Monthly Archive for February, 2016

i cannot run to freedom/interdependence by any means necessary

feb 26:

tonight i was walking home across a space that was once a plantation, once had a whipping tree, once had a school, once was a major source of cotton, once was a lot of things i cannot see in the soil. the stars are bright and everywhere.

today i got to watch barbara ransby, linda burnham, n’tanya lee and kali akuno share stories of their years in black radical/revolutionary movements – the choices they made in terms of where to place their distinct offerings. they were facilitated by my north star, denise perry. they are each, all five, young with commitment.

and i feel too old. i shouldn’t be walking. my leg is in a brace, because of grief or weight+time or just because i have done something yucky to my left knee. all of the above? i have acupuncture and chiropractic and orthopedic doctor appointments behind me and in front of me, and lots of loving caring people around me who are supporting me to rest and heal.

but sometimes i want and need to be alone under the stars, the so-clear-and-familiar stars that always make me feel both smaller and more at home in the universe. tonight was such a night, my heart full and tender with black love and black grief.

my gait is different these days, painful as i hitch along, one leg always straight, the other overused, my hips tilting. having to sit, prop my leg up, ice, rest, wait, get rides, depend depend depend, accept advice from anyone who sees me, watch others dance…i do get to feeling self-pity.

then, here on this land where black organizers gather to contemplate all the paths to freedom, i think of slaves. i walk the sucking mud and crackling leaves, struck again by how loud everything is in the dark. how did anyone ever get free when just breathing is such a thunder?

tonight i was moved to tears by my current state, my vulnerability. if i time travel back, in my mind, exploring what my magic witchy wild self would have done on this land, i hope i would have rebelled and run away. but i cannot feel it in this body. i cannot run to freedom. i cannot even dance the way i want to.

these days it feels like all i can do is ask for help. this doesn’t come easy, but i do it, i practice, i forget and get reminded, i practice some more. i resist, and then practice some more.

i am changing through this injury, my perception widening. there are so many others like me. as i am wheeled through airports i suddenly notice there is a whole society of people being wheeled around, in various states of temporary or permanent disability. occasionally there is camaraderie or curiosity, but it’s not a given. in me, a certain amount of being either ignored or body shamed produces a turning inward.

my own internalized ableism is so big right now, i don’t want to be noticed in this difference, in this need. i don’t even want to have to transform this pain into magic. i just want to howl and run fast and dance low and be wild.

feb 29:

as black history/futures month comes to a close i am feeling tender and ecstatic. the gathering of Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity filled me up, overflowed me with a sense of wonder and possibility for black people.

i also loved the concurrent celebrations of blackness that were happening, any of which i feel sure would have nourished me:

in LA my loves in the octavia e butler legacy network gathered to honor the ten year anniversary of the transition of my heart-study octavia butler.

in jackson mississippi, black sci fi heads gathered for planet deep south.

there was also a gathering of the echoing ida team.

it was black girl genius week and before that black tech week.

and this was a week after i got to facilitate the foundational meeting of the ida b wells society for black investigative journalism.

and all of it at the end of a month full of escalating direct actions and black musical explosions (i have been reveling in beyonce and kanye and rihanna and chance the rapper and others), music dancing with messages that got everyone twirling and meming and conversing.

we’re feeling the reverberations of movement thinkers and organizers who are continuously dreaming for black people. that is what flowed out of stevie wonder’s mouth as he dressed down governor snyder in the culmination of the magnificent #justiceforflint event last night, where $130,000 was raised for babies who have already learned, too young, that lead can poison.

(i think in the history books, stevie’s truths will resound louder than chris rock’s shameful attempt at whatever he was simultaneously doing out west)

and me? i landed home feeling stronger, more self-compassionate and loving. i went to the orthopedic doctor and got the next steps lined up for my healing journey. the last few days, and these past few months, feeling how many people were/are loving me and wanting to care for me, wanting to support my health and my body as it is right now, and wanting to see me slow down and land inside my health…all of you are helping me to turn and face some truths.

i cannot run right now. i cannot even imagine future running right now. but i can imagine dancing.
and i can imagine nurturing those who run, cooking and plotting and strategizing, dreaming and singing to the moon, quilting maps, and building such deep ties with those who can run that they would always come back for those who cannot, we would always be part of one liberation. i can see as far as 2050. i can see black emergent strategy, radical black interdependence, landing and proliferating inside revolutionaries like dandelions.

i have to offer and receive interdependence. that is the most strategic thing i can do in my black body right now, let myself be quilted deeply into the pattern.

i am sitting in three intersecting commitments for my somatic work – to authentic intimacy and generative boundaries, to teaching more with less words, and to resilient movements that sustain relationship through change and difference.

i am turning towards my body and asking what i need to do to sustain relationship with myself through change and difference. offering myself less story and more feeling. really listening to my truths and to the boundaries i need in order to fly.

and all i can hear is black love.

Rihanna’s ‘Anti': A Pleasure Activist’s Review/Love Note

I got on the plane today and somehow didn’t have access to Formation. I flailed around a bit, and then remembered that I downloaded Anti last week and hadn’t gotten listening time yet. And I just wanted to let y’all know I listened to Rihanna’s latest offering for the last few hours, and I really like it! And the more I listen to it, the more I like it. It has its own mood, it feels good.

(Actually, before I really begin…if you are newer to this blog, hi, I’m adrienne. I look at the world through eyes that seek to love it and be awed. I focus on pleasure, experiential learning, emergence, feelings, solutions, transformation and evolution.

I am a sci fi and visionary fiction and memoir/blog writer/facilitator/healer/doula/pleasure activist. Virgo with Scorpio moon and Aries rising.

I generally write about something when I like it and want to revel in that, or want to understand why I’m drawn in. I rarely give my attention to things I don’t like, unless I can see a way my attention will change those things, because I believe that what we pay attention to grows and I want to grow the good.

I pour most of my political critique into my political work as a social justice facilitator, emergent strategist and sci fi writer.

If you want really nuanced and thorough political analyses of pop culture, there are professional cultural critics out there! My role is more in the range of radical unicorn diva doula, loving my way free. I especially love supporting and consuming the art of black women, with compassion for the many things we have to burst through, navigate, learn, unpack, compromise, develop, resource and/or conquer to create.

Some of my favorite artists aren’t very famous or wealthy. Some are. Some are really woke, others are awakening, and some are still drowsy. I started my political work in the realm of harm reduction and I deeply believe in meeting people where they are at and taking the next steps together towards more power and pleasure. Poor people, rich people, whoever. Want to get free? Cool. Since we not there yet, we can learn together.

To that end, I prioritize my work and attention to projects that serve black people and people who have intersecting experiences of oppression, and who are interested in getting free.

I believe we get free together, that every exchange has the potential to transform us, and that no one is disposable.

I just wanted to say these things because the internet can be a really big, confusing place to come across something new, and over the last few days a lot of new eyes been around here.

You are super welcome here, with all your divergent opinions and struggles and uncut joy and learning together feels, as long as your root motivating energy is that of love and your tone is respectful).

Now onto my review:

I kind of love this album y’all! I want to put it on for a sexy grown folks party with the lights low and some casual grinding and/or laughter going on in the corner.

Rihanna’s voice is unique, lived in, complex and mature, while still playful. It’s got a personality I want to go kick it with.

She does some really lovely things with it on this album: quirky on Consideration, full bodied on Higher and Love on the Brain, sexy on Yeah I Said It and Sex with Me, mysterious in a Banks way on Needed Me, experimental on Woo and Goodnight Gotham. She revisits the Stay energy with Close To You. I like the Willow-esque abstractions of Same Ol’ Mistakes. There are a few places, like Work (which I’m adding to my get hype facilitation playlist! Featuring my favorite yoga vocalist Drake), and Desperado, where she does that D’Angelo slide – which I like a lot when used appropriately – the one where she’s expressing the feeling directly, letting words, which can be a mode of emotional translation, slide together and then away.

The sounds woven through the music are intriguing to me – Prince guitars, what sounds like a Florence and the Machine sample or maybe remixed cover, with songs that veer between Genesis soft rock ballad, gangster Western, space echoes, all conduiting up through her Caribbean roots.

I am listening on repeat as I write, and the album as a whole continues growing on me. In large part this is because I like the pleasure in Rihanna’s presented life, and in her lyrics. Several times she describes what love, sex, or just general time with her consists of: smoking a j and having an amazing time.

My favorite song on the album is called Sex With Me: “sex with me is so amazing…always wet never need lip gloss on it…even when I’m alone”.

Beautifully done.

And as weed slowly legalizes across the US, it’s encouraging to have artists/humans who are destigmatizing it’s use besides Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa and Miley Cyrus.

This is one of the ways culture shifts. Through art that reflects the times.

This particular culture shift around the most gifted weed continues to be necessary so that all these people growing up and old in prisons for weed possession/use can get free. The second song of the album, James Joint, starts out with her gentle voice singing “I’d rather be smoking weed”. I can see the bumper sticker now.

When I hear Rihanna’s music, there’s a level of my listening that is tuned in for lyrical signs of abusive intimate dynamics. Just how it is. I listen for what she’s learning and practicing around it, projecting protection and black love in her direction, listening the way I always want my loved ones to listen to me.

So there’s two songs that gave me pause around this – Kiss It Better, and Love On The Brain. Kiss It Better is all about make up sex after your partner does something wrong – “who cares when it feels like crack?”.

Who doesn’t make intimate mistakes every now and then? But that line in partnership with a line in Love On The Brain where she says love “beats me black and blue, but it fucks me so good and I can’t get enough” becomes worthy of attention.

I just want to make clear that I believe that on-crack feeling is not the love you run towards, and nothing that beats you black and blue is love.

Those lines feel different to me than the line “I want you to homicide it” on Yeah I Said It, though I’m still putting my finger on why. During the conference call I hosted for radical leaning humans to process the love and emotions around Beyonce’s 2014 self titled release, we talked about the way Jay Z spoke of beating the pussy up, referencing the violence of Mike Tyson and Ike Turner. While most folks couldn’t see it for his verse, there were a few women on the call who spoke up about really enjoying ‘rough’ sex and ‘shocking’ sexual language (using ‘ ‘ because everything here is relative), even/especially as survivors.

What we do in the pursuit/realm of pleasure can be fantastical and dangerous, and the power of exploring those edges in honest communication with others can be healing. It feels like Rihanna is exploring an edge with us on this album.

She serves some skillful shade In this text too, I’ll leave that for y’all to discover. It’s delightful and subtle.

Finally, I love this line from Same Ol’ Mistakes, it might be my favorite – “I feel like a brand new person, so how do I know if it’s right?”

True. Always.

Beyonce’s Visionary Fiction: Formation

Like many of you, yesterday I was sitting in my house minding my own Black History/Futures Month business when Beyonce did this:

This video.

My first reaction:

“Wow. Thanks to musette Tunde Olaniran for letting me know Beybe gave us something new. There is so much going on here and a lot of it gave me feels (tears…Blue Ivy opening and then that baby boy vs the riot squad??).”

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“Overall it reads as Bey slaying (sp) no to govt/popo killing us with no impunity, and I’m absolutely here for it.”

Then I came back to say: “this video keeps on giving. Each viewing there are so many gifts and blessings. Each line is conversational, it is constructed to be used in pieces or as a whole to transform a situation. Spell casting place-based brilliance.”

And this Sunday morning I have watched it several more times, and realized that above and beyond the level of excellence I expect from Beyonce, she is serving visionary fiction here.

But before I even get to the visionary fiction aspects of this work: the references made throughout this video are so satisfying, so uplifting – New Orleans is in the pace, in the lighting, in that black southern mythical witch Marie Laveau finger lickin life and death Sunday church realness. Beyonce rocking her long blond hair preference but meeting haters with braids. Every single outfit, every move, all three perfect seconds of the conqueror Blue Ivy, all of it. Stanned out.

Like, I love that only a chorus separates the middle-fingers-up promise of how she will respond to good sex from the black-bodies-dancing Sunday church spirit catching. Pleasure activism. This is real life.

And then…so visionary fiction, a concept Walidah Imarisha taught me, which we have been popularizing with Octavia’s Brood, centers traditionally marginalized communities, posits change as something that is bottom up and collective, neither utopian nor dystopian. Visionary fiction understands that there is no neutral ground, that art is either advancing or regressing justice.

I think parts of this video (a video which also has non-radical elements, I know, I’m open to that conversation) are as radical a seeding of visionary futures as the lunch counter sit-ins. Stay with me – after the country saw black and white people sitting together at that counter they couldn’t unsee it – it was an option, it was a possibility. It was an aspiration.

In this video, at a point where Beyonce has already taken us from the adorable to the raunchy to the ecstatic, and instructed us to get in formation!!!!, we get to see a riot squad surrender to the body brilliance of a black boy in a hoodie, dancing in the middle of the street.

One day after Trayvon Martin’s birthday. And, as my friend YK Hong points out, one day before Sandra Bland’s birthday.

Then we pan over graffiti which says, in case you are in any way confused: Stop Shooting Us.

Then, a police. car. sinks. into. the. NOLA. waters.

With the Queen Bey as a human sacrifice to keep it down!

I/We cannot unsee these things, they speak so completely to the longing to drown the impulse of white supremacy, of violence against my/our people.

And then, finally, one of the central lyrics is basically a visionary fiction mantra:

I dream it
I work hard
I grind til
I own it

We create from what we can imagine. We are living right now inside the imaginings of people whose mental illness makes them believe they are superior to other human beings. This video is part of the resistance, the new imaginings that we use to pull ourselves towards liberation.

I feel so proud of Beyonce, so moved by director Melina Matsoukas’ vision in action, and just want to say thank you everyone who shaped this incredibly timely work. We needed this, and we need more artists to deliver this kind of flawless politicized work. Art is our public sphere, our culture shaping cauldron. This is a precious black love offering.

Now. Go slay.