chimamandagate

this morning as i was catching up on chimamandagate i found myself feeling a ton of gratitude to trans, gender nonconforming and nonbinary people who have stayed with me through my unlearning process,
through my misgendering them, trying to argue grammar (even though in nearly every other instance i dismiss grammar rules and all other rules),
through my defensive reactions (“but half my lovers are trans/gnc i couldn’t be transphobic”),
through my feelings of scarcity around my womanhood and women’s spaces,
through delicate/scary conversations around transracial vs transgender journeys,
through my unrequested advice or protection,
through my absence when support was needed.
through my fascination and curiosity,
through my putting them on pedestals,
through my forgetting them in spaces where they needed inclusion and/or centering.
and through my fumbling love.

i wish i could say each of these lessons took me hours to learn, but some of it has taken days, weeks, years – sometimes i never made it back to thank the teachers of specific lessons, especially the ones that were hard.

and i am still unlearning.

and i am still grateful.

transformative justice workshop (from amb and Jayeesha)

this weekend i was honored to cofacilitate a session on transformative justice with Jayeesha Dutta. it went so beautifully that we wanted to share it with others.

the format was simple.

1. definitions/elements (building common language)

we first asked people to tell us the elements of

a. punitive justice, then
b. restorative justice, then
c. transformative justice

here’s what came back from our folks (communities on frontlines of extreme energy extraction fights):

punitive justice is about blaming, shaming, punishing, disposing of, limiting the motion of, violence, right and wrong. punishment is a way of exerting power over others.

restorative justice is about getting back to how things were (after an action or statement causes harm), returning to wholeness, healing, learning. it can be a practice of power over or power with others.

transformative justice is about transforming the conditions in society, community, family and/or intimate relationships from the root, such that whatever is causing harm and tension becomes impossible. it accepts that we’re all learning, all have trauma, and all make mistakes. it is often about leadership of oppressed people moving into a power with dynamic.

2. spectrum/self-analysis

we placed punitive justice on one end of the room, restorative about halfway down the room and transformative justice on the other end and had people cluster in the middle. we formed spectrums around the following questions:

a. which form of justice does our society primarily practice? (the group clustered down by punitive)

b. which form of justice do you primarily practice in your own life and relationships? (the group was mostly in restorative area with a few acknowledging they practice punitive [especially when we mentioned social media] and some in transformative, it’s where people wanted to be. we noted that a lot of times punitive is what feels most available in the short term, transformative takes more time.)

c. which form of justice does your organization/nwtwork/group/alliance primarily practice? We did make the distinction between internally and externally – these generally align. (the group mostly slid back to been restorative and punitive. folks shared some good and painful stories of what this looks and feels like.)

3. generating a path

we then had people cluster with people near them on the spectrum (forming groups of 4) and discuss what they could do to increase transformative justice in their organizations/groups/networks/alliances – in movement.

jayeesha offered the frame of will, skill, knowledge or capacity, asking people to reflect on which one they needed more of to practice this well.

4. making a commitment

to close, we had each person write a “note to self”, a commitment of one person or situation in which they were going to increase their practice of transformative justice.

the workshop was in response to the various processes of tension, conflict and justice that are rolling like waves through our movements. i can think of five different things in the past week where the collective move seemed punitive, though often expressed as punitive for the sake of transformation.

hearing folks process this in person in our meeting brought up questions for me that feel like useful self-assessments in the process of getting clear on what i’m building and how to proceed, where to learn:

is your goal liberation?

do you believe punitive justice can build movements for liberation? how?

do you have stories of changing your own deeply held beliefs (quickly) in response to punitive justice (particularly public calling out/shaming/exile)? i understand it as a tactic to use against corporations, political figures, or when we lack access to direct interventions…i want to understand more about where it fits into abolitionist/transformative justice tactics within groups of people explicitly working on justice and liberation.

do you have stories of increasing liberation in a group by practicing punitive justice together?
restorative?
transformative?

do you believe restorative justice can build movements for liberation? how?

what would make you more likely to practice transformative justice in your own life/work/relationships?

post righteousness

it’s a gift when someone speaks their truth and you can see where they can grow and move in with love.

it’s a gift when you speak your own truth and others move in with love to show you where you can grow.

don’t forget that we learn to move by falling down a million times.

don’t forget you were taught most of the things you now believe and teach others.

don’t dispose of each other – turn and face the conversations we still need to have.

change and be changed.

p.s. be as gracious and rigorous as your mentors were/are. be an invitation. offer others the same compassion you need when you’re wrong.

the well goes dry (detroit)

maybe the water is usable now
potable
maybe it will turn my gold to dirt
twist in my gut
wring me out

maybe there will be none next week
all over
not just somewhere and there too
not everyone can get
the plastic

not everyone can get the memo
some people
brush their babies’ teeth with it
others
boil up a lead soup for supper

without water how will we
keep our flesh from the vultures
without water how will we
fight off the desert
come to swallow the sea

we can see across time – can’t you?
we know what happened
you never change, you never change
the well goes dry
we start again

focus

i focus on what is well in me

under the panic and pain
the time layers of trauma
under the bruise from falling
after/while reading the news in public
and trying to dodge potential predators on the street

flustered by my fragility
when did i become frail
and who has time for that

after i mounted eeyore i learned he would not move forward
but i would
in this body, dismounted, unexpected
beautiful against all odds

even though my country of origin
cannot figure out what to do with me
since i won’t be a slave
and keeps coming for me
in pieces called bills and legislation

i will be whole and beyond all gruesome imagination
i know behind me is death
ahead of me, death
that is the promise of breath
but now
i swing lifeward from branch to vine
in relationship with each being that holds my weight
spinning round the maypole
weaving spells that open cages
casting my bones against a future worth dreaming
finding the open space where only my whole self is welcome

and then rest, rest

i focus on what is well in me
until it is the only self i see

won’t you help me

i love the sound of the train moving through the dark, rumbling and announcing itself. i love the sound of the baby speaking herself into our conversations today. i love standing under the stars and singing up, halfway between the haunted schoolhouse and the haunted cotton fields, knowing my ghosts and ancestors shared this view, and maybe they sang themselves through tribulation too.

wrote a song under the stars tonight and got to sing it while my beloved adaku utah danced the life into it. here’s the words, i’ll record if i can soon.

if I knew the way
I’d lead you to our water
if I knew the way
I’d take you to our dirt
if I knew the way
I’d lead you home right now
I don’t know I don’t know
I don’t know I don’t know
I don’t know I don’t know
won’t you help me figure it out

if we knew the way
we’d be among those stars now
if we knew the way
we’d be whole
if we knew the way
we’d bring home all our babies
we don’t know we don’t know
we don’t know we don’t know
we don’t know we don’t know
won’t you help us figure it out

won’t you help us feel it out
won’t you help us grow it out
won’t you help us sing it out
won’t you help us figure it out

won’t you help us feel it out
won’t you help us grow it out
won’t you help us dance it out
won’t you help us figure it out

entering the maroon space of BOLD’s national gathering

the line between love and magic disintegrates
the direction of victory or surrender is not known to us now
that’s the weight we drag and dance with

I speak the truth when it’s soft and then when it’s jagged
I use my hands to cast the spells beneath my words
I use my heart to imbue time with the rhythm of miracle
I don’t let go – when you leave the ocean you’re still ocean

the way I need to love and be loved brings me home
and it is so black I can hide here, I can shine
it is so black we can breathe here, and all of us shine

when the insect kingdom says hello

i arrived in miami on tuesday evening for some facilitation work with my loves at the climate justice alliance.

midday wednesday i noticed something had bitten me on my shoulder.

and my arm.
and my back.
and my fingers.

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survey of the people around me was that it was most likely mosquitoes, but said check for bed bugs. i suspected spiders (i was hospitalized once from spider bites), but the internet said they Never bite this much.

so i checked the bed corners with a flashlight and credit card, already near tears because a million small bugs is worse than one big one.

none of the signs the internet offered up were happening, so i fell into a dubious sleep.

woke up after three hours to go to bathroom and then touched my face. something was wrong. turned on the light and there’s new bites – one on my forehead, the other, worst of all, on my eyelid.

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so disrespectful.

and so clearly in that bed without my consent.

they/it also got my thigh thrice over.

four sleepless hours later i go to work and even my mosquito theorists are like girl there’s demons in your bed! i asked the internet via instagram for a diagnosis and learned that many of my beloveds have suffered horrible attacks from bed bugs, spiders, detergent, no see ums, mosquitos, and even sea lice (micro jellyfish spawn!!). they prescribed lavender, tea tree and peppermint oils, benadryl, cortisone, tiger balm, vaporub, plaintain, ice and more.

i followed all the advice, like an itchy paper bag, in the wind, in that one movie about a future flump supporter with the roses.

still, people gasped when seeing my back and switched languages so i wouldn’t hear the awful truth.

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i went to the front desk of the hotel and pointed at my face – “something bit me all over and i want to change rooms”. dude didn’t flinch, just asked what room so they could fumigate and gave me new keys. something about that made me so mad.

you knew! i know you knew!

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no new bites this morning, but everything was swelling and hot and itchy. three people i love insisted i go see a dr. i finished the meeting and went to the clinic.

the nurse doing my vitals was cool, he looked at my face and was like “wow. the eyelid? ouchers.” he also said, “it’s most likely microscopic insects in the sheets”.

bed bugs. or fleas, which i hadn’t considered til another guest shared that she’d found a flea and seen people with non-service pets.

the doctor came and looked at all 22 bites and was like – “it’s really good you came in. your lymph nodes are rock hard. that’s a lot of toxin to take in.”

she prescribed $340 of medicine which insurance brought down to $50 which i plan to charge to the hotel when i have them steam clean my life tomorrow.

i also got a steroid shot, WHICH WAS MAGIC. it hurt going in and felt like metal moving through my veins, but within 30 minutes my eye swelling was going down and i felt so alive!

i got wowed by miami beach, held two boa constrictors and wrote this blog while on this steroidal high. i definitely can’t do tour de france this year, but it’s miraculously fine with me.

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one friend said to see this all as medicine.
another is making me a protection spell.
another said i’m a gangster.
another said – what a story!

having the story to tell, and so many people loving on me, got me through the ick and ouch.

oooh – ok something i took said it’s used to put people under for surgery and as the weeknd says, i feel it coming.

love and Yoncé and even haters

i have two new pieces out in the world and wanted to make sure y’all saw them.

first, for valentine’s day, bitch magazine asked me to offer some thoughts on love.

the result is LOVE AS POLITICAL RESISTANCE, LESSONS FROM AUDRE LORDE AND OCTAVIA BUTLER – here’s an excerpt:

We’re all going to die if we keep loving this way, die from isolation, loneliness, depression, abandoning each other to oppression, from lack of touch, from forgetting we are precious. We can no longer love as a secret, or a presentation, as something we prioritize, hoard for the people we know. Prioritizing ourselves in love is political strategy, is survival.

From religious spaces to school to television shows to courts of law, we are socialized to seek and perpetuate private, even corporate, love. Your love is for one person, forever. You celebrate it with dying flowers and diamonds. The largest celebration of your life is committing to that person. Your family and friends celebrate you with dishes and a juicer. You need an income to love. If something doesn’t work out with your love, you pay a lot of money to divide your lives, generally not telling people much unless it’s a soap opera dramatic ending. This way of approaching love strangles all the good out of it.

What we need right now is a radical, global love that grows from deep within us to encompass all life.

i was also honored to reflect on the afrofuturist elements of Beyoncé’s grammy performance last sunday.
Beyonce’s Grammy Performance Was a Gilded Afrofuturist Dream

an excerpt:

I want to close with a moment of reverence for the exquisite symbology of healing that is Beyoncé in the last moment of the performance. After the last woman, a white woman, surrenders to her (which, in most parallel universes, would have foreshadowed her inevitable slaying of the awards)—we are left with Beyoncé, timeless and holy, face to face with the camera, her full mother-breasts gleaming, her nails sharp enough to protect against any who would harm her family, her face that of a woman who has learned the sacred witchcraft of healing, who has grown a universe in the landscape of her broken heart.

This performance is, like the best black speculative work, a spell we cast for a liberated, abundant black future. The healing we need will require the creative abundance of so many black women stepping into our wholeness.

i wanted to offer a psa for haters specifically, because i heard round the way that other people have encountered haters who still struggle to feel what Beyoncé is offering up as an artist. it appears that She keeps growing, but Her critics don’t. the knee jerk reactions range from bitter to misogynistic to reductive to outdated to obsessive. as always, i wonder: if Her work doesn’t do it for you, if you can’t respect Her art or Her hustle, why can’t you keep your eyes off of Her, or keep Her name out your mouth? your attention is in your control…isn’t it? mine is – i don’t give it to anything that isn’t worthy of it. which means that in addition to my revolutionary work, and my creative pleasure magic work, i give as much of it as i can to black women artists who delight me with their growth and their success in current conditions – success that creates more room for futures where we all get to determine our success beyond the matrix. so i give my attention to Her, gleefully, because She earns it with Her transformative life, learning, giving and abundant work. perhaps next time you feel moved to critique Her winning, you can pour that energy into doing something impressive with your own miraculous life? mkay, kizzzzzes.

Guest Blog: WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION OF OUR TIME? from Marcia Lee

Marcia Lee asked this question on Facebook and i really loved the questions that came out. i asked her if we could share the questions further, and she responded not only with the questions organized but this awesome framing:

“We are living in a time where it is essential that we strive to have our values and our actions match. However, fast action without sufficient analysis and reflection will lead to reactions to the immediate rather than long term transformation. We need to move fast slowly.

“One of the ways we move fast slowly is ask carefully crafted questions and allow the answers to be our actions. If we don’t ask the right questions, we will not have the right answers. In the last few years of Grace Lee Bogg’s life, she would often ask people who came to visit her, “What is the most important question of our time?” She would often pair this question with, “What time is it on the clock of the world?” The second question grounds us in our reality and then in discovering the important question for this time, we are able to move more effectively towards the answer.

“In order to help us to find the right question, I asked folks on facebook. 34 people responded and the questions basically came in a few categories. I am sharing a few questions that fit within each category, but if you want all of the questions, post a comment and we can share them with you. In sharing these questions with you, the hope is that you will either dive deeply into one of the questions or develop your own. If you would be willing to share your questions in the comments, I would be so grateful.

“Individual:

how do i keep moving forward when i am scared? ~adrienne

How do we heal ourselves? ~Parker

What healing do I need to commit to in myself so my being can impact the healing needed throughout my community? ~Shelly

What is required of me, in this moment? ~Mindy

How can we be kind to ourselves and others? ~Cristina

Why am I standing still? How can I move forward to be a catalyst of hope, love, and joy? ~Tania

What am I willing to do? ~Scherezade

What do you notice in your body? Where in you is calling to your attention? What does it need/asking for? ~Sarah

How can I support myself & others in letting love guide? ~Mahfam

“Organizing:

What are we willing to surrender for the sake of the future of living communities on the planet? ~Margaret

how does humanity reconnect to our shared fate? ~Leo

What are the differences between a riot, rebellion and revolution and how can we sharpen the analysis around resistance so that it speaks to the role of the visionary. ~Tawana

How are we equipping future generations to be fearless and free of the current structures of oppression? ~Ryan

How can we radicalize our relationships, narratives and actions to build stronger communities through tougher and more turbulent times? ~Michelle

Do you know how to organize and act while listening to those who are silenced? ~L’Heureux

Where do I/you still hold on to greed? ~Cynthia

how do we effectively organize to create a mass movement capable of turning the tide. ~Lou

“Environment:

How can we, as a global society, take the treat of climate change serious enough to have 1st world countries drastically change to renewable & to help developing countries to prosper without using polluting natural resources. ~Ant

How can we better manage land and other natural resources? ~Lawrence

How do we save our one and only planet as mining, logging, drilling, etc will now get a giant green light? ~Sura

“Diversity:

How are we valuing each person regardless of gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion, abilities? ~Rhonda

How do we inculcate a spirit of cooperation in people from differing value systems? ~Rain

Can/how do you convince someone to change their mind/act differently without threatening them or yourself? ~Joey

How do we prevent the conflict that arises when cultures meet and clash? ~John

“Politics:

How do we eradicate poverty? ~Desmond Tutu (I asked him this question a few years ago and this was his answer at the time)

How do we end these huge pendulum shifts from one set of values to the other, in terms of the belief systems that influence governance? are these pendulum swings to be understood nationally or globally? is there a way out? also: what motivates those who seem to care only of short-term profit? do they know a way off the planet that others don’t? what do they want for their grandchildren? When I taught US government to high school students I mapped this out and it went back to the early 19th century, maybe even 18th. There’s a way to read it as proof that the voting public will never let extremes get too extreme. That there’s a self-correcting instinct toward centrism. That read now feels dead wrong. The swings are exhausting, untenable and dangerous. And I wonder if it’s always felt that way to people who have lived through more of them. ~Dani

“Why?” is the most important question. The truth will be the most important answer. ~Frantz

“Community:

Why won’t every single body sit still some damn where and mind his/her own damn business? Stop trying to fix everything and fix his/her own self. Stop interfering with other people’s land, homes, and livelihood. ~Sun

We are all connected. How do we come to know this in our bones? ~Ian

At what point does the greed end? ~Daniel

How do we encourage actions showing love and acceptance that are rooted in equity and justice? How do we heal from shame? ~Esperanza

What are the young people saying to us that needs to be listened to and explored more deeply? ~Janice

What are the best things a man can do to support the rights and equality of women? ~Michael

How can we be love when we are surrounded by hate? ~Fred”