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Bear Witness

by Verde Arzu

August 20, 2023

Over sixty Black artists & creatives gather on July 29, 2023 in Sacramento, CA. In Unison, the group chants, “This is PROOf!” [Video taken by Verde Arzu]

"Black artists continue to work and live in spaces where they are still the only or one of few. We know we are here but sometimes we need to see the proof too!" -Faith J. McKinnie

This Is PROOf

On Saturday, July 29, 2023, more than sixty vibrant, Black artists and creatives from in and around the city of Sacramento descended upon its downtown area in unforgettable fashion to capture a historic moment in photographic form. Capturing PROOf provides Black artists an opportunity to continue the legacy of boldly proclaiming our existence, reclaiming our culture, and rejecting the generations-long efforts to deny and exclude Black artistry from mainstream access. 

Now, more than ever, it is essential for Black artists of all genres to be bold with their craft–to claim their rightful place, to create art that speaks to the lived experiences of Blackness and tell Black stories with audacity. PROOf’s collaboration was spearheaded by two of Sacramento’s phenomenal artists, Faith J. McKinnie, and Dev Anglin. Faith is Executive Director of Black Artists Foundry, an organization dedicated to addressing the “disparities that have long hindered” Black artists’ progress. Dev Anglin is owner of Nine Sixteen Luxuries “This is Sac,” a fashion and novelty company, which provides luxury wear for the people. Anglin is also a multi-faced artist, and the photographer behind the lens responsible for capturing this visual testament. 

PROOf for Future Generations

Future Black artists need to be able to see themselves–to see that it is possible to find success within any artistic discipline, to be inspired by those who came before them, and to have a road map to follow as their foundation. PROOf is a history lesson for future generations.

McKinnie states, “The goal for PROOf was to gather Black artists and creatives from around the greater Sacramento region, to capture an image that bears witness to the fact that we were here. I have studied the Harlem Renaissance images and archives of convening Black folks and found the pressing need to document our own contemporary moment. Fully understanding that one day this will be 100 years in the past and will motivate folks just as those early 20th century images did for me.” 

McKinnie’s message is poignant, powerful, and timely. In a juncture in America where elected officials work desperately to erase the truth of the Black experience from classrooms, and re-write history in the textbooks through legislation, Black artists must get to work to make sure the truth is told. Toni Morrison once said, “This is precisely the time when artists must go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. That is how civilizations heal.”  PROOf is the work, it is that voice, that bravery, and the healing we all need to be rejuvenated to create on. We are who future generations will look to. 

Better Together

The timing felt anointed, as the moment paid homage to Black artists from the past. Artists like Gerry Simpson, who has been creating art in Sacramento for over twenty-five years, whose shoulders we undoubtedly stand upon today; while celebrating and empowering present-day artists. A year in the making, Anglin recalls, “PROOf came from a common thread of wanting to bring the people together to historically preserve us.” 

PROOf says Sacramento Black artists of all disciplines show up for one another, we understand the power in unifying. When asked why showing PROOf in Sacramento is important, Anglin replied, “I believe PROOf is important for Sacramento specifically because of the amazing Black talent we have in abundance. Although it’s a vast number of us, we are not all connected. As we should know, when we come together, we’re able to be more effective at any objective. I know that PROOf can provide that bridge of connection, support, and resources. Resulting in strengthening the city & the Black community creatively and economically.” I believe we can all agree. After all, history has shown us, from the artists of The Harlem Renaissance, that we are powerful together. There are no margins with which we fit in when we are together.

A Sacred Vibe

The atmosphere and energy on the outdoor stage was electric from the moment I walked up. The kinetic buzz in the voices from the sixty plus people gathered and connecting with each other was rhythmic all on its own. I was pulled in and my unease vanished. As an independent Black queer writer, blogger, and podcaster, I was blessed and privileged to experience the gathering of PROOf first-hand. I felt the welcoming vibe calling me into the familiarity of Black love. It was a moment like none I have ever experienced since moving to Sacramento over a decade ago. I finally felt at home.

PROOf was a reminder to me and those there, that the spaces we create when we gather are sacred. Our unity pulled in passersby like scheduled audience members, as they watched on in awe of our greatness. Together, we could not be overlooked or ignored. Black artists, from all forms, were connecting with each other. In attendance were content creators, visual artists, models, stylists, curators, writers, photographers, among others, in a pond of Blackness. It was exactly the kind of nourishment our souls needed. A born introvert, I struggle to promote my brand. Moments like these are crucial for all artists, but especially for those who find themselves creating alone. 

Among the many dope, Black artists in attendance was content creator, visual artist, and stylist, Keia Kodama, who currently has a sneaker installation at Sacramento’s Arden Mall. A Black artist who created a mind-blowing pair of “Hair Force 1s,” that are a salute to Black womxn and our hair stories. Model, actress, dancer, thrifter, Mersadez Hogan. She introduced herself to me as a model making space in the world of fashion for plus-size womxn. Camille Janae, who is an entrepreneur and poet, making space for “melanated creatives,” through “Out the Way on J,” a spot where folks can come listen to spoken word and live jazz. The moment of PROOf created hallowed ground.


The occasion was unforgettable for sure and historic for certain. The lives of the Black artists who gathered there will forever be changed. We have been recorded in the books of history. We have proclaimed our existence, and boldly made it known that we are here. Anglin declares, “We can expect more love and fun. More history to be made by intertwining our crafts and resources. We can expect the world will not be able to wipe us from any records of humanity and culture, especially in Sacramento, CA.” It is exactly the kind of legacy that is vital.  

In an interview on ABCs, “The View,” Viola Davis was asked why representation matters. Her response, “Because you need to see a physical manifestation of your dreams…there is something about seeing someone who looks like you that makes it more tangible. You can see it, you can touch it, and it gives you the ability to look through your imagination, you know? You got to see a way out. Someone has to provide a portal.” PROOf’s 2023 gathering of Black artists in Sacramento is that portal. 

McKinnie hopes, “to see something organically grow from this. We all need each other,” she affirmed. Perhaps the next time we gather will be at a cookout. How historically dope would that be? 

Click the links to learn more and support!


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Carlisha Hood

by Verde Arzu

“And since we all came from a woman/got our name from a woman and our game from a woman/I wonder why we take from our women/why we rape our women, do we hate our women?” -2 Pac

Keep Ya Head Up

Take from Our Womxn

On a warm summer’s evening, Carlisha Hood, a thirty-five year old Black mother walked into a restaurant on the Southside of Chicago. Separately, thirty-two year old Jeremy Brown did the same. While in line, the two engaged in a verbal disagreement. Meanwhile, Carlisha’s fourteen-year-old son waited in the care for his mom to return with food. Instead, Mr. Brown was inside brutally and viciously attacking Ms. Hood.

In the video released by several news outlets, Jeremy Brown can be seen standing next to Ms. Hood at the ordering window of the restaurant, balling up his first, yelling at Ms. Hood, demanding she stop talking. Also seen in the video are other people standing around watching the situation unfold. One additional person is responsible for recording the incident. Ms. Hood is seen responding to Mr. Brown. He then yells out, “say one more word and I’m going to knock you out.” Ms. Hood continues to talk. Mr. Brown then begins to punch Ms. Hood in the head several times. A middle-aged Black man can be seen in the video turning around and fleeing the restaurant once Ms. Hood is physically attacked by Mr. Brown.

Ms. Hood’s teenage son walks into the restaurant and witnesses his mother being viciously beaten by Mr. Brown like a lion who has found his prey in the wild. Frantic, the fourteen-year-old boy pulls his mother’s gun from his sweatshirt pocket, pulls the trigger, and saves his mother’s life.

I Wonder Why

Ms. Brown and her son were both immediately arrested and charged with first degree murder. Immediately. It did not take days, weeks, or months for this arrest to take place. The response to arrest and charge this brutally beaten womxn and her heroic son by Chicago police officers was immediate.

However, Ajike Owens was shot and killed through the door by her neighbor. It took four days before the white womxn who murdered her was arrested.

Ralph Yarl was shot in the head by a white man because he accidentally knocked on the wrong door. It took a national outcry before the 84-year-old white man was arrested.

We certainly can’t forget about Ahmaud Aubrey who was taking a jog in his neighborhood and was hunted down and murdered in cold blood. The three murderers weren’t arrested for two months! Even still, it took a national outcry, worldwide outrage, and protests to bring those murderers to justice.

There are countless others.

Meanwhile, Carlisha Hood, after being savagely attacked, being saved only by her teenage son, who had no other choice but to defend her, was arrested and charged within hours.

This. Is. America.

Do We Hate Our Womxn?

I first learned about this incident from Tamika D. Mallory, a social justice activist, who spoke out about this senseless violence against Ms. Hood on her Instagram page. Mallory expressed frustration and heartbreak over what transpired on the evening of June 18th in Chicago. She questioned the actions of those who stood around and watched Mr. Brown first verbally threatened, then viciously beat Hood–punching her in the face several times with his closed fist. No one stepped in to say a word! No one stepped in to try to escort Mr. Brown out of the restaurant to calm him down. No one said, “hey, brother, why don’t you step outside for a second?” No one said, “hey, sister, come on and go with me. I’ll bring your food to you.” Everyone just stood around and watched. Someone stood there and recorded it. Another Black man turned around and ran out.

I understand that we, as a society, live in a time where we have to be very careful of when and how we step into situations that have nothing to do with us, right? I ask, however, when did we become the Black community whose Black men stand and watch another Black man beat a Black womxn down? Do we no longer have unwritten agreements and standards on how we protect each other? Are our communities so fractured and shattered that we have no moral compass or standards? Further, I ask, what is happening to the code in the Black community? Codes like, “respect your elders. Get up and let your elders sit down when you’re on public transportation, hold the door for someone behind you, especially if their hands are full. Be kind.” Is being kind not a thing anymore? Do unwritten codes not exist in Black communities anymore? Are we in the year of two thousand and twenty-three where we stand aside silently and watch a Black womxn get brutally beaten by a Black man, record it, or worse, turn and run away? Only to argue that she should be arrested and charged with child endangerment because the only person willing to save her life was her 14-year-old son. God help us all. The impact of slavery and White supremacy knows no end.

Since We All Came From a Womxn

What is our responsibility in moments like these? Are we not each other’s keepers? Are we all individuals and the concept of community and village dead? Are the Christian beliefs of this nation, that many of us hold dear, not actionable? Beliefs like, “love your neighbor.” Far too often Black womxn’s sense of love and protection are taken without regard, without protest, without outrage, without consequences. What we cannot do is continue to accept the disrespect and hate of Black womxn as normal. I’m not asking for a friend. I am asking as a Black womxn: where do we go from here?


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All Hail the Queen

By Verde Arzu

“I had to tune out what the hell everybody else had to say about who I was. When I was able to do that, I felt free.” -Queen Latifah

Happy Pride!

Queen Latifah: hip-hop MC, actress, Academy Award winner, Grammy Award winner, role model, philanthropist, and phenomenal womxn. A true living legend received her roses on June 27, 2021 as she stood on stage to receive the BET Liftetime Achievement Award. Queen Latifah’s body of work spans three decades, appearing on the scene with her first solo record, “Wrath of My Madness,” released in 1988. The Queen is a walking example of longevity. She stood and delivered her speech in true Queen fashion, with powerful remarks. Among them, thanking God, her parents, friends, family, and “sisters in rap,” Rapsody, Monie Love, MC Lyte, and Lil Kim, all of whom stood beside her after performing some of her most beloved classic hits. Additionally, she thanked BET for providing a space for “beautiful blackness to thrive, to shine.” However, no remarks were more poignant than her last nine words: “Eboni, my love. Rebel, my love. Peace. Happy pride!” It was with those words that the queer community, especially the Black queer community, and all of social media was set ablaze.

Nine Words

Many have speculated and even concluded that the Queen is “family.” However, even with all the rumors and murmurs surrounding her romantic interests, Queen Latifah herself has been mums the word about her private life. Over the years, though, many, including myself, have longed for The Queen to stand in pride with her fellow LGBTQIA+ folk. Mostly because, well, representation truly does matter! It is a saying that can never become cliche for the same reason that Black Entertainment Television began in the first place. We need to see ourselves. We still have such a long way to go before equality and equity exists within entertainment industry. Queen’s voice, like it did during the month of Pride 2021, resonated with a group of often silenced and marginalized people, evoking hope, pride, and power. “In just nine words,” you might ask. Yes, in just nine words! Queen Latifah’s voice said that Black queer people, specifically Black womxn who are queer, can be our true and authentic selves, that we do exist, that we are out here, and that we matter. 

Look to the Throne

Although Queen Latifah has been relatively quiet about her private life, her actions have been quite powerful. Among her most powerful actions, she revealed to us–although an important process to many on their journeys–there doesn’t have to be a coming-out affair. No interviews have to be had, letters written, or kumbaya session had. We can live our lives however the hell we want to! We do not have to feel compelled to share about our love interests because we are LGBTQIA+ or because of stardom or any other reason. People are going to love and support you because of who you are and the work you produce. Heterosexual people do not have to step up to a podium and make an announcement about their sexual orientation. They simply walk around in love. In a recent interview Queen Latifah said, “I had to tune out what the hell everybody else had to say about who I was. When I was able to do that, I felt free.” That sentiment of freedom in being ourselves is something we all want and need. And so, the Queen continues to blaze the trail and show us how it’s done. “All Hail the Queen!”

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What We Have

“We are all more blind to what we have than to what we have not.”

-Audre Lorde

These are trying times, right? Very reminiscent of an Octavia Butler or Orwell novel, indeed! Life as we know it has come to a halt, and finding toilet paper is as rare as using a metal detector to find gold in the sand. Posts about government conspiracies, apocalyptic prophesies, along with presidential leadership that is anything but hopeful or reassuring, can all wreak havoc on anyone’s mental health and well-being.  I get it! Yet, there is plenty we can all do to curve the spread of COVID-19 while staying sane. I know you’ve read the posts about exercising, picking up a new or old hobby, taking walks, cooking & eating with family, and getting back to the basics. Well, yeah, that is exactly what we can do! Besides giving to a reputable charity or medical organization (if you’re able), improving yourself should be a top priority right now. Not only will you benefit but those around you will benefit as well. I am someone who battles with anxiety, and when this all began my mental health and clarity was a wreck! Here is what I did to change that:

  1. Called my mom (some of us no longer have this as an option, however, if you do, call and check in on your mom!) watch and see how much better you feel after.
  2. Cut back on social media & the news. Most posts & news cycles are sensationalizing what is happening, placing opinions & theories where facts should be, and basically scaring the hell out of people! Cut it! Pick and choose who you listen to and how often. Go to reputable sites, and silence some of your followers for a while. Better yet, put your damn phone down.
  3. Put my phone down?!? Yes, and pick up a book! You know all those books that are on your TBR list? They’re calling your name right now! Hop to it.
  4. Meditate. Damn, this is such a life saver for me. I don’t do it as often as I should but when I do, I feel 100% better, mind, body & spirit. Meditation can be prayer, quiet moments, reflections, whatever you deem it to be. There isn’t one set way to meditate. An app I learned about & recommend is called Calm. Love it! They also have sleep stories, too! Short stories told by various narrators to help calm & quiet your mind for a restful nights sleep. Or check YouTube for some videos you may like.
  5. Yes, exercise. Not only will you feel better, it’s good for your health. And right now, staying healthy is a top priority for everyone! Exercise can be anything from a calm walk, jog, run, circuit, or make-up your own thing. Just try to move your body as much as you can. Not only does it increase your endorphin levels but also brings mental clarity, reduces stress & anxiety, & boosts your immune system. It’s all about the immune system, baby! (Say that to the beat of “It’s all about the Benjamins”) You’re welcome.
  6. Eat well. As best as you can, eat well. Fresh fruits & veggies. Learn about some herbs you can take and herbal teas you can make to improve physical and mental health. Follow some of those who give free recipes and info online all the time. Here are a few people I find give plenty of accurate information: Ty’s Conscious Kitchen: (YouTube/FB), Crush Foster & Kelly Keelo:, Aqiyl Aniys: I follow him on FB, and I have bought both of his books, which are filled with a wealth of knowledge. Blended Abode for their great, easy, & healthy recipes (YouTube/FB). I recently found this younger gentlemen named BoBo Cooks who I’ve started following on IG. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t say:, FB, and IG pages, which is where all of these people’s foundations began.
  7. Do something you’ve always wanted to do but never really had the time. Whatever it is, just do it. Whether it be spending more time with family. Catching up on some TV shows/movies, writing, finishing a project, reconnecting with an old friend. Now is the time. Do it!

We can focus on the negative and what we have lost or make the best out of what we still have. It’s about perspective. Oh, don’t forget to wash your damn hands and stay your a—in the house. Thank you, from everyone.

Peace & Love, good people.

Verde Arzu