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I walked away from my senior-level 9 to 5 job a few years ago — a seven-year-long career predicated by my immigrant parents’ high expectations, two expensive degrees, and a drive to win a respectable livelihood through work.

Prior, I grew up in New Hampshire by way of two Haitian-born parents who, independent of one another, immigrated to America in the 1970s — my father, driven by hope and the industrial American dream, and my mother by sheer force and abuse. Bred as a first-generation Haitian-American and only child, I quickly learned that it was my duty to take the…

Photo of Juhnay Arabesque (aka Paul Renolis) at the California College of the Arts, filming the school’s 114th Commencement Ceremony [2021]

This past spring, I did something really cool and I may have been the world’s first to create such an experience for myself and a global academic community.

My drag persona, (phonetically pronounced “JUH-NAY”), was the Emcee of the 114th Commencement Ceremony at San Francisco’s , honoring the Class of 2021! As the Mistress of Ceremonies, it was my duty to werk, dip, twirl, entertain, and give the Class of 2021 — our now and future artists, designers, craft makers, writers, business owners, and the like — a gift they know oh so well…

Mother’s Day: [silence]

Father’s Day: [more silence]

[annual cycle repeats]

Each year, as I get older, wiser, and more liberated, these holidays become easier to deconstruct, reconstruct, and digest — to make sense of such a layered holiday that’s trapped in outdated American ideals, gender binaries, and antiquated feminist values.

I live my life alone — not lonely, but alone. Solo. Before I further explain, let’s turn to the infinite pages of Merriam-Webster for some calibration:

(adjective): separated from others : isolated

(adjective): being without company : lone : sad from being alone : lonesome : producing a…

It’s roughly 2:30 pm on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. I had just got out of the shower — my first productive event of the day. This is a huge victory for me, especially after sleeping in most of the day following my birthday. My birthday is my favorite holiday of the year and yesterday, I unwrapped gift boxes of pain, loneliness, and a few birthday texts and calls from friends.

My current depression cycle, albeit longer than usual, is not as bad as it used to be when I first became aware of my pain four years ago. I’ve learned…

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I’m an introvert by default. I restore my energy in solitude. Quarantine for the foreseeable future? Sure. Work from home? Easy! Or so I thought. As someone who has mastered the art of being alone, from only child to international solo traveler, I’ve never felt so lonely in my life.

The pandemic forced me to downsize my social network. Although I’m an introvert, I’m quite social. I’m a performing artist, dahling! I live for the applause! I miss going to concerts, dancing, and losing myself in a sea of eclectic care-free San Franciscans. I miss my people, particularly acquaintances: a…

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February 23, 2020: Ahmaud Arbery
March 13, 2020: Breonna Taylor
May 25, 2020: George Floyd


January 1, 2009: Oscar Grant
February 26, 2012: Trayvon Martin
August 9, 2014: Michael Brown
July 13, 2015: Sandra Bland


July 5, 2016: Alton Sterling
July 6, 2016: Philando Castile
July 2016: Black Lives Matter protests erupt around the U.S.

Tears fall down my face. I struggle to get out of bed to go to work; can I call out “black” today? I’m so stressed. I’m so exhausted. I’m always on edge, always on alert, looking over my shoulder. Am I next…

Image by , Visual Managing Editor at The Shakerite

During my first year at Boston University, I completed an introductory writing research course titled, “African American Voices,” and learned a distinction that edified my racial identity and affirmed a sentiment on which I’ve been ruminating since childhood: There is a distinct application between using the terms, “African American” and “Black American.” The term, African American, describes an ethnic group of peoples that share a common ancestry, distinguished by the forced uprooting of native Africans to American soil via the Atlantic Slave Trade from the 16th to 19th centuries. This label also describes a culture, created by said peoples, that…

Paul Renolis

San Francisco-based queer performing artist, creative, and writer that explores black joy.

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