Why We Create

Making things, sharing your voice, putting yourself out there is – to put it bluntly- hard as hell. It hurts, even in the best of times, to make yourself available to the world at large. Sure, the world at large may never see your practice doodles, or hear the way you stutter over a monologue, but the thought, the fear, of being heard can hold us back from creating something beautiful. Now, faced with the worst of times, that fear feels compounded in me. I needed a push. I needed to know – to hear – that it’s ok to want to make something even if it isn’t always great.

Creators just are. Creators are always creators, no matter what time it is in the world around them. I’m so thankful to have access to some folks who are putting themselves out there every single day and changing lives in the process through their art and audacity. Here’s what they said about why they create:

 

A Light At The End: Greeting The Apocalypse With Studio Ghibli

Hello friends! I’ve (finally) released a new video on my YouTube channel. Please take care and be sure to check out the links in the description for places to make donations and show support in these dangerous times. Black people, particularly Black women and Black Trans people, are at the highest risk.

Also, be sure to tune into the Written in Melanin YouTube channel every Tuesday at 12 PM CST for a live discussion between myself and C.M. Lockhart about all things books, stories, and creation!

 

 

The Only Advice You Need For This Decade

When I first started writing this post, we had not descended into the chaos of Covid-19. Things were as normal as they could be in an imperfect world. Now that we are months into a new world, and remixed understanding of what it means to live, I think it’s time for me to share what I entered 2020 thinking so that I can remember how to exist with a sense of purpose. I hope it does the same for you. So, here are the thoughts of January 2020 LaKase:

I’m old. There’s just no way around that fact, but I’m OK with it. Sure, my knees pop when I sneeze, I have memory lapses, I hate when people pull up in front of my house, and… You get the point. Wanna know why I’m not mad about being too old to make it past 10 PM? Here’s why: getting older means that I have a serious knack for survival and adaptation, which (if I may be so bold) makes me feel like a bit of a superhero.

To put it mildly, last year was difficult. There were plenty of downs to compliment the ups, and I received more “no thank yous” than I thought I could handle. I pushed my creativity to a breaking point. It all weighed on my spirit so heavily that I went to sleep on December 31st of the last decade dwelling on the mistakes of my youth (thank you beer!) until it hit me that I was already trying to waste the future on the past.

If you’re an anxious over-thinker you might understand this tendency I’ve described. If not, let me do my best to share what it’s like. You think and think until your thoughts become so vivid that you feel yourself in that memory, physically reliving it. Only, you can’t change anything. Things remain imperfect, and you remain rooted in present day. You begin to feel overwhelmed by the permanency of that fact, that nothing can be perfect. Paradise eludes us all. Yet, I’ve come to learn that paradise is attainable if you shift your perception ever so slightly to the left of what feels right.

It’s no secret that I love the works of Toni Morrison. One of her books that has haunted me since reading it years ago is Paradise. Mild spoilers for the book to follow!

Image result for paradise toni morrison

The book tells the tale of an all-Black town in the Midwest called Ruby, that has been hell-bent on perfection and order since the citizens were liberated from the bonds of enslavement. They carved out their own plot of paradise through hammering out any deviation from the patriarchal systems they believed kept them safe. Only the noblest of Black folks could stay, women had no say in the forward motion of their lives, and outsiders were regarded with disdain. The climax of the book comes when the men of Ruby attack a group of women living in an abandoned convent, because they believe them to be a dangerous blight on the perfection of their town.

That’s a lot right? You can expect no less from the late Mrs. Morrison, and that is why I will forever miss her. This little book contains commentary on race, colorism, misogyny, abuse, and the exchanges of power between men and women. However, what I’ve been coming back to lately is the way she challenges our perception of paradise, how we cling to notions of perfection even as we are dragged to our doom.

The people of the town of Ruby were so focused on protecting their ideals and themselves that they run off any chance at real happiness. They discard their own peace and obliterate a group of women who could have healed them all (leave it to Toni Morrison to inject some magical realism into a seemingly straightforward work). Love and life are dealt deathly blows all out of fear. The quest for power, nay order, serves to snatch away an semblance of either.

The Lesson

Don’t focus so much on the bad that you lose the good. When I read Paradise for the first time as a young woman, I was struggling to find my place in the world. As time has inched forward, I believe I have found that place, but now – as I revisit it – I’m working to reevaluate how I will maintain my sense of safety and belonging. I’ve realized that all my new year anxiety was tied to this fear of the unknown. A fear that I would lose what I’d worked so hard to build, as I had already struggled so much in the previous year. I, like most people, crave the idea of paradise: no pain, no struggle, no ending of joy. But what is there to keep us growing in the elimination of hardship?

Instead, I’m working to remind myself that love can be paradise, freedom can be a haven, and there is so much more to finding our perfect places than our location and archaic rules. So, good luck in 2020 and beyond. May you craft your own slice of paradise each day. Better yet? May you be brave enough to not destroy your happiness for fear of losing it.

With love,

LaKase

A Comic-Con Love Note (and Giveaway!)

*Deep, guttural sigh*

What a ride! I’ve been going to San Diego Comic-Con since 2013, but the feeling of euphoria I get every year remains the same. Today, I wanted to share not only my deep love for the event and people who populate it, but you all! Comment below the video a character you would love to cosplay to be considered for the giveaway!

Akira and the Evolution of Pain

Hi there my friends! Today I posted a new video to my YouTube channel exploring themes of pain, trauma, and healing in Katsuhiro Otomo’s anime masterpiece Akira. It’s no secret around these parts that my life has been forever changed and improved through the arts, and this is one film that came up for me just when I needed it most. Below is the video, and below that is a transcript of the video for you to read through. I hope you enjoy it!

Part I: Introduction

If you don’t know the story of Akira, let me break it down for you as quickly and succinctly as possible. On July 16 of 1988, Tokyo is destroyed by a superpowered psychic named Akira in a, for lack of a better word, big ass explosion. 31 years later in 2019, the city has been rebuilt into Neo-Tokyo, and it is a society of extremes: poverty, civil unrest, and glamorous, technicolor violence. A place where despite the constant battling they are going to host the 2020 summer Olympic Games. This is where we meet Tetsuo. He’s a member of a motorcycle gang comprised solely of angsty youths led by his best friend Kaneda.

 

Our introduction to the group is on a wild, and probably standard, night. They take off to start a battle with a rival motorcycle gang and get more than they bargained for. And while that is going on, we the viewers witness the city police murder a man as he is attempting to flee with a small child. That child continues to run from the city until he collides with Tetsuo, throwing young man from his motorcycle with psychokinetic power. Tetsuo and the child are apprehended by an appropriately shady government agency and whisked away to a facility to be poked and prodded. That’s where Tetsuo discovers he possesses terrifying powers.

 

Kaneda and the rest of the gang are apprehended when they witness Tetsuo being taken. At the police station Kaneda meets Kei, a young girl who is an activist and member of the resistance of Neo-Tokyo. From there, Kaneda begins to work with Kei to infiltrate the government facility in order to rescue Tetsuo and find out what kind of horrors are being enacted. 

Part II : The World Around Tetsuo and Kaneda

Katsuhiro Otomo,the writer and director of the film as well as the writer and artist of the manga, stated that he wanted to capture the feel and nature of Tokyo in vivid detail on screen in a way he couldn’t on the pages of a manga. He said:

“There were so many interesting people… Student demonstrations, bikers, political movements, gangsters, homeless youth… All part of the Tokyo scene that surrounded me. In Akira, I projected these elements into the future, as science-fiction.”

 

While Otomo expertly captured the grit and wonderment associated with our modern world, he also projected a depiction of pain and trauma that places Akira squarely at the forefront of cinema. Tetsuo and Kaneda exist in a world of contradictions: isolation but expansion, oppression but freedom, knowledge but ignorance. It’s a world on the cusp of two eternal transformations: destruction and rebirth. The film feels so prescient today, because we ourselves are struggling to make sense of very similar parameters. The film was at the forefront of exploring the insidiousness and truthfully vague nature of pain. In following Tetsuo and Kaneda we learn that trauma isn’t always clear-cut. It’s abandonment, cruel living conditions, verbal abuse, profiling, and poverty in addition to sexual and physical violence. Through Tetsuo we discover how the pain we carry in our minds can last long after the external wounds have healed.

 

Part III: The Evolution of Pain

 

When I talk about pain, it encompasses the physical way Tetsuo’s body bends and bloats to transform into a techno-flesh monstrosity, yes. But I also mean pain in the emotional, some would say abstract sense. It’s a feeling that changes with us, adapting, growing, and bursting forth when we least expect it. Pain changes while remaining the same. We humans may create technicolor dreamlands that have the power to descend into darkness, but we are never far removed from the curious apes we once were. Similarly, pain changes while remaining true to its nature. And each character is forced to adapt to the ever-evolving pain in our own way. Where Kaneda turns the pain into apathy – except were Kei and his friends are concerned – Tetsuo is a proxy for the rage associated with trauma and the pain that accompanies survival.

Earlier, I mentioned that Tetsuo was apprehended and imprisoned with a small boy. Well, that small boy is one of three beings with psychic abilities that Tetsuo meets while imprisoned. Known as The Espers, they are actually adults trapped in the bodies of the children they were 31 years ago. They were the contemporaries of Akira and witnessed first-hand what his power could do. And they know the weight of pain better than most.

Kiyoko, number 25 (girl) Takashi, number 26 (boy who was escaping) and Masaru, number 27 (floating wheelchair) represent the adult effects of pain and trauma. Literally stunted in growth as many of us are emotionally, they creak and whisper as though the act of living were a marathon. They are what Tetsuo will become in time if he remains trapped in his cycle of suffering.

But where the Espers were unable to escape the cycle of abuse, Tetsuo adopts a very modern approach: burning shit down. He seeks out Akira for help after being told by Kiyoko that he is still alive and hidden underground. Tetsuo becomes so consumed by the power – his rage – that he is destroyed then remade into the mass I referenced earlier. He is twisted until he crushes and murders those around him. When he finally succumbs to the suffering, Akira appears.

 

The boy Akira (or number 28) represents inherited, generational trauma. He is Tetsuo’s past, as well as his potential future. When we try to contain and bury the trauma, it explodes. In that regard Tetsuo is a natural progression. Tetsuo didn’t find relief from the agony until someone who understood the weight manifested to aid him : Akira himself. And that’s often what it takes to survive the ever-changing nature of pain and trauma – the empathy of others, especially those who have themselves seen it.

Part IV: Closing

Who are we when we find relief? Who can we become? Free. Things go differently in the manga, which I highly recommend, but the film itself ends with Tetsuo’s transcendence. He goes to another plane, another Universe, perhaps another dimension to begin again. Perfect or not, Akira helps him to escape.

 

I’ve stated again and again that pain is an ever-changing force, adapting to us as we attempt to outrun it. It is messy as hell, unfair, and eventually forces us to make an impossible choice. Do we fight back to go forward or do we remain wrapped in that warm embrace of sorrow? Who can we become when we find relief, and at what cost? That, it seems, is up to us.

 

 

Here’s What You Need For Comic Con, You Nerds!

What’s up my friends?! In just one (1 !!) week I will be joining thousands of people from around the world to celebrate nerd culture in all its glory at San Diego Comic Con. There are panels, parties, discussions, and lots and lots of artwork. In honor of that event, I want to share some of my tips for surviving at Comic Con, or any large event where you’re going to be on your feet, running around and living your best life. From water to floss, I’ve got all the tips you might not have thought of – I sure didn’t until I had to go without them – that have saved me over the years. I hope they’re helpful! After the video, there are five MORE tips I think you should know. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Comfy shoes

You might not realize it in the moment, with all of the excitement and whatnot, but you are going to be wreaking HAVOC on your feet. Whether you’re standing in line, running from table to table, or even dancing at a party, the event is a real toe-buster. My first year at Comic Con I tried to wear cute sandals and flats, which was a huge mistake! I had so many blisters it wasn’t even funny. The health of your feet can directly affect the fun you’re having, so be good to them!

Jonas Mosesson loop run gym shoes GIF

 

Business card (why not?)

If you’re an artist, YouTuber, writer, chef, or a even an undergrad with no idea what you want to do once you graduate, but want to get an internship, this is your time to shine! You’ll be meeting people from all around the world. You’ll be talking to creatives and making friends who might take an interest in what you do, so why not have a way to put yourself out there? You don’t always have to do it in a serious business manner; sometimes it’s nice to not have to be on your phone in the moment! I’m looking forward to using this tip myself for the first time at comic con, and I’ll be reporting back on how it goes.

back and forth illustration GIF

 

A hoodie

Yes, it’s summer, BUT you’re going to be inside where that AC is blasting like the arctic. If you run cold like I do, it’s not a bad idea to have a back-up for when the day turns cool and you want to stay comfortable. A plus: when you have to inevitably sit down to wait for a panel you’ve got some cushion to use for your bootie.

jacket goodbye GIF by Caroline Director

Headphones

I warred internally over sharing this tip, because I didn’t want to seem like I was advocating for us to shut out the world. However, sometimes it’s nice to turn your mind off. Being surrounded by strangers in a loud and overwhelming environment can be an anxious person’s nightmare, so I think having a backup plan for when you start to feel the swell is a good thing. Going out into the world like this is a massive step and you deserve to have a break when you need it.

kim ye-rim whatever GIF

 

Pain relief

Remember what I said about your feet? Well, even if you do take my advice and wear comfortable footwear you’re still going to have aches and pains. With great fun comes body aches, so pack accordingly! By the time night time comes around, you’ll be thanking me.

ouch cringe GIF by Madelaine Petsch

 

That’s all for today, my friends! What are your tips for surviving a big event like comic con? I’d love to learn some in the comments.

A New Day

Good morning (or afternoon, depending on when you click on this post) my friends! Today I did something outrageous for a writer who stutters a lot: I started a YouTube channel! If you would have told me one year ago that I would be talking about movies, books, comics, and TV on YouTube, I would have asked if you were time travelling from 2008. There has been nothing more terrifying to me than putting my face out there… so I think it had to be done.

So, here it is! My very first video, and it is about Spider-Man himself.  I hope you’ll give my channel a view and come back for more every Thursday!

June Mood: Sunny Disposition

As a child, I used to look at summer as a break from my daily responsibilities. It was when I could be free to come and go as I pleased, eat ice cream handed out by people who probably shouldn’t have been allowed to operate ice cream trucks, and escape reality into movies and books. I have been, and always will be, a warm weather child looking for the safest place to nap under a tree. I’m still channeling that kid who ran around in a swimming suit most days, but now the freedom I’m chasing is a bit more intentional and focused on a goal. That might sound counter-intuitive, as freedom is supposed to be all about eschewing plans, but as I really start to marinate in my 30’s I have discovered the joys of acting with intention in all things.

For some of us, freedom is frightening. For me, it’s a recipe for disaster. Without a goal, a journey, a prize, I start to flounder, and inevitably become upset with myself. For a long time I was aimless, and as a result, truly joyless. I didn’t see a point to most things and my primary concern was instant gratification wherever I could get it. I’m only now realizing how trauma, and the fear it instilled in me at a young age, has hindered me from being able to do things with not only intention, but confidence.

Every day is an opportunity to grow, if we’re lucky. So, I’m looking at summer as a continuation of the work and growth, not a break from it all. And you know what? It’s been a joy.

Now, on to the only two things for this month’s moody post. First, a beautiful piece of art that is a reminder I need to see every day. This piece is by Tyler Feder of the Roaring Softly shop on Etsy.

Anxious Girls are Brave Print Hand-Illustrated by roaringsoftly

Last, but never least, is a great video by The School of Life on “How to Overcome Trauma”. I post their videos so much (I know), because I love the clarity of their advice. It’s been a helpful tool for me as I continue to move with intention through my days and goals. This particular video arrived literally right on time for me and I hope you feel the same after watching. You can read their blog post with the video’s transcript, and other related content, {here}. Enjoy!

 

The Magic of Authenticity

Do you have a hero? If so, what is it about them that has earned your admiration?

Like most kids, my heroes were big and flashy. They wore capes, they could sing, they could act, and they had the love of millions of fans. I never questioned why I seemed to only look at celebrities and superheroes as the best of us, because their fame spoke for itself. If you’re popular, then you must be perfect. But is that true?

As I began to take better care of myself, a key piece of the journey was coming to terms with my identity, with who I wanted  to be. I had a long list of heroes I wanted to emulate, however as celebrities with carefully crafted images, superheroes, and film characters, they represented a type of unattainable perfection that made me feel stuck. So, I began to look at things another way: rather than trying to become a copy of someone with status, power, and control, I decided to explore who I am already, in order to discover my authentic self.

By definition, “authentic” means “of undisputed origin;genuine”.

Distilled down for a regular person like myself, I believe authenticity means existing as you are without regard for the molds others want you to fit in. For example: I’m a survivor. I’m a Black woman, a Kansan, a right-handed singer with allergies. These are all facts, but in between those societal molds are the details and experiences that make me LaKase. I might not be exactly like Brandy (one of my earliest heroes), nor do I have the power she wields, but my authentic self is important and good in its own right.

Nowadays, my admiration is rooted in more abstract concepts: kindness, bravery, and authenticity. There are many ways to define each, whether it be through a cultural lens, a personal preference, or how I might be feeling in the moment.  But what remains constant is the work we have to put in to live our lives well. I broadcast who I am to others in the way I dress, how I speak, and in what I value in this world.

When I think about the people I admire now, it rarely has anything to do with the number of friends they have, how much money they make, or how beautiful they are but what they put into the world. The folks who continue to inspire me, and unwittingly push me to better myself, have been decidedly, radically themselves. Being yourself can be difficult, even dangerous depending on where you live or what you look like, but living your truth gives others permission to be who they are as well. That’s the magic of it all.

The videos below feature two women who make me so happy and encouraged about walking my path on my own terms. I hope you enjoy their words as much as I do.

 

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” – Unknown