in the dark (for oscar and chelsea)

i can feel the scar tissue in the dark
in the dark i hear everything
even my own hunger
now everyone says the dark is coming
so it is time to dream

in order to read the news
i watch videos of tsunamis
i learn how to survive quicksand
i don’t look at the naked emperor
not even to ridicule, it isn’t funny

in my right hand i hold disbelief
in my left, prescience
i didn’t know how it would feel
maybe i never truly considered it
no matter what anyone said

but the gates are coming down now
between reality and assumption
between complacency and commitment
and today, you could be chelsea
today, you too, could be oscar

you could refuse to participate
you could pull back the curtain
you could fight for the land
you could remember yourself
you could outlive this

we will refuse to participate
we will pull back the curtain
we will fight for the land
we will remember who we are
we will outlive this

#freethemall

Protection Spell

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The following spell was commissioned and produced by Tunde Olaniran as a prologue to his headlining performance on New Year’s Eve at El Club in Southwest Detroit.

Listen to the Protection Spell

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to manage the grief
we tie our roots together
trading sorrows

to speak when there is danger
we learn to hear heartbeats
as drums

to speak of what no one has seen
we create a whisper
of hurricanes

to make a world that can hold us
we teach each other
every small imperfect part of love*

we will protect you
we will hold you
we will be protector
we will be protected

i will protect the skin you were born in
i will protect your right to love
i will protect your right to pray
i will protect your right to choose
i will protect your however-body
and i will protect your total
and radical
liberation

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images of the incredible night (courtesy of the star himself, Tunde Olaniran) include an altar built by edgeslayer (new orleans dj who spun at the party), natasha beste and kevin eckert of gold house media, an ice sculpture (tunde said “i’m not kidding someone randomly reached out and asked if they could create an ice sculpture for the party”), and a crowd going buckwild <3 IMG_3302

the * means: a portion of this spell will be printed in Walk Towards It, an anthology of urgent writing, lists to remember, & love letters to carry with you. Released on inauguration day January 20th, 2017 <3

procrastination post 38: talk to me

hi.

what you doing?

oh right, hence being here.

me? i am procrastinating. i am on a writing retreat, working on my novel.

well the best part is i am by the ocean, so i just write and swim and do yoga and eat.

yeah, but i’ve hit the day where i just want to sleep all day instead and every time i open my computer i last ten minutes before coming up with some distraction.

i love writing. but novels are hard – this is my first whole thing and it is kind of working, but also kind of like aaaaggggghhhh what IS this? what was i THINKING? so many words but where do they all GO?

thank god for scrivener.

yeah i guess its part of my process when i write fiction. nonfiction is like…here are thoughts from my brain, you like? but fiction is like, 20 people are trying to tell a story from a near future parallel magical realm reached only through my brain, and they all think they are the star.

it’s been a little self helpy/serious over here the last few posts so i wanted to bring some levity. i even wrote a post while i was high that was a list of blog ideas that came to me when i was high.

eh. it was funny while i was high but then i read it again and it was only aight.

it doesn’t help that the novel is all about grief – its hard to stay in the depth of it, to see the magic in it.

fucking social media and news. every time i look away someone dies or we lose something we can’t afford to lose.

good question…well, usually i am in a place with less wifi access.

you mean self-regulate it?

but the world is changing so rapidly – i need to keep up.

i approach it like everything i write is my resistance.

right. you’re right. it will keep changing. after this retreat i will be facilitating lots of people who will get us through all of this. they give me hope.

i should just get back to it and write.

ok. thank you – this was helpful. i mean sorry if it didn’t help you but…writers have to be selfish sometimes.

ok. love you.

til soon.

obama farewell, in parts

obama farewell, in parts:

darkside me: i want him to incite rebellions, he is going for super shady.

eeyore me: but what do you say when democracy requires a peaceful transition to an r-kelly costar?

yoda me: listen you must. strategic he is. coherent sentences you may not hear again from this office.

this is the read me: he’s basically reading the fuck out of mump.

organizer me: much respect to people protesting right now #pardonusall

lucious from empire me: he got it all figured out and no one sees it. he gonna let dude play himself out, just watch.

zen me: there are no borders, there is no separation. everything is right.

beyoncé me: flump breaking all these rules, obama should just stay president.

neil degrasse tyson me: science and reason Do matter.

prince me: when you play the future you play yourself.

mariah carey me: shit happens.

post-nationalist, post-imperialist me: we are on the death star. the leadership doesn’t change the function.

abolitionist bae me: did he free the political prisoners yet?

black great/grand/daughter me: hush. listen – i can still feel a lineage of pride flowing through me.

clingy me: plus he said final point which reminded me what’s coming (sad face).

detroit voter me: and now he’s like y’all need to vote – that hurts more cuz i’m disenfranchised!

neal degrasse tyson me: wait was that bill nye the science guy?

american citizen me: i do wish it felt like this country he speaks of.

boggs-reader me: you have to love america enough to change it.

james baldwin me: i have said it before, but: I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.

darkside me: he has come for scump on every single frontline – the force of shade is an art with this one.

organizer me: he told people to organize. (clap clap clap)

beyoncé me: that look he gives michelle. i can’t.

darkside me: hear that shade of melonino?

zen me: you know nothing, relinquish attachment to this experiment.

fearful me: live live live

astrologer me: and just love. the whole mess. right now this love is the force most required in the universe. love directly and without shame. him and each other, there is enough.

me me: but (broken heart).

auntie me: glad he mentioned how malia and sasha nibblings have grown up so beautifully.

beyoncé me: see he is also most proud of parenting. just sayin.

scarface me: biden’s a tough dude.

me me: he looks heartbroken. they all have break-up-but-still-soulmates faces.

eeyore me: where is sasha?

cool teenager me: malia is counting down in her head.

this is the read me: everything after this is basically trash. basura.

zen me: its always what we make of it.

me me: love hurts. exhale.

self-love as a journey, practice and state

today i am wearing a bikini in public. this week i also went topless in public. i consider these miraculous occurrences and proof positive that self-love work is worth it. my belly loves the sun as much as the rest of me does.

when i started gaining weight in my adolescence i quickly learned that it made me undesirable and unattractive, which i both wanted (sexual assault trauma 101) and hated (its lonely in there).

i have always loved swimming and sun, and i have worn a million wack bathing suits in order to access these things without feeling fat and offending people.

in 2012 i took a sabbatical that included mexico, costa rica, hawaii and california. on that trip i dabbled in nude sunbathing in private settings, and i made a promise to myself that i would get to the ocean, the warm ocean in the sun, at least once a year for the rest of my life. since then i have kept that promise, mostly in the yucatan.

i have documented myself, learned to see my face, my body. slowly, so slowly that sometimes it felt i was moving backwards through time.

in fact i have gone back and looked at pictures of me when i hated my body, and i can see how lovely it was, i was. lovely and hiding and clueless.

but the work is working.

self-love is a journey – i keep finding new bends in the road. first i couldn’t say fat. then i couldn’t show certain parts of my body. then i couldn’t trust other peoples’ attraction to me as legitimate. then i could dress my body but still feel daunted by my nakedness. then i could feel my beauty in the hands of others but not alone. then i could see something appealing in my face but not look below the neck. then i kept unveiling more and more of myself. then i had an ectopic pregnancy and reached my highest weight and had scars on my belly and dimples on my thighs and doubt in my heart. then i came out as a sugar addict and created circles of community around the truth of my feelings about my body. then i told someone my love of my body was unshakable, and it became true. then i began to stand up straighter and get somatic healing and sashay when i walked and believe people when they said i was irresistable.

none of this is chronological, that’s the secret of journeys. circuitious, mercurial, tempestuous, trickster, but never straight.

and then self-love is a practice, or, many practices.

i have written about these practices before and just want to say: practices take time. more than 21 days, more than 3000 reps, even more.

practices for self love are like casting a spell in your body, waiting for a seed to open, accumulating the speed of flight.

in this past few months i have experienced so much laughter, joy – and pain, grief. i am feeling more and more of my own emotional range. and as i feel more, it becomes easier to move towards what i want, without apology or guilt.

i live in a country/world where those in power want me to submit or disappear.

nope.

in fact, i will be more of myself.

i will be a brilliant feeler with massive swinging breasts that only nourish those who love me.

i will be an apocalyptic writer who believes i am shaping the future, in cahoots with my comrades.

i will be angry in public, and i will be a lover who leaves people feeling freer than before my kiss.

i will be mariah carey at 11:57pm, Dec 31 2016. i am still a number 1 type person and i am still wearing a ballgown to the dispensary.

anyway, much ado about a bikini, i know.

but somehow this political moment is making it necessary for me to be in this bikini and make people grow to meet me.

self-love is a state:

i am 38, and this is a first in my adult life. my thighs dimple, my scars pock, my pits are grown, my belly is soft as fuck, and the bikini is red.

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gratitudes (public)

the births of isobel, meilu and soraya.
meeting and studying the work of ursula le guin.
finishing the emergent strategy book.
traveling abundantly.
increasing quality time at home and with my nibblings.
honest and loving interactions with family.
creating structures of love, relationship and friendship that feel liberating.
all things somatics, including the detroit local practice group.
creating hedgebrook detroit writing circle.
detroit healing by choice, the work and the beautiful circle of healers.
being in service to black liberation, just transitions and renewing right relationshio with the planet, increasing black investigative journalism and local movement building through my facilitation and coaching work.

in the culture:

the generosity and wildly different offerings of the knowles sisters
anohni
frank ocean: “the feeling deep down is good”
this is us
stranger things
this is the read
still processing
falsetto men: bon iver, radiohead, moses sumney, james blake, gallant
the collective grieving and honoring of so many icons of my childhood
the nonpolitical unpopular opinion thread
rogue one
moonlight!
queen sugar, atlanta, insecure
sugar shifting, whole life challenge, plank challenge and other collective health efforts
khadja bonet

i may add more. felt important to name some things.

be more of you (new year’s invitation and spell)

“we honor our ancestors by thriving.” – dallas goldtooth

it gets in our bones, fear. fear of ridicule and isolation, fear of the unknown, fear of past traumas being repeated.

fear that what we experience now is all there is.

fear of dying – individually, as a people, as movements.

the older we get, the more ways we watch people die – celebrities snatched up by the heart, economic and climate refugees swallowed by salt water, surprising accidents, death by state and/or other lynchings, drawn out battles with internal opponents, our perpetual global wars.

when the threats come we can shrink. as this year crash lands in a stand of burning trees, we have watched an unfolding of the unexpected against our radical will, a daunting removal of certain collectively held bubbles for those of us in us-based social movements.

we shrink in part by ignoring our own emotional breadth – our surprise, our grief, our mounting fears.

one of the ways we do our oppressors’ work for them is to deny our own complexity, wholeness, our right to exist; to attempt to shrink or disappear those parts of ourselves deemed inferior or undesirable to the mainstream. we can forget that WE shape the mainstream and all the alternative streams with our own lived assertions and divergence.

in the spirit of honoring change, taking the new year’s ritual as an opportunity to assert a collective behavioral commitment, i invite you to speak a spell aloud to yourself in the mirror until you believe yourself.

do this in the darkness of new year’s eve and anytime afterwards when such a spell is needed, including at the top of your lungs in the face of anyone even slightly challenging your right to be all of yourself.

remember the kinds of humans who transitioned this year – prince, bowie, gene wilder, prince be, phife, carrie fisher and debbie reynolds, george michael, leonard cohen, don mcvinney and so many others. in addition to your personal familial losses, take on these ancestors. be the fantastical and unique voice on whatever front lines you hold. hold your existence as sacred, drop into your post-compartmentalized whole self.

let this commitment to hold your wholeness as sacred inform your relationships, economics, fashion, food, and time use choices.

do not concede any of the ground you have gained on the path the liberation. be You with the volume on a million – all of your intersecting identities, cantankerous opinions and unorthodox pleasures. be unapologetically complex, a distinct individual in an interdependent network that thrives in part because of your unique offering.

do not shrink in the face of fear as we enter and live through a period of future-history that currently looks…foreboding at the least. instead, be more you.

thrive, at every level, as the living and joyful resistance towards the spreading blank, the nothingness, the sameness, the monoculture, the norm.

here is an offering towards the spell, feel free to use it verbatim, or remix, add onto, create your own:

i assert the sacredness of my whole self, as is.

i love myself with curiosity (as a student) instead of perfectionism.

i do not shrink inside of, or ignore, my fear – i move towards my longings with my fear as a part of my emotional wholeness.

i do not regress in my own expressions and assertions of liberation, i don’t take back anything that i have unveiled to be true in my politics. i recognize both the construct nature and consequential, experiential impacts of race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, ability, coping mechanisms, lived experiences, and so on. however whole i am today, i will fill that in in the face of fear.

i am kind in the heart of conflict – without betraying my beliefs.

i seek to understand the motivations of those who differ from me – without denying my full humanity.

i think my own thoughts and feel my own feelings, i cut through groupthink with love.

i have no reason to be ashamed of anything that has shaped me.

i grow movement and liberation through authentic connections and honest processes of alignment. i trade in urgency-based work for efficient, emotionally-honest work.

i relinquish my obsession with outcomes and with control.

i deepen into the call to shape a world that can hold all of me, knowing i can feel that world in my bones, even if i cannot yet fully comprehend or even imagine it.

i use the majority of my attention and words to generate joy, gratitude, positivity, solutions, pleasure, intimacy and liberation in myself and others.

in the neverending process of change, i will be more of myself.

solstice love letter to darkness

darkness
everyone lies about you, painting your face on tragedy

in the folds of the dark i find room for my dreams
i learn to swallow light, i forget to be separate
i listen to my life, i steal away home
i learn the tongue of skins
i fall in love with the neighbor child
wailing in the not-yet-morning

in the infinite dark i feel ancient again
a kiss full of hibernation
a wilderness brushing back against my fingers
a fist full of bravado
a fertile world within

darkness, in this pale time we need all of the complexity you call breath

pep talk for apocalyptic days

history is looping and retrograde today.

we can reflect on ourselves, and we can be disappointed and scared of what we are up to as a species.

and we can run from frontline to frontline with our attention and money, with our bodies as warriors and/or healing resources.

we can measure the power of our work in the backlash we produce. we can view each wild grab for power as a direct response to our lifelong assertion that we are and will be free.

and we may need to look away, because its so much, too much, to take in.

make it to the next breath, the next step, the next day. however you do that, affirm your survival.

when i read the news, when i look around i feel i am in a long line of fools carrying the soul of the world in pieces, in overstuffed mismatched luggage, along a tight rope, over borg replicator sauron darth voldemort’s mouth.

but it is the soul of the world.

and we hold it.

so i look down, i place my attention on my next move. i am focusing on who i love and want to build futures with, extending kindness and connection.

i am letting go of anything that can be released.

my big vision relies on small acts of liberation in every intimate, direct space i am in. in this vast/massive scale time, let’s focus on our own next steps and make them the most radical loving honest steps we can take.

mantra: attention/work/money where my mouth is, mouth where my heart is, heart where the people are – shape the future.

love y’all.

how to grieve for strangers

feel the grief. let the grief change you.

that’s enough. when there is great and unimaginable suffering happening – to strangers, individuals or masses – its ok, its necessary, to grieve.

when the suffering is manmade, we cannot be satisfied with knee jerk politically appropriate reactions.

we feel the need to state blame aloud before we give ourselves permission to feel the loss. who did this? who did this?

being human, being american, it almost always comes back to us in some way. this deepens the grief. at least, it should.

our crises proliferate, fatal games are played with our tax dollars, in our names, and the grief accumulates. the temptation to withdraw, to find a reason not to feel, is logical. but turning your eyes away won’t alleviate the truth of culpability, it will come find all of us out.

so tomorrow, may the scars of this devastation remind us that our goal can never be reform. we must consistently foment (r)evolution, we must “grow our souls”, and collectively outgrow the trappings of supremacy/enemy.

but right now, you don’t need an excuse for the tears, for however you grieve. you don’t have to debate historical paradigms you just googled or develop a crystal clear analysis to justify your grief – the destruction of whole families, of a city full of lives, a civilization, is grief for all of us.

one mode of grief that let’s me know i am changing is taking action. here are two actions i am taking:

1. Donate to Arab Resource & Organizing Center (monthly donations – the crises are long-term and so is the work): https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/AROC

2. make phone calls:

*** PLEASE SHARE WIDELY ***

URGENT CALL TO ACTION: CALL IN FOR #ALEPPO
(from spenta kandawalla, slightly edited call to action from a version compiled by Mohamed Chakmakchi which was adapted from: https://underthejasmine.wordpress.com/…/call-to-action-cal…/)

as we speak, civilians are being executed by the #assad regime in east aleppo & all over #syria. there are reports of hospital staff being executed, families being set on fire, mass executions and activists are saying their final goodbyes on social media. do we really want to live in a world where this is allowed to happen?

we need an immediate ceasefire now, protection of civilians, the lifting of the siege, airdrops of aid, freeing prisoners, an end to the war and for all parties, especially assad & his regime, to be held accountable for the crimes they have perpetrated.

inaction is complicity. we have to act now if we are to save the 100 000 civilians trapped inside besieged east aleppo. please call or email your MP, the UN, as well as russian & chinese embassies or consultates (since russia & china recently vetoed a ceasefire agreement put forward in the UN & iran has forces on the ground ). let’s flood their phone lines.

i urge you to call your senate members, call the russian, chinese & iranian consulates & the UN, and do whatever you can to end this.

California:
Boxer, Barbara –
(202) 224-3553 Email: www.boxer.senate.gov/?p=shareyourviews
Feinstein, Dianne –
(202) 224-3841 Email: www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-me

Email Obama here:
https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

consulates:
russian consulate: (415) 928-6878
chinese consulate: 415) 852-5900
iranian consulate: 1-877-917-7705

SAMPLE LANGUAGE:

“Dear Mr. President,
The atrocities that are unfolding in Eastern Aleppo, Syria are tremendously troubling and mark a new negligence on behalf of the international community and the United States. Reports from individuals inside besieged areas that entire groups of people are being massacred, blocked humanitarian corridors, and endless and indiscriminate bombing of entire neighborhoods are flooding my news feed.
The Assad regime has more than crossed your “red line” since the chemical massacres, and it has been met with ambivalence and complete silence on our part. Your administration did not face this, in hopes of finding a diplomatic solution. But, Mr. President, we cannot ignore this today. We are well beyond your previous aspirations for a peaceful end to the Syrian conflict and I understand that, but that does not mean we should continue this administration’s policy that has allowed the regime to go unchecked with their systematic killing.
I urge you, will all my heart, that you immediately denounce the actions of the regime and the Russian government and take the necessary steps to ensure the safe removal of the remaining Syrian citizens. Put an end to the massacres, to the indiscriminate bombings, to the regime’s continued “kneel or starve” campaign. Please, I beg you, that you do not ignore the atrocities we have allowed to continue and escalate. Our humanity depends on it.
Sincerely,”