I Am A Mulatto Oreo

I Am A Mulatto Oreo

Navigating the world as someone whose interests are out of step with my peers has never been easy.

One day I found a $5 independent movie in a bin at Wal-Mart that changed me in a profound way.

It has everything I love — classical music, 16th-18th-century dress and style, outstanding performances, and a compellingly moving love story at its core.

'Belle' is a retelling of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsey, a Mulatto woman who finds her place and love in the world when she comes of age.

A great deal of Dido's life mirrors mine, and she finds the love I've always dreamed of finding.

I have always felt that I'm stuck between being Black and being White.

I was born to two Black parents. My upbringing was typical for someone who was lower middle class. My childhood homes were full of roaches and spiders and centipedes. An unattentive landlord. Street violence in the nights right outside my bedroom window every night. Raggedy clothes. Little food. Limited health and beauty supplies. Continous sexual harassment and assaults from boys and men much older than me. Physical and emotional abuse. Bullying. Depending on public transportation. Lack of parental involvement and attention due to providing my brother and me with some kind of roof over our head, clothing, and food. Raised in a time of people rampantly having children out of wedlock. Low-grade education.

Then, in the summer of 1990, I received the chance of a lifetime — to audition to enter Cleveland School of the Arts. There, I discovered my love of theatre and literature. But I wasn't drawn to the same aspects of the arts as the other Black students. I loved Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Charlotte Bronte.

As a teenager, I watched shows like 90210, Melrose Place, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I loved New Kids on the Block, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Mandy Moore, Jessica Simpson, Backstreet Boys, and NYSYNC. Then I moved on to loving Selena, Creed, Nickelback, Three Doors Down, The Goo Goo Dolls, Train, The Smashing Pumpkins, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Green Day, No Doubt, Marilyn Mason, and Korn. I even got into the Country Music explosion of the 90's and related to Faith Hill, The Dixie Chicks, Shania Twain, and LeAnn Rimes. I absolutely love classical music and going to plays, museums, and art galleries.

Maybe, in the end, I was drawn elsewhere because it was a different world from my own.

But still, I enjoyed by the R&B singers and Hip Hop/Rap artists of the early to mid 1990's. Salt N Pepa, TLC, Destiny's Child, SWV, En Vogue, MoKenStef, Boyz II Men, BabyFace, Queen Latifa, Aaliyah, Lil Kim, Notorious BIG, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dog, Puff Daddy, LL Cool J, Brandy, Monica, and Brownstone. My mother always played The Jackson Five, The Temptations, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Prince, The Supremes, Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle, and Luther Vandross music in the house when I was a child. I deeply related to movies made by the legendary Spike Lee, Waiting To Exhale, Set It Off, Boyz In The Hood, Juice, Poetic Justice, Menace II Society, and even cooky Black films like the House Party movies and Meteor Man. I loved shows like In Living Color, Living Single, 727, Amen, Good Times, The Cosby Show, A Different World, and Family Matters.

However, I was always seen as an Oreo — Black on the outside but White on the inside. I've never been able to escape this label. It feels like it's put on me as a curse in the Black community rather than all my interests be completely accepted as just who I naturally am.

Even when I went on to college, my interests segregated me from both my Black and White peers. Black students wondered why I occasionally took Black Studies courses and White students couldn't believe I loved English Literature so much to major in it. Instead of joining Sororities and Black Student Unions, I participate in Creative Writing Clubs and LGBT+ community activism clubs. I'm disconnected from everyone simply because of who I am and what I like.

I can't help what I like. I didn't choose to like Saved By The Bell and Martin. To love Charmed and Moesha. To love Clueless and Friday. To love Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes. To be fascinated by the French Revolution as well as the Harlem Renaissance.

My ultimate personal relationship goal is to achieve what Dido Lindsey did. She married a man who saw her for all that she was and loved her regardless. I want to find love(s) that respect where I've been. To support me where I'm going and to love me despite my faults, mistakes, and illnesses. I don't know if my future mates will be a White man and a Black woman, a Black man and a White woman, a White man and a White woman, a Black man and a Black woman, or a combination of the multitude of other races that live in this world, but to find true love without judgement is what I'll always seek.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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20 Things That Happen When A Jersey Person Leaves Jersey

Hoagies, pizza, and bagels will never be the same.

Ah, the "armpit of America." Whether you traveled far for college, moved away, or even just went on vacation--you know these things to be true about leaving New Jersey. It turns out to be quite a unique state, and leaving will definitely take some lifestyle adjustment.

1. You discover an accent you swore you never had.

Suddenly, people start calling you out on your pronunciation of "cawfee," "wooter," "begel," and a lot more words you totally thought you were saying normal.

2. Pork Roll will never exist again.

Say goodbye to the beautiful luxury that is pork roll, egg, and cheese on a bagel. In fact, say goodbye to high-quality breakfast sandwiches completely.

3. Dealing with people who use Papa Johns, Pizza Hut, or Dominos as their go-to pizza.

It's weird learning that a lot of the country considers chain pizza to be good pizza. You're forever wishing you could expose them to a real, local, family-style, Italian-owned pizza shop. It's also a super hard adjustment to not have a pizza place on every single block anymore.

4. You probably encounter people that are genuinely friendly.

Sure Jersey contains its fair share of friendly people, but as a whole, it's a huge difference from somewhere like the South. People will honestly, genuinely smile and converse with strangers, and it takes some time to not find it sketchy.

5. People drive way slower and calmer.

You start to become embarrassed by the road rage that has been implanted in your soul. You'll get cut off, flipped off, and honked at way less. In fact, no one even honks, almost ever.

6. You realize that not everyone lives an hour from the shore.

Being able to wake up and text your friends for a quick beach trip on your day off is a thing of the past. No one should have to live this way.

7. You almost speak a different language.

The lingo and slang used in the Jersey area is... unique. It's totally normal until you leave, but then you find yourself receiving funny looks for your jargon and way fewer people relating to your humor. People don't say "jawn" in place of every noun.

8. Hoagies are never the same.

Or as others would say, "subs." There is nothing even close in comparison.

9. Needing Wawa more than life, and there's no one to relate.

When you complain to your friends about missing Wawa, they have no reaction. Their only response is to ask what it is, but there's no rightful explanation that can capture why it is so much better than just some convenient store.

10. You have to learn to pump gas. Eventually.

After a long period of avoidance and reluctance, I can now pump gas. The days of pulling up, rolling down your window, handing over your card and yelling "Fill it up regular please!" are over. When it's raining or cold, you miss this the most.

11. Your average pace of walking is suddenly very above-average.

Your friends will complain that you're walking too fast - when in reality - that was probably your slow-paced walk. Getting stuck behind painfully slow people is your utmost inconvenience.

12. You're asked about "Jersey Shore" way too often.

No, I don't know Snooki. No, our whole state and shore is not actually like that. We have 130 miles of some of the best beach towns in the country.

13. You can't casually mention NYC without people idealizing some magical, beautiful city.

Someone who has never been there has way too perfect an image of it. The place is quite average and dirty. Don't get me wrong, I love a good NYC day trip as much as the next person, but that's all it is to you... a day trip.

14. The lack of swearing is almost uncomfortable.

Jerseyans are known for their foul mouths, and going somewhere that isn't as aggressive as us is quite a culture adjustment.

15. No more jughandles.

No longer do you have to get in the far right lane to make a left turn.

16. You realize that other states are not nearly as extreme about their North/South division.

We literally consider them two different states. There are constant arguments and debates about it. The only thing that North and South Jersey can agree on is that a "Central Jersey" does not exist.

17. Most places also are not in a war over meat.

"Pork roll" or "taylor ham"... The most famous debate amongst North and South Jersey. It's quite a stupid argument, however, considering it is definitely pork roll.

18. You realize you were spoiled with fresh produce.

After all, it's called the "Garden State" for a reason. Your mouth may water just by thinking about some fresh Jersey corn.

19. You'll regret taking advantage of your proximity to everything.

Super short ride to the beach and a super short ride to Philly or NYC. Why was I ever bored?

20. Lastly, you realize how much pride you actually have in the "armpit of America," even if you claimed to dislike it before.

After all, there aren't many places with quite as much pride. You find yourself defending your state at all necessary moments, even if you never thought that would be the case.

Cover Image Credit: Travel Channel

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Netflix's 'Special' Is A Groundbreaking Series About A Gay Man With Cerebral Palsy

Based off his memoir "I'm Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves" Ryan O'Connell reimagines his journey in this witty 15-minute comedy.


Ryan O'Connell is a gay man with cerebral palsy, and he's here to showcase his story in a must-see eight episode series. O'Connell navigates his world behind sexuality and disability in a coming-of-age twentysomething comedy, that's extremely important in today's society. When it comes to the topic of representation, O'Connell exceeds expectations as he shines a light on internalized ableism, being a fish out of water in his own community, and even the topic of gay sex. This series has a significant amount of charm, it's almost like a rated-R Disney show with its quirky music, fast-paced story and it's a success in making everyone's heart melt.

"Special" is about Ryan Hayes (Ryan O'Connell) a charismatic and shy gay man with mild cerebral palsy who's "28 and hasn't done a goddamn thing." Therefore, he takes the initiative of becoming an unpaid intern at an online magazine titled "Eggwoke" and begins his journey in soul-searching for his identity. His boss Olivia (Marla Mindelle), a chaotic Anna Wintour-type, expresses that most articles going viral right now are confessional ones. This allows Ryan to have his moment, as he writes an anecdote about getting hit by a car and inflates it from a minor injury to a traumatic piece, which allows him to use it as a cover story for his limp and to keep his condition a secret from his peers.

Ryan befriends one of his peers, a South-Asian American woman named Kim (Punam Patel) whose professional niche involves body positivity, the empowerment of being a person of color and a curvy girl. Her constant confidence helps paint her as the motivating friend that helps Ryan get more comfortable with himself. They share a moment at Olivia's pool party in a room when Ryan refuses to take off his clothes and she coerces him into taking off his clothes and appreciating his body. Kim might be a bit of a push towards Ryan, but she's only leading him in the right direction.

"Special" is extremely self-aware, especially within the first scenes of the first episode which explain what mild cerebral palsy is and in response a child screams in fear and runs away, leaving Ryan confused but humored. There even is a complex relationship between Ryan and his mother, Karen (Jessica Hecht). Karen's an overprotective mother who only wants the best for her child, but when she's at that point of finally letting him be free she's put into a place of loneliness. The show tackles a very specific mother/son relationship, as Ryan tries not to rely on his mother for help all the time, Karen does not mind any hassle regarding her son... especially with his condition. The two butt heads at multiple occasions, but their love for one another prevails.

"Special" has eight episodes that you can watch on Netflix right now, it's binge-worthy especially with each episode being around 15 minutes and it's also an eye-opener. This show helps strive for self-revelation and self-evaluation, it's a reflective process on identity and what categories we put ourselves in. Ryan O'Connell has made such a marvelous show, with a charming cast, multiple important messages, and a motive to help normalize disabilities and homosexuality to the public through a unique and specific perspective. It's a personal experience that everyone should watch, learn and love from.

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