You can’t say no one ever told you how.

While working in public health and around other professionals concerned about the existence of food deserts, or food apartheid as coined by activist Karen Washington, I’ve been struck by the ongoing alliance between those who advocate for food equity and those who consider themselves soldiers in the ongoing “war on obesity”. The panic about food inequity is often justified through the relationship between higher weight and “food deserts”. The common line of reasoning is that marginalized people who don’t have access to “healthy” food are more likely to be fat, which causes them to be sicker and die earlier. The…


This Is Us

We lose our childhoods in a million different ways

When I was 11, the most stressful place on Earth was the Flynn O’Hara store near Westchester Square. It was the only retail store that sold the uniforms I needed for my brief stint in Catholic school.

Flynn O’Hara was the place where my mom usually realized I had gone up a size or two from the year before. The unforgiving cotton-polyester pants had no stretch and left marks on the lower part of my stomach in ways my jeans and skirts did not. My skirts were longer than those of the other girls, but too big around my waist…


At least pretend like our deaths matter to you.

When the Centers for Disease Control altered their operational recommendations for K-12 schools in March, they included new recommendations like “revised physical distancing recommendations to reflect at least 3 feet”, signaling movement towards a full-scale re-opening of US schools. Alongside these recommendations is a section called “health equity considerations”, which notes the disproportionate risk of illness and death to minoritized racial and ethnic communities and acknowledges the need for comprehensive strategies that address their increased vulnerability to harm. Yet, these “health equity considerations” have seemingly had no effect on the creation of these new guidelines, which threaten the lives of…


It’s a special case study in how public health authorities do harm.

In January 2012, the New York City Health Department promoted a controversial “anti-obesity” campaign that was meant to bring attention to the dangers of “super-sized” portions commonly found in fast food restaurants and convenience stores, which are described as having grown over time. One image in particular was described as especially graphic — it featured a fat Black man sitting on a stool. His right leg appeared to be amputated. Crutches leaned dramatically against the wall behind him. It was later discovered that the man’s image was pulled from a stock photo and that he was not an amputee; the…


I didn’t know how bad things were until I did.

I first met my husband’s parents six weeks into our relationship. It was Christmas. Our friends turned into the trees along the road to get to a warmly lit home with two people waiting on the porch for their son. I stalled around the trunk of the rental car with sweaty hands before walking up to the front steps and introducing myself. That night, Martin helped place string lights on a bowing tree his father brought in from the outside and we all sat in the family room as the string lights changed colors. …


Sometimes, the best way to honor someone is to go against tradition.

If you’re poor and you die in the Dominican Republic, your body is typically displayed in your house for one day. People come to view you as you decompose in the humid heat until you absolutely must be buried. They pray over you and with your family, often for hours, to ensure your safe departure. For nine days afterwards, during a period called la novena, people visit your home and your family is expected to feed them as they pray and talk and socialize. When it is over, you must be openly mourned for at least six months. …


Stop calling healthcare workers “heroes”. Too many of us have gone unsaved.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a resurgence of admiration for the healthcare workers who are faced with overcrowded hospitals, scarcity of personal protection equipment, and just generally unsafe working conditions. It seems natural that the “healthcare hero” ideal would re-emerge during a time when hospitals are under the spotlight as gauges for how the United States is handling the pandemic. Still, many have rightfully discussed how this language has the potential to valorize the (unnecessary) risks that many of these folks are forced to take while doing their jobs. For instance, Dr. …


While you celebrate the new administration, so many of us are still waiting. It is cruel, but usual punishment.

I spent many childhood days in a Bronx welfare office a few feet away from the bustling shops on Fordham Road. The office was in a cement building painted over with gray paint. If you weren’t looking for the metal door that opened into the waiting area, you wouldn’t find it. Inside, the floor was dirty linoleum and there were rows and rows of mismatched chairs with tired, stressed bodies staring at a ticket counter displaying numbers in red LED lights.

You had to wait in line and then get a number, and then you had to wait for your…


Clothes are about more than just feeling good, white feminists

The last thing you should have to worry about when a loved one is hospitalized is how you look when you show up to be at that person’s bedside. And yet.

Not long ago, I rushed back to the Bronx for a medical emergency. It was/is the kind of emergency that upends the table where your lifeplans lay. All of your precious objects clatter or shatter on the floor below. The best you can do is watch your feet while working around the wreckage.

Each day for too long, my sister has dressed in the best casualwear she has, put…


A look at reactions to Gabourey Sidibe’s engagement reveal a frustrating, persisting reality: when good things happen to fat people, the world doesn’t know how to act.

I once had a conversation on campus with a few fellow graduate students about the upcoming weekend. I, like every other weekend, was going to spend time with my husband and pretend that I was in no way affiliated with an academic entity. One of these students did not know that I am married; they were, in general, unaware of most facts about me, since I’d already gotten the clear hint that they were not very interested in getting to know me.

Their reaction to finding out I was married is still one of the most uncalled for responses I’ve…

Marquisele Mercedes

Catch me on patreon.com/marquisele or on Instagram @fatmarquisele

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