Browse Category: Creative Corner

A Letter To My Plagiarist

As National Poetry Month draws to a close, I thought it only appropriate to post this response to the plagiarist who thought they could get away with stealing my words.

I admit that I wrestled with responding at all; the pain of knowing that a fellow African LGBT activist, who I knew personally, had done this to me was a lot to bear. In the wake of David Kato’s murder, a prominent LGBT Ugandan activist that was murdered in January, the last thing that I needed — that the Queer African movement needed — was internal conflict. Aside from the infuriating suggestions from people (including other writers– wow) that I “let it slide for the greater good”, I just couldn’t shake the feeling, that my words — the only things I have in this world — had been taken from me. I felt violated.

At one point, I had to say it out loud to believe it, “I’ve just been plagiarized, blatantly, by someone who knows me.” Seriously, verbatim. This woman (who was a journalist so couldn’t claim to not know better) had lifted a whole three paragraphs from the blog post I’d written about David Kato and read it as part of a speech in public forum (at a vigil held in NYC in his honor – starts at 2:00 min), no citation, no credit, no mention that her speech even contained excerpts from an ‘unnamed’ source. I found out in the worst way possible, on effin Twitter. I happened to click on a link to video coverage of the event she spoke at in NYC and there she was, speaking my words verbatim, being so inspiring it took me a few takes to realize why her words resonated so much… they were mine. Wow.

Of course I confronted her about it. I sent her a very nice but stern email that said I know what she’d done and I was giving her a window to take responsibility, apologize, and do something about it i.e. email the media outlets that quoted her with my words in my mouth and ask them to make corrections AND post in a public place (her blog for instance) that she’d taken my words without permission and was going to give appropriate credit to make it right.

At first she apologized and agreed to make things right, but then she did a switcharoo, all of a sudden getting annoyed that I was making all these “demands” of her and decided she was going to investigate on her own if she’d actually done anything wrong. Despite her new-found confidence in barreling through the issue without taking responsibility, I gave her several more chances after that. But all she ended up doing, to add insult to injury, was put up this deliberately condescending message about how trials as an activist on the day she had to give that speech, and oh by the way here’s this person Spectra who writes about Africa even though she doesn’t live there, and here is a link to her blog. I’m linking her here to “lift her up with visibility.” I was LIVID. But also incredibly hurt.

The experience, I admit, shook me. I only just realized recently that I hadn’t been writing and sharing as much content online. The fear of violation like that again, even the fear of being accused of not thinking about the “bigger picture” (i.e. going after a ‘fellow’ whatever) held me back; it become a subconscious trigger anytime I was about to post something online. I’m a writer first before anything else. I don’t want my words stolen. And certainly not from people who claimed to love, admire, care about me. But I’m done with the silence. It’s stifling. I’ll have no more of it.

Aren’t I the person that always tells it like it is, regardless of which ‘community’ I’m supposed to be aligned it? Aren’t I miss warrior woman, outspoken, no-bullshit, no-nonsense, no tolerance for injustice? If I don’t stand up to a bloody cyber plagiarist, then I fail all those people I’m constantly encouraging to speak up — writers, artists who believe their work is important enough to protect, to value, activists who feel trapped by petty politics, anyone who’s ever felt betrayed or violated by people that are supposed to be supporting them.

We must speak out against bad behavior, even within our movements. In doing so, we will find strength and healing we didn’t know was there, like I have. It is too important that we hold our communities — and each other — accountable, lest we begin to silence among ourselves.


Dear Plagiarist,

I must admit, you swept me off my feet.
Charmed me with flattery,
used words like “passionate”, “prolific”,
game changer, you seduced me,
sanctioned the urgency in my voice
just when I’d’ begun to shrink under the weight of accusations,
“aggressions unwarranted,” they said
even though our people were dying;
this “angry black woman” was on the brink of depression when you showed up,
offering verbal bouquets in my mother tongue.
You spoke friend, and I listened,
awakened my senses so that I could smell the bullshit from these white people
who only loved me when I was tame,
only loved me when I was game for banter,
could only stomach me placed neatly between the black and white lines of their own agenda
— I spit at their podiums.

But you…
I felt like I knew you.
Your accent, thick with struggle through colonial diction,
that awkward ensemble of western clothing gave you away
an immigrant attempting to recreate themselves in a foreign country,
I stood under you when you needed uplifting,
welcomed you into my house, unsuspecting
I fed you. Nurtured you when I myself was starving,
simply because I was thankful for the company,
for the ability to lock eyes in a sea of white guys who misused the truth for their own gains;
“We are Africans, the longest surviving population on the planet,”
I proclaimed, “… and we don’t need saving.”
We need solidarity.

In the aftermath, I wrote:
“David Kato, in the face of violence, we must never abandon hope for fear.”
…in the face of violence, we must never abandon hope for fear,
and you cheered for me in private,
clapped your ashy hands at the gall of this Naija woman
to inspire healing through pain as ego clouded your vigil;
you pounded your fist on the table as I vowed to share the truth,
that these westerners preached too god damn much to listen,
gave our fathers reason to say, “Homophobia is a white man’s problem.”

So I didn’t mind when your sound bites
had bitten off too many of mine
We were sisters, and what was mine was yours,
but when I heard the media applaud your thievery I saw it plainly:
my sister had maimed me,
ripped words like cheap clothes from my naked body,
and waved them in the air for glory.
You betrayed me.
I didn’t see it coming.

But see, the thing about being a warrior woman
is that I’ve been bitten one time too many
by snakes disguised as allies standing right next to me;
You must bleed to beat the poison,
You must bleed to win.

Val Kalende — What, thought I wouldn’t put you on blast?

At your best you were a thief,
impostor playing journalist stealing other people’s stories,
media sob story turned professional token — you have lost your footing
and now, your head bows low enough to be petted by the same jokers I wipe the floor with,
the same cowards who cower under the bass of my voice when they piss me the fuck off.

…and trust me when I say, that I am pissed the fuck off.

If you thought I would go sulk in a corner
a good girl ashamed to report her abuser
for fear of being accused of seeking media attention
damaging your “stellar” reputation out of envy,
then you must not know me.

I am a warrior woman,
a freedom fighter, truth seeker,
liberator of all who’ve been double-crossed by oppression,
I will make an example of you.
Run and hide behind the podiums these white people have given you,
a house kennel for the stray dog that you are
— no rhetoric will shield you, no eulogy will save you —
You will NOT escape my wrath.

Hunting Boi: An Instruction Manual

Originally published on Bklyn Boihood.

Note: the following piece is creative fiction and not to be taken literally.

Hunting Boi: An Instruction Manual

Dress properly. My people were colonized by the English. And though I call myself a feminist, and believe in liberation from tight buns, pencil skirts, and stilettos — ‘cause real women don’t strut, they stomp, barefoot — I can’t help that Victorian innocence turns me on.

Seduce me. But don’t make it too obvious. Big hips and a small waist render me powerless. But I need to believe that you are no match for my charm; that my mother’s witchy river woman smile and my father’s pensive dark eyes are all the game I need to make your hips sway in my direction.

So play along. Bat your eyes. Bite your lower lip. Raise your chest and sigh heavily when I glance your way. Melt into my arms when I grab your waist. Tell me with your eyes that you want me to pull you into a dark corner and run my strong hands all over your body.

You must give yourself to me, completely. But not on the first night. Let your body suggest that you would like to play slut — just this once, but let your head do the talking. Permit yourself just one moment of vulnerability; tell me that you think I’m gorgeous, and mean it. Cup the side of my cheek in your palm to show me that you can be tender. Then, as I kiss your hand and peck softly at the inside of your wrist, stumble over the words, “I need… to go.”

But don’t. Stay right there so I can look you square in the eye and tell you, “Come home with me.”

Now, this is very important, so pay attention.

I will be very convincing. I will run my fingers through your hair, and play with your curls suggestively, indifferently, while you ponder the answer to my question. And as you begin to respond with something like, “I’m not sure that would be a good idea,” my eyes will focus on your parsed lips, a little too long, then move slowly down the side of your neck, to the sweaty deep in your chest. Breath deeply so that I can watch you heave with wanting, but pretend that you have been caught off guard. Say the words “Um” and “OK” several times, but do not pull away from me. I am enjoying every minute of this.

Let my eyes find your timid gaze, then shut your lids suddenly, feigning a strong desire to control yourself. At this point, make sure that your friends interrupt our mating dance, pretending to be impatient. Remember: impatient, not rude. You don’t want me to think you keep crass company. I only fuck classy femmes.

Respond to your friends’ summon back to reality. Pull yourself together; flip your hair off your face and throw your shoulders back. Clear your throat and speak with a deeper voice as you tell me, firmly, “I have to go.” Flash me a pretty smile. Remind me that you’re a lady.

I’ll say, “So you’re not coming home with me then?”, smiling as I reach for the phone you conveniently have been holding in your hand. You’ll say, un-phased — no, with new-found composure — “Definitely not.”

I’ll keep my hand around your waist as I flip your phone open with one hand, and begin keying in my phone number with my thumb. A girl who can resist a good fuck on a Saturday night deserves a proper date. So I’ll ask you, plainly, without looking away from your phone, “You like sushi?” You’ll take the bait, and respond with a “Maybe, why?” And when I tell you that I’m allergic to sushi, and that we won’t be having any on our date next week, you’ll laugh extra hard at my presumptuousness, providing the perfect opportunity for me to finish keying in my phone number, and announce that I’m sending a text to my phone, one that says, “Call me. I’m free next week.”

As you walk away from our mating dance, linger a little before you turn your head away. Strut slowly toward your posse, because you know that I’m still watching. I need to see how long you can resist looking back at me. But don’t take this as a challenge. This is an opportunity for you to let me know that I’ve won you over. Turn your head slightly to me as you walk away with your friends; flash me that pretty smile again.

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