CTRLALT

A few days after the election I was part of a massive and amazing event in New York that has stuck with me.

The event was called #CTRLALT, organized by The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, and it was Asian, Black and Brown artists offering vision, alternative, ways to the future. I was scheduled to offer two workshops in the realm of sci fi and social justice, but it was three days after trumpocalypse and the energy and flow of the event was subdued, tender. As was I.

There were incredible pieces and installations. The Chinatown Art Brigade set up an immersive piece on gentrification in Chinatown, particularly poignant because we were located in what was the Pearl River Market until the owners got priced out. Sheldon Scott offered a piece on blackness which involved him standing on rocks speaking truth to us in a destroyed suit. Charles Jean-Pierre constructed a black (w)hole for us to enter full of light, mirrors and doors.

Genevieve Erin O’Brien worked at the intersection of food and justice, creating a space under a staircase that whipped up blood orange cotton candy and was covered in radical commitments. Nia Keturah created a “woke machine” where participants could transfer some of their experience of racial oppression to people who had never experienced it. Christine Sun Kim had an installation exploring the art and influence of sign language – I met her at Art Dubai and was absolutely blown away by how she speaks of the body’s articulation of possible futures.

Nerds of Color created a reading nook which, I was excited to see, included Octavia’s Brood along with tons of other work I love and a stack of Eshu posters from John Jennings that I wanted to confiscate. Across from this, Chad Shomura and Yuki Sakugawa structured a corner of heart-to-hearts where there was a collective cape people could share, a tiny safe space. Down the hall Saya Woolfalk sat in a room of stunning borderless textiled gowns and walls which I want to live in, the artist greeting guests with a child in her lap.

I was housed in the Museum of Impact’s interactive installation, surrounded by black women’s ode to activism.

As people slipped past me in the space I could feel the shock and the tremble in some of them, especially brown queer people. I pulled two chairs together and sat down, and soon someone sat across from me and began to cry. We spoke briefly and honestly to each other, as strangers, about fear. We then found the fear in our bodies, and then found the resilience – the part of ourselves that knows how to recover. We ended in laughter, not over the fear, but with the fear and grief, with each other.

Across from us was a muted boxing match produced by Samson Young – the audience was silent, heightening the impact of sounds as two black men pummeled each other. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the sounds as another person, then another, sat before me. It felt honest, the impact on black skin – this is how it feels to live here.

Mostly my guests and I were quiet, or whispered to each other. I felt like Sadness in Inside Out, sitting with people and finding beauty in the truth, in the depth between us.

On the second day of the event, I held a micro-workshop with a group of middle schoolers, mostly Asian, already wrestling with the impact of white supremacy, teasing each other in asides and whispers. There was a bully amongst the kids who led the way, making the kids laugh at each other. He was doughy and smart, and I felt heartache for whatever had shaped him even as I led the other kids to vision by circling around his distractions until the ideas were compelling enough to turn his attention.

I brought my tarot deck that day and set the cards up as a way to channel the emotions in the room. As I read people, I again noticed that moving from mass engagement to very deep personal interactions was so relieving to my system.

The event has stuck with me and here’s why:

– We need depth. Right now everyone is looking to large scale urgent moves, and I understand. But what feels clearest to me is that we need to dig deeper, into ourselves and with each other, into our resolve and our vision. People need to feel and believe there is a reason to keep transforming at their deepest core level in order to withstand what is being uncovered as the truth within these manmade borders. And we need depth across experiences of oppression – not isolating ourselves in panic, but understanding that these systems want to control and devour everything that isn’t white, male and wealthy.

– We need play. While some of the pieces took themselves quite seriously and brought me to tears, I was also deeply moved by the playful offerings. Next to my chair was an installation that made art of people’s heartbeats. Watching people contort and dance to the music DJ Rekha was offering up shook something down in me – everyone wanted to gather there. Times are hard but we must be an invitation to co-create, rather than a rigid set of gates to pass through.

– We need love. After people shared their fears with me, the next words were always about love. Telling me who they loved, wondering what love could create and do in fearful times, asking the tarot for guidance around love. The tarot was clear: be more honest. We need more spaces where love begets honesty, where we can set aside our masks and projections and be kissed on our scars.

– We need adaptation. I could have proceeded with a workshop structure and had fun. But what emerged from my own need and the need of the people who came with me returned me to a place where I could even look at the future. If we can’t adapt, even our best ideas become outdated, irrelevant.

During that weekend I also got to attend Underground Railroad Game, a play cocreated by my dear friend Jen Kidwell, who also stars in it as a teacher/slave era dominatrix. It was delightfully controversial and moved me – exposing the way we try to be coy and humorous about unspeakable things.

It is of utmost importance not to normalize anything at this time – white supremacy, climate catastrophe and misogyny in office and policy are not new for any of us, but this moment allows us to see it more clearly. And it is of equal importance to be visionary about how we engage this moment, and each other. Go for intimacy, depth, creativity and relationship.

Make more art, and let it be honest.

learning as we go

in the midst of a couple of weeks of turning inwards for reflection, i am becoming aware of the personal lessons of this moment – the movement growing, the overt uberphobic white nationalism normalizing, the mass divestment from the system – unvoting america.

i write this in a country that celebrates the lie-based myth wrapped around our genocidal roots this week, a week which begins with human/earth rights atrocities at standing rock. i will be with my family all week, one of the few weeks where we can all overlap, just holding and loving each other.

it feels faster and faster, the unveiling of the deeper patterns of white supremacy and capitalism which so many of us have been shining our small lights on forever.

there are amazing strategists writing about specific political responses at this moment.

i am grateful for emergent strategy, for learning about the divine force of change and challenging myself to be in right relationship with it.

i am learning more about the ways to be honest with myself in this moment, and yearning for more collective honesty about what we do and don’t know, what we will and won’t do, how to be and where to surrender in the process of letting go of the current paradigm.

i am learning to be with my despair and terror instead of denying or shrinking it. the part of me that feels of-the-planet trembles, poring over potential policy u-turns when we were already moving too slow. my relationships all feel incredibly precious, and my time is more and more focused.

i feel like i am awakening from a dream in which i thought i was already awake, frozen, calling out for help. in the dream i was (we were) waking up from a nightmare. in truth, we are waking up to a nightmare.

months ago i said ‘things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered’, which i still believe. and that statement could use some nuance: depending on the level of illusion and privilege at play in our lives, this time will likely feel worse for some of us as comforts and assumptions fall away, as we lose the sugar cube of a charming black president with a flawless partner and children, and can taste again just how bitter this nation’s contradictions are.

it is always devastating to face the atrocity of the united states, to contort and contort trying to love this bully child.

we are all experimenting, no matter how declarative we are about how people must feel and act right now.

i feel my commitment to justice and liberation, and i recognize that it may not be the fate of humanity to experience that freedom and/or wholeness i long for, at least not at a collective level. i still feel this is the right struggle to be in, i still believe it is the core work of our species – to reason, to feel, to reconcile power and brilliance and compassion, to expand into our miraculous potential.

i am relinquishing whatever illusions make me think i know the future, and making more room to co-create something worth living into.

i am learning to create futures/poems/stories about what i don’t know, what i can’t explain, where i am not sure.

i’m learning to come undone with rage and still act towards what i long for. i will not submit, i will be a transparent and vocal opposition to a government organized around seeing me as inferior, as an abomination – i can’t give that a chance, or wait and see.

whiskey helps my bravado. meditation and centering drop me from bravado into my dignity. and i notice that if i allow myself room for fear and anger, i move beyond coping to healing, at least for a little while at a time.

i am humbling myself in the face of the journey. life moves towards life, even if i can’t always see it. i am softening my peripheral vision and cultivating more sensitivity at my back.

i am leaning into love and pleasure – dancing, generating slow sweet pleasures with others, laughing, singing, reading and finding ways to be warm. forgiving people, being more generous. i am telling people how much they mean to me.

i am learning and remembering de-escalation, self-defense, security culture, so that i can meaningfully stand back to back and side to side with all of y’all and advance, from my heart, towards liberation.

i am redistributing the time i spend critiquing others, putting that time into connections, mediations, love coaching, generating compelling narratives for the future, and supporting efforts i believe in.

i am letting you know: i don’t know, but i will keep learning.

one week of poems on love and terror

i was supposed to be working on a novel this month but it will keep. instead i have written thousands of other kinds of words – blog words, journal words, and with my clarion writers group, a daily poem. here is some of the poetry, which feels very much like the journal stuff, my terror/despair/love, clarified.

….

1. survival

the brittle tissue was layered and piled up
rung dry
stretched on a repurposed loom
until diaphanous
torn strips for the days to come

she rolled the flesh up
suffocating the thru line
doubling it, fat grease
thick in her fingerprint
placing gray life on her tongue

it was salt and steel
it was cold and still
it was the fat end of the day
and she was the only one hungry
the open mouth

in this way
she ate her own heart
before they came
to break it

….

2. moving forward

i wake up into clouds
and all day i reach in my hands
feel my way forward
i think forward
its hard to tell
sweeping the nothingness away
i gather the mist with my palms
ready, not ready
for the sharp tomorrow
to slice my fingers

….

3. reducing myself

i am accumulating crust and feathers
pinching and piercing my skin
and threading through me
and making a bloody mess

it gathers at the edge of eyes
too fast to wipe away
the salt-ring
soon i will decide: open? closed.

i used to love all the colors
i used to love all the titles i could gather
but i can let my skin cake up with dust
be a no one from here to there

at first i was so brave
and i had a framework, an answer, a flow
now, i just choose life over death, today,
today,
today

4. becoming brightness

im far away from myself
a distance between heart and skin grows
fills with brush fire
until inside i wheeze and my eyes tear up in public
am i a stray spark
am i of danger

if i keep an open mind it means maybe there are multiple interpretations of “lynch that nigger”
a humorous way to grab a stranger’s pussy
and logic by which descendants of immigrants can tell anyone ever to go home;
that my love is less than sacred

but i am the infinite accumulation
of millions of small sparks in the night
saying:
i am not your dream, i am my own

now i feel smoke in my mouth
now i begin to burn through those i touch
i begin to feel a hunger for anything that stands still
i begin to slip out of system

….

5. every time i choose

on one side of me is the terror
a shoreline with a violent water
sucking back teeth
lifting up to swallow
me and all of us
making all my distinctions silly
drowning my horses and
dashing my obsession with living

on the other side of me
she is holding my hand
she has already lost several nations
and all faith in men and politics
she loves me without ever saying it
watches me until i become goddess
saying its ok to grieve, to be terrified
let us feel as much as we can while we are living

every time i choose her
i feel the miracle of touching skin that isn’t mine
her life comes from a desert
and she laughs at how i am american
grandiose and self important
then she shows me something smaller
and more precise
than i ever dreamed

this time it is a tiny elephant named earl
she wants me to travel with him
before that, a soap from aleppo
to remind me that nothing is forever
and once it was a book of male genitalia
to help us laugh at those who care for power
now, with my sea of terror behind me
all i can gift her in return

is my life

….

6. my heart can break but not in two

i am not half of myself
my mother’s cells do not inhale in me
pulling themselves away
from the skin that terrifies
her neighbors

my mother grew up around
men on horses with rifles
told a lie about their hearts
(irrelevant)
and a lie about their destinies
(supreme)

my heart can break on a story
about a poor white person
who lost something beloved
person, place, thing
but show them my picture
ask if i can lead them…

so, my heart can break

i am not half of myself
my father’s cells do not terrify
the tender world in me
which whiteness inhales in infinite lines
feasting on its neighbors

my father grew up around
women who held kitchen courts
lost their teeth early
(truthful tongues are sharp)
lived almost forever
(raising everyone in sight)

my heart can break on a story
about a poor black person
who nurtured the deepest sweet
but stepped onto the pavement
and was swallowed up, whole

so, my heart can break

7. your safety and your pins

there is nothing wrong with safety pins
i imagine that where you are
it is brave
the world around you
held together by a gleaming oil-ish bubble
chartreuse and bulbous
inside like a snow globe
small and white and seeming to fall down
earth flat, that sort of thing
and you want a real life
you want to stop being shaken
and responding to a false chaos
where the only thing that changes is the
position of the sky
you want to feel dirt and
to find a heartbeat in your chest
so you prick inward and out
and with the sharp and rounded pin
you shout:
i will change

and there is nothing wrong with this
it is a morning action
and you still have sleep in your eyes

an emissary from the night might tell you
there is nothing wrong with safety pins
but you may find you need a sword
a shield, a baton, fireworks,
a megaphone and a rested voice
and to feel the ocean inside you
before you can step onto this line
between me and hatred

for the line is long and fatal
and the war so quiet
it could break you in two
like a confession

for the line is sharp
and the war so deep
it could swallow you whole
before you can say stop

grief is gratitude, fear is intelligence, truth is strategic

over this past week i have been cycling between feeling the rough emotions of this moment and feeling for my/our resilience – our capacity to recover from harm. and i have been connecting with loved ones to do both these things, to vent and move thru the worst possible case scenarios and breath into “what now”, and “where do we go from here”?

i keep experiencing gratitude for the reality-based visionaries at movement generation and their teachings on false solutions – solutions which are politically possible now, but will not satisfy/save/serve us. (for example, it appears that elections as they are currently structured are a false solution. we need a popular vote for president, and instant runoff voting, minimum.)

fear has come in waves and i am getting curious about it, finding out what my fear wants me to know. fear is an intelligence, it makes me alert to danger. its not a state i want to linger in – its a way to come into wakefulness with what is. we knew we were in danger, our data set just got more precise. the danger is intersectional. and it feels smart to feel terror and grief when the place i call home attacks me and everyone i love.

as the shock of this change wears off, i am feeling lit up about our liberation from false solutions, and lit up about futures where we don’t fear other humans. while i still feel anticipatory grief over the changes coming, i can also feel anticipation for the ways we will tell the stories of our desired future, and bring those stories to life.

i find that i am already in the right place and supporting the right work. my loved ones are supporting each other, some taking to the streets each night, some reaching out for broader alliances, all educating ourselves. we have already been working to unveil the wound and make real solutions, to make what we really need to thrive and evolve as a species and planet, politically possible.

while it is tempting to focus on ‘the enemy’, what we pay attention to grows, and we need to continue to focus on the growth of justice and liberation technologies that are not dependent on a sophomoric state within which a portion of white people are terrified of the inevitable and acting all the way out. so i am feeling for right balance between resistance and rejection of ignorance/misogyny/white supremacy and focusing on building what we need. rereading the parables to help with this understanding.

for those who claim this whole thing is just about class (i haven’t seen any “fuck poor people” or even “kill the elite” tagging since tuesday, only race/gender/sexuality/anti-immigrant slurs and threats, so…), i assert that our economic vision of an abundant cooperative localized economy is more compelling in the long run. but we don’t need to just say that, we need to live into it with the way we organize jobs and funding in our radical work. keep creating models that can stand the weight of our communities.

we need to deepen our practice of removing white supremacy from our language and norms. it is not a dark time, it is a pale time. our people are not ‘minorities’. my heartfriend anasa troutman also challenges us not to use the term ‘people of color’, defining ourselves only by non-whiteness. it’s time to be creative and specific. i am going to either use very specific language to speak of communities i am supporting now, or use the language of impact, for the broader set of communities impacted by this intersection regression unfolding in our national government.

its also a great time to stop being polite. be loving, kind, direct. but most of all, be truthful – full of the capacity to speak the truth when you see and feel it.

i remain fascinated by us, anticipating how we will move beyond reactionary rhetoric and action, to build our connections and move forward from our deepest love and longing.

if you are overwhelmed with fear and terror, find a friend, sit face to face, and do this together:

first, take turns naming your fears and/or griefs. let feeling come with them. with your hands show where the fears live in your body. mirror each other, so you both get the experience of seeing your grief on another.

second, place your hands on your bellies and take turns naming things that make you feel resilient. imagine those things filling you up. rock and roll a bit, make more room for resilience inside yourselves.

third, offer gratitude to each other for both having the complexity to hold grief/fear and resilience in the same miraculous body.

one day at a time. one brave, loving, radical day at a time.

<3

survival tips for radical empaths

“Being an empath is when you are affected by other people’s energies, and have an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others. Your life is unconsciously influenced by others’ desires, wishes, thoughts, and moods. Being an empath is much more than being highly sensitive and it’s not just limited to emotions. Empaths can perceive physical sensitivities and spiritual urges, as well as just knowing the motivations and intentions of other people. You are always open, so to speak, to process other people’s feelings and energy, which means that you really feel, and in many cases take on the emotions of others. Many empaths experience things like chronic fatigue, environmental sensitivities, or unexplained aches and pains daily. These are all things that are more likely to be contributed to outside influences and not so much yourself at all. Essentially you are walking around in this world with all of the accumulated karma, emotions, and energy from others.” – traits of an empath

loves, i know many of us are empaths who are dealing not just with our own despair, but the collective weight and tension of this moment. some of us rush to blame, some rush into action. i definitely feel the pull to “keep myself busy”.

some of us move into cynicism – the spilled milk was spoiled anyway.

some of us just go numb.

as we move through protests or airports or jobs where the energy is multitudinous and intense, we must remember that as channels of truth we are not cursed, but gifted.

we feel underneath whatever our split society is trending as good or bad, and from the deep well of emotional connection we have to each other and the planet, we feel a way forward.

we don’t have to pretend not to feel this moment, we don’t have to be cool, cynical, strategic, DOing, or pleasant.

or, we can cycle thru all those things, and still feel rage and hopelessness.

grief and fear and anger and sadness are sane responses to fascism, and can be great teachers.

to grow from here we need the complexity that comes from our felt senses, our emotional alertness. we are walking amongst millions of people who love neither us nor this living planet, and have now made it official, committing our country to intellectual and spiritual regression.

a new low? perhaps. but the pendulum is spinning in wild circles, the mystery is afoot, our work is elegant adaptation with our eyes on revolution. and change is the only constant. we will feel our way to a new high.

practices that help me:

breathe deeper.

sleep longer.

hydrate more often.

slow down.

eat food with detoxing properties: dandelion greens, ginger, turmeric.

look for silver linings and opportunities for collective resistance.

keep flowing all overwhelming energy down to big mama earth, and drawing up solid ground in your center. which each exhale i flow it down my back, down my legs, out the soles
of my feet. which each inhale i remember i am dirt, humble and solid.

in the shower/bath, i invite water to cleanse me, i honor its sacredness. water is life. i remember i am water, i am not stagnant, i can flow.

i put on my current happy place playlist: solange, frank ocean, moses sumney, james blake, drake, nao, rihanna, beyonce and chance the rapper.

spend time with people who don’t tell me how to feel, or not to feel, or who try to repress my feelings with facts, oversimplification and/or cliches.

and if i find myself crying in public, or screaming even, i hold my head up – i don’t owe anyone the protection of my pretense.

trust my feels, trust my dissociation, trust my woes, trust my commitment to liberation.

armor up: nasty woman sexy ass power-fit, headphones, scarf, hoodie, black band, all my turquoise.

chants and mantras:

even though i am scared, i will keep unveiling injustice.

breathing in i make room for miracles, breathing out i release hate.

my people survived slavery/genocide/jim crow/tuskegee/the holocaust/assassinations/state-murders – and still we sing, dance, strategize and rise up for our divine humanity.

“my people are free” – harriet tubman

and

“we are our ancestors wildest dreams.”

a range of reflections on resilience

resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties

things i did today to recover

1. i reminded myself of something i’ve learned in life which helps me focus: things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. we must hold each other tight & continue to pull back the veil.

right.

2. i cried hard. woke up ugly-crying. at first i couldn’t even clearly say why i was crying, cause i knew/know all the analytical things. but i can’t deny that i feel the collective grief, the uptick of fear. the angle at which our uphill battle is being fought just got steeper.

i gave myself to the tears, and cried til i was spent. then got reiki and cried some more, letting the energy flow.

i realized that i had prepared my heart for the ache and compromise of a clinton win. but people who live all around me and all around everyone i love, and people who are related to me by blood, they came out of the woodwork in favor of someone who campaigned on violence and hatred towards everything about me and my loves.

perhaps it is in that shared blood that i feel the most pain in this moment. my ancestral line has slavery, genocide, rapists and scoundrels in it. yours too.

it also has all the people who survived and changed those stories. that means that while there is despair, i am not hopeless.

and my crying is not nostalgic, it isn’t denial – i don’t want to cling to the shore, emotionally flailing for a more comfortable, familiar narrative. right now there is justified grief and rage, my own and others, flowing through.

3. spent time with babies. in person and by video. babies who i love and feel responsible for, who reminded me to focus on learning, laughter and breasts.

4. i let myself go down a path of snarky, petty thoughts. such as:

– this election can best be summed up in the words of “Fake Love” by our neighbor Drake – “I got fake people showin’ fake love to me/Straight up to my face, straight up to my face/I can tell that love is fake/I don’t trust a word you say.”

– seriously 2/3 of voting white women – “who taught you to hate yourself?”

these thoughts did not really make me feel better, so i just let them slip by.

5. i found words that made me feel better.

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” – Kahlil Gibran

“Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – MLK

“Transform yourself to transform the world.” – Grace Lee Boggs

“Wage Love” – Charity Mahouna Hicks

“The only lasting truth is change” and “There’s nothing new under the sun. But there are new suns.” – Octavia Butler

6. saw people calling this a dark time and i was like NOPE. remembered that Steven Barnes, in the alternate history classic Lion’s Blood, flipped the script of who had power. in a world where Africans held power, everything was “a pale, pale time”.

it occurs to me that this is not a dark time at all, not a dark age. it is a pale, pale time.

7. remembered that octavia told us all about this. one thing that stands out today as i view the world through swollen eyes is that i have a responsibility as an empath, to FEEL this, to let my feelings matter and guide me.

i have been reading the parables over and over in this lifetime for a reason, because there is wisdom in them, there are tangible tools for survival, for empaths and everyone else.

a few other people had the same thought at the same moment, and we are generating a discussion guide to support people reading and studying it together. join us.

8. i connected with others.

– reached out to loved ones and we texted and wrote pieces and called and facetimed and hugged our way through the day. sometime mid afternoon several of us noticed a feeling of focus, a sharpening of our work. we carry it on.

– got together with others in Detroit tonight and generated resilience. it was a simple evening – sharing our fears, reminding ourselves that fear is an intelligence, a sign to be more alert. then we shifted to remembering what helps us recover from pain and trauma. there was a lot of expanding, galaxies, oceans, trees, stillness, rocking, laughter, song. we, especially those of us who feel more overtly vulnerable today than yesterday, need each other.

9. i also did my usual resilience practices: a bath, centering, cooking (gave myself a day off of food tracking), singing really loudly, meditation, watching things (atlanta, black mirror).

and this. writing to you all. i love you. all.

<3

election day eve spell

tomorrow we make history
like we did yesterday
and the day before
bending the rigid
rejecting the violence
healing the broken
breaking the silence
marching towards our children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s child
heads held high, eyes bright
ridiculously still believing
we are better than this moment
laughing at our own righteousness
teasing each other for even whispering hope

but still

giving our whole hearts to the future
today we are the most important actors
tomorrow we roll a million die into the mystery
and after that others will continue the work
every four years
perhaps for a million years
or maybe we will change
even the structure of time

if we are honest with our actions
if we are true to what we believe most deeply
we cannot fail
we cannot lose
we can only be exactly what we are
and make more room for
that which we still need to learn

i will not deny the truth of it
that everything living deserves better than today
that is the thing we can all see now
naked at noon on a clear day
unarmed and unapologetically underwhelmed

and that is our work
tomorrow
to make history by making the future
better than yesterday, than today
better than tomorrow

look up
higher, higher, further, further
tomorrow
tomorrow we shape god

pleasure in the age of [insert president elect]

if you are actively working on the election (knocking on doors, calling black voters in the south, talking to voters who feel confused, etc), thank you. remember to eat, shower and drink something other than coffee – at least twice a day. book a massage for november 9.

if you have voted already, or are waiting to vote in person, and know what your choice is (for example in Detroit you know why you are voting yes on Prop A and no on Prop B), and aren’t actively working in the election, but still find it impacting the pleasure potential of your days?

some options:

1a. if ranting and raving at people online makes you feel good, this is the week to indulge. helpful tip – when sharing any of the often terrifying and/or underwhelming news about the womEn running against candidate bump, make your recommendation for what you think people should do in the voting booth. it is more interesting to hear how people navigate the compromises than to pretend there are none.

afterwards we will all be out of the theoretical multiverse and back in some version of the same boat (an ethno-racialized hyper-gendered/abled/class segregated multiverse), so rage against whichever machine most enrages you.

1b. if ranting and raving (your own or others) makes you feel hopeless and miserable, take a social media break. write a book. read a book. i was accidentally offline most of last weekend and i felt my brain instantly nourished by the lack of incoming election-related crises.

1c. i have also curated who i follow right now – mostly checking for people who inspire and inform, with humor and fact checked sources. some favorites: alicia garza, kiese laymon, rebecca solnit, dallas goldtooth, jay smooth, taylor renee aldridge. yours?

2a. have at least one orgasm each and every day. minimum. to paraphrase mae west, an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away AND keeps everything in perspective – no matter what, right now you still have your miraculous body, made up of a complex system of pleasure sensors.

if you don’t have easy access to a lover each day, or if you do but still love the idea of buying new sex toys to use for political purposes, i recommend the womanizer (worth it), magic wand (dependable), wahl (also good for joint massages) or jimmy jane 2. use separately or all together. i’ve also heard positive reviews of the fleshlight, but can’t evangelize from experience…feel free to add your recommendations.

2b. more cuddles and more massages. hold, comfort and release each other.

3. stay hydrated and increase your exercise and mobility. polls show a 100% likelihood that some portion of us will move closer to apocalyptic conditions on nov 8, 2016. get ready!

4. focus on how incredible standing rock/#nodapl and the movement for black lives/#blacklivesmatter continue to be every day in the face of traumatizing and hard work. feel grateful to be alive at a time when you can give time, attention and money to such groundbreaking work.

5. in order to help yourself remember that whatever the outcome, y/our work continues, write a love note to your today-self from your 2020-self about the incredible work you and y/our community accomplish in the next four years.

this might include working on evolutions in the voting system like instant runoff voting so you don’t spend the next election in a fear vise about voting your values.

or not. your future self knows.

6. plan post election community healing spaces, places to notice how we are, knit ourselves back together if need be, hug on each other and focus on breath and laughter.

i will be hosting such events in oakland (11/16, 7pm solespace) and detroit (TBA) (will post events on my page)!

7. if all else fails, google michelle obama speeches (just fast forward through the ‘greatest nation’ parts, because as a reader of this blog i assume your goals for humanity are global survival, abundance and pleasure, not permanent dominance and competition) and revel in black woman magic.

let your pleasure be an act of resistance in this time of terror and distraction. as always, we are almost in the future, and this moment is almost in the past.

election exhale

i spent the past weekend at a gathering called with/out ¿borders? hosted by the arcus center for social justice at kalamazoo college.

it was a well structured gathering, four plenary conversations over two days, each one with a set of related breakout sessions afterwards. there was an ‘unconference’ as well, emergent sessions and film screenings that bubbled up from a brilliant participant body.

i got to speak on the first plenary and the election came up. as i was speaking i realized that i have been feeling unexpectedly calm about this election lately.

but how is this possible!

i was returning from a hot springs off-grid moment after a six day facilitation extravaganza, so i’m not sure how coherent i was.

but here is some exploration of the feeling, and the context.

to begin with, i feel like all the people i most respect and admire are playing their positions well – in movement, in life, and in relation to history.

the vision for black lives platform is brilliant, complex and clear. it really helps as a guideline to any and all who would hope to lead in or shape the future of this country.

in each place/movement i get to facilitate, i see people moving towards complexity and alignment with each other in ways that support being able to advance the leadership of grassroots and directly impacted communities.

these organizers i look up to are aware of the election, and doing work around it that makes sense. none of them are dropping everything and doing reactionary electoral organizing – their work is much longer term. most are not endorsing any candidate, because our standards are high.

and! we are not ignoring the election, primarily because many of the people we care about are looking through the election lens right now, and we dance between the attentions of the people and our visions for justice.

rosa clemente and others are reminding us that in spite of all the fear drums, there are other legitimate and politically aligned options, especially in blue states, and no individual has to bear the brunt of a broken system – everyone should have the right to vote their values.

the conversations i’ve been in are nuanced, and this, more than any particular individual or formation, gives me hope.

mostly we recognize that candidate pump as a hilarious and offensive attention-suck is not himself the problem, it is the ideologies he is playing with, the animus he is stoking to get attention – that’s the problem. still, he is doing us the favor of showing how vast and solid white supremacy and economic fear are in the u.s. right now. mapping the opposition. and white house or not, white supremacists are turnt way up right now.

and…that is what we expected, and should expect, in response to this moment of nonlinear black political, economic, athletic and entertainment flexing.

the death throes of white supremacy are vile to witness. it never stops shocking or hurting us to witness and be prey to white supremacist vitriol. but i am focusing on how many white people are standing up, stepping back from the table, and finding ways to learn self-love that don’t require dominance, looting, destroying.

i am also impressed with the radical compassion of leaders who can see through the fragile surface of white supremacy, see through to the pain, all the way to economic alignment, and are reaching through to speak about shared oppressions and shared possibilities.

regarding clinton, mostly we recognize that while having a woman president will be a move forward, we won’t be tricked into ecstacy over symbolic gains again. constructs such as race and gender expose themselves most when they are fully indulged. the mind and values of each woman are different, are not to be assumed. yes she is a woman, and familiar, and ridiculously competent, and a survivor, and a human being. and a hawk, and a zionist, and so on.

clinton is not the first woman to run for president, but she does seem to be the most experienced human to ever run for this office. still, she doesn’t align with or advance many of our values (“Who do you trust to be the president? The Republican, or Donald Trump?“), particularly in the ways she has used the tool of war.

we have under our belts two or three shared experiences (at minimum) of overattending to the office of the president. one is the panic of george w bush’s presidency, the terror that was drummed up, the heartache of watching critical funds move away from what we cared about and towards war and destruction. the stolen elections upheld by the supreme court, which shaped eight years of history, left us cynical, and in a mounting racial and climate catastrophe.

two is the thrill of obama’s election to the presidency, followed by years of seeing the limitations and compromises that defined his position, guaranteed his second term, constricted his legacy.

he is perhaps the best president we will experience, the most feminist and facilitative. but in a capitalist imperialist nation it’s hard to measure or celebrate such a thing.

an example of the contradictions needed to consider the obama presidency: i pray for him and michelle’s black love and safety daily, but i don’t trust him to free mumia and peltier.

i trust the savvy organizers who are using this election frenzy to move important stuff down ticket – sheriffs and school boards and policies matter so much more than presidents in our daily lives.

in detroit we are organizing people to vote on prop A, which will allow communities to hold corporations accountable for what they do in our city.

and during this time the exciting news is not happening in the media-election frenzy, but on the front lines of the Standing Rock struggle to stop pipelines that were prophecied to destroy the land and water from being built across North Dakota, as black people continue to live and die at state whim and to learn to love and protect each other in real time. and Flint and Detroit fight for basic water rights, and learn to love and protect each other in real time.

what i am saying is, our priorities are in order, we are aware of the paths of fear and limitation, and we are choosing to organize, collaborate and grow what we long for.

so no matter what happens? we gon be aight.

critical connections

last night i was hosted at Exit the Apple for a very sweet community potluck in Baltimore. the potluck brought together people who have been doing beautiful justice work around the city, but not necessarily together.

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i introduced myself by telling of my journey through organizing, electoral organizing in a panicky fear to stop george w bush, direct action and civil disobedience, and landing in visionary fiction, emergent strategy and pleasure activism.

we focused on the aspect of emergent strategy that is about critical connections, and i wanted to share the exercise we did. it took about 20 minutes total and people reported back surprisingly deep connections with each other (a lot of exchanging information and wanting to continue building at the end, signs of healthy community longing).

1. i had people raise their hands if they knew everyone in the room, 80% of the room, 50%, just one other person. often we assume everyone else is friends and we are the only stranger or outlier when it isn’t true. this scan exposes the patterns already in the room and the needed pattern making.

2. i asked folks to partner with someone they didn’t know and get lined up. this meant chairs were facing each other, hearts and eyes were facing each other. too often we work together and never actually consider the person in front of us, or we work off of assumptions and stolen glances. so the invitation is to actually see this person in their humanity, in their desire to transform the world. i invited people to reflect to each other first what they noticed in each other.

3. next people shared what they love about baltimore, and the work they do for/in this place. in an ideal place-based movement or life, those two things are connected. for instance – i love the radical blackness of detroit, so i center black liberation/freedom fighters in all my offerings of somatics, writing and healing space.

4. after pairs talked for about ten minutes, i asked people how they were doing at connecting. i noted that often we talk at each other, and we listen through our preconceptions. it is important to shift away from trying to fit people in our existing internal boxes, to shift towards curiosity in each other.

so the next step was a version of the question game. for a full minute, each pair had to go back and forth only asking each other questions. in this case, it was questions related to what they had heard in the other person’s baltimore love/movement story.

as a facilitator i noticed the shift in the room. there was laughter, people leaned into each other and became more collaborative, a team on a mission of curiosity.

5. as a final step, each person got to choose one of the questions asked and answer it as honestly as possible.

img_0508 photo credit Jason Harris

in reflections on the exercise, people said they were amazed at how deeply they could go in such a short period of time.

i referenced the incredible barbara holmes here, a black scientist who taught me years ago about the vibrational field of the heart, which extends about ten feet around us, strongest in front and back. when we sit face to face with someone, we are in each other’s vibrational field – it’s a practical way to connect.

so often when we speak of movement building, we look first at how to achieve critical mass. but margaret wheatley and grace lee boggs and octavia butler taught me that the quality of connection inside each pair, group, community or movement is what makes transformation possible.

facing each other and getting curious are two very simple tools for generating critical connections. focusing on place and what we long for really helps with alignment – there are a million places to diverge and we have been taught to focus on those, to deconstruct. but what we pay attention to grows, so the invitation for critical connections is to find the places of alignment and common interest and grow towards interdependence from there.

also, food helps. our community potluck was truly baltimore style with fresh oysters! and tons of other small, precious offers of sustenance.

also, children and babies help. there were teenagers in the group and 2 young children running circles around our pairs while a 3-month-old observed us and took naps in the back. watching the young children make connections by chasing, hugging each other, rolling around on the floor and shrieking with joy reminds us that it is in our nature to connect and play, that it brings delight when we give into the friendship available in the moment.

grateful to baltimore, exit the apple, lester spence and especially ailish hopper for pulling this together.