mate soul moments

i am not sure this experience can happen in a city you call home, a mate soul moment. it happens in transit, in a place neither of you are from. a stranger catches your eye and the life you could have together thrums through you, a complete chord.

there is nothing lewd about it, it isn’t the hungry look of a stranger who wants to taste your skin. it isn’t the wide eyes of someone looking at something different for the first time. it is a look of recognition – we’ve never met?, but we have history. we have ease. you feel a smile on your face in spite of the pain that walking brings to each step of your aging body.

you feel the note strum and look away – can everyone hear, feel, see this ludicrous knowing in you? but it is in you, it rings through you. you look back and this strange familiar is watching you. no missed steps, you look, look again, in rhythm with each other, not pretending not to see.

you’re with others. so is your brief beloved. there’s no need for each other, so satisfying is the brief moment of total irrational connection. you want to remember: humans forget this. you feel the directive in your body: mate soul. so you do, however briefly, take respite in the absence of solitude, the way you are tethered to a beautiful home. your home, until this tether brand.

you pull off first, a last look, the gift of a small smile, yes. we would be great.

northern ireland, first impressions

at customs the woman asks a few questions and then says, “so you’re spending the whole time in Northern Ireland then. that’s a whole nother country.” i know this, my sister autumn and i have been well prepared for the journey we’re on. but this is this first impression i get here, on the land – there is a battle over the story and it is reinforced with every step.

we have come to Northern Ireland by invitation, to do the work of Octavia’s Brood, of practicing collective visionary fiction. 20 years into a tenuous peace agreement, with brexit on the horizon, survivors and comrades and family members and nations and religions are all wondering: what’s coming?

our hope here is that these workshops will invite solutions and shared dreams in, to help these beautiful people dance with the grief, fear and mystery. we hope to, in some small way, help them shape change together.

since we announced we were coming here, i have been surprised at how many people have told me what i must do and see and read and watch and listen to to really understand what’s happening here. there is rarely a question of who is hosting me – if asked i would say i have been given tons of reading and things to watch, and i am learning the most from the stories of former POWs and hunger strikers and blanket protesters, about how they came into the conflict and how they made it through and why reconciliation is so important to them. i am humbled by their stories. i want others to hear them, i want these voices that feel so parallel to those i hear and focus on in the US to be heard.

most of the time when i travel to teach or facilitate, it is by invitation of people in that place. my rule of thumb has been that i come when and where i am called by communities i am of, committed to, and in solidarity with. so when people, especially people not from/of the place i am in, reach out to guide the journey without asking, i often feel a little defensive bristle in my heart…i want to say ‘trust the people here to welcome me, to show me what i need to see. i do.’

but even as i bristle, i can remember doing the same thing to people going to South Africa and Mexico and Thailand. i am very protective of who tells the story of Detroit, and just beginning to think i might be one of those storytellers. it’s a gift and curse of loving places, and of travel. we want to adventure and root, see everything and know it all. relive our lives through others. and, in conflict zones, we want the right side to be crystal clear.

i can already imagine future-me insisting that i know who has THE story in Northern Ireland, even as i recognize that the power of my experience here is being exposed to so many stories, so many perspectives of pain, persecution, regret, ignorance, resistance.

this desire to shape the story (of Northern Ireland and other places we go) speaks to trauma based tension in a way i recognize – after harm there is a desire to do with narrative what could not be done in person, clean up the story and claim a victory. but there’s no neat story here, and the main victory is not winning or losing, but sacrificing and living. these people who look so much alike have a coded, deep experience of being othered.

today we are told of a sunken wall in Belfast City Cemetery to keep the separation of catholics and protestants even in death, and i feel how far they’ve come, these teachers from both backgrounds, and others, around a table over wine and meatballs, cohabitating on contested land.

i am moved by how love flows amongst them, how many are in mixed religion love stories, how healing comes at the place where intimacy lives, how love knows what is truly different and the same about us.

i am also struck by the random nature of history. almost everyone i’ve spoken to was caught up in the conflict by accident, by circumstance. they were born into a lineage, a certain faith, a set of borders, a presumption of imperial rights, a working class that was hard to survive. most of them were shockingly young when they were sent to prison, or lost someone in ‘the troubles’. none of them have expressed being particularly religious, they were just raised a certain way and before they had much chance to choose anything or even learn about other options, they were being shot at, interrogated, bullied, taught who to love and who to fear, locked up or grieving or/and seeking the source of their fear and grief.

once in prison or in grief, they were shaped by those who showed up in the container with them.

so much of this makes me think of home. those that get caught in the matrix of racism and poverty and gun violence and patriarchy are rarely seeking that life path. there’s nothing romantic about living in constant fear, losing your community in an unacknowledged war, watching a generation become addicts and/or commit suicide in droves. there’s nothing romantic about spending any portion of life in prison because your rights are denied, or you’re from a different religious lineage than the dominant one where you live. civil wars, whatever sparks them, don’t end in unity, but in exhaustion.

another aspect of our work here is shaped by the humbling condition of being an American citizen. we know what it looks like when the “civil” war “ends” but the hatred never heals, the truth is never unveiled, and amends are never made. when the system never really shifts, when the conditions actually get worse, when the growth is symbolic and fatally compromised, when the past takes the future in its mouth and begins a destructive feeding. when we said no, but didn’t say a clear enough yes, when we find ourselves still fighting to win the rigged game.

we are so young, but we know this pain, the wound’s wide open.

we came to teach, so of course we’re the students. i am learning/reminded, i want this kind of big vast love to guide all movements. i want the love each of the people we’ve met have for each other, for humanity, and for this land, to be the central story – of this week, this place, and of my life. it takes love to look back, to really see what’s behind you/us, and still choose to dream the future together.

i am finding love in Northern Ireland.

(many more pictures and stories on Instagram feed)

quicky reviews for Feb 2019

i took a day off and binge watched everything on all the streaming services. then i took a long flight and watched more things. here are my very brief reviews (that’s a prediction but it’s late).

Amanda Seales comedy special I Be Knowin. when i really love a comedy special, it feels like i have fallen in love with the comic. so when i tell you i’m ready to propose? i could watch amanda be a jamaican/harlem/la cat caller or a runaway slave any day. everyone watch this immediately so we have a common language.

true detective. mahershala ali, the prayer and the god, can do ridiculously tender things with his face. scary, captivating start to season 3.

two dope queens: they make me laugh. phoebe’s physical humor sticks with me whenever i bend over.

grace and frankie, yes as good as everyone says, i adore all of them.

james blake assume form: perfect Blake. “can’t believe the way we flow” is my current theme song for any time spent with any other humans. if it’s not like that, why hang out? i also love every other song.

blindspotting. hard and brilliant film experience, gave me nostalgia for oakland, reminded me i have feelings for daveed diggs, and has a scene i want recreate with futurebae.

bill murray stories: inspired the spontaneous heart under my cool virgo exterior. murray is totally a weird delightful introvert who creates moments of people-time. worth the watch.

collette. thank God for feminism gee whiz.

heaven’s gate podcast. pretty interesting exploration of this cult that was popping when i was in high school and ended in mass suicide. i think in this age of personalities gone wild we all need to be cult scholars to stay safe.

fyre stuff. i watched both documentaries, i was surprised (blow job man really impacted me, shook my sense of dedication to work) and felt like i recognized that white boy miraculous mess energy and i am glad that this one time it didn’t work.

also, i got introduced to online boggle and am literally injuring my thumb so i have to wean off but i love word games. sigh.

muting is not disposing of (distinctions)

i have muted r. kelly in my life. his music is nowhere in my home or digital collection. i have created a playlist that hits the specific place his music did before i understood it to be a pedophiliac’s songbook.

i have not wished death on him, or torture, or the end of his possibility in life. i have not denied that he is an adult who was abused himself. i muted him, meaning i will not financially contribute to his harmful behavior.

i muted him because it became very difficult for me, as a survivor, to listen to his content. and because he’s an active predator, because there are girls still caught in his sharp teeth, living in some sex hell of his direction.

the creators of the #muterkelly campaign, uplifted in dream hampton’s visceral series Surviving R Kelly (free on Lifetime), realized that pulling his economic rug out from under him was the only way to shake his abusive foundations and possibly have a chance to stop the harm. parents of potential victims aren’t going to stop shrugging and saying ‘well he was acquitted tho.’ his record label had not dropped him in spite of the years of allegations creating a pattern of clarity around him (they’ve since parted ways). and a jury acquitted him – what he’s up to is still seen as preference or oddity by some, not serial rape, abuse and torture.

so we mute him. the campaign is not silencerkellyforever or disappearrkelly. it’s muting, an act designed to put pressure on him to release the girls and stop harming new girls.

i keep seeing this meme go around:

i want to explore this a bit, as well as why artists we want to stand with little girls’ safety instead keeping expressing their love for a man who repeatedly abuses little girls.

i think we are in very early stages of beginning to understand transformative justice, and in absence of TJ being a common practice, we think disposal or grasping are our only moves. we either have to throw the person with bad behavior out of our community, or hold onto them with love because they were abused too, because they are oppressed too, etc. and both of these strategies fail to liberate us from the cycle of harm.

if abusers see that the mass response to the truth of abuse is to dispose of abusers, they are encouraged to be more secretive about their behavior. this means not seeking the help needed to truly end the harmful behavior. hide it, deny it, continue, protect your reputation instead of your soul.

and if abusers see that people will have their backs with no public demand for accountability, they are given a green light to continue to act from their abuse shaping, rather than do the hard work of healing, changing.

what we need is a path to redemption: understand that you caused harm, stop future harm, turn within, repent, apologize, learn boundaries and how to navigate power and connection, grieve, grow. transformative justice recognizes that the state upholds systems of oppression more than accountability, and requires us to name the truths within community, to stop the harm ourselves.

TJ doesn’t guarantee peace between abusers and those they’ve harmed, but it offers the possibility of ending the harm. it doesn’t feel good, it feels like untangling knots made of nerves. these are mostly slow processes, but if we really want a world without childhood sexual abuse, without rape, without abuse, we must believe the process can work, and we must get rigorous in our practice…because it’s not enough to throw one monster out of the village when the monstrous behavior is happening everywhere. and abusers produce abusers.

with r kelly (and a lot of other well known abusers) the first steps generally happen out of sight. people asking them to stop, people trying to get justice through legal systems, quiet warnings proliferating around a repeated abuser. in most cases, a lot has taken place before we reach the point of public pressure. this is because, sadly, our patriarchal society believes, in a deep core place, that this is how things are, how men/adults are, how sex is, how power works.

public pressure is a risk, because we don’t cultivate nuanced thinking in our current education or media systems. going public makes room for everyone to point away from themselves, their families, the abusers protected in their own communities, blaming the monster of the day instead of acknowledging the ecosystem of harm.

that said, i am impressed with the strategic use of public pressure in r kelly’s case because he is still actively involved in harm. this will be different in other cases, where the harm is in the past and the need is for an apology or a reckoning, vs an intervention. but public pressure isn’t the end.

there are consequences. i want to invite everyone to listen to Mariame Kaba all day every day, but especially on this point. consequences are not disposal, and they aren’t punishment. if someone won’t stop causing harm, one consequence is that they stop getting celebrated by the communities they harm. another consequence is losing a job. or having to work within more limited boundaries.

muting r kelly after decades of sustained abuse is not disposal, it is a consequence of his choices to persist in abuse, to not seek help to break his patterns. Mariame says “it’s the harm” that should be the focus, rather than demonizing or isolating anyone. how do we stop the harm? not by throwing anyone away, not by punishing broken people, but by taking responsibility for harm in our communities and creating systems of healing and boundaries to allow for different futures to emerge.

waning

slowly i collapse
lose light lose warmth
forget everything i ever knew about bright
it is time again to know nothing
to be still and silent
to wait and wonder
to notice exactly what i need so completely
that it pulls me through shadow
pulls me through the cold of my own isolation
back, slower than a dream
faster than a season
i hear everyone whispering:
plant everything now
plant love the shape of gods
the handprints of children allowed to say no
plant quiet contemplation of miracles
the ripple of orgasmic awe
plant the undulation, the pulse, the fusion
plant even the idea of a wave
and let the ocean flood you by morning