from the freedom side

when the wheat is separated from the chaff, i wonder if there is terror. if the wheat thinks it is god when actually it is food. if the chaff thinks it is the future, part of a wholeness, when actually it is a husk.

trump and those who scream his name with their hands just seconds away from a heil hitler, they think they are the wheat of this country, of this moment.

we who believe in freedom, liberation, being in right relationship with justice and with land – we are looking to see what this country is, if it can heal from its bloody roots. can we nourish each other or should we fly away on the wind?

we are taking and supporting direct actions and interventions of all sizes to assert a future with dignity for all of us on this soil.

this moment is a ‘which side are you on’ moment, not to be divisive about it. on one side we learn to heal and transform our base human nature, become worthy of the miracle of our existence, and we inhabit our freedom. on the other side is neverending war and terror. passivity, politeness, noncommitment, that will place you squarely in the latter future.

there is no such thing as neutral ground. there never has been.

#blackband: how to, a reflection

#blackband: how to, a reflection

i am just over a week into the practice of wearing a black band on my left arm as a statement of grief, and as a statement against white supremacy in all it’s manifestations.

it’s been a beautiful, simple practice so far. people either already know why i am doing it or, when they hear my reason, vigorously agree with my rationale.

i have had people ask me questions about how to participate in #blackband, so here are some answers (with the caveat that i am learning the practice as i go):

1. where do i get a #blackband?

i made mine from old leggings. other friends have made bands from t-shirts and bandanas, or taken black ribbon or hair bands or bracelets and created their bands. my friend sabrina, a detroit artist, drew hers on with permanent marker. my friend adela showed me the black band of one of her sacred tattoos that inspired me to consider that for my next step.

i love the DIY nature of this so far. it was a deeply personal commitment for me to don a black band, and making/finding my band, imbuing it with intention, feels like part of the strength and magic in it.

2. where do i wear it?

left side of body, closest to your heart. i have been wearing mine around my left arm just above or just below my elbow.

you can wear it right on skin or over clothes – visibility is important.

if you don’t have a left arm or wearing it on your arm isn’t possible, wear it on your left leg. if you don’t have a left leg or wearing it on your leg isn’t possible, pin a black circle to your left side, near the heart.

wear it to all of your life, in transit, at work, in sacred spaces. let your resistance be constant.

3. i have my band on. now what?

once i had my band on, i invited conversation around it. i let my friends, family and y’all know what i was doing and why. now i answer strangers who ask about it, pointing them to resources for more information based on their entry point – black folks i point towards ongoing movement for black lives work, non-black people I point towards amazing solidarity work. i invite them to join me if they are tired/devastated by white supremacy and constant grief.

it’s been interesting to hear the responses – a few black folks have said their skin is their black band, and others have said it feels important as a black person in a professional environment to wear the black band to counter the way white supremacy wants to normalize the trauma.

some of my friends indulge me in what they see as my practice, others take it on. i am not pushing it on people, i am inviting us to make visible our resistance in a world that wants to silence us with fear.

i do notice that each time i see someone take it on i feel a bit safer. audre lorde taught us “your silence will not protect you.” the black band feels like a vocalization and harmony.

3. so…can non-black people wear a blackband? can white people wear it?

absolutely!

i wasn’t really thinking about this part when i committed to wearing the black band, but lots of non-black people have been asking me about it and rocking the black band and it feels really important and comforting to see non-black people visibly making a statement against white supremacy and anti-blackness.

it’s an emergent win.

for non-black #blackband-ers i would ask a few things:

– that you pair the wearing of the band with a monthly/sustainer donation to BOLD, blacklivesmatter, byp100, or other groups affiliated with the movement for black lives. support local work led by black people. (donations of any size count – $5 a month from a million nonblack people would really increase what our movements can do and i believe there are more than a million nonblack people who are against white supremacy in this country)

– for white people especially: be ready to be transformed. look to the thorough analytical work of catalyst or the action network of surj for other practices to be in to unlearn white supremacy.

– and if you haven’t yet, bring it up to friends and family explicitly. have the conversations i can’t have with your parents and grandparents, with your kids.

4. how long are you wearing the black band?

i don’t know yet. it may be the rest of my life. i need to see explicit and significant advances of justice and liberation for my people. a lot of people have to wake all the way up to make those advances real. i see the black band as a small daily direct action that helps to turn up the volume on that ‘white supremacy is over’ alarm. i suspect when it is no longer needed, we will all know.

below are images of three people wearing the band – taylor renee aldridge, aurora levins morales, erin ní chonaill, paury flowers, chelsea cleveland, and leah lakshmi piepzna-samarasinha (in black lace!!):

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‘all lives matter’ is the sickness of white supremacy spoken aloud

today #blacklivesmatter is three years old. so is BYP100. it is a blessed day for black people.

and a tragic one. a year ago today, we learned that Sandra Bland had died in police custody. we watched a video to get to know her, to grieve. and we watched her do what we would have done in her circumstances, and then she was gone and we had to quietly, privately imagine what we will never know about her last hours.

and that day, and that week, and even today, after a week like last week, people ask, “but don’t all lives matter?”

oh i see, i see it now
it’s because the way you feel
about your skin
is that it is the center of the world

because it is so cleansweetfairlightbright and pale
so dazzling-as-the-sun to you
that to speak of yourself
you must climb a stairway
and a ladder slid tall and ever away
to a platform
up a pedestal
mount a throne
don a crown
and you must even put your face on the deities
and – actually, no, there can only be one –
a white one with flowing hair
in three persons
but all of them blonde
and vengeful
and so on

you project, you hallucinate,
you shoot.
you shoot to kill.
blackness a blank slate to you
chalk lines your grand art

supremacy is a lens
no it is a sickness
no. – yes! – right?
it is an overlay
between your dreams and the world
between your fears and the entire world

for anyone else
and i mean anyone who
receives the sun differently from you
to say, to feel
‘i love myself
i love my children’
from your height
we are running at you with bayonets
with machetes
with the guns you adore
coming to take all the future from you
and everything else

but you want us to be one with you while we are dying

but when we live and walk
and breathe and play and mother father
and dance and drive and breathe
and breathe
and just breathe?
you are so terrified
you bend everything to distortion

gullible activism

hi loves!

writing this as a gullible person, just in case there are any other people like me who tend to get excited first (especially about opportunities to build the movement for black lives) and ask questions never (or at least not until someone else is like wait but who/what/when/where/why/how sway?)

here is the black lives matter website: http://blacklivesmatter.com/.

if you get a chain letter for top secret strategies via text, or a multi-point platform, or things like that, and you get excited cause it says it’s BLM…do what i am learning to do and go check the website.

generally i find if it’s not there, it’s not us/them.

you can still do ‘it’ or be inspired, because yes this is a decentralized brilliant black time!

but be informed. and ‘move at the speed of trust’.

during this complex time i am looking to support and take leadership from experienced on-the-ground organizers who have a wide range of tactical and strategic capacity from communications to direct action to scaling up to rooting deep. and right now those folks seem to be in leadership and community accountability with BOLD, BLM, Blackout and BYP100.

i am excited about growing into formation – i also have a million ideas a minute and its exciting to put those ideas out there. but it is suspicious when folks put the name of an organization on a call to action and neither local nor national leadership know about those calls to action. my savvy friends know to ask – who is served by this action? who initiated the call?

so that’s it, just a heartfelt PSA for the gullible and righteous!!

xoxo
gullible and righteous

pulling back the veil

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black band

i am going to begin wearing a black armband on my left arm, closest to my heart, to indicate that i am a warrior in mourning.
that #blacklivesmatter to me.
that i recognize i am of a targeted nation inside a violence-addicted nation.

i am so moved by and so grateful for the work of #blacklivesmatter, the blackout collective, BYP100, black organizing for leadership and dignity (BOLD) and so many others working to generate actions for our liberation. (give money to each of those groups if you are at a loss of what to do. redistribute a portion of your salary to their work. for serious.)

and…we can’t hope that these currently under resourced formations will just do all the work for everyone. we all need to act. we need a tipping point of brave people willing to move out of complicit silence into action. (yes, i am saying that the resistance in your head or even in righteous conversation between you and a few friends is not enough – honey i wish it were. no one wants to feel all of this and do all of this. but we are in a moment of genocide and anthropocene and we must take ourselves seriously.)

we need all kinds of action – direct action, organizing, healing, strategizing, redistribution. grieving is an action. feeling is an action.

and solidarity. not “ally” solidarity, but solidarity and action by non-black people who recognize we are in one struggle for humanity.

one action is actually being public and open about our resistance, to say we see what is happening and we say no more, not today, never again, stop. we see beyond what is happening and we know love must win.

so. i want to wear what i need – a black circle, a wholeness.

as i cut up a pair of black leggings to make my armband i felt all the things i am longing for. this isn’t what everyone who wears the armband may mean, but i wanted to share.

mervyn marcano posted #blaxit the other night and i thought – ‘yes!!’ and then, ‘but seriously how do we divest from this system of genocide?’

i want to stop paying the percentage of taxes that goes to police, ICE and military forces – to defund this perversion of justice and invest in community models, mediation and healing spaces.
i want to pull all the babies out of schools that teach them they are more than or less than anyone else – either with sloppy histories or preferential treatment and funding of education.
i want a landless workers movement to secure farmland. i want my hands in some dirt – i want octavia butler’s acorn and earthseed.
i want all my money to go to people who love me, love us.
i want the precious earth to be a shared precedent that unifies our decision making.

i want all white people to catch up to the white people i hold close to me, who show me what is possible – those who never make me wonder about our equality, who never say all lives matter, who never ask me to carry the weight of their learning and unlearning.
i want to banish any white people who don’t get it, and who aren’t working on unlearning racism, from my life and the lives of everyone i love (you don’t have the range).

i want significant work stoppage across the country every time our lives are stolen because someone imagined we were dangerous to them. our money matters, our labor matters.

i want people to know when they see me that i am to be treated like a griever and like a warrior and like a healer and nothing less. i want us to come out in our grief and radical commitment to liberation.

this is bigger than police killing of black people – this band is my public declaration of war on white supremacy in all it’s manifestations, including racialized capitalism, colonialism, difference-phobia, gun fetishes, violence as a way of resolving conflict – all of it.

it is also my public vulnerability – i grieve every time i see humanity turned against itself, i feel it. and i believe it is part of my life’s work to feel it and turn others towards feeling it, to un-numb us so that we realize we are on fire. i am not going to keep adjusting and maintaining the social status quo. i am angry and numb and overwhelmed and terrified. i am mourning and trying to step into the shoes of all my newborn ancestors. i need it to be known. i need the world to interact with me with more awareness.

in studying public signs of mourning this one seems most appropriate and accessible. it has also been a sign of protest and political affiliation at times. i think we need it to be both for grief and for resistance. i also know i would feel safer in a world where those who stood against the genocide of my people were visible to me.

i recognize i may be wearing this armband for the rest of my life. i keep thinking of the length of slavery, how not being the property of a white person seemed equal parts necessary and impossible for generations and generations. not being the target of police, ending white supremacy and racialized capitalism feels impossible to me now…but it feels absolutely necessary.

all the love i walk with only lets me move in one direction, towards our liberation.

join me.

#blacklivesmatter #blackband #blaxit

blackband

(and yes, join in all my non-black and international beloveds, especially those being targeted too – this week i have cried for so many people and places all over and i feel our togetherness in our resistance even if we start from different locations. i wear this band with love for palestine, syria, bangladesh, turkey, brazil, iraq – and that’s just this week. together we are the future.)

i can’t talk small (a rant)

i want to tell you how i feel, so i can’t talk small. there is a tragedy all around me because…because i was born?

and wherever i go it is on me, a cloud dripping tar, blood stain on my shirt, a hole in my skull and it feels like my dreams and my future are seeping out of me, being twisted out of me, snapping like a hen’s neck in a hungry fist.

i hear new names every day and i take them in my mouth, and the way i grieve is like i would for a beloved. these names of strangers become new lover syllables crossing my tongue. i find myself partnering our stories, drawing a darker line on the pattern between my life and his death, my heart and her absence.

all this shared grief is softening my life – our lives. we can’t talk small.

don’t disparage each other. speak love or just ignore each other, there are many paths and we can simply walk them differently. oh is he a liar? is she a fake? perhaps they are just small, small hearted, small in vision. they will not grow by thunder.

we must be massive, compelling, the scale of our vision post-reactionary and post-nationalist, planetary at minimum.

be honest. we are fucked in a complex intersectional all-encompassing way. don’t offer me small singular solutions – not one camera can capture this injustice. not one policy, not one leader, not one issue can claim the center.

no – the landscape of this battle is the most vast we know – that of the imagination. we are punching and kicking and marching and chanting our way out of an imagination that cannot hold us, cannot see us alive and celebrate us. we must imagine from deep inside our root system a world of right relationship – between everything that lives and everything that supports life. not just familiar lives. life.

there are so many big conversations.

how are you moving towards freedom, in what formation?

how do you recover from each blow, how do you advance through the waves?

who do you care for and who cares for you?

what are you destroying with every breath, and what are you creating?

when do you feel most alive? and how do you cultivate that feeling – do you let being alive swallow your time, take precedence?

what must you leave behind on the path to liberation, and how good are you at letting go?

and so on, and so on. these are the conversations i need, don’t tell me about the weather, don’t say please thank you i am so sorry. it doesn’t matter.

life matters. wonder matters.
love and friendship and children and creating and being free and transformation matter. black liberation and ending white supremacy and evolving beyond borders and re-indigenization and an informed public matter. art and music and pleasure matter.

i can’t talk small to you, don’t ask me to fit this into a smile and an offhand comment today when the tears are wet on my cheeks and every time i fly when my plane touches down there is news i can’t handle. wake up, let me wake you up, don’t float in the shallows of human experience. sorrow carves out the space for joy (khalil gibran). grief is gratitude (jai of kalani).

with every breath i can feel more. i am going to blossom beyond my skin. i believe our next evolution is emotional, is interdependent, and we have to feel each other and we have to deeply listen.

because we can’t be small, not anymore, not ever again. in fact i love being huge – i want to billow through the door and make the world of small minds and petty tolerances so uncomfortable. i want to be as grandiose as religion and as incomprehensible as the galaxy.

when someone says we will win eventually, i know what i mean by winning. i don’t mean surviving. i mean changing everything that keeps humans from freedom, joy, wholeness, safety and love.

that’s what i am up to – thinking beyond my head, feeling beyond my body, being fully alive in real time. and i can’t help it, it’s just that ‘i am who i am doing what i came to do’ (audre lorde) and while it is intimate and incremental, it is the biggest work i have ever put myself to.

that’s all. that’s all. that’s why i can’t talk small.

dancing with hopelessness

lately i have found myself to be a combatant behind enemy lines wherever i am in the world. the sounds of death are constant – either the current blasting or the sound of news anchors telling me numbers. sometimes the numbers are more overtly related to me – black people, people from the u.s., queer people, women and girls. other times they are less overtly mine – parents, people of a specific faith, people who speak one of the million languages or dialects i couldn’t comprehend. still human, children.

since i was young i have been blessed and afflicted with empathy, when i hear or read or see suffering i feel within me some response.

a restlessness – something must be done.
numbness – nothing i can do.
rage – why are you so evil, why are you not better than this?
shame – this is how humans spend our time, taking from each other and plotting each other’s death?

when i was in my twenties this set of feelings, sparked by what was happening in the world and fed by traumas in my body, pushed me over an edge of not wanting to be alive.

i know so many people who know what that feels like, to have suicidal memories. when i think of that time it is very gray, and, honestly, calming: if i can go, then i don’t have to keep feeling all of this. i don’t have to keep wondering if anything i am doing matters. i, i, i – who is i, what do i do/mean/need/take responsibility for?

i don’t feel suicidal now, since i walked out of that world of shadowed edges and paranoia and self-obsession i have never returned.

but our shared reality (if we are even slightly awake) is depressing. violence coming in from every direction all the time, with those in power committed to maintaining and growing power instead of learning to thrive on our miraculous spaceship. if people aren’t at least somewhat depressed and disappointed by humanity it’s hard for me to trust them.

and yet i am oriented towards solution and joy. i can feel myself fighting to lift up and move forward somehow. i am pressed to generate new strategies for moving through emotions that are larger than i know what to do with, larger than any community i am a part of knows how to hold. i love sugar and alcohol and weed as much as anyone, but my spirit has been needing more – more clarity and space to feel, more life.

my days are full of new rituals and ancient ones that have me feeling both closer to and further away from humanity at large.

here are some of the small and personal rituals that allow me to be in relationship with my growing hopelessness, to dance in real time with all that is happening.

i imagine myself a dragonfly. or an owl. an orca. a spotted cow. i let myself wander into the experience – flying, chewing, living out in the world, being wild, solitary, communal. we think reason makes us superior to everything, but when i let myself wander the experiences of other species i see there are so many ways to live without a focus on death, which seems to be the primary thing we use our reasoning to generate or avoid.

i light candles and speak into the flames the names of people and places that need light, concepts that need air, the things i need to let go of before the next in-breath, the things i can’t let go of but are too heavy today.

i also tell water what i cannot carry and then pour it into bigger water. if i am outside i find a river. a creek, a lake. lately i use my shower in this way too, i imagine it moving over me like a mother soothing a child. i imagine the cloudy heft of sadness moving through the pipes and systems, droplets to waterfalls, wetlands and deltas, into the gulf of mexico, into the ocean.

i burn sage, frankincense, cedar, palo santo, dhoop sticks, incense. i feel the smoke moving through me, cleansing, inviting a relaxation of everything in me that holds on to life too tightly, knowing i am more powerful when i am relaxed and flexible and soft.

i give time – quiet, meditative time – to tragedy and grief. i let my mind encounter the river of souls floating up out of our comprehension. when i hear something new and violent has happened, i pause. maybe it’s a prayer i whisper, an incantation, a spell – something less than words and more than breath goes up with those souls. if i know a number i set a timer and give a minute to each stranger, each possible beloved. i meditate on those who are precious to me.

i do my practices – tarot, somatics, yoga, words.

time, smoke, water, breath, practice, shapeshifting.

and healing circles. bringing myself into a circle with others, circles of two, circles of hundreds, to remind ourselves that we are also always with each other, cultivating something better than this horror, making more room to grieve, to be numb together, to be stricken and clueless together, to hold on to each other.

with several of the circles we have gathered our pain and heartache and hopelessness and actually pushed it down into the earth together. she is so big, with so much capacity to transform the toxic into the fertile. sometimes she is the only living thing i fully trust.

my indigenous story is one of physical and cultural colonization – i am cut off from direct knowledge of what my ancestors learned to use in this way, how they listened to earth and learned to care for each other, to move grief and hopelessness through the body, to live beyond overwhelming emotions. because no matter how awful this world can be, i cannot be more than i am. i face a broken world, i think my most healing offer is wholeness. i must be whole in myself, in the community i am accumulating each day.

i notice what produces a sense of release, space and good energy in my system, i listen to healers, i ask permission. i have learned from everywhere, i hope i will keep learning. i am weaving together my lineage and experience into a song that i can move to.

i am learning to dance with my hopelessness.

a poem for brutal holidays

the sky explodes and it sounds like
the world was created by
lost men
who nearly died on the salt sea
but, living,
planted bullets in the flesh and soil
and grew up a world of metal
and rage

boom blast it surrounds me
and inside I quiver
is it gunshots
automatic, bursting through
the bass in the club
is it suicide at the door
car metal slicing through
humans who believed in god

stray death
or just the celebration of it

i looked up in awe
when i was a child
all the colors
inside the body it is dark
until, pulled open
red sprays and eggplant
acidic nauseous droplets
swallowed diamonds
what was i learning

bombs bursting in air
make you gasp
and feel wonder
and you survive
but no one else does
you win the right to pay
into a system that tries every day
to kill you dead

tell me a way that
bombs, or borders, can mean love
can grow our souls
can pull us into a vast future
worth all of this miracle
am i a child still
to want all this life
and to only celebrate
explosions of joy

* for that time i sat in a bathroom last year, singing songs to comfort finn, who was trembling at the sound of fireworks.

* for my friends who remember being attacked every time the explosions come.

* for every human for whom the sound of bombs bursting in air is the last thing they heard.

in detroit (love poem)

in detroit
people sit in their cars for private flirtations
argue on the balcony
its so much space but still
such a small town
such a mystery

in detroit
all my plants die
waiting for my whispers
i toss meat out my window
to the dog who lives next door
he rang my doorbell today but dashed off when I answered
skittish, brave

in detroit
the summer evenings are a heaven
the sky spectacular
oceanic over the grown up lawns
cool stippling flesh
black laughter has plenty of room here
quieter than suffering
but as constant too

in detroit
its all stories
its about getting to tomorrow
and seeing under the veil
you can’t paint this city
anything but black
and brown and sacred
its the soil

in detroit
there is a magic
it floats just over the pavement
lacing our calves purring
nothing ever looks like we thought it would
and everything feels softer than outsiders could imagine
we hustle and seed and explode
look
you can’t look away