Monthly Archive for January, 2017

baby rebellions and alternative taxes

when my six year old nibbling Siobhán learned the election results, she kicked a fluffy chair.

yesterday she and Finn did their first direct action, shutting down a bridge to protest pipelines. she shared this incident of the fluffy chair and it sounds like she says fucking chair which, for me, was medicinal.

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her father shared the video of the nibblings on the megaphone, and a white-skinned man on facebook’s first response was to police what he misheard of her language. he said that she wouldn’t use it if she knew about trafficked kids, that it wasn’t in the spirit of jesus, gandhi and king.

here is her father’s response, and why he is my favorite buddhist priest in minnesota:

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my five month old friend Isobel is one of the most vocal people i know. she speaks in essays, she has opinions on everything under the sun, and even though we can’t understand her yet, she shares her thoughts and participates in each conversation. her parents spend hours sitting with her each day in these conversations, and watching her smile.

on inauguration day, she learned to put her foot in her mouth, which feels like the most accurate statement made about that day.

yesterday my eleven month old friend and neighbor Meilu came to visit. this child has the kind of bombastic infectious cuteness that fills a room. i’d bought myself some fuchsia roses to have a pop of color in the house, to help with the transition from the technicolor rainbow earth patterns of mexico to the low hanging gray of detroit winter. Meilu pointed at the roses and i immediately tore off a petal and gave it to her, and would have given her all the petals if she had asked, no qualms.

she ate the petal.

she can now push herself up to standing, and she immediately applauds herself and joyfully receives the applause of anyone who wishes to celebrate her. her energy is like: ‘y’all may be gloomy from the news and the future but there is joy and magic available right here, right now.’

IMG_2529 (pic from Invincible ill Weaver)

last night, i was upstairs visiting and watching her stand and clap and dance to music that sprung from toys. her father Nate said something profound. he said that her imagination will have to be so much bigger than ours because of the world we are leaving her. she will have to imagine beyond the systems we have been socialized into.

this made me feel so much compassion for us. how can we leap beyond the limitations engrained in us during the formative years of our childhood, as strategists, as a nation? how do we unlearn that cursing is worse than violence, or that humans are more valuable than the planet we live on, our only home?

it made me think immediately to how people respond to the idea of diverting taxes away from this administration.

i keep bringing it up with people who say they are appalled by the installation of the balderdash administration, who feel ashamed about talk (and existence) of a wall or a ban on muslims, who list out the lies and bad decisions, who bemoan having a president who sexually assaults women and kikis with the kkk and appears to not do his taxes or, at minimum, is guilty of fraudulent reporting.

when i say, we shouldn’t give any money to this administration – every appointment means that every dollar will be misspent moving society in the opposite direction of love, sanity, health, peace, justice and dignity, people american-splain to me how the tax system works. they either say “but education and highways” or “they’ll garnish your wages” or “you’ll go to jail”.

i still strongly feel that in an era of government spewed alternative facts, we should create a system of alternative taxes, moving our resources towards the society we want. i want banks that will protect our wages and masses that will protect each other.

if not now, when?

i was a war tax resister for 13 years, and then battled with irs to create a payment plan i could grudgingly live with (i had to automate it because it hurt too much to write the checks each month and know how it was being spent – and that was during obama’s presidency!). i learned the hard (almost-jail) way that this tactic could only work as a society shifting move if a tipping point number of us did it together.

i saw a video that said 80% of americans didn’t elect this administration. i imagined what even a 40% divest and redirect move would look like. it was stunning in my head – so much support flowing directly to good work.

i saw another video that said california might secede, which is exciting in many ways, and doesn’t account for the majority of the country’s future.

and i wished, again, that we were more willing to claim what we long for beyond tweets and posts, with our actions, our time and financial resources. i wished we could imagine truly divesting en masse from the violent interventions, the walls, the weapons fed to our allies, the resource hoarding, the climate catastrophe we are creating.

i wish the future was more visible to us. we could be investing in and building what we want and need, we have abundance available to us. but because we cannot comprehend it, we move our individual resources along whatever internal guidelines hold us, we let the incremental move towards apocalypse pick up bullet train speed, and we complain, but we keep almost all of our attention and action on the daily list of balderdash fuckshit.

when i go down this line of thinking, feeling, longing for so much more from myself and all of us right now, i look at these babies and my system breathes again.

they will go beyond us.

they are learning fierce compassion, and to express themselves and be heard, and to celebrate joy.

and, hopefully, they will imagine and act beyond what the adults in their lives can even comprehend.

making the world (thank you to the women’s march)

i wrote visionary fiction for six hours today, taking breaks to watch the women’s march. watching the aerials, the masses, i am feeling so moved.

i intentionally chose to be out of the country writing my novel this month, it felt like the most radical and self-loving move for me.

i am surprised by how exciting the women’s march became, so much adaptation, so much responsiveness. it turns out to be a space where the most radical and most moderate of my loved ones were on common ground. with so much documentation available for those of us who aren’t there for whatever reason.

i remember organizing the us social forum in 2010, so much smaller in numbers but nearly two years of work at a local to national scale. i remember how hard it was within the process, trying to hold values, balance need, grow analysis and relationship. and how sometimes it didn’t feel like those outside the organizing process had compassion and/or respect for the work. the exhaustion of doing all that work and also having to push against that impatience produced a heartache in me that took a long time to pass. the process viscerally changed where i was willing to put my organizing heart.

i can only imagine that that is magnified a gazillion degrees with this march. much less time to organize, overt adaptations of leadership, message, even need along the way. i want to send the women who galvanized all these people several standing ovations, for what you did, for however you pulled it off, and for how it has and will change and shape you. i want you to know i and so many others see you, applaud the work, applaud the transformation, and will make sure to provide pathways into existing work for the masses and masses you inspired to move.

when i had written a chapter to satisfaction, i went in the ocean for a bit, and i met this octopus.

i know, they are so amazing.

so while we sort of intertwined limbs i was chatting with this octopus about what it was like to be in the ocean and know how amazing and powerful it is, and then have new people show up all the time who don’t even know how to swim or breathe underwater, who may not even see you there. and they bring what they think are new ideas of the sea, feel its vast force for the first time, and bring new tools and structures and messes.

the octopus, i’ll call it pussy for shits and giggles, took some time to answer, so long i almost forgot questions could have answers. then it said this poem to me, called ‘how to welcome':

oh you came!

you came to make the world
i am so glad you are here
this is your house too you know

as you can see it is a mess
i would apologize, but such a mess
took many peoples’ forgetting, even yours

it needs all of us
sweeping up detritus, mending reef
singing ink into the cold depths

listening to the waves and whale mantras
even though we have been divided many times
even though we have lost the words

we get still, listening for a way,
and then a next way
relinquishing the idea that there is one way

some of us were born here, in this mess
we have been making the world since forever
and before that and before

my mother makes the world with love
my grandmothers season it with sacrifices
my great grandmothers keep its secrets

now you, bright minded free bodied
vulgar, tender, honest humans
ancient and pulsing still with desire

tired of effort, who can’t yet turn away
and the so-young humans, just beginning
and the babies, rooting the masses in future

yes! you came!

i see you humans on the edge of your hearts
who love the world but cannot admit it
who seem to learn by destruction, consumption

you are welcome (even though)
we have needed you and needed you
you are welcome (even now)

you came, and we hope you never leave

we are the creatures who have learned
how to live beyond caring
what others think of our freedoms

we are the wild ones who will not relinquish
any of our sentience,
and we are making the world

from this place, this day, abundant paths
unfurl in many million directions. we say:
tend the ones that call you, all of it is ours

again, and again: welcome!
may your first taste change your life
for the making goes on and ever onwards

and tomorrow is our blessing

.

i thanked the octopus.

and i thank everyone in the streets today, and everyone behind the scenes learning how we do this together, again and again.

musings from the sea

(i wanted to bring you all with me, to be quiet and look at the water. here is the best i can do.)

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jan 17:

today i woke up, read the news (via social media), and then tried to write.

i felt listless because i saw some of what the world is up to.

and my novel is a heavy lift on grief, so its challenging to stay in the writing place.

and tonight i’ll be processing the parable of the talents by octavia butler with folks. and that’s a heavy, hard story that gives us insight into the incoming administration.

and then i chatted with my publicist for the emergent strategy book, who very kindly wanted to make sure i don’t have big expectations for sales of the book – it’s a strange kind of book. i appreciated the honesty and felt unfazed.

but when i went to write fiction i still felt out of it, overwhelmed by the task of it, writing about the near future when there is such a bleak picture being painted, being lived in right now.

i looked up and the sun was out after a spate of clouds so i threw on my swimsuit and walked across the street to the ocean. this whole month i am writing by the sea and it’s deeply healing.

i figured i would just sit on the beach for a bit and then head back.

but the water called me, so i figured i would just dip in it.

but the water felt so good that i stayed in it for an hour, splashing and swimming and bouncing and dancing, contemplating what all is in the water, how i never want to take this for granted.

i had a little a-ha about joy in the water that i wanted to share: i experience the most abundant and consistent joy when i am not expecting anything else.

expectations bring disappointment, fear, confusion, doubt, and contortion as i try to become whatever i think is expected of me in return for my expectations getting met.

the best things in my life have all been unexpected. success, love, babies, friendships, travel – these came not from expectation, but from being available for the good, available for the lessons.

when i facilitate i often let the goals rest while we see what’s possible in real time, in that room with those people. often, what’s possible is more, or different, than anyone could have expected, closer to what is really needed.

i didn’t expect octavia’s brood to be such a smash hit. i just knew the ideas of it, and the stories, brought me joy. it felt needed.

when i do hold expectations, it gets in the way of the flow – i become closed off to what is actually happening, what is actually possible in the moment. there is more available in the present than in the expectation.

so i am not expecting anything for the emergent strategy book – it just felt necessary to name it and explore it and so i did, and i hope it is useful.

i wonder if this can apply to our current political circumstances. we can predict a bunch of horror, and react with fear and depression. but already what i am noticing and appreciating is how the people i most respect are growing into the unexpected. kind of the opposite of wait and see. see. see!

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jan 20:

is the ocean made of tears from days like this, and the days we fear are coming? a dry planet made livable by caring enough to experience sorrow? look at the pelicans dive into the waves so completely and come bobbing up, swallowing. this water is teeming with life making more life. and now i am playful again in her waves, she comes in, and when she goes out she pulls something away from me.

if i stop struggling against the ocean i float. i wonder if my ancestors discovered this when they were thrown overboard, or leapt. it seems good at first, oh i am bouyant, i can rest here. but it is a lie – you will burn, you be swallowed from below, you will dry up into a rind of yourself. and yes, you will die in every possible scenario, but if you do not fight and keep moving towards life then that death will come so soon, it’s just there, right there, waiting all the time. you don’t have to feed it your name. you have to live. you have to carry the small flame of life that has your name in it. life is a choice.

some days
i am in the ocean of sorrow
all salt flood and bruised storm
bones of my ancestors
made sand and shadow
.
and the next wave comes and lifts me up
til, floating into cloud
becoming masses
i feel relief. i am unable
to comprehend the vastness!
.
monsooned by this
i consider:
freedom is leaping
into the unknown,
the heartbreak lets us out,
and we are of the infinite .
– for #disruptj20, lifting us all

thank you, barack obama

dear barack obama,

now we have come to the end of your time as the president of the united states of america, the end of your black presidency. let’s just say it – perhaps the end of the world.

i have some things to say to you, but you do not know me, so i shape here a letter or poem out of my feelings instead, and i place it into the wilderness of my computer so perhaps you will feel it somehow.

to begin, i am a blood mutt like anyone else. you and i can point to this and that, and say white, black, brown, complicated, multi, mixed, melanin-blessed, etc. but each story is different, and i did not live yours.

i think we are important, we who are overtly between, raised between, knowing the difference and un-difference, the construct, and the breath inside the construct when someone says ‘die nigger’ to our fathers, to us, or asks where we are from, as a threat.

i am the daughter of a black man who served this country for 30 years. i remember when i learned what the us military did all over the world, our interventions. i was appalled, ashamed – was my own bowl full of blood? i came home and roared at my father. i made of the dining room table a tense wood, and perhaps it has stayed that way, as i have only learned more and more, and my father has not traveled back in time yet to make different choices.

and i love my father, even when i consider what his work was. i loved the child my father had been, what he had survived. i loved what drove him – it was me, it was us. i see this in you, a willingness to engage the horrific because you have daughters, and the world must change. loving one’s children is not promised, but my father did, and he does, no matter what we say to him as we try to make his life fit into our mercurial values.

loving my father prepared me for you, how you have all that lift in your voice. even when your hands are bloody you say, we are doing our best! even when the white man has earned the left hook you say, what’s for dinner?

or you dance.

i told you years ago in another message to the world that i had no misconceptions about the job you were taking on. and now it is done, for better or worse. imperfectly, gracefully, violently, patiently, you have done it.

we can say you have been the president.

we can say you have survived the presidency.

i hope you don’t know what it means to us, that you have survived, or at least that you don’t think of it much.

i feel that, even though you, even though you – ah i told myself i wouldn’t speak here of policies – between you and i there is all this data, like a wall. i cannot see how you could have, you cannot tell me anything at all to convince me otherwise, and my ideas have yet to be tested at scale.

i will say only that you have disappointed me. so many times. this is just the truth, even last night i was crying about the limitations of your legacy, i was lighting a candle for leonard peltier and other prisoners who cannot run from the next administration.

ah! what is it like to hold such specific freedom in your hands and only give it to some?

what is it like to try and end wars, or to have put on god’s shoes and meted out death?

what is like to stay in so many concurrent abusive relationships, to be both abuser and abused?

what is it like to come up against the edges of what you can do? and even the edges of what you can say about what you can do?

and how, tonight, do you prepare for a ceremony to hand your legacy to the villain, the man who has purposefully desecrated your existence at every opportunity?

i don’t understand.
i don’t even want to understand.

and here we can finally get to the thank you i promised long ago, in the title of this very poem, or whatever this is.

thank you for being willing to climb into the mouth of the lion, past the great sharp white teeth and the acidic tongue, up through the steam and mucus, up into the predator brain. willing to see the mechanizations of war, the territorial, jealous madness of our wild young armed beast of a nation, and to sit there, trying to reason.

thank you for reading books, listening to music, hosting concerts and parties and readings, and eating five almonds a night. whispering to her while the water is running, that it is too much, and then turning off the spigot and returning to the spotlight. smiling for the selfies, and the official photos, and the exhausting and ridiculous rituals.

thank you for michelle, and malia, and sasha. it has been so nourishing to watch them shine and grow.

and more than all that, thank you for chasing children through those halls – black children, free children, all the children.

and thank you for bringing artists into that house – black artists, relevant artists…as if you meant it.

so many of the people i most respect spent time in that house, conjuring compelling futures together, with and without you. i think no matter what comes next they have left some good witchcraft, some buried seeds of an impossible nation that continues to breath in, and breath out.

thank you for not walking away, for standing at the crux of knives, for continuing to smile as everything turned gray.

i told other people, which is sometimes how i say my love, but i will say it here as well. i love you more than any radical should ever love a president. you and your whole family. even with my analysis of all the things.

i am so deeply grateful to have had this experience, to have had a black/multiracial/elegant/facilitative/thoughtful/reasonable person/family in the emperor’s chair. it’s still empire, and i am still post-imperialist.

and tonight i light candles for what you did do. for who you were 8 years ago, and who you have become.

thank you.
thank you.
thank you.

in the dark (for oscar and chelsea)

i can feel the scar tissue in the dark
in the dark i hear everything
even my own hunger
now everyone says the dark is coming
so it is time to dream

in order to read the news
i watch videos of tsunamis
i learn how to survive quicksand
i don’t look at the naked emperor
not even to ridicule, it isn’t funny

in my right hand i hold disbelief
in my left, prescience
i didn’t know how it would feel
maybe i never truly considered it
no matter what anyone said

but the gates are coming down now
between reality and assumption
between complacency and commitment
and today, you could be chelsea
today, you too, could be oscar

you could refuse to participate
you could pull back the curtain
you could fight for the land
you could remember yourself
you could outlive this

we will refuse to participate
we will pull back the curtain
we will fight for the land
we will remember who we are
we will outlive this

#freethemall

Protection Spell

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The following spell was commissioned and produced by Tunde Olaniran as a prologue to his headlining performance on New Year’s Eve at El Club in Southwest Detroit.

Listen to the Protection Spell

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to manage the grief
we tie our roots together
trading sorrows

to speak when there is danger
we learn to hear heartbeats
as drums

to speak of what no one has seen
we create a whisper
of hurricanes

to make a world that can hold us
we teach each other
every small imperfect part of love*

we will protect you
we will hold you
we will be protector
we will be protected

i will protect the skin you were born in
i will protect your right to love
i will protect your right to pray
i will protect your right to choose
i will protect your however-body
and i will protect your total
and radical
liberation

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images of the incredible night (courtesy of the star himself, Tunde Olaniran) include an altar built by edgeslayer (new orleans dj who spun at the party), natasha beste and kevin eckert of gold house media, an ice sculpture (tunde said “i’m not kidding someone randomly reached out and asked if they could create an ice sculpture for the party”), and a crowd going buckwild <3 IMG_3302

the * means: a portion of this spell will be printed in Walk Towards It, an anthology of urgent writing, lists to remember, & love letters to carry with you. Released on inauguration day January 20th, 2017 <3

procrastination post 38: talk to me

hi.

what you doing?

oh right, hence being here.

me? i am procrastinating. i am on a writing retreat, working on my novel.

well the best part is i am by the ocean, so i just write and swim and do yoga and eat.

yeah, but i’ve hit the day where i just want to sleep all day instead and every time i open my computer i last ten minutes before coming up with some distraction.

i love writing. but novels are hard – this is my first whole thing and it is kind of working, but also kind of like aaaaggggghhhh what IS this? what was i THINKING? so many words but where do they all GO?

thank god for scrivener.

yeah i guess its part of my process when i write fiction. nonfiction is like…here are thoughts from my brain, you like? but fiction is like, 20 people are trying to tell a story from a near future parallel magical realm reached only through my brain, and they all think they are the star.

it’s been a little self helpy/serious over here the last few posts so i wanted to bring some levity. i even wrote a post while i was high that was a list of blog ideas that came to me when i was high.

eh. it was funny while i was high but then i read it again and it was only aight.

it doesn’t help that the novel is all about grief – its hard to stay in the depth of it, to see the magic in it.

fucking social media and news. every time i look away someone dies or we lose something we can’t afford to lose.

good question…well, usually i am in a place with less wifi access.

you mean self-regulate it?

but the world is changing so rapidly – i need to keep up.

i approach it like everything i write is my resistance.

right. you’re right. it will keep changing. after this retreat i will be facilitating lots of people who will get us through all of this. they give me hope.

i should just get back to it and write.

ok. thank you – this was helpful. i mean sorry if it didn’t help you but…writers have to be selfish sometimes.

ok. love you.

til soon.

obama farewell, in parts

obama farewell, in parts:

darkside me: i want him to incite rebellions, he is going for super shady.

eeyore me: but what do you say when democracy requires a peaceful transition to an r-kelly costar?

yoda me: listen you must. strategic he is. coherent sentences you may not hear again from this office.

this is the read me: he’s basically reading the fuck out of mump.

organizer me: much respect to people protesting right now #pardonusall

lucious from empire me: he got it all figured out and no one sees it. he gonna let dude play himself out, just watch.

zen me: there are no borders, there is no separation. everything is right.

beyoncé me: flump breaking all these rules, obama should just stay president.

neil degrasse tyson me: science and reason Do matter.

prince me: when you play the future you play yourself.

mariah carey me: shit happens.

post-nationalist, post-imperialist me: we are on the death star. the leadership doesn’t change the function.

abolitionist bae me: did he free the political prisoners yet?

black great/grand/daughter me: hush. listen – i can still feel a lineage of pride flowing through me.

clingy me: plus he said final point which reminded me what’s coming (sad face).

detroit voter me: and now he’s like y’all need to vote – that hurts more cuz i’m disenfranchised!

neal degrasse tyson me: wait was that bill nye the science guy?

american citizen me: i do wish it felt like this country he speaks of.

boggs-reader me: you have to love america enough to change it.

james baldwin me: i have said it before, but: I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.

darkside me: he has come for scump on every single frontline – the force of shade is an art with this one.

organizer me: he told people to organize. (clap clap clap)

beyoncé me: that look he gives michelle. i can’t.

darkside me: hear that shade of melonino?

zen me: you know nothing, relinquish attachment to this experiment.

fearful me: live live live

astrologer me: and just love. the whole mess. right now this love is the force most required in the universe. love directly and without shame. him and each other, there is enough.

me me: but (broken heart).

auntie me: glad he mentioned how malia and sasha nibblings have grown up so beautifully.

beyoncé me: see he is also most proud of parenting. just sayin.

scarface me: biden’s a tough dude.

me me: he looks heartbroken. they all have break-up-but-still-soulmates faces.

eeyore me: where is sasha?

cool teenager me: malia is counting down in her head.

this is the read me: everything after this is basically trash. basura.

zen me: its always what we make of it.

me me: love hurts. exhale.

self-love as a journey, practice and state

today i am wearing a bikini in public. this week i also went topless in public. i consider these miraculous occurrences and proof positive that self-love work is worth it. my belly loves the sun as much as the rest of me does.

when i started gaining weight in my adolescence i quickly learned that it made me undesirable and unattractive, which i both wanted (sexual assault trauma 101) and hated (its lonely in there).

i have always loved swimming and sun, and i have worn a million wack bathing suits in order to access these things without feeling fat and offending people.

in 2012 i took a sabbatical that included mexico, costa rica, hawaii and california. on that trip i dabbled in nude sunbathing in private settings, and i made a promise to myself that i would get to the ocean, the warm ocean in the sun, at least once a year for the rest of my life. since then i have kept that promise, mostly in the yucatan.

i have documented myself, learned to see my face, my body. slowly, so slowly that sometimes it felt i was moving backwards through time.

in fact i have gone back and looked at pictures of me when i hated my body, and i can see how lovely it was, i was. lovely and hiding and clueless.

but the work is working.

self-love is a journey – i keep finding new bends in the road. first i couldn’t say fat. then i couldn’t show certain parts of my body. then i couldn’t trust other peoples’ attraction to me as legitimate. then i could dress my body but still feel daunted by my nakedness. then i could feel my beauty in the hands of others but not alone. then i could see something appealing in my face but not look below the neck. then i kept unveiling more and more of myself. then i had an ectopic pregnancy and reached my highest weight and had scars on my belly and dimples on my thighs and doubt in my heart. then i came out as a sugar addict and created circles of community around the truth of my feelings about my body. then i told someone my love of my body was unshakable, and it became true. then i began to stand up straighter and get somatic healing and sashay when i walked and believe people when they said i was irresistable.

none of this is chronological, that’s the secret of journeys. circuitious, mercurial, tempestuous, trickster, but never straight.

and then self-love is a practice, or, many practices.

i have written about these practices before and just want to say: practices take time. more than 21 days, more than 3000 reps, even more.

practices for self love are like casting a spell in your body, waiting for a seed to open, accumulating the speed of flight.

in this past few months i have experienced so much laughter, joy – and pain, grief. i am feeling more and more of my own emotional range. and as i feel more, it becomes easier to move towards what i want, without apology or guilt.

i live in a country/world where those in power want me to submit or disappear.

nope.

in fact, i will be more of myself.

i will be a brilliant feeler with massive swinging breasts that only nourish those who love me.

i will be an apocalyptic writer who believes i am shaping the future, in cahoots with my comrades.

i will be angry in public, and i will be a lover who leaves people feeling freer than before my kiss.

i will be mariah carey at 11:57pm, Dec 31 2016. i am still a number 1 type person and i am still wearing a ballgown to the dispensary.

anyway, much ado about a bikini, i know.

but somehow this political moment is making it necessary for me to be in this bikini and make people grow to meet me.

self-love is a state:

i am 38, and this is a first in my adult life. my thighs dimple, my scars pock, my pits are grown, my belly is soft as fuck, and the bikini is red.

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