what a stunning day.
i was out and about, rolling with invincible for some of her shows (of which she had 4 today).
it was a community day, starting with a block party on willis with avalon, goodwell’s, flo’s boutique & the spiral collective. grace lee boggs spoke of “the essence of revolution being love”, invincible performed with the rosa parks orchestra youth strings ensemble (ADORABLE), everyone was out on the street looking gorgeous and saying hello to each other, eating vegan pocket sandwiches, learning garden basics with ife and kadiri, and so on.
we then rolled to yusef shakur‘s annual ‘state of the neighborhood’ address, a block party BBQ with a line-up of gifted speakers and performers. i was particularly impressed by a young poet named ju hall who did an economic breakdown of how selling drugs is not more lucrative than a minimum wage job. of course – in a city where we don’t have enough minimum wage jobs we have to stay committed to changing our whole relationship to work, valuing ourselves not for what we can earn, but what we can give and do and be for our people.
invincible performed, with the youth orchestra again. DS Sense was there and her lyrical skills are really mindblowing – i was SO impressed.
one thing that deeply inspired me was speakers sharing how “parenting was possible from prison” – as evidenced by yusef’s father writing him letters and guiding his political development from prison.
the one low point for me was that one speaker chose to read a letter that yusef’s father had written him from prison that had a lot of homophobic comments in it. after watching invincible and ds sense take everyone’s breath away with their brilliance, which has recently been honored on an international level by the guardian, i was so hurt and confused to hear this as a chosen text.
still – i know we are “smashing the walls of hate” when i look around a space like that, at the babies blowing their granddaddy dandelions into the summer wind and backflipping in front of the stage, seeing how much love folks had for all of us there who are gay/queer. its a process that must shift at a generational pace i know, one relationship at a time.
we stopped by to see grace lee boggs again for a moment, and then went to celebrate the graduation of a detroit summer youth, the younger brother of someone i have recently fallen for as a writer, niles heron, who was there for last few minutes before his flight back to l.a. wonderful gifted guy, and the youth are all so deeply smart and funny and good.
while there i had brief talk with a friend about someone we both love and are inspired by, who has recently embraced a very homophobic religious belief system that is rooted in judgment. we talked about how complex it is to love someone who operates from fear and judgment – how much space is needed in that love, to not take things personally.
and there is a truth – i can be inspired by a homophobe, while hoping s/he can someday see me whole, and accept me, from that same deep well of love that inspires me.
so after all of that i took one of the detroit summer youth with me to see india arie. i have been an on again, off again fan of india’s – waiting for her to grow into that incredible voice and spirit and social justice intention she has.
tonight i felt she almost did that. her performance was something she called a songversation, where she shared her whole new album with us, as well as thoughts, hopes, lessons, emotions. and it was good – the songs were amazing, her voice sounded amazing, she had her mama come out and sing with her, she was personable, deep, energetic, real, healing – truly wonderful.
thing is, in two days india travels to israel, to perform with her israeli co-creator on this new album of hers, Open Door. and she did a song that spoke to honoring different choices. she prefaced it by saying that earlier today she asked deepak chopra what to do about the fact that some folks are boycotting israel, and that deepak told her boycotting and closing borders and boundaries is an old tactic. that deepak told her to go into the heart of israel and sing of peace.
my heart hurt so much to hear this, from people clearly so moved by spirit, so into evolution. how do you sing of peace against the backdrop of a razor wire border wall containing the people from that land, without medicine, with rationed food and water, with no right to travel…that sort of peace?
in the same way homophobia surprises and hurts me, it continues to amaze me that folks can know about the call for cultural boycott, the call from palestinians (many of whom are living behind this apartheid wall with very few non-violent ways to leverage pressure for their rights) and still perform in israel.
india said at one point in the evening, love will win the battle. i think love is a function of time – love moves us through time. in the long run, time will win the battle, show where the love truly is, and where it is lacking, in the region.
in the same way it took action to bring down apartheid south africa (where i hope india would not have considered performing) it will take action to bring down apartheid israel. the horrors that israel is enacting on palestinian people are dismissed when artists go perform there in spite of the very clear, heartfelt, logical and strategic call for cultural boycott.
and in a city where we are living into vision while often having to draw on ancient tactics to be heard, it is particularly harmful to announce to a crowd that boycott is a tired tactic. it makes this a very political thing, to dismiss the freedom cry of an entire nation.
i had a thought though, on the power of time and lessons. india was sharing lessons from the last ten years of her life, and in the same song where she reduced the crimes of israel into choices that could be honored, she speaks of a man and his husband, and woman and her wife.
in this same song, and same space, on this same day, i saw this woman using the stage to address the hatred i had experienced earlier in the afternoon. this is a learning process, which we are all in, in which there is no perfect.
most likely, india is going to go to israel, and perform. even if there is a major public outcry, even though many of the people from that land won’t be allowed to come see her sing her peace. but i hope – i pray – that she sits down with palestinian leaders, organizers, people, while she is there. that she goes to see the settlements and has an open door to that experience, and that request for respect of human dignity.
india has proven she has the potential to transform herself, and i felt the power of her unleashed energy tonight, the freedom in her dance, song and words. i hope she chooses to stand up for that same freedom for others.
in the same breath, i have to look at myself and wonder – am i being a hypocrite, sitting in the audience while homophobic words pour over me, seeing the beauty and the intention, and then asking india to look behind the curtain of the beauty and intention she has experienced in israel and see the cruel policies and practices?
i don’t want to take away from the survival and growth of an amazing spiritual artist…i know if there was a boycott of homophobic artists, that would make it nearly impossible for most of the women in hip-hop i know, love and follow to make a living.
thankfully, there are a lot of other tactics available to gays in the u.s. right now. in the u.s. at this moment there are incredible education campaigns, and policy shifts, already moving this debate. the boycotts in the u.s. have to be about immigration, because it is migrants in this country who are being treated like palestinians in the israeli apartheid, like black south africans during apartheid, like the jews during the holocaust, like africans during slavery, and so on back through history. when we turn against our humanity, we must all hold each other accountable for the evolution needed to move forward.
and we are moving. the next generation is right here with us watching, learning, and shining. there was so much wholeness and restoration in this whole day – i feel uplifted, proud to be in detroit, in a state of transformation.
it’s going to be in an incredible summer.