Own Your Shit, An Open Letter to Johnny Depp

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Photo taken from Hollywood Scanner video, Amber Heard after fight with Johnny Depp, on cover of People Magazine, June 1, 2016.

Dear Johnny Depp,

Unfortunately, we live in a world where celebrities can abuse women and for the most part, it has no lasting impact on their career. You could make another movie in a couple of years and everyone will have forgotten or forgiven the fact that you beat up your much younger wife throughout your 15 month marriage.

However, women will continue to be beaten and violently attacked by their partners, women who don’t have financial resources or the fortune of beauty and youth, women who are completely isolated and without means of leaving abusive men who are emboldened by your actions. Men who align themselves with you and whose violent, misogynistic behaviors are explicitly reinforced by you and the lack of consequences you suffer because you are famous.

Every time a famous man is accused of physically beating up or raping a woman and the matter is settled out of court or the perpetrator does not face legal recourse, the rest of us are told, “This was not really a big deal.” Which translates into, “The safety and well being of women is not really that important.” People love you so much they didn’t even want to believe you were beating up your wife despite evidence to the contrary.

For women to exist peacefully and with human dignity on this planet while we are here, we cannot extricate ourselves from men. For one, 99.9% of us love men. Romantically, socially, in a familial way. We exist on this planet with you. Our liberation is bound to men understanding their actions and correcting them. We have done our part. We have opened clinics, begged for funding, made the most social impact with the little resources we have, we have marched, we have lobbied, we have declared and stood up, we have demanded justice. We are not the problem. The laws that are stacked against us are not our responsibility. The sexual and physical behavior of men is not our responsibility.

You have a tremendous opportunity here to correct your actions and to make a huge difference. Imagine, the ripples of change that would occur if you stood up, condemning domestic violence, condemning your own actions, what would that mean in the eyes of so many men who grew up watching you wide-eyed in the movie theater? As tragic and terrible as your actions are, this is an opportunity for you to stand up, own your shit, and let people know what you did was wrong, you regret it, you are seeking help, you are selling your island and donating the proceeds to organizations that help women suffering from domestic violence and you encourage others to do the same. You are setting up clinics for men to get the help they need. You are setting up funds for organizations to figure out ways to eradicate violence against women all over the planet forever.

It’s time, Johnny Depp. Own your shit and be a man. Put an end to the cycle of physical abuse.

-Tracey Noelle Luz

August 20, 2016

Lion’s Gate, August 12, 2016

What does poetry sound like these days?

I thought it was for the young

I thought it was for the idealists

What would this poem even look like? How would it feel, the crushing weight

Of our

Joyless

Selves

Everything is made in our image.

Is it even interesting?

Everything has been done and history is over.

Has time stood still

Preserved in a bottle of rum? 

 

The train inches forward.

The man next to me smells incredible.

This could be a moment.

We would remove our headphones and embrace

He smells so good.

 

The word on the monitor is mixed up. The letters dance around each other to spell vitriolic.

 

I will tell him

I will be reborn

We will fall in love and have a story.

 

I strain to read my horoscope.

They probably recycle the same prediction through each sign

Randomly so you would never know

Who would really put astrological insight into the PATH train horoscope?

Someone holding onto their dreams

Someone who wants to believe.

 

I’m going to tell this man. We get to Exchange Place, he is still sitting.

I make my move 

I am trying to live in the moment.

I tell him, You smell fantastic. What is that called. He is smiling. His shirt fits perfectly over his muscles which are perfect and not obnoxious.

He is pleasant. The scent is Creed.

We do not move forward. The train inches forward.

I am right back where I started.

 

What does poetry sound like now?

What does it even look like?

A job application.

A lethal one night stand.

An empty parking lot.

Empty words.

I walk down Grand Street to the empty Pathmark.

The building defined now by what is missing.

I was looking for the Lion’s Gate and screamed my dreams into the sky as the blue faded to black,

In front of the Advance Auto Parts

The windows in the distance lit up like a sneer.

I turned my back, forgiving everything, remembering the sound of poetry. 

#wearenotafraid #weareorlando

My mother’s family is from Ireland, and as a result, island blood pumps through my veins. When you’re from an island, you think the world is a tiny place, and so you make it so, approaching every social gathering with a gregariousness that assumes we have been friends and family forever. Irish, Puerto Rican, Cubans, perhaps partly genetic and partly political, evolving from our need to travel across the ocean to be able to find something to eat, something to dream, we can’t see imaginary boundaries and divisions between people. My love goes out to Orlando, my love goes out to the Puerto Rican community.

Last night, June 15, 2016 in Jersey City, as the night came upon our demonstration, people held their candles in the crowd, protecting the flame from the breeze with their palms and lighting their neighbor’s candle when it extinguished. Sometimes the flame would flicker and you would see only a charred wick, until the flame grew bright again.  The metaphor is cliche and obvious, but it’s there. It’s a testament to those who fought on the front lines in the LGBT movement for the last 50 years that the response and outpouring of love was so immediate and so diverse. Faced with an unconceivable attack and unthinkable deaths, we have grown stronger, and the message has become clearer: Love is love is love is love.

 

The Tragedy of Comedy; Drugs and Depression.

In 1997, I had my first session with a therapist. She regarded me with uncertainty. She looked at me like we were acquaintances out to lunch and I was inappropriately dumping all my shit on her. “Aren’t you going to ask me some questions?” I asked her. “What do you think I should ask?” she asked back.

Convinced by her underwhelmed response that I was only feeling sorry for myself, I didn’t seek therapy for another 2 years.

It was right around 1999 that some my friends started going to EMDR therapy. I called their doctor and got a referral for someone in this field closer to where I was living. I found Susan. I loved going to Susan. She made the future seem bright, my problems seem common, and the obstacles I faced surmountable. She assured me I would only be in therapy for a couple of months and that the work we were doing would give me the tools I needed to move on and have a normal life.

Occasionally, seemingly for no reason, I would have to fight the urge, with all my being, often in public, to cry uncontrollably. I shared this with Susan one day and her eyes became wide and fearful and her usually calm and soothing voice took on a sense of urgency and panic. “You have to call a pyschopharmacologist,” she said. “You have to call a psychopharmacologist and get a prescription for antidepressants.”

The word “Psychopharmacologist” is absolutely terrifying. It literally breaks down to “crazy killer” + “chemical brain drug maker”. I imagined a man in a white lab coat, erasing my personality forever. The face of my beloved therapist became the face of Nurse Ratchett.

Understand this was 15 years ago. Prozac had just hit the market and it seemed like a fun thing for self-pitying rich people to do. It seemed like a weapon of mass obstruction, the true opiate of the masses. I was convinced that the root cause of my sadness, of all sadness, was alienation from living in a capitalist society. That the causes were external and if I organized towards a just and better world, I wouldn’t feel so terrible all the time.

I understood Susan’s diagnosis as a failure over my own resolution to be happy, and on some level, being ungrateful and selfish in a world where I had so much and others had so little. I started a drama club at the school where I worked, I went back to graduate school, I organized with a campaign for an independent candidate running for office. As long as I didn’t have any time to be in my own head I would be safe.

The bouts of depression became just a part of who I was, part of my personality. Rather than go on medication from the evil pharmacy companies, I preferred to suffer. Stoically. Like a good Irish Catholic. Some luxurious affliction like depression was unthinkable. Irish people got real diseases, like stomach cancer and cirrhosis. We died at the hands of Imperial Englishmen, not because we were sad.

After a good run masking my symptoms and self-medicating, I ended back in therapy with a woman in Jersey City in 2012.

I went to see her for probably around 3 months. It went like this. I would get there, cry for an hour, and then make an appointment to do the same thing again the following week. Eventually, she gave me the same nervous, wide-eyed panic stricken expression that Susan had given me. But she said something like, “You need to go to the emergency room right now and tell them you are depressed! They will give you psychotropic drugs.” Everything she was saying made me feel like a character in a Joyce Carol Oates story. I saw myself as the middle aged woman with bad teeth and broken dreams sitting with the dispossessed of the ER in the middle of that sad and grey short story right before the serial killer custodial worker no one notices comes and kills me and eats my skin. No thank you.

I doubled down on my SAM-E, on my yoga classes, going to the gym regularly for boxing, juicing, meditating, reading self-help books… the causes were internal and if I could find the secret to being happy inside, I would be cured. That was the up cycle. I live in Jersey City which gave me the opportunity to drink socially with a different group of people every night, so I could go for weeks without having to address any issues. I was happy, funny, hysterical even. I convinced myself I was better.

Last September, I was lucky, but so lucky, that one of my friends had the courage and love to tell me, calmly and without scary words, that I was depressed. I was lucky, but so lucky, that another friend of mine had a mother who was a psychiatrist who would do my intake over the phone. I was incredibly lucky that she could prescribe Wellbutrin and that Wellbutrin would be successful in helping neurotransmitters in my brain do what they needed to do.

Almost a year after taking anti-depressants, I am still me but happy. I don’t lay in bed all day unable to move because I am in so much physical pain. I don’t lock myself in my apartment anymore because the idea of smiling and pretending to be happy is too much to bear. I am sharing this because I don’t want anyone else to lose so much time waiting to be happy. I am sharing this because everyone deserves that friend who can tell you calmly and without scary words, You are depressed, you need help.

Pen Letter:

Pen Letter: if you’re reading this and you think it’s you

yes it’s you.

Drowning and crescendo:

Youth. everything beautiful about this the

real uncertainties of my

Experience don’t exist here I’m just

thinking

And there was never anything terrible

And I’m at the Jersey Shore and the ocean

is new to me

And I don’t trust my guidance I run

head on so eager falling ungrateful stupid

awkward

Me in love with you

 

It looks like this and salt is in my mouth

And every open wound is healing.

Remember Yourself.

Remember yourself, I said
when I started making letters
correctly.

Remember yourself. Pencil,pen, crayon, marker, paint, tattoo,
blood, stone, cloud, river, taco, building, street, drum, shit, cum, electricity, spit, ethics.

Film, window, black, raindrop, earth, snow, people, dancing, theater. Tickets.

Remember yourself and

People don’t own you. even your best friend. Even your hus. Band. Even your sis. Ter.

Remember yourself.

You’re a goddamn visionary. A rainbow elephant unicorn torn page cream pie. A tree. an Oak Tree.

You’re a fucking oak tree crammed into the mouth of a wine bottle.

NOT!!!!

Remember yourself. Revolt. Kill. Die, Love, Fuck.
Earnestly.

Remember yourself.
We are all alive, we are living.

Remember yourself: code 01110101

Remember yourself,

scribble, scribble, on a napkin. Blow a kiss. roll some sweet weed. Write it all down. Roll down the window. Tell some secrets.

Forget I told you anything.

Honoring Anita.

On September 11, 2001 I was teaching a fifth grade class at Thirteenth Avenue School in Newark, New Jersey. Mrs. Thompson, the teacher from across the hall, stuck her head into my classroom and said, “The twin towers have been hit by a plane.”  My first thought was, “I can’t believe this is happening when George Bush is the President.”

My disbelief and anxiety grew over the next few weeks with each American flag that popped up, with each jingoistic commercial created to instill a sense of entitlement and superiority while gutting our democracy.  The camera, below the podium angled upward at a seemingly human Giuliani, the patron saint of capitalism, “Go Shopping!” he declared, this is how you can help your country! With each compliant and alarmist headline, peace activists became criminals, those who questioned the government and the nature of the attacks were unpatriotic. The politics of 9-11 hid behind the heroism of the first-responders (George Bush called them rescuers) to justify a policy that would destroy an entire region and hundreds of thousands of lives while making Halliburton an ungodly profit. Communists were no longer the elusive phantom that justified illegal torture at home and abroad, now we could declare never-ending war on burqas and turbans without differentiating between Iraq and Afghanistan, between Shiite or Sunni. And the Patriot Act.

My second thought that day, which still makes my stomach lurch and my throat tighten even today, 14 years later, was along the lines of  “This is what it’s like in Baghdad all the time.”1 This is what it’s like in many parts of the world every day who don’t have the resources to lose cell service for only a couple of hours during an emergency, who don’t have fire departments and rescue squads and blood donors flooding the phones to help, who don’t have crucial things that we take for granted like running water or readily available medicine.

That thought made me hopeful in a way I can’t explain. I believed the good people of America would see this as a new opportunity for peace. That we would consider ourselves not as a nation but as part of the whole human family and  reassess our convenient distance from bombing and death, our desensitization and video gamification of war. I could not understand or accept that American lives were more valuable than any other country.

The mainstream press did a pretty great job during that time toting the party line, of not questioning authority or doing any real investigating into what led up to the attacks. 9-11 became a random act where Al-Qaeda just hated our way of life. Giuliani under scrutiny for his defense of police brutality, and George Bush, a Yale graduate who could not negotiate object and subject pronouns but who was able to steal the presidency of the most powerful nation in the world, were absolved from their sins and fitted for shiny new halos.

But, most people are good and righteous and the truth does matter. Despite a co-ordinated campaign on behalf of the press and government to rile everyone up into a red, white and blue frenzy, before and as the U.S. sent so many young men and women to perish and be destroyed physically and emotionally in Iraq (which again, had nothing to do with 9-11), there was a monumental movement against the impending invasion. Hundreds of thousands of people marched in the streets for peace and against an invasion, many of which carried signs that read, “I drink cabernet and I vote!” Because of France’s distinguished and correct position against the war, they almost lost their cultural right to french fries in this country.

Irregardless, the US invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. According to a study published in National Geographic 2 years ago, 500,000 or half a million Iraqis are dead.4 This number only includes the deaths between 2003 and 2011 and not the frequent bombings before the 2003 invasion. In a report published by Physicians for Social Responsibility, between 72,500 and 116,000 civilians have been estimated to be casualties of the war in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2011.5 On October 3rd, a hospital in Afghanistan was bombed, and nobody changed their FaceBook profile picture or even sent prayers. On November 14th, the day before the attacks in Paris, 40 people lost their lives in Beirut.  I didn’t even know. And still I am asking why do American lives, or French lives matter so much more? I want someone to explain to me, the difference between a family who has the unfortunate circumstance of living in a country that the United States has decided to bomb, the terror that they feel and the terror that overcame Paris on November 13, 2015. What makes one life more valuable? What makes one attack more terrifying?

On Friday November 20th, at 9:30 in the morning, I read about hostages being taken in Mali. FaceBook was quiet. There were no fancy lights on any buildings. I read about the only American who was killed, Anita Ashok Datar of Takoma Park, Md. I didn’t put it together she might be the same Anita Datar from Flanders, New Jersey. Anita and I were friends in elementary school. Children, probably now divorced alcoholics in debt with terrible stretch marks and bad teeth called us names, teasing us. I was Lacey Klutz. Anita was “I need a guitar.” “That’s really clever,” I said one day. “It’s like a whole sentence and it totally rhymes.” Anita did not like that at all. Even then she was sensitive and sophisticated.  “It’s not even mean!” I protested. But I still imagined her shredding in the secrecy of her bedroom, below the watchful gaze of Cabbage patch dolls and Strawberry Shortcake.

I grieve for her family, but I take courage and inspiration from her brother, Sanjeev who told the Washington Post: “And while we are angry and saddened that she has been killed, we know that she would want to promote education and healthcare to prevent violence and poverty at home and abroad, not intolerance.”

Anita lived her life helping others, she was recognized as a leader in her field, and worked to eliminate HIV/AIDS throughout developing countries, primarily sub-Saharan Africa. In a statement issued by Palladium, Anita’s employer, Ambassador Debbi Birx, is quoted as saying, “we were so fortunate to have such an extraordinary woman dedicated to ending HIV/AIDS and standing up for human rights. She inspires all of us to do better…we admired Anita’s compassion and sensitivity and true commitment to the cause.” As people from a privileged country, whose lives are somehow more precious when taken by an act of terror, we have a choice to either accept supreme status, or, forego a global caste system and use our temporary darkness to shed light on a brighter future. We can take the time to really analyze our own chauvinism which blinds us to the true nature of these attacks and work towards real peace. We can all do better. We have to.

 

 

  1. Iraq Was Being Bombed During 12 Years of Sanctions, Anup Shah, April 5, 2002
  2. Another Gaza Hospital Hit, NBC News, July 2014
  3. Hospital Bombing in Afghanistan
  4. Iraq War Death Survey, National Geographic 2013
  5. Body Count, Physicians for Social Responsibility
  6. Washington Post, Anita Datar

Elevate, Saturday November 21, 2015

On Saturday, Sirena and Chelo Mercado of Sirelo Entertainment  brought “Gratitude”, part of a monthly series Elevate, to Jersey City’s new club, Transmission giving us all a reason to be grateful. Every time I am around these two and their drum corps, I find more reasons to be in love with everything around me. Keep your calendar clear for Elevate’s next event, coming soon!

 

Occupy the City: Urban Marshall Plan

On August 8, 2015 over 8000 residents in the city of Newark marched through their neighborhoods demanding an end to violence. From all 5 wards of the city, marchers convened at Broad and Market in a demonstration of unity to change their city. Here, Mayor Baraka demonstrates true leadership by empowering people, inspiring them to act and be their own leaders in ending violence in their communities. Click the link below to see what Mayor Baraka had to say about an Urban Marshall Plan to rebuild the city.

The audience respond's to the young man's performance.
The audience respond’s to the young man’s performance.

Urban Marshall Plan