Phiona Raffington

#3: Phiona

Phiona Raffington recorded a conversation with the Stories team during the African American Read-In at IU Bloomington's Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center on February 5, 2018.

Description of the video:

Phiona, today was the African American Read-In event at IU, it's an annual event where lots of people come and share their experiences. Why did you go?
Well, I have gone here for the past few years, since I was at high school in Bloomington. And now that I'm at IU, I thought that it would just be great to express what I've learned and give back to the community that's given so much to me because that's when my doors really opened to experience what it means to be a college student. I think it's kind of like an annual chapter of my life where I'll be able to see my growth and see how other people are growing with me. I had my own poetry club, it was called Outspoken. And I made my mentor help me get as many people to come to this event as possible, because I'm like, everyone needs to experience, like, diversity and culture, and, like, hope for the the future. Because I feel like oftentimes, especially as African Americans, we don't necessarily, like, have hope. And if you don't see it, it's hard to grasp it, especially with what we see every day.
So, if you can see someone that looks like you, that is successful and doing well, and they have the same background as you and experiences, that's where your hope can anchor. And I feel like this is where it anchored for me. 
How did you find out about it? I mean, you were talking about like getting people here, who got you here?
Well, I have my dear mentor Ms. McDermott-Sipe. She is a high school teacher at Bloomington High School South. She really pushed me to really further my knowledge and analytical thinking. She didn't just like stop me at a typical standard. She wanted me to go beyond that. And I feel like with her pushing me to do my best at all times and even above what I thought I was capable, she really implemented that, like, resiliency in me, and I wanted to just give that back to other people. So whenever she was telling everyone about this event and, you know, trying to make sure that more people were just understanding it and knowing it, that's whenever my heart wanted to do the same for others.
Did you read today?
Yes, I did.
What'd you do?
I read a poem that I created, which was called "Matthew 7:23." And I wanted to just speak life into the community instead of, like, dwelling on things that we can't change, or we can't change how things are happening in our world, but what can we change about ourselves? Because I feel like at the end of the day, that's most important because everyone-- we can always turn and look at someone and say, 'Look at what they're doing to us,' but we never look at each other and say, 'What are we doing to each other?' So I wanted to reflect on, like, how are we treating ourselves? How are you treating the person in the mirror? Because if you cannot love yourself, then no one is going to love you. 
Can you share that poem with us?
Matthew 7:23 by Phiona Raffington
I declare and I decree 
Them demons gotta leave
Because He the King
Who shed His blood for me
He shed so I could be free
Free from Satan's deceit 
'Cause that drink won't ever leave
Can't make me ever see
That weed ain't good leaf
And them bodies can't get relief
Satan, he a theif
Takin your dignityH
Taking babies virginities 
Taking all you were meant to be
You rockin' with the crew, that's your enemies
You think you have control, but you are fearful
Afraid of what the world can do to you
So you take that gun and pull the trigger
Pain wraps you like a blanket in every move
But I wonder
If you fell in the hands of a living God, would you feel soothed?
As though your worries and suffering
Could be cut from your suicide noose
As though you could face another day when you face rejection
As though you were His child
Destined by predestination
I wonder
Would you love the ones who tried to destroy you?
Because you know where your love truly resides
Would you cry out to your Father and allow him to wipe the tears from your eyes?
I know surrender doesn't feel natural
But sin made us disharmonious 
Humility is who God is
So let Him see it within us
Put down your money
And them cars
It can only take you so far
Let go of them girls
And them boys
'Cause we're only using each other as toys
Don't believe in every gospel
Because oftentimes these sheep really hostile
But know that you have a protector
And He's the life and the truth
Don't let another day go by that He never knew you
What is special for you about making sure that you read?
Because I feel empowered whenever I can speak in a way that's not of resentment, anger, or irrationality. I feel as though if we don't have effective ways communicate ourselves it can be done in a way of violence, anger, or hatred. Oftentimes it's done in social media, oftentimes it's done in conversation with people that don't understand you. But if you can just express yourself in a way that people that can hear it, it can be soft to the ears, then they'll be able to understand more effectively as opposed to just yelling at them. You'll be just screaming at a brick wall, and nothing will get done by that. So I've learned how to be silent, and I learned when to speak. I can tell you this, the only thing that changed my heart was the Lord. And so, when I understood who He was, and how He operated, I was like, well, I'm about my Father's business so I'm gonna do it like he did. And it's worked really effectively for me. And I I just thank God for that because you can really be running around in circles all your life, fighting battles that will never end. But when you just surrender to His love and what He's going to do to you, it's going to change the way you think, the way you see, the way that you can just walk through this world. And I'm just going to help my community grow, and I'm going to help other people be able to see the truth because what we really need to understand it that people that hate us, you can't really change that. You can just only love them. People just said that we were just crazy or angry Black women, or this and that, but they didn't see the pain in our eyes. So if we can see that in ourselves, we must see that in other people. And we don't know what's going on in their hearts. We don't know how they grew up. We don't know what type of environment they were in. So we have to have that compassion. And even though it's difficult, when it's like 'Man, why, why do I have to do this, they don't want this, they don't want that!' But we have to understand that nothing will ever change if we always point fingers. We need to sit down, and be like, 'Look, man, this is not okay.' But how can us, as a community, get to a resolve.
So if you could make one lasting impact, what do you want it to be, that one thing?
I want people to know that it's okay to be different. It's okay to be a light. You don't have to be like everybody else to be cool. You don't have to, you know, be with the crowd. Because, at the end of the day, I mean, I might be walking in like grandma and people like, 'Man, she always be raggedy,' but you going to remember me! So, I would rather be remembered. I mean... some people don't like it. But I'm like, hey, if you going to remember me for my fashion trends and everything like that, cool! If not, cool! I'm still gonna be me regardless, baby.

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