unmasced
       
     
       
     
brown boy feelings
       
     
recolonizing space
       
     
       
     
revolution
       
     
to, progress
       
     
the impossibility of black space
       
     
for antwon rose
       
     
we are the sons
       
     
black like
       
     
baltimore
       
     
I refuse
       
     
we are the sons of memories once shared
       
     
7
       
     
our eyes
       
     
the orchard
       
     
smile
       
     
black reality
       
     
it
       
     
the black bringers
       
     
privilege and the young, human mind
       
     
the black woman's betrayal
       
     
a vessel
       
     
black bringers
       
     
IMG_2658.JPG
       
     
eyes; future and past
       
     
       
     
Juice 2018 - Using the Power of Space + Place

I was named a Juice Honoree, along with several other immensely talented individuals, for my work on the I Love This Place PDX Project, specifically highlighting my intention of bridging communities through the medium of storytelling.

       
     
#collegeprep - 2018 Changing Destinies Luncheon

I wrote this piece as a response to my college prep experience at De La Salle, at our annual fundraiser. “Dreams are images our mind creates, but we wonder if they are valid.”


       
     
a letter to my son, march for our lives

After being asked to help plan and coordinate Portland's March for Our Lives with other great student leaders, I wrote this piece as a letter to our future children, "who will not have to March For their Lives." 

       
     
masks

'Beauty is more than skin deep.' When your skin does not reflect the status quo, finding your sense of beauty is a constant fight for personal acceptance-- a constant practice of restorative justice.

unmasced
       
     
unmasced

+Portland Winter Lights Festival 

unmasced is an interactive installation to spark a conversation about how people see/accept notions of gender norms, and gender associated behavior. unmasced interrogates what it means to be: a "man" or a "woman." 


The collaborative installation created with the Open Signal and the digital brand and product innovation company Instrument, for the Portland Winter Lights Festival. 
 

 

       
     
asma x march for our lives

upon being given the opportunity to speak at the March For Our Lives PDX Protest, I was later greeted with the support and inspiration of so many young people who were in attendance. one of the attendants, Asma, utilized her beautiful filmmaking skills to create this vignette of the March 24th event. I will be forever thankful for everyone who came out, and most importantly, the initial creators of the event and my fellow speakers.

brown boy feelings
       
     
brown boy feelings

a true passion project, Brown Boy Feelings lent time, space and dialogue to discuss the pressures boys of color face, in pursuit of being a 'man.' 

http://pica.org/event/brown-boy-feelings/

recolonizing space
       
     
recolonizing space

+Intersect Fest, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art

Space is integral to our understanding of self: the way we feel, are seen, perceived and physically fit into a space are all informed by history, time and geography. As a Portland native, who has seen the displacement of entire communities of color in North and Northeast Portland it has been a true hope and intention of mine to one time see and be apart of the cultural liveliness that once was. I wanted to speak to the gentrification of the Albina neighborhood and provide what it would look like if blacks took back that space.

The background imagery are structures and institutions that are historically white spaces: Harvard University, Columbia University, Georgetown University, and the United States Capitol Building; as well as neighborhoods in Portland that have been gentrified or historically white: the Pearl, the Albina neighborhood, Downtown Portland and the Mississippi District. Spurred on by the inspiration of the Portland Art Museum’s, Constructing Identity exhibition, I collected photographs of artists from Kara Walker to Archie Smith. This photographs of their art are intermixed with visuals of black faces: friends and family. I have drawn inspiration and insights from these professional artists, companions and the experimental work of Miles Davis, whose song Bitches Brew, is set in the background, serving as a symbolic recolonization of jazz and rock music from its historic black roots.

Visuals are fundamental means to articulating thought. Audio augments these visuals in constructing these realities. Objects bring this abstraction into the physicality of the world.

 

installation

+on the ground: photographs, toys, symbols and memories in front of video

+background music: Bitches Brew, Miles Davis

 

       
     
White Noise

in a silent film created by two close collaborators, the filmmakers take on abstraction, silence and emotion with a creative lens.

revolution
       
     
revolution

Hope,

Scream,

Run,

Fight


One may never know the surety of the future,

Nor may we know the security of the present,

Hope


They stole from you your voice,

The most fundamental piece of humanity

Scream


No matter the conviction,

Whatever is obligating you to stay

Run


Always the victim,

It's time to slaughter the ideas of oppression,

To uphold the bounty of freedom for yourself

Fight


to, progress
       
     
to, progress

There shall be nothing more false than progress,

No greater travesty than man’s attempt to understand the unknown,

to domesticate the most wild of beasts,

to bring light to the dark,

to bring life to the deceased,

to be permanent in a world of temporaries,

lasting in a system of short measure,


Our world suspends in an imbalance of the greed of man and the limits of nature.

Demanding what is not to be ours,

Thinking in the now and too selfish to understand the proactiveness of measure, the sanity of limitation, the understanding of moderation,


To be exhorted to the point of action, has failed this race,

Has failed as it is seen as new,

As a trend to be hashtagged and protested,

When long before the new had exhorted, the old had implored,

The progress that must occur now, cannot think in selfish individualism,

But rather in altruistic collectiveness,

Change itself cannot occur with the world we have evolved to tirelessly destroy,

To rip and oppress, overtoil, its rain our blood, it's love our emission.


In these times our inherent greed and destruction must be invested in the systems,

The human constructs and conditions that perpetuate our circumstance.

Invested to annihilate, to undo, to rebuild and reestablish,

This is the progress that induces change.


The flowers that wilted with neglect and bloom with attention,

Conversing until the rich have exercised their minds to no longer think in numbers,

To rid themselves of seeing humans as investments, as chattel to exploit,

Down with humanity and rise with men,

Rise with a passion so ignited all opposition will bend to its devotion.

It will engulf us in spirit, surround us in mind and access us in action.

Progress.


the impossibility of black space
       
     
the impossibility of black space

For as long as I can remember, I have been black. This may seem like an objectively obvious statement. It is. But, being aware of one’s blackness is the chief influence of how I show up, take up and relinquish space.

Somewhere between the past and now I made up my mind who I would be. Much of this newly created Tyler was premeditated, influenced, constructed. The first time my space was interrupted was five year old me at Providence Montessori School. In the halls of this private preschool for kids ages three to seven, oftentimes I found that there were few brown people: two brown boys and one brown teacher. Everyone else seemed to disappear into the majority-- wide mouthed, smiling faces of whites and tans and peaches and reds. Everything that wasn’t black. In that space, my impressionable years of self identity were less than aware of the uncomfortability and otherness I felt. In that space, I was the rambunctious, black boy who could not seem to keep their bodies tamed or sit ‘criss cross applesauce in: 3… 2… 1… ”

Younger than everyone else, with special circumstance allowing me to begin schooling merely a few weeks after turning three, I struggled to meet the parameters of the classroom space that my teachers demanded. Of course, I was not the only one. But the unique pigmentation of melanin in my skin and the years of socially criminalizing black men and boys, I was an easier target to spot. At parent teacher conferences, the lovely Ms. Jean addressed my parents-- yes both of them, I know it comes as a surprise, an entire black family unit, thriving and sending their small toddler to a private school-- “I think Tyler is having some problems. He never seems to sit down and his choice of words are… not what we would like to hear.” In this space, I was the perpetrator. A child having problems sitting down and following directions, with an attention span of twenty seconds and twenty three at most. My teacher, with the support of an entire entire society built solely for whiteness to thrive, robbed me of my childhood wonder and my body had become indecent, aggressive and the antagonist. From that moment on, no space was mine.


Rather space is a constant adaptation of self to fit the distinct circumstance of the environment. For blacks, we are always fitting in the holes and cracked windows made of whiteness, with our authentic black selves. However, there is no space in this country that is authentically black. Even Historic Black Colleges and Universities were established out of desperation and segregation from white society. Our bodies in their various forms have been fetishized, sexualized and corrupted from having any purity or self-definition. Even in the acceptance of ourselves we are subjected to the scrutiny of history, the capitalization of modern society and the unnerving veneration of counter culture. Each moment shared between two blacks-- family, friends, partners-- are made on the pretense of common annexation, of shared strife.

Our coming-of-age ceremonies are conversations on how not to die at the hands of those sworn to protect, and even at the hands of our fellow persons of color, who have been conditioned to hate and survive in disenfranchisement. Our pomp and circumstance is how to alter ourselves to fit the white mold. Our first job is a lesson, that few pass ,on how to deescalate and negate black stereotypes. Our first child is the greatest gift and greatest fear that in the middle of our break from the world, we will receive a call that our angel’s soul has been washed clean from this earth. Our retirement is an asthmatic breath of potential relief in a beautiful solace.

No space is mine. Every space I enter is a changing of the guards, a swift change in delivery, a means of surviving. Still I am safe and secure in who I am. My mind is the only space, my teacher could not take from me.


for antwon rose
       
     
for antwon rose

son:

breathe.

hold.

stop.

think.

stop.

answer.

hault.

get out.

“yes, sir”

“no, sir”

breathe.

just get out of here

“just leaving work”

or

“just going home”

or

“just being human”

but why me?

breathe.

WHAT ARE YOU REACHING FOR

breathe.

stay.

run.

stop.

what did momma say?

breathe.

hope.

remember.

im doing what they said.

breath…

BANG.

*we have a 187 on…”

breathe.

gasp.

remember.

my daughter

feel.

“see you later, daddy”

accept.

“God, this is what you wanted?”

deny.

“this can't be the end.”

breathe.

gasp.

gasp.

gasp.

……..

mother:

*where was he?*

school

home

car

road

anywhere--

nowhere.

*what did he do?*

breathe.

live.

work.

love.

hope.

dream.

breathe.

breathe.


breathe.

we are the sons
       
     
we are the sons

I am the son that you always loved.

the son you travelled miles to get--

to save.

my sweet father ‘tis of thee,

the sweet land you killed for me,

this land of liberty,

you sacrificed your men,

to conquer those beasts

that dare claim our land as their ancestors,

we accept no folly as true,

we accept no Chief Joseph. no Sitting Bull. no Red Cloud. no Geronimo.

as our founding fathers.


black like
       
     
black like

… like roses peering out of our fingertips,

Thorns forged from years of clipping and cultivation.

And leaves to crown our heads,

With tilted chins,

Heightened walk and

Defiant demeanors,

Our bodies a willow,

The willow that bears children in the name of this tradition,

In the many tongues, tones and pigments that populate this earth,

That no matter how separated by time and place,

Knows that in face of the ropes swiftly tying around our throats,

The men at our feet with axes to chop us down,

Even in face of this, we are the willows that remain.

The willow that uplifted the prophets and

Rooted the angels.


baltimore
       
     
baltimore

You Locked me in a dream where you were the hero and I was the damsel in distress

I tried so hard to be something more than what you told me

Trying to love instead of hating

Mistaken I was contorted,

played with for your satisfying

I trusted you to protect me and

however you protect the lives of those committed to enslave my mind

to make me believe that that tv is real and

that my abilities lie in my hands rather than the mind,


This is more than just my dreams, my voice,

the spoken word of a little black boy who knows no boundaries,

it the spirituals, versus, flow, words of a people never to die no matter

the slowly tightening noose around their neck

that never stops swinging from the poplar trees,

it is the voices of the millions silenced by the bureaucracy and institutionalization,

My hands are up yet my voice silenced

Will you shoot a man with no voice?

Can you stop a man with nothing to lose?


I refuse
       
     
I refuse

I refuse to be just another mind,

Just another twinkle in the sky,

To just exist as another controlled soul of humanity,


My dreams are valid

They are the guide to the spirit

I cannot muster to express


I am much more than my history

Than my future

Than my environment

I am a soul

Torn and shredded by the horrors of yesterday


Yet I refuse to succumb to those pressures,

To just be alive,

I possess much more,

The voice I carry no matter how loud or quiet

Is mine


There is not much in this flesh

But the affirmation of death

And the possibility of life


So we must live on,

in wake of all opposition we must progress,

continue on until there is no land to explore,

to pioneer a future rich and free,

to lead nations divided by history’s bitter anguish,

to speak up against the injustices we witness,

until all voices are heard,

to be our own soul of humanity


To truly be HUMAN.

we are the sons of memories once shared
       
     
we are the sons of memories once shared

We are the sons of memories once shared.

Black not like your black magic. Not like your negativity.

We are black like power. Like strength and resilience. Black like joy.

Black like beauty.


Like the nightly skin,

Every freckle like a star in the sky

And every bruise, a constellation.

Configurations of dark circles,

They hide our histories.


7
       
     
7

I stare so deep

Who are you?

Who am I?

Can you tell me?

I dream in and out

Subconscious racked with things

I never wanted

love, hurt and happiness

 

Make out to me the things they can't see

Breathe, breathe, hope to dream

Dream to be and to be is all I dream

Beat this life, one to two, two to three,

Three and four, love me blinded

 

Whole and known

You find your soul, the things I will never know

 

Free the life

Higher and higher we go until the sky reaches infinity

Infinite as 7.

our eyes
       
     
our eyes

She dragged on,

limped strides,

banded wrists,

told stories of

demented times

where heroes lacked

identity,

turned blind to her needs

lied truths that

could have been

avoided with compassion

lended hands that

served like bandaids

to wounds so tarnished

her soul bled cries of

joy,

wrote signs with broken fingers,

to catch the attention

I never could grant her,

submerged waters

washed clean the

stigmas of how

we could never give her a chance,

a sister that mothered

truth and moral

and people that fostered

greed and deception,

Forever she may be lost

From all that could come

the orchard
       
     
the orchard

We ran

through the orchard

you

                             slipped,

knee scraped,

but the reality was the

                                        disappearance

of your

                         love

Gone

 

                   How I fell

                   We became

                   the trees that swang

                   until the disappearance

                   became reappearance

                   as a reflection

We

            r

                    a

                            n

smile
       
     
smile

What lies behind that smile?

 

The trapped spirit of one wishing to live?

 

Is it the angel of happiness? Her prey being the joy of pleasing her young

 

Is it the nymph of laughter?

Filling like a balloon of inhibitions and insecurities of oneself.

Teething like the infant it is.

 

Behind those eyes lie love

a love that is waiting to bloom,

waiting to grow and thrive

 

Behind that smile is a person waiting to be freed of a life long gone

 

Behind that glow is the possibility of love.

black reality
       
     
black reality

I cry out

In a dream,

Trapped among

Double face

Masked creatures

With expressions

Soaked in effervescent

virtues

tainted deeply

my soul

destroyed from people who

meant love

yet such happiness is still,

Without movement,

Dormant as if stalled

In a world full of joy,

I find security in the negativity

That paints pictures of lies

Framed with unlawful propaganda,

I asked to be saved from this reality

yet my heroes are my captors,

trapping me here so I may live

believing what I am told,

My thoughts are drowned

In seas of my own tears,

I remain as a fragment of a reality

twistedly, sweet

I become its fellow companion,

May we never escape

I shall have some sort of love

it
       
     
it

We sat in solace,

kissed with bitter lips,

consumed breaths ,

oceans wide,

leaping thighs ran cross avenues  

spilt through woods of roads

engulfed with deathly needle

and yet that is you,

a crippled mind, lost in a body you’ve known eternity,

plagued with unkindly spirits,

eating away at all that is left,

from what you knew as true,

inevitable, its demise is impossible,

you try to rid it,

find comfort in poisons listed ‘help’

but you can not help what you can not rid yourself,

I could not judge i was more guilty than you,

We knew but could not stop

what was meant to be

 

the black bringers
       
     
the black bringers

taken,

gone,

And disappeared,

 

they came running to me,

whispered so sweet,

it felt a treat,

to for once know me.

 

passed down,

these figures,

knew unlocked secrets,

knew names and forsake nothing,

demanded me to be uncompared,

delivered a power so rich,

 

consumed,

they floated,

so human and godly,

they resembled everything i knew to be bad,

and in that i knew they were my god,

my black bringers,

 

--awake.

privilege and the young, human mind
       
     
privilege and the young, human mind

a flow of consciousness,

disrupts my happiness

and i sit pretending that this is normal

 

my place in this world so singular

no other knows it

wondering what gave me the right to exist

To live and be in such tranquility,

In a time of such hostility

 

lost, unknowing and yet I am known,

they all see me but can not feel me

streaming blindly, each thought devouring my psyche

unsettled and continually pondering,

i am losing

 

wondering, pondering, questioning and question,

where is where?

and within here is nowhere.

the black woman's betrayal
       
     
the black woman's betrayal

In her eyes,

She died that night.

-----

Surrounded and surmounted,

Suffocated and succumbed,

So diligently, she covered her nightly skin,

Every freckle like a star in the sky

And every bruise, a constellation.

Configurations of dark circle,

Enclosed her eyes.

And roses peered out of her fingertips,

Thorns forged from years of clipping and cultivation.

And leaves crowned her head,

With a tilted chin,

Heightened walk and

Hypnotic swaying,

Her body became a willow,

The willow that holds her son,

From rope built by men.

The willow that delivered

Young women, that saw their bodies,

As night skies, ashamed to be forever bleak,

The willow that uplifted the prophets and

Rooted the angels.

And with an unwavering slash,

Her sons, daughters, prophets and angels,

Cut every knitting of her biblically caressed hide,

Smoked every bee that constructed the hive within her heart

Captured every mystical butterfly cocooning in her ribcage

Sawed off each branch that connected every soul.

The sacrificial black sheep,

Her herd deserted her and the shepherd

Released her.

-----

In her mind,

We survived that morning.

a vessel
       
     
a vessel

You came in and the world stopped

My eyes neared end

My heart stopped and I looked so deep into you

I lost it within you

I gave it to you

And you bore me every love that could feel this heart

Every smile so kindred

A mess I stare back and see that you free me from me

You unleash the pieces that fragment, contract and

Stargaze

Display every safety and outshine every hope,

The dream that never made it through

I learn from you

You teach and speak

Captivated. Entirely we must grow

Grow in this

Never allow it to stagnate

To fester. But to build,

Peer out into this world

Blossom and open its mouth wide to softly take it all in

To bear something new

Continue a cycle

A metamorphosis

Each cocoon a lesson

Every butterfly

A new me

                                         I have come to love,

                                         Me.

black bringers
       
     
black bringers

taken,

gone,

And disappeared,

 

they came running to me,

whispered so sweet,

it felt a treat,

to for once know me.

 

passed down,

these figures,

knew unlocked secrets,

knew names and forsake nothing,

demanded me to be uncompared,

delivered a power so rich,

 

consumed,

they floated,

so human and godly,

they resembled everything i knew to be bad,

and in that i knew they were my god,

my black bringers,

 

--awake.

IMG_2658.JPG
       
     
eyes; future and past
       
     
eyes; future and past

Face me.

A reflection and mirror blend so well

A face reminds me of me.

But how do we see ourselves?

Do we search in light of what we are told,

Fat, ugly, gay, stupid, black, dirty, poor.

Are our eyes truly ours or the instruments

Of social influence?

Can we truly look into a reflection and Turn from me.

Know it to be us. Can you see?

How do I know its me. Your vision is no longer with eyes wide

What if I lie so where far over there Rather eyes turned,

And nowhere in between? Eyes alive,

Does this reflection display me a truth, Moving and fresh

Or rather gratify me a lie? Harboring no bias or influence

What do we know? To the world in front,

Are we thinking? Are our thoughts ours or Freeing itself of any constraint to order

The accumulation of others, Disrupting the structure

Made manifest in our lives? Searching and not looking

Seeking and not seeing

How powerful the world behind us?

With shadows and lessons and experiences

A past, no pass.

A past, so clear

A future open to us all

One my eyes can see.

                                                                                      Sonu Okan