grace showed up today

once I got to bow down to my teacher.

the day, nine years ago, was a rough one. I’ve recently remembered it in the form of a story a few times, the way I’d become so overcome by the needs, beauty and struggle of the gathering I was helping hold, that I’d found myself at the precipice of the healing room, a tremble in my heart that become a convulsion of opening on a healer’s table.

when I stood up, the next thing that was happening was Grace Lee Boggs’ 95th birthday party. Every year since I’d met Grace, we’d celebrated her birthday as if it were the last. Grace lived through so many of the looks and words of people who thought it might be the last time their paths crossed. I wonder if she felt that as a gift or a weight.

she taught me by sending me to the bookshelf and then still telling me the idea she wanted me to understand, pouncing as she landed on the essence of an argument, shining as she saw how good an idea was. I feel Grace when I talk to Denise, Jenny, ill, Thenjiwe – they come prepared, invite me as I am, whisper the way to me as I walk beside them.

Grace taught me to talk about your ideas as they are forming, that the intimacy of sharing creates better thinking. I’m still practicing, and clumsy. I hear Grace when I read Alexis, posting the messages she’s learning from sea mammals, already poem.

Grace taught me that it’s OK to understand more than you can do, it’s OK to comprehend a change you will only reach for in your lifetime, it’s OK to point people down a road you may not be able to walk. I hear Grace in beloved Toshi Reagon’s plans for being a guide and a guard in the apocalypse. I feel Grace in the frustration of elders trying to keep us from crashing into their wrecks, and in the anticipation of those who realize we’re evolving navigation.

Grace taught me to think. Not think like her, but think for myself, think critically, think dialectically, think experimentally. To be willing to let my mind grow as my soul does. I see Grace in the dignified backs of those whose contribution is the unapologetic sharpening of our minds, N’Tanya, Michelle, Makani, Shea, Scott, Emily.

when I miss her I let her ideas come on in my heart like fireflies, and soon her words come fluttering back through another’s mouth:

“Transform yourself to transform the world”

“History is not the past. It is the stories we tell about the past. How we tell these stories – triumphantly or self-critically, metaphysically or dialectally – has a lot to do with whether we cut short or advance our evolution as human beings.”

“Being a victim of oppression in the United States is not enough to make you revolutionary, just as dropping out of your mother’s womb is not enough to make you human. People who are full of hate and anger against their oppressors or who only see Us versus Them can make a rebellion but not a revolution. The oppressed internalize the values of the oppressor. Therefore, any group that achieve power, no matter how oppressed, is not going to act differently from their oppressors as long as they have not confronted the values that they have internalized and consciously adopted different values.”

today we began another immersion, this one in New Orleans. I want to tell Grace how it feels like that Beloved Community gathering she took me to, song and dance moving through as easily as words. to tell her she is quoted every time, multiple times, she is still teaching. to show her how quickly people are moving to real conversations when explicitly offered a chance to build critical connections.

but she’s not here. that’s the blessing. Grace lived long enough to tell us all she wanted to say, and she was more than ready to go when the time came. I’m excited to imagine her as a beam of light, raising the standards of how ancestors shine. So close to Jimmy that, to the naked eye, they are one light. in this way, ideas outgrow the need for separation and debate.

Grace taught me that the truest thing was change.

happy birthday again, great teacher.

gratitudes, June 2019

gratitudes:

sitting on a back porch dancing to rhythms from 2 parties in bk, in my slippers and drawers

i got to flip a table today

i got to eat a perfect collective meal tonight, cooked by a man i adore and trust, held by beloveds who require no performance, after a hard day’s work, with no cooking or cleaning expected from me (i learned this gratitude from the relief of a participant who delighted in not having to clean up just one time after doing it for a lifetime)

my tribe is massive…it feels like love, and it feels bigger than any relational web of haters on earth

trusting the people means i get to be of the people…trust and belonging are a dance

i’m learning about teaching people to move through the hard parts to get to magic: arrive as you are, be honest, be brave, be uncomfortable, be overwhelmed, find your edges and boundaries, find your roots, stay, celebrate, be your whole self, stay, love you, and then, love everyone

i’m learning to create spaces where babies, elders, peers and ancestors can collaborate on the present to cocreate the future…it feels good

dosing myself with solitude makes it possible to receive the blessing of prayed-for community

Motor City Pride: A Speech Unspoken

I wrote the following words as a speech to introduce Tunde Olaniran, the headliner for motor city pride. Then I got caught up in feelings and just spoke from the heart. But I wanted to share these written words anyway, they represent my Pride feels.

Hello beautiful queer lesbian gay pansexual bisexual questioning Detroit. And family! Allies!

I’m so glad those 12 nazis didn’t stop y’all from coming out today. When they go low, we get high, get fabulous, get freer! We deserve to celebrate – look at all we have survived and are surviving, just to love.

Finding ourselves, finding each other – finding our fight and our joy – that’s what this moment is about. How remarkable it is to find the safety and celebration of community, to find our real selves in spite of all messaging to the contrary. To find the pleasures outside of forced heteronormativity.

We are a sign of biodiversity in our species! It’s not just the same longing in every heart. We might even be the adaptation that gets us in right relationship with the future…We are the stunting mushrooms and the dandelion weeds, the fecundity!

We have to continue to give each other permission and pressure to queer our own lives. We have to continue to queer society, to question and disrupt uniformity, economic slavery, any attempt to own each other, to own love, even to own god.

Each one of us carries part of the divine within us. That divine spark, that energy or gift or presence has pulled us through all the violent efforts that want us to deny ourselves. God, change, spirit, source – the creative impulse of our universe cannot be denied. God persists, in the light and in the dark.

We refuse to be denied. We refuse to be erased. We refuse to be scared away from the truth of love inside us. You cannot legislate away the desire we feel for each other.

That’s because there is nothing wrong with love between two (or more) consenting adults. Those before us carved out space for us, survived, died trying to survive, died being free. And those that survived carved out an even more fantastical, compelling space, a yas-queen over the top queerness that has influenced every aspect of arts, adaptation, and community. It is now our responsibility to do the same for those who will follow us. To normalize the reality that there is no such thing as normal, there’s just this manypath life.

Solidarity is our greatest tool in the work to growing a world in which love is safe. For instance, while it is still scary and dangerous to be anything other than straight, it is even more dangerous to be non-binary and/or trans – so many people still don’t know the basic identity differences of gender and sexuality, and fear it all. It is dangerous to be a gay immigrant in a country hungry for a wall and practicing the heartless work of deportation, or a lesbian Muslim in a country hungry for the combined acts of war and othering, or a disabled asexual in a land where health is an industry, or a poor pansexual in a nation that believes you have to earn and buy your basic human rights. Sexuality is just one of the ways we are targeted for discrimination and attack, and the queer community should absolutely be a place where we learn from our own pain to end discrimination, rather than perpetuating it. We must always orient to protecting not just each other, but those most vulnerable in our beloved communities.

Let us love each other into the light. Let your subversive queer self infect your whole life, do not live in compartments that allow ignorance to feel safe and comfortable legislating hate. Transform yourself so that you cannot be ignored, denied, or made complicit in your own oppression. Let your experience, the truth of your queerness, free us all from any collective ignorance based in false superiority.

Let us cast a spell of queer solidarity.

Let our love
Reach over your borders
Through your prison walls
Under your temples, churches and mosques
Right past your judgment

We are of nature
Let our love free everyone it touches
Let us lift each other up
Let us have each other’s backs
Help us push each other onwards

I am a miracle
You are a miracle
We are miracles

What I actually said, roughly:

“We are here cause we love Tunde! (mad festival screams)
Fuck those 12 nazis. We they go low we get high and fabulous and free!
Let us cast a spell.
The first part of coming out is loving ourselves more than we love anything that makes us lie to ourselves, so first yell it out: “I love myself!”
The second part of finding pride in our queerness is finding community, family, our people. Turn to the person next to you and say “I love you! I have your back!” Now the other way, “I love you! I have your back!”
Now let us yell it out so the detroit police escorting nazis around pride, and anyone else who wants to deny or scare us, can hear it: we are your miracle. We are your miracle! We are your miracle!!
Y’all ready for the brilliant Nigerian Michigan miracle that is Tunde Olaniran??!!”

More screams, and then Tunde snatched the Motor City Pride wig right off.

moved to tears

lately i’ve been crying a lot. moved to tears at least once a day.

this morning my nibbling, who just turned 9, sang me songs that she created, played on her ukulele, recorded on the birthday gift i got her, a little handheld personal recorder. i felt so impressed by her creativity and the caliber of her lyrics, her voice – i was sitting there in auntie wonder, eyes shining, trying to play it cool.

i have been moved to tears by this new awareness i have of boundaries, needing them, feeling empowered to express them, having them honored.

the current apocalypse, being reminded of the speed of extinction. all my friends about to have babies, the dream feelings of holding their baby bellies and feeling the sweet spirits in them. visits from beloved ghosts.

even pleasure has been moving me to tears – resting into the arms of any of the many people i love and am loved by, in various states of coherence and need. stealing sweet moments for my body, like resting on the site of this fast river feeling that comes with giving my life to purpose.

and my latest lesson in humility has moved me to tears. i tried one again to control my own changes (sigh). change set me back into my place and reminded me i can dance with her, be free alongside her, grow with and through her, but never control her…tears of surrender and grief and laughter – it’s ridiculous to be a human trying to do so much with so little time or knowledge.

and it’s remarkable how many tears wait for release in me. even though i was all cried out yesterday, today i am full again.