wowza

just got a tour of this amazing program/building in denver where all these environmental and social justice 501c3 orgs are housed…1536 wynkoop if you’re ever in the denver area. check it out. later am heading to a teach in on this newmount mining company which is doing damage all over the world. there’s an international delegation in town because of the newmont shareholder’s meeting, to try to show the human impact of their enviro-damage.

i know this is short….its that deep right now! oh but check out this jeff chang article where he loves all over the league: http://www.alternet.org/wiretap/35077/

down from the mountain

damn y’all! i have been up a mountain with no service here in colorado, unable to blog or do any of the lovely web stuff i normally center my output life around…

everytime i think my life is falling into place some other huge section shifts, opening a door to more work i want to do, and its better. i just spent a week with the ruckus society doing a training for one of our programs, IP3 (indigenous people’s power project). it was a training of trainers, giving folks the skills to teach their communities direct action skills.

as a side note, once the training was done i had to do the dishes of like 40 people one day, and clean a group bathroom. ah…living mah values ain’t no joke! plus its so high and dry here that i (and everyone else) were having nosebleeds every night.

on a more serious note, the training was amazing. the ip3 director marty brought together indigenous youth from the u.s. and canada, different regions, people, but similar struggles all over. the battles in which these young folks are involved (for sacred sites, for fishing and hunting and land rights, against the canadian and u.s. governments which have repeatedly shown a lack of humanity in their dealings)…i feel so inspired and moved.

it was deep, being part of the non-native training team. especially since we were specifically addressing the fact that indigenous communities should be past having to rely on non-natives for this type of training. i was so proud of ruckus for being the type of org that would make space for this, the program is going to be incredibly powerful.

being around so many native women in particular made me really want to press my parents to trace my lineage back. the nature of my family has always been that we haven’t looked back, my parents rejected the racism of the deep south, so its been the five of us against the world. in more recent years we’ve gotten reacquainted with the extended family, and its been amazing, but i still have this rootlessness, when i think of family i am mostly a story teller…everytime we’ve gone down i’ve listened and taken notes on all the stories. now i want to go deeper. i want to know which of the rumors are true, i want to know. to hear people talk about their connection to land, reminds me that as i do more and more work around the earth as our most common struggle, i need to reconnect my personal story to land.

another deep aspect was the no drinking policy. alcoholism has had such a devastating effect on the communities the participants came from that we had a dry camp, which meant i had a dry week for the first time in i don’t know when. you don’t know how much you drink till you can’t. the similarities though, between the effects of colonizer culture on native and black communities was deep. the spread of ideology was as wide here as it is when i speak with black revolutionaries – the sense of what a victory that is realistic to what is possible now was as hard to pin down. where does discipline enter into cultural identity? i couldn’t help but think of the battles my family has had with alcoholism and drug dependency. i welcomed the straight edged experience, though it is not mine. 

i am looking forward to the end of plastic wrapped mattresses – this camp used to be for christian youth and the bunk bed culture is a fairly new experience for me, i missed the whole camp thing as a kid. i also wouldn’t hate on a razor, some junk food, and a whiskey before we head back up the mountain. so i’ll leave this post here.

am still trying to figure out my plan for moving across the country, now i have to go to canada for much of may so…maybe i will have more time in ny? hee hee!

coming to u ice cold!

Ok I got 2 bars on my sidekick lets see if this works! I wrote a long post but can’t find it. Am in colorado cold as hell with the best young native organizers in the country hella honored to help them with training skills.

There’s wild animals and its cold. Nature! Shnap down to 1 bar! Um thanks for the love on email from all these folks, can’t get to phone messages so far but email it comes thru every few minutes!

I wrote a lot more, especiallyabout angelina and dave chapelle, but later 4 that. Sleep tight beloveds…no elks or bears tonight inshallah!

in colorado

Ah denver…my second time this year up against these mountains. I am here this week for the training of native trainer…very exciting! Its the first of its kind, I’ve been told.

I let the world beyond the blog know m going to be the e.d. Of ruckus in the bay to thunderous epplause.

Now I’m at my girl nora’s in denver, she fed me some good ass veggie indian food. I asked for good routes to cali and received 40 days and nights of journies, and hopefully a passenger or two for the ride. Those should be fun blogs.

My pet peeves in ny right now:

People who let their dogs shit in the sidewalk.
Holes in my house.
$5 for the airtrain at jfk.
Manhattan. The whole thing!!

That’s all for now…lets see if this will work from my sidekick!

first round of goodbyes

last night was my first going away party, little intimate thing with the ladies (thank you to kat for the hosting and the cooking and da muzak) – i just realized we’ve all known each other since college. 10 years now. these little odd ways to flip and observe time can make it seem so long. i’ve only been on my own a third of my life, and yet already feel so independent. no looking back except to smile.

mia herndon brought her baby, the little miracle name asani. she patiently let us ask every sort of question about her nearly 50 hours of labor and as we had some journalists in the midst it got pretty deep. but then there is this very serious and alert and focused communicating tiny girl. miraculous.

i texted myself this the other night from my new sidekick (which i just downloaded sudoku onto!!):

"I love like anyone else does. Madly. Anything else cld be rt in frnt of
me and I couldn’t see it if My Love is near.
I had a mmnt recently where I thought of love I had received w/o meaning
to, w/o prpr shame and humility…with no knowledge how to.
wht if i mssd the lv of my life? Now I see all this love evrwhr, and i see it, I feel it. I have a frnd,
our main activity is fndng amzng exprncs and shrng thm w each othr. Bt I
nvr ntcd ths love ths wy b4, nw I am so grateful."

if you can decipher, enjoy!

i have started the packing process and here’s how it goes:

first lets take down all the decoration, to help with emotionally disconnecting from the place. then…lets go through all my clothes and get rid of stuff we don’t want to wear. now bedding. i have an unreasonable amount of multicolored jersey sheets. maybe i should take a nap.

mm.

ok now…let’s put shells into ziplock baggies. throw away some buttons. lets take the blankets off the windows and reflect upon this rather mild winter. now my jewelry.

now. that’s all i really care about. i can’t really consider getting rid of any books. or dvds. or vhs tapes. or cassette tapes of me singing when i was 14. or oh my god is that my paula abdul cassette? i can’t seem to get rid of pretty things 🙂

a couple of thoughts i noticed today…

– i love people en masse, but very few specifically. this seems healthy to me.
– can black people handle it if this political moment is not about us?
– i love my own company…

am off to see my sis become a catholic now!

holy exhaustion

when i facilitate something, generally, its as if each participant is hooked into me, pulling in their directions, and its my work to feel who is strong and weak and sensitive and brash and keep a balance throughout, know when to push and when to hold back. i learn the most about facilitation in reviewing a situation that is particularly difficult.

we finished three days of organizational strategy and development with the new orleans network today, and it was a great session, made a lot of work very clear, but i can’t remember the last time i was this exhausted after a session.

to get people in the place of vision again is to ask them to find a middle ground between trauma and dispair for some optimism, to remember how to love their city in this groundbreaking way – knowing that hurricane season is right around the corner…to take a little space when there’s not enough space anywhere and people are rumored to be sleeping in moldy abandoned cars under a bridge painted with the memory of trees.

what anyone person can do feels so small – here is some structure in the chaos, a reminder to hold each other and feel things, and for what’s worth – you are amazing. this is the echo in my head, sheer stunned amazement at the humble, deflecting nature of these beautiful folk who have chosen to come be here when the understandable choice is to run; who choose to work when the understandable choice would be to lay down and just sleep…who laugh when anguished screams ride the wind, still.

tonight my coworker lee, a fundraising wiz with the look of a 70s pin-up girl, sat with me as i got lost after our dinner (and after i found the credit card i’d left behind two night ago and only noticed the absence of today). a wrong turn and suddenly we were coming over a familiar odd bridge into a zone of darkness and i remembered the lower 9th and i tried to hide it from lee but oh i got spooked, all that darkness and spirit there…i 180’d and we had to wait for a drawbridge, a boat crossing, i could feel this pressure behind me, i felt weak by it. here there is katrina cough, and then katrina brain – no short term memory – and i felt, today, katrina soul, the collective spirit of a murdered people, a domestic genocide.

i had to get home and get alone, which for me is turning on my music and put on my head phones and there i am, safe in sounds that fill the cavernous dark and chase out the ghosts. after all, knowing the ghosts are all around and the mold is near and the time is short and the work is hard changes nothing – a good day’s work is all you can hope for. supporting the work of new orleans folks for self-determination and the power of owning their own information is a humbling honor.

tonight’s sleep pulls my eyelids down. do something nice tomorrow – donate to the network – www.neworleansnetwork.org/donate –

love love -amb

a strategy for new orleans

we just finished our second day of organizing and storytelling in new orleans. everytime i come down here i want to just stay for months and just toss myself into the work. nothing i’ve ever seen in a space quite compares, this doesn’t have the sense of totality that a hood has, its a random, neighborly chaos. everyone here says hello, keeps moving forward…but i can’t overemphasize how little desire there is to think about exactly where to, to think too big. the idea that tomorrow isn’t promised, but that there is a good and honest way to exist today permeates this place.

and there’s a numbness, and under that a great seething sense of the many many layers of wrong. looking at the sides of the buildings there are multiple water lines, layers upon layers of evidence that this city was drowned in a toxic flood. that sense of toxic lines crossed, residue…resides in people, so that if the door opens into the room where injustice is being piled up, things start pouring out, pret-a-porter. each small story i hear, in a normal world, would be its own incident to organize around. immigrant day laborers abandoned and unpaid, insurance denied, abandoned empty miles of projects barbed wired against homeless squatters, rushed ridiculous elections, and the MIA black folk…altogether it is becomes a wall, and moving forward requires flying, or leaps and bounds, or some other kind of magic. so i am here, organizing some humble magicians, falling in love with some more people.

in the backdrop there is work to finish for the league, and  i have to figure out how one moves across a country anyway. i am almost too excited about ruckus to start thinking about it, and then last night i slept with a CAT. i’ve always been allergic, and thus a dog person…but if i could do the cat thing then maybe, just maybe, i could have a pet again!

{note to self: single with cat is not something to jump for joy over!!}
{self to notetaker: f-u! i want a pet!}

the league here is going to do a voter guide, so we pulled out all the old ones, and i felt really nostalgic for the early gritty work we did, when no one quite knew what to do, to look at all these community owned voter guides. shana and i had some reminiscing to do – remember the first this and how that happened and then remember l’il sarah? and naina! and jen and keisha! we agreed that birthing is the only word to describe any of it…

i have a full day tomorrow, may it be some of my most focused and productive work ever.

i am now listening basically nonstop to a country classic women’s mix – emmy lou, dolly parton, loretta lynn, then gillian welch and lucinda williams – calms me.

sleep come easy!

so sleepy

checking in before i pass out completely.
am in new orleans, doing a follow up strategy session. there’s not much to think about here, you have to just sort of plow forth with what’s in front of you. anytime the discussion goes wider, a feeling of hopelessness starts to creep in.
had tasty tapas tonight, and this conversation in which this woman who is also staying here was making the case that it was no easier for wealthy people to break free from their experience than for anyone else, and to have empathy for that experience. i was making the case that resources make it easier to have a variety of experiences, and that i have empathy to a point and then i get impatient at the impact wealthy peoples’ learning experiences have on others.

i think it was the first time in a long time i’ve had anyone encourage me to have more empathy. generally i think i am a sucker for that shit…

i might have had more patience for the conversation, but i feel like of late the impact that wealthy peoples’ guilt and learning curves have had all around me has been glaring and upsetting. i have perhaps plenty of empathy, but just no room at the inn right now…and am glad there are others, others from similar experience who know what that whole breaking free of the burden of privilege and figuring out how to give back, they know what that’s like.

there’s a very cool cat here, which makes sense to be the cat that found shana and abram, who never fail to set new standards for natural cool. i am allergic to cats, but can’t seem to send this one away.

i am getting to spend a bit of time with lee, a co-worker at the league who is quite remarkable. i like when that happens, unlikely time to build…

and now, to build with the bed!

oh silly girl

this morning i heard my alarm go off – i glared at it, squinted at it, pushed snooze, fought with myself, threw an arm out from under the covers, spent about ten minutes in this battle with myself. it wasn’t yet 5 am. when i got out of bed i did some early morning math and figured i needed to walk out of the house in no less than half an hour. might as well take a shower. oh god that’s warm. i just want to stand here…that’s me, thinking and leaning into the hot water for at least 5 minutes too long. then coming out i decided i should change all the bags i had packed to a different set of bags. and grab my vitamins. and spend another 5 minutes literally standing confused and half dressed in the middle of the room. i rushed out, now ten minutes later than no-less-than time. i realized then it was bad math, and i need at least ten more minutes to do this comfortable. but no use getting troubled, that will only make me clumsy. i get to the c train, got, whatever grammar it was is then, and sat reading octavia butler while precious minutes slipped between the tracks, until at least twenty had come and gone. finally, an a train comes, cause its not yet 6 am, and its the one to the airport. this might just save me…i thought zen thoughts, i moved briskly but not breakneck cause experience has proven (literally) that i am more likely to sprain an ankle or fall on my face than make it quickly. not to mention that the baths + personal trainer + fire yoga + dancing + om yoga (LEAH IT WAS SOOOOOOOO GOOOOOOD) has my thigh muscles and hip flexors screaming for mercy…i got to the jetblue desk and tried my usual:

HI!! i am running a little late…
what flight?
new orleans!
the 7:15?
yes
do you realize it’s 7am now ma’am?
no way! the train was…well – can i run through?
no. it’s closed.
i can’t run? i have no bags to check.
yeah but its closed.
if you rush me through security maybe…
ma’am its 10 minutes till it takes off. the doors? of the plane? they are closed.

(i know that tone. i use it with people i think need the old kindergarten try.)
(dang.)

when’s the next flight?
let’s see – that’ll be 2:15 ma’am!
that’s 7 hours from now.
yes ma’am. i can pre-check you through now, you can’t check in till four hours before.
is there wireless?

and that, my friends, is how i came to be sitting here with four hours left on my wait for the afternoon flight to new orleans.

there is an insane and beautiful 5 year old next to me. his mother seems mostly shocked at his behavior and he ignores her – not maliciously, just completely. so far i have watched him run into 17 people and break two people’s plastic utensils which they were about to eat with and didn’t see him creep up. his mother, check that, she just told me she’s his grandmother – is this decked out black woman – a thong flasher.

one funny aspect is watching the judgement ooze from the white family next to us, who have their wild ones in matching harry potter stripes on leashes. there is also a set of hasidic badasses running around with their little yarmulkes on while their daddy’s curls flow back from his face. apparently ‘brat’ is a universal language!

the grandma just told me he acts like this ’cause his white momma don’t know to train him. he only listen to his dad, his dad in texas and make him cry, i’m right here but he don’t listen. that’s bad training. i would beat his little ass.’

last night i was sitting with one of my favorite mamas in the world while she contemplated variations on discipline, what works, what doesn’t, what she won’t do. her kid is hovering on a cloud compared to what i am seeing here, but overall i am sooo convinced i am not having babies till i find a stay at home writer-papa.

update – i left this blog and did some other stuff and now me and the grandma are best buddies and the kid troy – we’re working it out – he is so cute! omg! he just came over with big wet eyes (long crying phone convo with his dad) and told me that his dad is in texas and that’s where he is going but he is ‘not really’ excited because ‘he is going to give me a really big spanking with a belt.’

i let him cry on my shoulder.

grandma said she doesn’t want him spanked, just sometimes ‘what is a woman to do?’

thank god i have tons of backed up work to do, because the perky jetblue folks just told me i am only on standby, so i may wait here all day and still not get a flight. i am thinking back to the battle in bed. to that hot water over my scalp. curse this fresh feeling.

OUCH!! the most severe cameltoe i’ve ever seen just walked by. i still haven’t mastered my sidekick to get it fast enough to get a picture. GROSS. how embarrassing for the crotch height children.

this isn’t even what i wanted to write about, i wanted to write about how lately a lot of people, including some close friends, have been asking me for advice on ways to compromise with being miserable. i am just not the right person to ask.

i think people feel that because i am a broke pleasure activist, that i am casting judgement on whatever they do. on some level, i’m sure i am, instinct…but on most levels, live and let live. i do what i do because it makes me happy and i am good at it. i am mostly past the naive beliefs i once had, that mine was somehow a noble career. its grimy, its part of the balance, so far its part of the non-profit industrial complex, and its beholden to the same dynamics as any other career in this capitalist imperialist racist patriarchal system. everyone i talk to in every field is facing the same shit, complaint gets cyclical – its about finding good work to do and good people to do with it.

my goal in life is not that every one does what i do, its that everyone find joy and uplift those around them in whatever they do. do what you are meant to do and find real satisfaction in it, be the best at it that you can possibly be.

as with most things i say, this is all in my self interest. i hate watching brilliant minds overcome by bitterness, people who think that some outside forces are converging to make them miserable. especially when its people whose existence brings me such joy. i hate when i get stuck in that rut. when i look outside myself for answers, for backbone, i only ever feel lost and spun around. then i put that energy into the world and it manifests. when other folks bring me their self-imposed broken dreams, it’s hard to shake off, i find myself speaking with a bitter tongue, the hater in me comes to the surface.

my boy bryant keeps affirmations all over his house. i used to go over and see them and in my little virgo head i’d be all: ‘who needs those, just do what you’re going to do!’ but more and more i am thinking this type of thing is necessary, some little hooks for the soundtrack in your head, which lift you up to where you are meant to be, wherever that is. homework for the week, put something up in a private place in your home that reminds you of your dreams.

my sister april quotes steve prefountain to me, ‘i don’t run to see who is fastest, i run to see who has the most guts.’

how’s that for californication? at least i am laughing at myself every yogic chakra’d step of the way 🙂

that’s what i meant to write about.

jumping the broom and the country

ok i was told last night that i can tell people officially my new title, but i had to sit with it, sip a whiskey over it, meditate about it, lean into it, giggle about it and dance around. i had to tell my family and close friends, my folks at the league…

i’m going to be the next executive director of the ruckus society, in oakland!
i’m moving to california!

do you ever have the experience of standing in a room and someone puts on an album and the music is so tender and right that it feels more like coming home to a new sound than being enlightened to it? or is that what enlightenment is?

anyway i recently had that experience with emmy lou harris’ album wrecking ball – the sound of her voice and these songs. i heard it and felt faint, felt like i wanted to make those sounds in my throat, felt exposed. i love music when it does that.

that’s the only way to describe the experience with ruckus over the past year, going from a place of distance respect and awe to being invited into the family, joining the board, trusting my instinct as my instinct fell in love. hearing the values of the organization, the history, the challenges it has faced and the fearlessness of good intentions, the desire for order and stability. it felt like finding a home. the organization is 10 years old and focusing its resources in on people of color and poor people, folks who most need the capacity to act strategically. the biggest challenge is letting folks know what ruckus is now, and how it ties back to its enviro roots through environmental justice work in communities where that is priority – particularly indigenous communities in the mid-north and southwest…and they are doing peace work through the not your soldier campaign, which brings me to the root in many ways of where my need to organize comes from, my military childhood, my recognition of the impact poverty draft had on my life and that of my loved ones. can you hear me spinning about? how happy i am?

and, in what once seemed impossible, i am leaving the league on good terms. anyone who knows me knows it has been a beautiful struggle from the beginning, but what i have learned is that it is the appropriate struggle for a birthing process. it was like that, grunts and groans and bitter resentments and then ebullient joy at the sight of the beautiful thing you couldn’t have imagined, then the terrible twos!!, but now its walking and talking and has opinions and is making friends and being lauded as a genius child, and its so big you can’t believe it was once just in the hearts and minds of individuals. i recently got an email from billy articulating my role in the organization and it made me cry. its easy to forget how hard you worked once the pace picks up and the team grows, its easy to forget how it felt making space for that.

the enlightenment feeling also happened these last couple times i was in california, liking all the space, the pace, the emphasis on health i saw everywhere.

i have been in new york for ten amazing years, i chose to come to new york when i was 9 and we drove through to visit some of our displaced southern family in queens, and i saw all the people and a mcdonald’s with a grand piano inside it and i just knew i wanted to throw myself in. then i had to wait till college and my only choice was columbia cause i’d been told it was the best school in new york.

i love new york, and i miss it and i expect i will be back, but it isn’t the best place to transform your life towards health, that even sounds like a cali phrase. a true yogi could do it anywhere but i am a child in this effort, the energy here is so desperate for achievement, its so easy to find nights of joyless debauchery. this last little time here has been the best, hermited in my studio, having brunch, my sisters and close friends nearby and a weeky visit to jalen’s 5-year-old viewpoint, daily gym ritual and keeping plants alive for the first time ever. oh i’ll miss it…

but i’ve got my sidekick and very few belongings that i need and i am on my way.  i feel breathless with excitement.

i even had drinks with my number 1 intellectual crush last night – how satisfying! the crush is fully intact, and if we can have drinks like once a year indefinitely then i’ll be able to maintain my faith in the charm and wonder of black power phd types.

fire – aren’t you in cali? can we kick it when we’re neighbors?

ok must run to the girls congress conference and talk about organizing and politics.