Monthly Archive for March, 2014

as go the birds

wrote this odd little poem in iowa and it keeps tripping through my mind. thought i’d share it:

so many there’s birds
float flying past my
seventh story window
in the grey of dead winter, in iowa,
(my first such grey)
delectable alone, and yet
with, in relation to,
others they go

all bird bones snap
wide open, of hollow mouths,
full brim of sweet kisses,
distraught to be so light
against the gale
above the shining snowish patch
knowing a nothing
of their own gloriousness

some do fly inward
on meta magnificent maps
full of arteries and escapes
thick claws dragging memories
from the beginning so long time
when we were still only human,
but desperate little liars so
no one could decipher
inside of the longing

but moxie is a fate,
tomorrow a mythical bent
strumming of all whispers,
and deception, and stupid
hectic fortune.
to catch then this wind
updrafting without mercy
is the joy i can afford

is the good life we can claim.

– mar 8, 2014

packing my octavia butler bag (reflections on the field innovation team boot camp)

i am returning from a gathering that felt like a redirection, or next thrilling iteration, of my life resources.

a few months ago, my friend renna reached out to me because she knew some people who were getting together to design innovative responses in real time to the challenges of disasters.

i have very little background in disaster response, but i do live in detroit, and am as obsessed with apocalypse as the next sci-fi head, and i regularly work with communities who have been devastated by a combination of slow economic disasters and faster natural or manmade ones. so i agreed to go.

and i am so glad i did.

the room was one of the most experientially diverse i have been in in a long time. there were first responders and people who had worked in the disaster response field for years and have published books on it. and then there were veterans, an astronaut, robotics experts, artists, nonprofit leaders, government employees, theater arts facilitators, scientists, writers, designers, makers, hackers, teachers, futurists, technologists with communications tools that made me salivate, gamers.

and me.

we are all volunteers, and most of us have never been part of a disaster response effort. and that is the exactly the point. a few years ago, some people who had been involved in disasters we’ve all watched at a distance or survived – 9/11, katrina, fukushima to name a few – reached out to a team of designers, convinced that there must be more innovative ways to approach the conventional response to disasters. with the design team, they (at the time housed within fema) cultivated a survivor oriented response framework during hurricane sandy. they asked how do we fundamentally transform the experience of survivors? not seeing people as numbers, but as stories, people with futures, sensitive traumatized individuals and communities at a major precipice.

what grew out of this was a project called the field innovation team (FIT). it has spun off from fema to be it’s own project.

it includes a lot of characters and really brilliant people. i met an elder astronaut/pilot with a dry wit that kept me cracking up the whole meeting. i met a man using sci-fi to prototype plans with communities. i met a woman who makes robots that can swim underwater during a tsunami and tell rescue teams where people are, where danger is. i met other people creating robots that can carry supplies and resources to people where there are no/dysfunctional roads, and eventually might be able to lift people out of places where vehicles and helicopters can’t safely reach them. i met technologists envisioning a world where the detritus of natural disasters can be processed through 3D printers to rebuild. i met two facilitators using theater, masterfully, to deepen the relationships of the room, and it felt good to be in their hands. i met techies who are creating communication tools that keep people connected where there is no wi-fi.

i met a safety trainer who told us all to pack our ‘go’ bags – not just for doing this work, but generally to make sure we were ready for the world that exists now, with rapidly changing climate and manmade conditions. what he described putting in that bag made me think of lauren olamina, octavia butler’s perhaps most famous protagonist, packing her bag to survive an unknown future. the whole training placed me firmly in my ongoing question about how we grow in the escalating tension of our times – living on a planet we have abused so thoroughly that she must respond.

i won’t lie – it was a politically complex setting for me. i am used to being in spaces where people generally agree on a set of core values, or at least assume that agreement. in this circle, i could feel the best part of each person there, but knew that many had journeyed corporate, military or government paths on their way to landing in the place of doing survivor-centered disaster innovations. the language was largely foreign to me, i had to ask a lot of basic questions to make sure i understood what was going on, and i was left with so many more questions yet to get answered.

but i felt good that they were excited about my world view. and as i shared what mattered to me, i found that the common thread in the room was not just saving lives, but a passion for community voices being at the center of any response, communities being at the heart of envisioning futures that move us beyond the long-term crisis of inequality as well as the urgency of disaster. i learned a lot more about the resource and legal challenges to handling crises with community direction.

most of the people i talked to agreed that disaster strikes in ways that unveil the social inequalities in a place, in ways that open people up to different pathways than they may have thought possible – it is an opportunity to do what octavia spoke of in the parables: shape change.

i feel like my belief that ‘there are a thousand paths towards justice and liberation’ is alive in this work. from our unchosen starting places, we reached this room, and we were able to hold each other as living intersectional entities between lots of different worlds that need to be not just in coherent conversation, but in flow, if we choose to survive and evolve together on this planet.

over the course of the training, it became clear to me why i, particularly, was there. all the diverse, seemingly random skills i have been developing can be of use for FIT. from my doula training to my somatics training to my sci-fi scholarship to my facilitation and process design work to my auntie skills to my coaching work to my ruckus/allied media conference/detroit learnings. perhaps more than anything else, i can imagine calling on my network of incredible people around the country, dedicated to the local brilliance of their communities.

my vision for my impact as a part of the team is to connect communities i love to resources that enhance local reach in the midst of a crisis. i feel like in most cities in the u.s., i either know (or am one step removed from) a body of local experts – people who love their city, understand it’s dynamics and reactions, understand why people stay there and what could catalyze them to save their own lives, and most importantly, have a long-term vision of justice and growth that can shape the innovations that will work immediately and sustain the right kinds of change over time.

one of the things i have learned in detroit is to seek out opportunity in crisis, and i have come to see this as a foundational emergent strategy. the idea of FIT in and of itself feels deeply aligned with emergent strategy – responding to disaster – unexpected change – in ways that contribute to community resilience long-term.

it is just a beginning, and i have a lot to learn. but i am thinking very, very big again, and it feels magnificent. i am excited to find out who in my network will be amongst the local leaders, healers, doulas, sci fi writers and strategists who will transform the way we as humans respond to crisis.

it feels like sci-fi in practice. and it feels like an invitation you say yes to. i’ll keep reporting back on the experience and lessons. and i hope to hear from those of you either interested in getting involved, or with ideas and feedback on all of it.

now – off to pack my go bag.

on the 10th anniversary of black women rock

first thing we saw in the theater of the charles wright museum was nina simone on a screen speaking about that blackness, grounding us in the assumption of our beauty, power, greatness. the sold-out 10th anniversary of black women rock was officially beginning with a powerhouse concert, the first event of a two day exchange of love and brilliance amongst black women, curated by jessica care moore.

my sweetheart and i got cute and went.

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the artists were brilliant, starting with a series of short intimate performances saturday night.

jessica, the force behind this event, shifted between emceeing and performing her own rock jazz poetic offerings throughout the night, with about seven original outfits in the rotation. i honor her for the work of creating such a space, a container for legacy building.

the people she invited were a mix of the brand new and the delightfully familiar.

kimberly nichole was up first, very young and feisty in her tutu, ‘rock ballerina’ her signature style. her voice is compelling. i got her cds, and i am excited to see how she grows.

on either side of the stage artists were painting. i ended up buying a piece created during the evening, detroit artist/teacher/fashionista sabrina nelson’s take on betty davis’s nasty gal cover.

tamar-kali creates a solid wall of afro punk rock black classical music sound – really unparalleled because she is creating something new, rough and somehow tender and gorgeous. i own all of her music and merch, but was excited to see her perform after recently contributing to her campaign to take her work on her first solo tour. i need this tour, and so do you, so donate to support it.

imani uzuri makes me feel like i am in the fifth element. she unleashes a futuristic operatic experience, pouring forth from a bright light of black global womanhood. her album gypsy diaries was one of my favorites from last year.

steffanie christi’an performed music from her new cd, which i also had to get. i love her tina-turner-demanding-full
-audience-attention kind of stage presence, and her full body commitment to rock.

joi was next and there really is very little i can say to do justice to the effect she has on me as a woman with southern roots, as a pleasure activist, as an artist. i have listened to her for years but had never seen her on a stage. she is a legend and a perfection. leather latex tank and pencil skirt, locks down to her thighs, fishnets which you can see end mid thigh up a back slit. everything fitting like a breath on a bone. red heels roughly ten inches high. i was fanning myself before she opened her mouth…and then she opened her mouth and sang these growling emotive notes. the things she does and sings all feel true, and important for us to hear, sing, scream along with her.

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wunmi closed out the night, a british nigerian dancer and singer. she brought the rest of the world to the stage. her music was a comfort, a home sound in a way that is ancestral, not logical. the way she moves is breathtaking and she opened a situation on that stage where ferocious spirit was pulling everyone up and through their bodies.

on sunday they followed up the show with a panel, and i had to share with you a taste of the wisdom these artists dropped (culled from twitter and memory)

jessica care moore:

i taught my son, king.

who does mommy work for? mommy.

what is mommy’s job? poet.

how does mommy pay the bills and make sure we have this house? poetry.

and who are you going to work for? king.

wunmi:

The spirit gives you what you’re going to do & you let it form you, wherever you are. A rose will blossom in dogshit, but I know I’m still a rose.

Back in Africa you don’t think about anything, you just live it. I didn’t learn I was black until I traveled to the US. It is deep to have to think about your color every day.

With children you nurture them by letting them seeing you for who you are. I never ask the children I teach to do what I can’t do.

I made myself belong to me.

tamar-kali:

I can only be true to myself. When I go against that, it brings me nothing but pain.

It’s really important not to prescribe for others, that’s the white supremacist model. I don’t want to flip that, to be in reaction, to just do the same behavior to others. Not everyone wants to approach life like I do. I am embracing the differences.

I’m thinking (about how we turn) accolades into action. Technology has us less connected. We think that to ‘like’ something is to take an action.

Don’t say you love me & then never purchase my music. Art is an exchange, it’s our energy, we pour our whole selves into it. And we’ve all worked through pain, grief, death through the work of others.

Also, make something. (she was wearing wool socks and a cowl that she’d crocheted – which are available as perks if you invest in her tour!) We don’t create anymore!

To change who I am based on other’s expectations is to lie. I refuse to lie on stage. I’m embracing my whole humanity.

I am working now on embracing my humanity, and getting other people of color to see ourselves as an integral part of human history. I don’t want to ask, to be an afterthought, a token, or tolerated – I am understanding that I, that all of us, are an essential part of the history of humankind.

imani uzuri:

I’d been socialized to diminish what it meant to be an artist, so I became an activist, and said ‘I’m a revolutionary!’ Then I remembered who I was, and I could not deny that my work was as an artist. And I was going to make my living as an artist.

The revelation (of being an artist) is not linear. It’s ongoing, it’s a series of choices…as I unveil myself to myself.

Media & entertainment is used as distraction. Propaganda is real. We have to keep decolonizing ourselves.

Imani also had a beautiful moment of speaking about being a bisexual artist and how important it is to hold that space as a black woman. She was moved to tears, and moved many of us right along with her, as she spoke of the tension of being both privileged and marginalized in the same life.

joi:

you can’t see the way forward if you don’t know what to honor from the past. I’m a preservationist, musically.

I don’t strategize necessarily, but I can inspire others to awaken in themselves. I can see that something.

If we are fortunate enough we all become masters of something. I’m embracing my mastery, bringing mastery of others together.

revolution comes from baring your complete self, can’t nobody fade that.

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go on sheddy

last night i found out that a young member of my extended community has passed on. her name is sheddy.

she was in the car when i got scooped from the airport on my first visit to detroit, and in the car at 6am in the morning with breakfast pastries when i got picked up and taken back to the airport after working with detroit summer for two days and beginning my relationship with this city.

my first impression of her was sweetness and easy sensuality – it was undeniable, just in her nature. over the years our paths crossed many times because she was a beloved of people i loved, all of whom just wanted more of her. i came to feel the same way. with time i learned that she was sweet, supportive and humble. her presence was powerful.

i grieve her short life – she’d just turned 28 in february.

i am sitting with the ways grief is more and more public these days, and thus more collective, maybe faster. it now feels like the news of a death has to move so quickly to try and reach people before it becomes a part of the internet. and grief, by it’s nature, is an incomprehensible emotion which renders words useless, empty. the life you long for is outside of the words, and what you can speak to is the absence, the great absence. that is exacerbated on a facebook feed. the individual words feel so small against what has happened.

and yet…i am glad there is a place to turn to for a digital shiva for sheddy, which facebook has been for other griefs over the past couple of years. it does feel oddly comforting, with such a broad network of people now woven and weaving together, to sit in that wider web of those changed in some way by the loss, to see how much love flowed into her life, to comfort each other, read and tell stories, share pictures.

it is a complex, muted sadness, that which comes from being touched briefly by a powerful soul. i am grateful sheddy touched my life, and i hope she is able to go on with only peace.

some sugar detox recipes and snack options

i ate a lot of great food during my sugar cleanse and i wanted to share some recipes here that fit within the allowed foods.

for ease, especially in the ravenous moments, i found it helpful to have several portions of brown rice, lentils and/or quinoa cooked up to throw into different dishes. i limited myself to no more than a half cup of either over the course of the day.

similarly, i’ve developed a practice generally of preparing a number of vegetables early in the week for use in various meals, and definitely recommend that for this cleanse – roasting brussels sprouts in olive oil, chili pepper and sea salt in the oven at 375 for 40 minutes; sautéing broccoli and/or kale in nutritional yeast, lemon, olive oil, sea salt, cayenne pepper; slicing onions into long curved pieces and cooking in olive oil; etc.

you’ll notice this, but there are basic ingredients i continuously turned to – olive and/or coconut oil, lemons, sea salt, my favorite vegetables.

1. basic vegetable stir fry
(my sister autumn got me started on this one pre-cleanse with wild rice, sriracha and braggs amino acids/soy sauce. by shifting to brown rice (my preference) and adjusting, it’s become a staple food on or off the cleanse.)

basically: sauté pre-cooked brown rice (or lentils, or quinoa) and vegetables in 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, some olive or coconut oil, and half a lemon (or more) until everything is sizzling and starting to get browner. add 1-2 eggs depending on appetite, and keep actively stirring until the egg is cooked. add chili paste, sea salt or lemon, and cayenne pepper to taste.

2. garlic lemon cauliflower

found the basics for this one on the internet and adjusted it to account for the oven being in use by someone else, and not being allowed to put parmesan on it.

take a whole head of cauliflower and cut it down to the smallest florets. cut the stems to be an equivalent size – diced, basically.

heat olive oil in a pan, crush garlic into the olive oil – i go hard on this, 2-4 cloves. stir in the cauliflower and then squeeze lemon over it. i found with ample lemon i didn’t yearn for salt, but that’s up to you.

cook on medium heat, stirring often, for about 12 minutes – you want to see brown on the surface of the cauliflower. consume hot or cold, it’s gorgeous.

3. beet zucchini salad

possibly my favorite food of the cleanse. we are allowed a half cup of beets a day – i took mine grated and raw over peeled and diced zucchini. i added in other ingredients based on availability, including diced fresh tomatoes, cubed avocado, triangulated cucumber, diced red onion, the leftover garlic lemon cauliflower, chopped romaine lettuce.

the dressing for this one is below: olive oil, lemon, sea salt, pepper. if you have access to zatar, or thyme, it’s also stunning on this salad. when not fasting i have also used white wine vinegar to much deliciousness.

4. sesame salmon

this is another brilliant recipe from autumn that is so simple and good it befuddles me.

one of the delicious foods allowed on the cleanse is wild atlantic salmon. so with either frozen salmon (defrost, still in wrapper, in a bowl of cool water for 20 minutes) or fresh, you lay the salmon on aluminum foil atop a baking pan or cast-iron fryer. drizzle it with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and then cover the surface with sesame seeds.

turn the broiler on and put the salmon in the oven.

after about 3-4 minutes check on it, rearrange it if the sesame seeds are starting to brown (most salmon is taller in the center than on the edges, which can lead to uneven cooking). pull out after about 8 minutes, check the middle to ensure that it is flaky but evenly cooked – the middle is the same color as the top. if the edges are crisped it’s heavenly.

just let it melt in your mouth.

5. easiest salad dressing you can make in restaurant

literally. this was so helpful for my travels. every restaurant i went into had olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. you can either mix it up before putting it on salads, or you can just drizzle, squeeze, shake, shake and toss the salad.

6. smoked salmon omelette

at this point in my life i am mostly pescetarian, especially on the coasts. when i am in places with access to other local grass fed meat i’ll indulge. anyway, salmon is my favorite amongst the fish, and smoked salmon has become a joy to me.

on this cleanse it was not unusual for me to eat 3 oz as a snack, or chopped up into the beet salad. i also LOVED it in omelettes.

drizzle olive or coconut oil into a large saucepan and heat it up. (i like a high heat omelette, but know thyself, you might like it a little less crispy on the outside.) crack open 2-3 eggs (this detox can increase egg intake – i often used only one yolk, if that, when cooking multiple eggs) and whisk with pepper. set it aside.

start with green onions, chopped into little pieces and toss them in the oil. chop up some of your precooked vegetables as small as they will go and add them. crush fresh garlic in next. once everything starts really cooking, pour the egg over it.

lay the smoked salmon along one whole half of the omelette in strips. when the egg starts to bubble, fold it over with a large spatula. it should look and feel perfect at this point, but if there is still any runniness to the eggs (which you can get away with when there’s cheese but is pretty gross sans cheese imho), flip the whole thing over.

eat hot. revel.

when not sugar cleansing i put fresh goat cheese on top while it’s hot.

7. avocado caprese

this one is just lovely.

slice fresh tomatoes into rounds, sliver avocado with a sharp knife, and lay it on top of the tomatoes – for me it serves as a textural equivalent to a mozzarella. i slice my avocado very very thin but it’s up to you.

top with fresh basil, drizzle in olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

***

my favorite snacks throughout the cleanse were salads, freshly ground peanut butter (which my cleanse mentor autumn taught me was available in most health food stores – i had been missing OUT), carrots (which i have had an allergy to for years, but was able to eat again in the third week of the cleanse) and fresh hummus, toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, olives, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, peanuts, and seaweed snacks (read the labels, tho. some flavors – like wasabi – had sugar content).

i didn’t experiment much with lentils, goji berries or ghee. and i found sashimi less intriguing without soy sauce, although dipping it in a dish of sesame oil with wasabi was still satisfying.

would love to hear other recipes as i continue this lifestyle, primarily not eating sugar.

10 sugar cleanse tips for success

so i am nearing the end of a 21 day sugar cleanse. it has been a completely transformational experience. i am at the end of day 18 now and really loving how it feels to have this much agency, and the growing trust i feel in myself that i can set and hold the boundaries i need for my health. i was inspired to do it by my sister, and along the way lots of other friends have joined in. i have also seen folks doing other cleanses, and it’s all incredibly inspiring. and it helps to have people in it with you sharing tips for success.

i wanted to share here some of the best guidance i have received and/or learned:

1. TELL EVERYONE. this came from autumn. i found it to be immensely true, particularly when traveling or when hitting walls where i felt like i couldn’t go on. landing some place and being greeted with, ‘i saw you’re doing a sugar cleanse! how inspiring – how does it feel/work?’ increases accountability ten fold. this also helps when you start to feel your feelings and don’t have sweets/bread/cheese/chocolate/whiskey/potatoes/insert-other-sugar-things-here to turn to. it helps when you can ask for patience and support for behaving like a dragon in a forest getting angry at the trees for being so green and sedentary and burning down everything in sight.

2. NOTICE ALL THE SWEETNESS IN YOUR LIFE. this came from jodie and was right on time. i started the cleanse surrounded by sick sweet babies and an eager sweet puppy dog, supported by my sweet and health oriented partner. i started noticing all the love that flows towards me, everywhere, and leaning in for more hugs, kisses, listening, contact. love multiplies, fills up, wins.

3. DON’T SUBSTITUTE. the goal is not to maintain the sweet tooth with, or shift the dependence to, artificial things. the absence of sugars and sweeteners has actually changed what i am able to taste and what i long for. that is where the freedom comes from – that i am not looking for the sugar in everything, but noticing the wide range of sweet and complex flavors in the whole and healthy foods i can consume.

4. PLAN OUT THE DAY. know where you will be eating, what options will be there for you, and if you need snacks. i have found that i need to eat something roughly every two hours on this cleanse, and the meals can be small, or super nutritious, or just snacks. (grind your own peanut butter (available now at most health oriented grocers) is indulgent decadent heaven. toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, mixed nuts (i liked pistachio/peanut/pecan/walnut), tomatoes sliced and drizzled with oil and sea salt, broccoli and cauliflower marinated in lemon – these are just a few of my favorite snacks.)

5. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH. learned this from lynnee: products lie! or they just might be so familiar that you don’t even consider the sugar content – you have to look at the ingredients list and nutritional facts. things like sriracha, kombucha, wasabi seaweed snacks and most salad dressings have some sugar listed. ‘no carbs, no sugar’ is what you are looking for. there are a lot of trends out there now. sugar free, gluten free, raw, organic, vegan, natural. and in a capitalist nation a trend is an opportunity to sell something to people who want to be healthier but may not do due diligence. don’t get mad, get informed.

6. WATCH, FEEL, DON’T WEIGH. look at your body and face in the mirror before you start. take pictures. see what you can notice about the ways you change during the cleanse. don’t spend too much time on the scale, i would say not more than once a week, because during the cleanse you might notice an accelerated speed of weight loss, faster than is sustainable long term. it can become an unhealthy tendency. instead, notice how you look different to yourself. notice how you feel in motion, how your clothes and joints feel.

7. MOVE. your body will especially need sunlight, fresh air, and motion during this time. your body is a divine machine. you want to encourage your body to use the fuel you are giving it, to change how it processes. it helps so much if you move, dance, walk, get the machine going.

8. ENCOURAGE, DON’T EVANGELIZE. learned this one by being evangelized to before i reached this point. i have mostly been able to keep in mind what i’ve learned – inspiration works better than any implication that you know more about my health that i do. everyone comes to these kinds of transformations in their own time, relative to their own struggles. i never thought i could do this, but when the moment was ripe, i fell into it without resistance. my whole being is aligned with this life change.

9. TRANSFORM. i am actively learning this. this doesn’t feel like a temporary detox, it feels like getting clean from an addiction. don’t approach it as a short-term withholding of something you want. think of it as an intentional transformation. you are shape shifting yourself – deciding to shift your body’s main source of energy from sugar to fat. don’t go into it with an intention to get back to deep dish pizza on day 22. start it when you can imagine any sugar other than fruit as a rare thing.

10. WATER IS SACRED. and precious. and drinking outlandish amounts of it helps manage hunger, headaches, how toxins move out through the skin, and just how you feel in your water-based body. i’ve been making the effort to empty my water bottle before breakfast and after every other meal, as well as sipping in between. my whole system is functioning beautifully, i’m sleeping more deeply, and i just love how my skin feels as a result.

that’s all for now, i will update again once it’s done. and if you do this cleanse, i want to hear about it!