we’re going through somewhere in Southern Alabama and I wasn’t allowed in a restaurant. They would not let me in the restaurant and I remember my grandfather coming out and explaining we’re going somewhere else. That’s how it was in the backwoods. In very small towns like Marysville and Bonner, and other places, they still have overt racism even towards a little girl who has no idea anything about the world.

So, my White grandparents were my biggest advocates, they were my number one fans. They were my best friends. They taught me the ways of the world. They just were not about race. They didn’t have racially charged conversations. When I wanted to have a race conversation, that was not a thing. Not with my friends… not with anybody. That was just not something that was allowed to be talked about. It just was not dinner conversation. It was not a conversation that we had at all.

How do you feel when other people feel the need to put a bubble around their child to prevent them from understanding how the world works regarding race… because that issue is eventually going to come to a crossroad?

It’s not a thing that parents should do. My grandparents sheltered me a great deal. But then, when I got to high school and I had a car, the very first place I went to was Cheree’s house at 50th and Prospect, and guess what I saw there… My very first gunshot, my very first prostitute who was not waiting for a bus. I had to go out and learn the world myself. So as a parent, I have a son, we spend a fair amount of time at 29th and Wabash. We spend time out in our community, not just the suburban area where we live. We also spend a fair amount of time in the community in the hood. We do volunteer. We go places. It’s because I never want my son who has blonde hair and blue eyes and dark skin to ever go outside and be afraid.

--- Read More ---

It was almost like my grandparents wanted me to be afraid to ever live that life. Or, be in the city and experience all those things. And so for other people, I would hope that they wouldn’t want to create that fear for their kids because that fear doesn’t go away when they grow up. When they’re adults, they can still harbor that same fear. And I think it’s partially where some of the racism stems from. People aren’t learning about culture. People aren’t having conversations about race. There’s never a day that goes by that I don’t talk to my son about race and consent. We have conversations because his appearance, the fact that he is more White than Black. 

His best friend is Black. So, he understands that and he is a bigger advocate for him. I’m allowing him to experience different things. That way it doesn’t create that fear mindset. In his school, he’s only got 8% diversity in his entire school period. Truthfully, his one best friend is probably the only Black kid in his class. Had I not taken the time to go in and emerge him (with different experiences), he would’ve grown up the same way I did… Sheltered, unaware, un-woken. Instead, he goes to things like Kwanza and he experiences his culture. He is very much able to be a part of that (culture) and out in the community with me.

By allowing people to have experiences with different people, it’s the best way to teach because if we constantly fear something or are we raise our kids based on fear that fear turns into panic. But, when you emerge your kids and they have experiences with other kids, then you don’t have to teach them anything. They learn it on their own. They’re having the experiences for themselves to make up their own minds. The thing about fear is that fear constrains. So, if you teach your child to be afraid of… let’s say… snakes and then they’re abandoned on Snake Island. Now, you’ve given your child a panic attack because they’re abandoned on Snake Island and they’re emerged in fear. It’s the same thing.  Like when William (Jessica’s son) spends time my Black family and he spends time in the community,  he spends time doing away with that fear. There’s nothing to fear there. There’s only other good people. Every year, I see White people at Kwanzaa and sometimes it’s the Black people that are like, you know there’s White people at Kwanzaa. I’m like, Cool. They’re having a cultural experience, please let them. Please don’t let them leave here with notions that aren’t accurate.

My best friend and my sister Teela, she and I went to the City Market and she had to buy my very first pair of ankhs earrings because I was not Black “enough” to buy them myself. I know that sounds hilarious, right? Because I am black. I would’ve been enslaved just as if you would have been a slave. However, I did not feel like culturally I could wear cornrows or buy those ankhs. But, she said the most amazing thing to me. If you have one drop of Black in your bloodline, you are basically Black… So what I would say to those people that are older, younger, White, Black, whatever, that are struggling with their identities: If you don’t experience the culture and you just use what everybody else tells you… you don’t get firsthand knowledge and you don’t have insider knowledge. You’ve just gotten another regurgitated story from somebody else who actually experienced it or didn’t experience it and now is telling their biased view to you.

“I won’t be a part of the revolution. However, I will be a creator of those who will lead the revolution. And to me that’s my purpose. That’s my design, is not to actually be the person doing the revolutionizing, but to change other people and inspire and empower them to create their own revolutions.”

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

I’m proud to be a mother. I’m proud to be an educator. And, I’m proud to empower the next generation of women. I’m proud to be a woman advocate. I’m proud of who I’ve become and who I’ve evolved to be.

I know that everything happens for a reason. When things start to get me down, I look at it as like a moment. I think of it as a moment or a sentence in my book. So, realizing that this is just one of my many experiences and one of my many lifetimes. My body is just a facade in this life. In the next lifetime, I’ll have a new body. I look at it as if I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I’m fulfilling my purpose. I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. I won’t be a part of the revolution. However, I will be a creator of those who will lead the revolution. And to me, that’s my purpose. That’s my design.

One of the things I’ve seen on your Instagram, and you mentioned it, is your dancing ability. When did you first start dancing and how did you get into it?

I actually started dancing when I was a little girl. I started in contemporary ballet, but the ballet studio pulled my grandmother aside and said that my body type wasn’t for ballet. Back then, being a little girl, I didn’t understand what that meant. I just basically was like, well, I have a body. And not only that, I was raised by White people, so I had no idea what the difference in my body versus their bodies were.

--- Read More ---

So then in 2006, I met my first dancing partner at work and he introduced me to Salsa. Him and I began salsa dancing. Then, when I got married. I couldn’t go to Salsa clubs and stay out until the wee hours of the morning anymore cause, obviously, that annoyed him. So, I started teaching Zoomba classes and I found a passion of dancing there. I’m not a trained dancer. I basically move to the flow of the music. I tell a story with my body…that is my own story.

How does it make you feel seeing Black women and men, like Misty Copeland who are transcending into areas where traditionally not represent by them?

Exciting. It makes me feel excited. I think they were a little bit late because there were a lot of us left behind. But you know, they’re here now and I’m glad that the next generation, like kids my son’s age, they won’t have to deal with the same struggle that I had to go through. It’ll be different struggles, obviously, but I’m happy that they’re here (at this point). I’m excited that they’re here because we need them on the forefront, not just because they’re in the limelight, but to empower girls, boys, future men, future women, future mothers to encourage their kids. It’s how we keep passing it down.

“I basically move to the flow of the music. I tell a story with my body…that is my own story.”

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

In 2019, we’re still facing overt racism in our workplaces. People don’t realize that they’re being racist because they’ll say things like, Hey, but I’ve got Black friendsBut I know a Black person and it’s like, Really? It’s kind of like putting some salt in like the cut. You’re pretty for a Black girl. Black men are still being profiled, literally, being profiled every day. I hate it.

Being a woman who works with and is around and is seeing the next generation of Black men, I  worry about my Black boys. When they’re walking outside is somebody gonna say something because they’ve got a hoodie up or because they’re walking in the wrong part of town. They’re being conditioned. And it scares my heart when I look at the Black boys in my classroom and know what they’re up against. The thing is that some of them are being taught that we respond by putting our hands up non-aggressively… when you go to college you need to ask women for consent and make sure you have a clear conversation about consent. Then there’s my boys on the other side who aren’t getting those conversations and are just wild’n out out here acting in any type of way. The fact that they aren’t being taught, even though it’s 2019, you still need to have like a doubly clear conversation about consent because you’re going to be the first person that if things go wrong, somebody could pin it back on you. What we need to be doing is lifting them up and re-empowering them and teaching them to know how powerful they truly are and the alliance that they hold for their family, for communities, and for each other.

“When things start to get me down, I look at it as like a moment. I think of it as a moment or a sentence in my book. Realizing that this is just one of my many experiences and one of my many lifetimes.”

What are you dreams for society?

A society where men and women coexist peacefully together. That’s my idea of like a utopia. Men and women living coexisting peacefully together. That doesn’t mean harmony all of the time. That means that we could exist together and there’s not this constant push-pull of race and power and gender and sex. Like there’s just this place where we all exists and we’re all here fulfilling our purposes.

How do we make progress on your dreams for society?

It starts with education. People actually wanting to educate themselves, not just in a school setting or in a book setting, but also wanting to educate themselves in a spiritual sense. Before you can create harmony and peace with others, you have to create harmony and peace within yourself. So, people learning how to recognize that the body is a facade… Like. it doesn’t matter whether it’s black, white, purple, gray, whatever….It’s still just a facade. How a person expresses their clothing or their external characteristics… Those are expressions of the person’s spirit inside. So, I would hope that people would begin educating themselves, spending time, getting different experiences, hearing different points of view, having a dialogue with each other, having a conversation, and asking those questions.

“Like maybe three weeks ago a man walked up and just started petting my hair in the middle of Target. At the time when these things are actually happening to someone, you don’t realize what’s happening. You’re just kind of like, this is really happening? What’s going on here?”

What advice would you give to other Black people?

Love yourself… And love the people around you. Start with unconditional love and start listening. You never know what the person next to you is going through. Instead of being so quick to judge them… Instead of just breaking them down, offer to help them.

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

Maybe ask some questions. Instead of taking what the media is portraying of black people or what magazines are portraying about Black people, maybe go and ask them questions. I mean, Black culture is the only culture that I know that openly embraces every person. I’ve never seen a Black party be like, we can’t have our token White person here. Go and ask them questions. Surprisingly, Black culture is very open armed and very open to having those conversations. Sometimes it might get heated and you might not understand everything they’re saying, but at the same time, they’re willing to teach.

--- Read More ---

Like maybe three weeks ago a man walked up and just started petting my hair in the middle of Target. At the time when these things are actually happening to someone, you don’t realize what’s happening. You’re just kind of like, this is really happening? What’s going on here? And you’re trying to figure out are you safe, are you going to be hurt. You don’t really look at it as discrimination or racism at the time because you’re just basically trying to get out. But maybe don’t pet my hair in Target but say, “Hey, I really like your hair. Do you care if I touch your hair?” I normally don’t mind… I just like to be asked first and not full on dog petted. I’m about the education.

What advice would you give to other mixed people?

The mixed culture is so unique. I would probably give them the advice of how society views you, how you feel within, and how you actually look. Pick one. Pick the most important one, which should be how you feel on the inside and live that life. Be great. Don’t worry about the other two. And then let that be the one that you build yourself on. The others will always be an extension, but like how society views me is not as important to me as how I feel on the inside.

Additional Information

Interview Date: November 9, 2019

Day 2 — Story posted on February 1, 2020

Personal links:

More Interviews