we must live: a poem for oakland

tired of being called ‘you people’ and ‘that one’
tired of the reapers mistaking fear for guns
we rose up, held within the borders of the town
we rose up, only to learn we’d forgotten how
we’d forgotten who we were, and then who else was i
first try, we gouged glass thumbs into our eyes

tired of the dung and the dirt and deception
the same thing when old blacks won their elections
and gave stump speeches and were not King
or Detroit Red or a new and righteous thing
we gave up, gave into a dance of destruction
we gave up, gave into the devil’s instruction

tired of wiping our shoes at the door
so as our problems wouldn’t dirty your floor
when we did our dance for the cash in your hand
‘allowance from the man, cash allowance from the man!’
we ran, with bullets in our backs, in defense
we ran like comets, like we had no sense

tired of the echo, copter, whisper, mad shout
we said it to each other till we figured it out
we said it to each other till we had no doubt
till it was the promise, the future, the route
we must live ‘unbought, unbossed and unbowed’,
we must live (black)! we must live (proud)!

– jan 31, 2009
adrienne maree brown
oakland, ca

my thumb

mercury and i are in a dance of the most dangerous kind. how zen can i be as she takes me down notch by notch.

this morning, when noticing the toaster cable was touching the hot toaster, instead of just moving the cable, touched the hot toaster too. with my thumb. it took a second for the agonized thumb cells to raise the full alert in my brain that i was cooking.

some people might not see a thumb as a mercury-in-retrograde related injury, but those people have not observed how i spend 90% of my days, joyfully (and i have been told passionately) texting and emailing and blogging and other things with my two thumbs and my phone. to take out my phone and one thumb in 24 hours is a high level attack. i’ve coaxed the phone back to foggy functionality (a very strange cluster of texts reappeared which i thought were gone forever – birthday messages and love notes. does delete mean nothing anymore?). i need aloe for my thumb, and try as hard as i can, i just haven’t become an aloe-plant-in-the-house kind of girl.

in more serious news, Israel attacked Gaza again the other day. this time they claim to be retaliating for the death of 1 Israeli soldier. when i hear that kind of justification, it reminds me of why collective punishment if addressed in the geneva conventions. it also makes me think that a culture that learns to grieve and restore is what we need right now – vengeance is such a Dark Ages foreign policy.

I’ve been slowly learning more about Gaza, the West Bank, the challenges of a two state solution, and how difficult it is to see what will truly work. it’s hard to imagine that any peace can come out of a situation where fear and weapons have been stirred together with racism and history to such a toxic concoction. the instinct i keep seeing, reading and hearing is to try and untangle the history, find some point of origin that will show who is right and who is wrong. i don’t believe this is possible, it only creates ruts and impasses. there is interpretation and mistakes, that’s history. the only way towards peace is a true commitment from those living now, that they want to end the violence. that commitment has to include that they will hold each others’ pain and burden by listening to each others’ truths, making amends, and moving forward, protecting each other from those in their midst who seek to break the peace.

i dreamt about a book written by two old black men, one a panther, the other part of SNCC, both named victor. It was called “history: written by the victors”.

and a final point: uniforms. i’ve realized that outside of formal uniform-wearing jobs, almost everyone i know still rocks a uniform. roughly the same outfit every day, composed of different parts that fit similarly, creating a uniform silhouette, usually grounded in comfort. lately mine is sweat pants (aka yoga pants), these primary colored v-neck dress-tops from amsterdam, and a trusty sparkly head scarf to hold my energy and mad hatter hair in. its my comfort uniform. this past weekend i got out of uniform and into some cute outfits and boots, and noticed that i hadn’t worn my boots in so long i’d forgotten i needed to resole them.

i WILL break the uniformity of my wardrobe! but not today.


up late for reasons to silly to write about. here are some of the things i watch in the process of passing the time till sleep comes back:

animated video for kanye’s street lights. this last album of kanye’s sounds so much more thoughtful, self-aware/critical, and interesting than any of his previous work. unfortunately, most of his public persona is still ego centered, but the insecurity in the songs has made me want to listen more, and see the world of video/art that develops around the work, the interpretations.

gnarls barkley cover of reckoner, by radiohead. this song, in its original presentation by radiohead, was already full of longing. out of cee lo’s mouth in becomes this cry of borderline despair, teasing out one last gutteral sound at the edge of darkness. i think cee lo has the most transformative voice out there right now, he approaches notes with a flat wall of vibrating breath, hints of church and liquor-soul passing through. i can’t get enough of the cover (thanks sofia!)

sober, by pink, one of my pop indulgences.

and this odd one, by mgmt just because it always amuses me when folks try to capture extracurricular visuals on film

and this one my new friend damian diaz, who is djing at oasis this weekend, sent me.

now go to sleep.

sorry mercury, for what i done

im sitting in the san francisco tech center after a marvelous and comprehensive session on how to improve ruckus communications.

this is two days now after the ruckus network gathering, which was phenomenal. there was a lot of desire to be in touch with each other, sharing theory, tactics, tools, opportunities, thinking, personal life tidbits, everything.

in the midst of this, my car is overheating, and i just poured water very specifically on my phone while riding into the city. nothing else was wet, only the phone. but the phone was dripping wet. i am trying to hear these two happenings as a call from the universe. not the obvious call, which is “spend money you don’t have.” but some kind of deeper, more encouraging call, like: “walk, you lazy…” ahem – or, “go ahead and get that google phone you’ve been dreaming of.”

really universe? should i?

“of course! it’s your money, why u askin me?”

whenever i mention the car or phone troubles to people, they laugh, then reference mercury. they laugh because i have a notoriously high level of trouble with both cars and phones. since i’ve been in california, i’ve had 3 cars, each one slightly less likely to survive than the last. i’ve had as many phones, each one with a relatively useless warranty.

the mercury component is relatively specific to this round of troubles, and it doesn’t really lighten my load. people say mercury is in retrograde as if mercury is a fairy godmother of bad luck, and when it passes, the lemon will become a functioning vehicle, the silent hunk of metal transform into a communication device again, or at least some magic will happen to reconcile the expenses.. my bank account shows the historical pattern, mercury never pays up.

and i don’t mind overall, my life is very blessed, and i can stretch around to eat less, walk more, communicate less (hurts to even type that one). but honestly, mercury, im sorry for what i done, whatever it is i done…


Got to have conversation with ruckus network yesterday I have been waiting 3 years to have, and many have been waiting much longer.

Sun is shining on the last day of our gathering.


one of my favorite things in life is coming up with more adequate, accurate names for things. staff retreats are rarely retreats – are more often working weekends, evaluations and air clearing time, lock-ins, intensives – and hopefully advances.

this weekend we’re having what we’ve called a round-up – which is a fine name, literally attempting to round-up the network of ruckus, which has grown for over 13 years now. but another name for it could be spelunking or excavation. not for people, because no one is sitting in a cave waiting to be found. but more for the history, the stories, the patterns, the experiments from years ago, and from now. a staff can only know so much, and hear so much – there is a world of experiences out there in the network, and beyond, that are part of the ruckus story, and will determine where we go in the future.

we are two days in, with two days to go, and so far my mind is just blown by getting to see people in new ways, know people better, understand that the learning and growing never ends, and feeling more and more confident that we are poised to be in one of the best places we have ever been.

in other news, watching obama come into office is giving me moments of relief and moments of clarity. lifting the ban on international funding to groups that offer abortions = relief. the strikes on pakistan = clarity. the movements against militarized foreign and domestic policy have to be stronger than ever in this moment, if we hope to see any of the shift in international opinion of u.s. power and intentions. if we continue to value annihilation over negotiation, we only increase the very thing we claim to want to end – terror between peoples and nations.

mercury! back up off me!

so i keep hearing that mercury is in retrograde, i don’t know if that is exactly at this moment or what’s up but…

today, i ate bad yogurt and got sick, my car overheated on the way to the first day of the big time ruckus round up where ruckus network folks from the beginning till now are gathering to talk about today and the future, i fixed it with coolant and water – YAY THIS IS MY FIRST TIME FIXING A CAR – and then got pulled over by oakland popo (i immediately started thinking “please don’t shoot”) for license plate light being out (found out i don’t even have one there at all), and when i went to hop in the car after dealing with popo the driver’s side door was jammed and wouldn’t shut. my sweetie sat in the back and held it closed while i drove slow with hazards, meaning we had a flintstone experience getting home, then figuring out where to park it so it wasn’t super obviously stealable, taping it shut, and still making it to the ruckus pub quiz in time to enjoy the open bar.

this would be special if it was in any way unique, but the thing is, every time we have a major ruckus event, i have car issues (this is all within 3 years, as i of course didn’t have a car OR drive in NY). my first cali car battery died at the ruckus holiday party. then, on the same car, the breaks went out after a very dramatic day and i had to use my foot to stop the car on the drive home. my second cali car blew up after leaving an amazing ruckus tactics summit – i left it charred to death in los banos. now this, my third cali car, a freebie passed on thru the ruckus network, has more problems than i can list with tact. but she’s a red car 2-door and i love her…

i think part of the reason for this ruckus event/car trauma alignment is to keep me grounded. my instinct during big ruckus events is to be completely present to every single thing and try to make sure everything is perfect. the car trauma reminds me that there are things beyond our control, that aren’t personal. also, that you have to think in a maintenance way about any vehicle you ever hope to take anywhere, and ruckus is this dream vehicle heading towards justice if i ever saw one, and it won’t just rev up and go the distance if it isn’t properly cared for. so my mechanic mind is the one that is called for (once again), and all vehicles are envisioned by humans and thus it must be withing the human capacity to maintain them…

that said – mercury, you have done enough for me this round. go retrograde on others and back up off me! im good, thank you, and farewell!

in it

i’m really in it this week, prepping for a gathering of the ruckus network after two weeks of action and inauguration and 2009 bein all in my face.

want to just share a couple things:

1. Invincible’s new song on Gaza, doubling as new chant for Gaza/Palestine rallies – brilliant analysis and timing.

2. PPP just released their new album Abundance yesterday, so good. I was lucky enough to get to see them several times in Europe touring this album, and fell in love with the songs there, have been waiting for this to drop. My favorite song is “Luv Affair”. Buy it and support them!

So. That’s a couple things. Also, my friend Amy has done an amazing redesign of my blog – look!! Thanks Amy and Seth for your ongoing support of this little addiction of mine 🙂

The Darkness

reposted from Racewire:

Now, at this moment, we have a black president. Black like many black people are, with a lot of other stories woven into his blackness, having organized for justice for years. Black in ways that many black people are not, with known relatives in Kenya and a clear knowledge of his ties to Africa.

He and his wife and their daughters are moving slowly through Washington, D.C. This day means so much to so many – there are people who are proudly opting out of feeling much in this moment, but I don’t envy them. I love the babies out in that cold wanting to run along the car, I love the mothers and fathers and children all together screaming with joy, I love each of the elder faces being shown – I love that there are folks who lived their whole lives working for justice, and are experiencing this day as a deliverance.

This is a generational moment. Yesterday was about the change that may never come in our lifetimes, and today is about the dreams that get realized, and the work it takes to achieve tangible changes. Of course there is more, and our work is not over. The country is neither post race, nor post partisan difference, nor past militarism in foreign affairs, nor past our economic crisis. That’s not what this moment is.

This moment is about who we can see as a leader, facing the monumental and constant crisis of maintaining a nation. That it can be someone who not only looks like us, but has a complex story and a diplomatic outlook, and has the vision to see beyond black and white.

This is not the moment to stop taking actions or protesting either…we now have a president who came out on the side of the Republic Doors and Windows workers when they took over their factory in Chicago demanding fair pay, a president who has a long history with organizing. This is a time for the most visionary organizing and action we’ve ever engaged in, to hold him accountable and drive him to actually realize the change he promised.

I have said before that this is the Age of Yes, I still believe that. I also think that in many ways we are moving into the darkness; Obama’s face reflects the weight that he is picking up. Most people alive have never experienced the universal domestic financial instability we’re heading into, and we are in several international tangles which will be hard to reconcile.

There is a massive amount of work to be done, so the energy that is exploding worldwide right now, that energy needs to be applied to cleaning house, and joyfully redefining darkness to be grounding, safe, womblike; in the darkness we can be less aware of each other’s differences, and have to trust each other more to move through it.

That is to say – we are the change. We are the rituals, the commitment, the heightened security, the dreams realized, the cynic’s chuckle and the believer’s screams of joy, yes. But more importantly, we are the every day bearers of vision and change and better ways of being in community with each other. Let our anticipation not just be that of observers. We all walk into that White House today with Barack and Michelle and Malia and Sasha. After somewhere between 8 and 400 years screaming at the gates – we have all been invited.

live blogging during inauguration

– Wow is that the most people ever anywhere at once?

– i thought rick warren was cancelled

– aretha that bow properly announces you as a gift from god to obamanation

– we approve of michelle’s gold.

– it’s the last minute of bush’s presidency!!!!! the last minute is being extended by a lovely strings moment which is making me think of the titanic for some reason.

– possibly most diverse inaugural quartet ever!

– obama didn’t look nervous until he was being sworn in. now he’s back to calm, cool and collected.

– out of nowhere a prayer just rose up in my heart that he is safe and protected.

– Davey D write the best piece this morning, i’m try and find it online and link to it here

– “it’s time to give up childish things” – i’m ready for that.

– hurray for the doers! jenny lee calls us the earthworms.

– only multi-racialism could yield legitimacy to these lines, which include in ancestry the colonizers and the slaves of this nation.

– i love when Obama starts telling me what we will do…especially when there are moments where he calls us to post partisanship (“it’s not big or small govt, it’s: is it working?”, “the nation cannot prosper long when it benefits only the prosperous”)

– when Obama says we are a friend to every nation, my heart leaps to Cuba, Iran, Palestine, North Korea, Venezuela. the children in those places. oh i hope you mean it.

– non-believers in the house? lol…there must be a more accurate way to say that!

– it’s such a new experience to listen to a president who is diplomatic. he says things that make me cringe, followed by things that make me smile while others cringe. he pulls at the audience of the world right now, such an artist.

– bush’s face is priceless. most of the speech where obama spoke about “terrorists”, it described the bush administration more than anything else.

– that was a great speech, this is a great moment. i feel moved, and ready to get to work.

– obama can’t stop smiling….”i’m the president!!!!!!!!!! yeahhhhhh!!!!”

– i really like michelle and barack as a couple. they energy is real nice 🙂

– ooh just saw hillary, cheeks sore from that particular unique kinda smile. i kind of hope she and palin go head to head in 2016.

– red man gets ahead! brown gets down! black not under attack! white gets it right!

– wow am i really hearing a “talented 10th” analysis right now from the commentators – the movement children went to ivy league schools as the step from inequality to now, and “the hope was that the talent would emerge.”

– i am going to ignore most of the stuff around this moment; and i’m not going to get bogged in any judging hateful thoughts of the outgoing team…i know that watching obama i actually felt better, i am ready to hold up my value that we can do it ourselves, my value of impacted community leadership, my value of nonviolence and love and truth and reconciliation, working with leadership who is open, diplomatic, intelligent, and yes, colorified! 🙂 that’s all for this morning, possibly!