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Pictured: The family I know that will love me unconditionally

If I wrote the piece I am scared to write it would go something like this:

I was adopted into a white family that claimed they had unconditional love. I was brought up in white communities and even lived in Oregon, founded to be a white utopia, for a brief spell. And even when I lived in Kenya, I lived on the school’s compound where most of the teachers were white and therefore were my neighbors. These spaces, families, and communities loved me. There is no denying that. But the love was conditional for many. Only when I did not expand past the space they allocated for me, I had their support. …

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Photo by Kate Macate on Unsplash

I love you. I need you to know that before I begin. Because this is painful and I am asking us to step into the hard with no real direction out. This is not goodbye. At least it does not have to be. This is a crossroads. You love me and you are married to your whiteness and we cannot exist like this any longer. So either you must get a divorce or we must become braver apart than we are together.

We are something, you and I. Never nothing. Never not formerly something great. Now we are broken, for lack of a better word. I took a chisel to myself and tried to chip pieces off so I could fit in with your metamorphosis and my jagged edges only ended up cutting deeply. This is not to say the fault lies entirely with me, this is just to say that I know we both hurt each other; You when you asked me to show up only at the capacity in which you could stay comfortable with injustices against my people. And me, when I asked you to die before you felt ready. And for clarification, I was not begging for physical death but rather killing of identity in false superiority. After all, what is whiteness besides a construct of superiority meant to dominate everything it comes in contact with? …

This Is Us

The beautiful world I am imagining has a place for you in it. Can you say the same about me?

Photo courtesy of the author.

Last night, election night, I stood on the precipice of today and embodied every inch of my being. There I was at the fence peering in at the White House while Beyoncé’s Freedom played behind me, wondering how many more moments I will get after this one. I wonder how many people out here voted for liberation. And liberation from what and for who. On my hand were five stories of love in my life I had written before I arrived so I would remember why I voted and who I voted for. …

“I just kinda feel like I’m unworthy of this life. God gave me life and as much as I try, I’m living in sin. And that is the message I’m just getting from all these people around me. And I hate liking women. I wish I had a choice, maybe I do. But all I know is I’ve tried everything I can think of to be “cleansed from my sin” and I still can’t. I’m fucking wasting my life…. even if God does not view me as the devil’s work, does that mean that all of these adults around me that I respect and trust and follow are interpreting the bible wrong? And if so, who else do I go to? All I know is at the current school climate, so many adults and students are treating gay people as “the other” and I feel bad….this is the world surrounding me now and all I want to do is lie and say I’m straight because no matter how many people say “I can still love someone who is gay,” I can still feel the judgement and I’m starting to understand why people don’t like organized Christianity and why they think Christians are full of hate…. …

TW: Self Harm

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Karen poses for a picture by Lisa Gray

Here I am, sitting on this porch, computer in hand, watching the world move around me. The neighbor beside me has a dog that watches him smoke a blunt and I am not mad that the breeze is blowing towards me. The breeze is forgiving, breaking the heat and swirling around my face. I am one house in a long row going to my left and an alley that breaks me up from the house of my smoking neighbor. I watch the mosquitoes take my blood and half-heartedly try to kill them before I decide they are not worth my time and I cannot see any more death right now. Just having finished a pint of strawberry ice cream, I am looking forward to the donuts I bought too. After twelve days not eating dessert these treats will be my reward after a hard football training. I’m glad I am not wearing jeans because my stomach is ballooning after not only the ice cream but the large burger I inhaled before that. Today is a good day. …

I am a Black, Queer, trans-national, trans-racial, woman from Kenya. My existence is controversial. My life is an act of resistance.

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Karen Leonard, Photographed by Theo Yoder

I used to think of Black women as matriarchs by tragedy, and activists by choice. To me, they were at the forefront of the fight for justice for the Black man and leading the way along with LGBTQ+ individuals.

No one ever told me Black women were martyrs.

No one ever mentioned they were also the victims of lynchings; that matriarchy did not have to be a thing given upon them by tragedy but could be a title by choice and a position of honor.

It has been over 150 days, and we are still demanding justice for the murder of Breonna Taylor. Each passing day is a reinforcement to the rest of us that we can also be killed by the state and our lives don’t matter enough for accountability to be shown. …


Karen Leonard

Athlete. Artist. Writer. she/her.

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