Dear Denise, 

I have thought long and hard about whether to write this publicly and if you know anything about me, you know I am intentional in what I do or don’t say but your insistence on dodging this conversation and therefore any accountability has forced my hand.

We both exist in carefully curated spaces where we have conversations around harm, compassion and integrity. As women of color you know we are too often targets of a variety of violence, physical and otherwise it is especially disheartening to me that this is what it has come to. 

It feels to me like you interject yourself into Black femme spaces so that you might receive the benefits of the fierce loyalty and care Black femmes extend to those who we are in community. And while you might boast being of service to Black women the benefits you receive far outweigh what you are offering. I would also challenge you to interrogate why you need to be of service to Black femmes. It seems to me that your relationship with us is paternalistic, so long as it is you providing some charity or direct service your feel empowered…

You as a light skinned Dominican woman have given a lot of lip service to the ways in which you feel personally responsible and accountable to exist in community with Black women in ways that does not further harm them especially dark skinned Black queer women. Yet here I am having to write a call-in to you publicly because you thought it appropriate to leave my apartment and our friendship in debt in excess of $5,000

This is further complicated by the fact that we had a whirlwind of a friendship that seemed to be rooted in our mutual experiences with trauma and abuse which makes this even more puzzling for me. I always joked that you sort of insisted on being my friend in an extremely vulnerable time in my life when I was deeply hesitant of developing and nurturing new friendships. And while I do not think your motivation for courting friendship with me was insidious or malicious you have not conducted yourself with integrity and I am now resentful of the ways in which you pushed into my space.

As someone who seems to have an analysis on the ways in which NBPOC intentionally and unintentionally harm Black women and femmes it is unacceptable to me that you would accept money from me that was a line item of my personal salary out of my organizational budget to pay your back rent and not make a commitment to repay it. This was after you mismanaged you salary from my organization which was highly competitive at $3,750 a month for a four month contract. Even with that knowledge you didn’t think I was worth even a cursory conversation about how that money was going to be paid back. I have tried many times to mend the bridge between us including paying for an outside mediator and you blew off the meeting after insisting you needed more time to prepare, then committing to the meeting and then fifteen minutes before it was to begin you called and said you forgot and had other obligations, leading the conversation by asking did we even have a meeting. Any future attempt to have further conversation was also equally dismissed.

And this was a pattern in our relationship and something you seemed to have difficulty confronting when it was broached, your lack of responsibility and transparency. When it did come up in my interactions with you, you leaned heavy on the Scary Black Woman trope using thinly veiled language such as “intimidating” and “difficult” when confronted with your poor job performance, lack of communication or mismanaging your affairs in a way that directly impacted me such as me ending up in housing court because of the rent arrears. When I previously asked you if you needed help managing your finances because I was concerned about your obvious lack of money knowing you were being paid competitively I was essentially told to mind my business and yet I still helped you with rent arrears. Three months of rent is equivalent to $3,331.04 and your monthly salary for the 4 months that you worked for BFP was $3,750 and while I take responsibility for the fact I was unable to pay you on time during your last month of employment because my grants administrator was unresponsive due to dying of cancer, I was still accountable to you and community by being transparent publicly and openly fundraising for the expressed purposes of standing in the gap. 

And yet it seems none of that meant anything to you when you told me on on May 17th, in passing and at my own questioning about rent that you MIGHT be moving out on June 1st or maybe it would be the 30th. You then made a verbal commitment that you would pay June’s rent. Previous to that and unknowing to you because you refused to have an adult conversation my board and I had drafted an equitable proposition for you to repay the rent. After being blindsided that you were moving out less than 30 days from your cavalier notification we drafted another document and asked to have a conversation. Your response: to ignore it for over a week and then notify me on June 2nd that you had just decided to move out and that you didn’t have the capacity to answer my email. You left me with June’s rent on top of the thousands of dollars you owed me in back rent. I found out you had bounced a check twice and that I had incurred late fees and bounced check fees because of it. You didn’t have the capacity to respond to an email but you could move a whole apartment last minute? 

The way you have moved thus far has lacked integrity, it has caused harm to me and my organization which is currently engaged in the work of paying, feeding and providing money to Black MaGes and during a pandemic no less. It feels intentionally sneaky and harmful. You have put me in a terrible position with my board and I am now tasked with filling that deficit or I will not have money to pay myself come September, I am a Black woman with 6 kids who went out on a limb for you as an act of solidarity and friendship. I trusted that no matter what your principles would have you consider my needs and obligations and well beings. Clearly, that was a mistake on my part.

I won’t belabor this as there is so much more I would like to say and quite honestly I am sure you are spinning another narrative to justify the ways in which you have conducted yourself. And I am not perfect, I will hold space for the fact that there are ways in which you may have felt negatively impacted during the course of our relationship but I have always made space for your feelings, I have continually checked in with myself and others to make sure I was not harming you, I was transparent and communicative even when it was awkward and uncomfortable because I valued you as  A WHOLE PERSON and as woman of immigrants who has had to heal from her own trauma and exists in an openly hostile world that consumes Black and non-white women. When your last month’s salary was disrupted I worked my ass off to make sure I did the necessary fundraising to try and restore the harm that was done to you. 

And yet you feel no sense of accountability in any of the ways this has played out? You move out and stuck me with a bill with no conversation and weak excuses about “capacity” to a woman running an org, a business and raising 6 children in a poor community. A dark skinned Black woman who navigates harm and aggressions every day? I only get passive aggressive and dismissive text messages from someone who espouses rhetoric around “Believing Black Women” and confronting anti-Blackness in the Latinx community? 

And to add injury to insult I later find out you are working with Black Women’s Blueprint. It feels to me like you interject yourself into Black femme spaces so that you might receive the benefits of the fierce loyalty and care Black femmes extend to those who we are in community. And while you might boast being of service to Black women the benefits you receive far outweigh what you are offering. I would also challenge you to interrogate why you need to be of service to Black femmes. It seems to me that your relationship with us is paternalistic, so long as it is you providing some charity or direct service your feel empowered, when you need to be held accountable as a peer my experience has been that you cut and run and root yourself in passive aggressive behavior to wrest control of the situation presented. I am deeply concerned about this as you continue to call yourself an ally to Black women and femmes. I was disposable to you when I no longer served you and you cared little for how your behavior would impact me. 

I am also doing my own self accountability work. As someone who is rooted in enriching the lives of Black women and femmes I am sitting in what motivated me to prioritize your needs over my own and why I risked my own well being as a working class woman and my potential reputation with my board to support you even when you had already shown me that you had a penchant to be flaky. I am self critiquing on why I did not do my own due diligence on vetting qualified candidates who might have also been folks of the Diaspora instead prioritizing our burgeoning friendship. I was openly questioned by another member of community if your being non-Black might have been a factor in that. And that question still shakes me to my core months after it was asked but I am siting with it because internalized anti-blackness is pervasive and insidious. There is a lot of anger I have directed at myself regarding how this situation played out and what it cost me both figuratively and literally. 

But from self interrogation and awareness comes abundance. Even from your harm has come opportunity. The apartment will become the Alice Fields Community Space For Black MaGes and my hope is that I will be able to use it as a space that helps to mitigate the harm we face and that it will be apart of the healing work that Black women and femmes are engaging in during a violent and tumultuous political climate. 

What is the point of this letter? It isn’t a drag. I am not looking for you to be “cancelled”. I don’t need an apology from you. I prefer if you didn’t contact me for any reason other than working out repayment. Here is what would be helpful and would restore the harm you have caused. 

  • A written agreement on how you plan to pay my org back or publicly admitting that you actually have no plans to pay back the back rent. This can be facilitated by a neutral third party. 
  • I would ask that you revisit restorative justice practices regarding being in community with Black women and femmes and do some serious work around your motivations for being so closely aligned with Black women and femmes in this work.
  • I would ask that you find an elder Black mentor of your choosing to guide you if you insist on doing this work in community with us. 

I hope that this letter while uncomfortable will move you towards unpacking the ways in which you have harmed me and by extension the women and femmes I serve in my work. I hope that you continue to grow and while I don’t think you had any diabolical motivations and that some of the ways you navigated our relationship was a result of your own trauma responses I cannot in good faith internalize that and not hold you accountable and risk you repeating this behavior and harming others in our communities. 

Wishing You Abundance And Growth, 

Tanya