Monthly Archive for August, 2015

my #blackaugust575 haikus

This was my third year participating in Black August 5-7-5, a black liberation spiritual practice month. Here’s what I created:

Aug 2

Sun all up and close
Warm your broken heart on us
We are all black love

Moon when night has come
Let the violent tide roll out
We reflect all life

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Aug 6

Took my black out wild
Set her free on the mountain
She won’t stop howling

Bare black and cold sea
Before and after scorched sun
She can’t stop howling

Rode waves and forgot
To be cautious or withheld
She howls with laughter

The universe knows
My name, my gifts, my shadows
She has been calling

I’m naked, again
Beginning it all, again
First: my life matters

Then: our lives matter
Our failure and forgiveness
Opens the future

Then: our time matters
Go wilder, go in on joy
Massive black love joy

– #blackaugust575
From British Columbia

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Aug 7

We grieve babies
Braid their names into our hair
Sing them new stories

Memories don’t sleep
We tell our grief to the moon
She gives us ocean

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Aug 8

Always Anyanwu
Telling Doro ‘be gentle
You’re killing your heart’

We swallow the years
We learn to heal from within
Our children will win

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Aug 9

We wish you were here
We wish you were a stranger
August always child

We love you so much
We remember your story
We send you on home

– for Mike Brown

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Aug 12

Arrested black girl
Head high, hands high, deep center
Walks with dignity

– for Ferguson

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Aug 13

Sitting in silence
And then sun salutations
Now I am ready

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Aug 14

Stand in the circle
Let your dignity shine bright
You have that blackness

Stand in the circle
Cast yourself wide as ocean
You of these people

Stand in the circle
Place yourself in the lineage
You are right on time

Stand in the circle
Tell me what you came to do
With your black body

Now move, change, center
Change change change change change change change
With brilliant blackness

– towards a Black Somatics
#blackaugust575 #blacklivesmatter #blackbodiesmatter

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Aug 16

Now Julian Bond
Becoming ancestor now
Get that deep rest now

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Aug 18

Black love remembers
Outside of this time and place
Our miracle selves

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Aug 21

Black girls in the woods
Naked again in daylight
Sun and tree love us

That hippy ass shit
Will get us all the way free
The berries are sweet

Don’t forget the earth
When you have a prayer to lift
Press all the way down

Don’t forget your skin
When you have to carry dreams
Cast them into black

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Aug 29

Swamp heat knows our names
Trees remember our black weight
The water our taste

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Aug 29

Let go with the moon
She moves oceans, she’ll move you
She’ll lift your burden

10 random and possibly funny reflections from my hedgebrook retreat

1. my favorite is when i am being all brave and going along in nature and then something scares me. the moment when i jump out of my skin and then have to crawl back in and self-soothe, every time, i find quite humorous. like:

mood: brave
fact: a sound happens in the woods
reaction: jump directly and painfully into a tree, twisting around slow motion matrix style to confront the monstrous face of evil
actual fact: a tiny bird hops again and becomes visible to me. i giggle self-consciously, then it flies away.

mood: little red riding hood in the snow
fact: an invisible wolf knocks me down and nearly swallows my head before i can scream, ‘viva la revolucion!’
reaction: set hypothermia timer in my head and decide which parts of my body can be self-sustenance.
literal fact: i tripped and fell in snow and my sister saw it and helped me. (throwback self-shame)

mood: harriet tubman heading north
fact: a sound happens in the woods shortly after i see a mysterious poop on the path
reaction: immediate django on all nearby leaves that might be hiding coyote
tangible fact: a chipmunk darts across the path, totally not scared of me at all in spite of my size and reasoning advantages.

mood: jane goodall on an evening walk
fact: spider attacks me, trying to get me to drop my flashlight
reaction: ‘i’m melting!!!! no but seriously, where is my pocket knife to x cut my face when it bites me, and where is an australian to suck the venom out? foiled!!! give my fancy shoes to my nibblings, it’s over!!!’
truthy fact: spider is minding it’s business in tree. and actually spider yawns in my face.

2. i got high (whidbey island dispensary right by goose market, no card needed!) and went for a walk in the woods. it was outstanding. everything in there had something to say and it felt personally wonderful to me, the way the light pierced the trees, the pine needle carpet. i felt far away from the world, and safe, even with all the wildness, or perhaps, finally, because of it.

3. janet mock stayed in this guesthouse before me. and gloria steinem, alice walker, naomi shahib nye, ursula le guin. no pressure.

4. a bird flew into the window over my desk today. i’d heard the sound before but never up close enough to realize what it was. i ran outside and there was the stunned bird, shaking it’s head as if trying to get it’s tiny brain back into a pinball slot. i talked to it soothingly until i had an internal moment of realizing that the gigantic monster i am to this bird might not be soothing no matter how much i coo. then i looked around and saw another dead bird.

reaction: run away screaming.

i returned and saw that actually all around my guesthouse is a little nature graveyard. there are other dead birds, mice-rats and creatures under the brush. i thought, life really is death. i came back with a busted up seed cracker for the bird and tossed it his way. when i returned later he was gone. i then considered this whole diversion research, because i do actually need to understand the sights and smells of decomposition for my novel. thanks collaborator bird, i hope you are alive.

5. there is a mood to what i am writing: it is grief stricken and terrified. as i write it i am comforting myself as i do immediately after a death or crisis – cookies, ice cream, butter on bread. even biting my nails. consuming the world. i feel a little guilt around this until i remember what i am writing about, what place i am taking myself to every day, who i’m spending my days with: ghosts of beloved people and places. i am having a crisis response in the midst of being immensely well nourished, well rested and cared for.

i should write a book about a woman on retreat the next time i go on retreat, to reap the full benefits.

6. dreamt i had a conversation with drake. about serena. it went like this:

me: i am really pleased with the direction you’re moving in.

drake: i’m sayin! she’s fantastic. she makes me laugh.

me: she’s the best.

drake: yeah and she is the best at something that takes actual skill. not charm. i’m the best at charm. but she is the best at something that requires physical, emotional and mental superiority. woe on fleek times legend.

me: there is justice in this world, that you see that. and she’s gorgeous.

drake: unbelievable. like unbelievable. AND farrakhan dissed her publicly for her outfits!

at this point we both do that thing where you spread your hands and shrug like, ‘does it get any better’?

me: don’t mess it up. be worth her attention.

drake nods seriously.

7. i wrote a novel. i wrote a fucking novel. i drafted it during nanowrimo last year, and then worked it over, and over, and over…such that now i could imagine other people reading it for feedback. there are sections of it i understand. i did that. late blooming novelist, new title.

8. it is hard to color outside the lines and communicate. it is hard to be inside of a particular and beloved box, to have become something else while inside the box, then to be reaching out with words that only transmit by moonlight. when someone says, ‘what are you doing?’…i am writing, i mean, a story, i am a sorceress, it’s about magic and grief, it’s about america, it’s 713,000 metaphors for gentrification. and you?

9. my world is so small. everyone i meet is basically my first cousin by love, art or movement. thus my love stories have no endings, and every world has to be infinite.

10. everyone please read ursula le guin’sthe birthday of the world, from the foreword to the last word. we might need a reading group on the story ‘paradises lost’.

so all that to say: all women, do hedgebrook at least once in your life.

You Have Permission

We are winning.

It’s devastating.

Those who believe that the attention of this country (and world) needs to be placed on the death, violence and oppression that result from white supremacy are winning. Black lives matter, we are asserting it with body, mind, heart, spirit, media, disruption, dance, art.

It’s a lot. Some of us are not doing well, treating ourselves like temporary participants, even though we know this is a long struggle.

There are those who want to ignore the ways their own internalized racism connects to this violence. We are raising that attention, making everyone reckon with racism, argue about it, take notice. And, if they are allies, grieve with us, and grow.

But it’s hard.

It means we have to reach our hearts into the bloody mess, lift it up to the light with our grief and attention. Some of us have known how bad it is, have been doing movement work around it for decades. Others of us are relatively new to this awareness, have been living ‘normal’ lives, are politicizing in the streets or on the internet. The growing documentation of black death and assaults on black bodies feels like an escalation. It’s exhausting.

From one awakening human to another, I offer you permission to be long term with your attention. Some movement moments are really quick, some moments feel like a lull, for years. Regardless of the pace, this is life long, generation long work.

Khalil Gibran taught us that the sorrow we experience carves out the space for the joy to come. I have been thinking that the devastation and grief we are experiencing now is carving out a space for the liberation and freedom and safety that future generations will live into.

But in the meantime?

You have permission to take care of your whole self on this journey.

You have permission not to educate strangers about racism on social media.

You have permission to turn off auto play on social media and decide when/if you can watch videos of black people being harmed. You have permission not to seek out visual and audio information of black pain and death.

You have permission to feel your grief.

You have permission to take breaks. The pace of violence is intense, take care of yourself.

You have permission to feel numb, overwhelmed, silenced, enraged, scared and hopeless.

You have permission to be small and need care from your community during this time.

You have permission to ask others to just hold your black body while you breathe, cry, laugh, vent, and feel fear.

You have permission to confront racism in public.

You have permission to feel pleasure. You have permission to dance, create, make love to yourself and others, celebrate and cultivate joy. You are encouraged to do so.

You have permission to rest inside of cultural release – get lost for a bit in a new movie, or analyzing what Drake’s ghost writing means, watching babies samba, or futball magic, or compulsively read horoscopes, or dance to Trap Queen in your living room.

You have permission to heal.

The pace isn’t going to slow down, right now we are in the phase of movement that is about making the truth undeniable. It is not the first, worst, or last of our battles.

It helps to create rituals that allow full emotional range for this time. I use candles and meditation to process the losses, water and moon to ask for emotional/physical healing for those who are harmed. Saying the names is also a powerful practice.

Don’t bottle it up inside, don’t try to move through this time alone.

You have permission to grieve. And you have permission to live.

Open Letter to Those Participating in Elections During This Uncivil War

Perhaps you are running for office in this nation, with its ancestral slave black population, in which those empowered by the state to enact justice have been using their power to advance a white supremacist agenda of black genocide in the forms of lynching and public executions.

Or you are supporting a particular candidate running for office in this country, your mood somewhere between rabid excitement and terrified desperation.

And here we are, in this inconvenient Uncivil War. It could be argued as a war to assert the supremacy of whiteness via all economic and social systems. I’m sure it could be argued as a class war via all racial and gender systems as well. Regardless, there are casualties. Black people, yes. And indigenous and immigrant and brown people. Any of us can experience sudden death by state authority. Or the longer death – having our families separated, being brutalized, tortured, imprisoned, etc.

Perhaps you are not directly impacted by this war, so if you’ve made it this far, right now you find yourself asking ‘What war?’. And even when the stories and pictures and videos cross the path of your attention, you think, ‘the cops would never do that unless the person was disobeying’. And you generally avoid thinking about all this black death and trauma too much because you yourself aren’t racist, you just (insert racism).

Since black folks got here, our electoral participation (which now includes gaining the top office) has not liberated us, much less kept us safe. Still, we are working every possible strategy for the sake of our lives, our children’s lives.

So at minimum? You/your candidate’s platform needs to explicitly state what y’all are going to do to change the conditions of black and brown people in the immediate future if y’all achieve power.

If achieving power isn’t actually probable for your campaign, if you are running to raise issues and challenge the status quo, then the precision of racial justice analysis in your platform has to be excellent, because it’s up to you to pull the eventual winners towards significant impactful commitments.

Do not expect civility and deference. Maybe in some mythical peaceful election time that would make sense…but this is a time where our lives are on the line, are being lost daily. It’s a wartime, in denial of itself, with constantly changing rules.

Those who are working to assert that black lives matter are soldiers. We are advancing a front line that exists inside your head, inside the collective consciousness of this country. That line says that your silent compliance carries the same burden of guilt as overt acts of racist violence – it’s all part and parcel of the same thing, self-supporting. If you are quiet on these matters then we absolutely cannot be, because we are in a fight for our lives.

If the only way you’ll speak and act on our mortality, on structural racism, is in response (positive or negative) to direct action, we will continue to disrupt, and act, and to support and escalate that action in others.

Don’t wait to be acted on. Come correct.

And also too?

Do take time to mention how you’re going to navigate us through the now inevitable global climate devastation (especially if your heart is like…’But all lives matter!’)

Love
Your friendly post-nationalist