Author Archive for Adrienne

Dear Stacey

Dear Stacey,

Don’t give in.

I lived in Georgia for four years once. Sometimes when I tell my story I include the truth that I learned about racism in Georgia – I’d experienced it before, but Georgia was where it was organized, a shameless system.

Don’t give in.

Now I’m in Detroit. We had a relatively good election. But it was you I couldn’t look away from…I watched your race as if borders didn’t exist and I could vote for you! I couldn’t sleep until I knew you weren’t giving in.

Don’t give in!

We know you won. We feel it. You are real, and you love us, you won us. Every Georgian I know voted for you. Everyone else, we donated, we reached out to all of our Georgia people, we made calls, we spread the word. And we all plan to vote for you one day.

3E1C1483-68F8-4CE1-B0C4-4902582290AE

Please don’t give in. Even if you can’t get light into every shadow of this race, even if you are told to concede, even if they try to complete the story, you ain’t finished yet.

You are a love scholar, a romance novelist – this is a love story. We see who you are, and we love you. We’re staying. We won’t give in.

love,
amb and errybody I know

election day spell

spell for election day; utter out loud anytime between 12:01 and poll closing where you are. #goodwitch #spells #castouttheconfederacy #blacknovember

we recognize that voting
is only meaningful when we act together
as movement, as future ancestors

today we put aside our egos
we set down perfection,
and our privilege,
and our butbutbutandand righteousness

today we show up for those furthest from power
those carrying the most of our burden
those we’ve already lost to hate in this pale time
we say no where it is the only humane word
and yes where it is a way forward, another breath

we hold history and future in the balance.
we vote to take up our responsibility
we vote as both prayer and blessing
we open the way, widen the way, change the way
ashe

we are intelligent (grieving alana)

my friend alana died last weekend.

i say friend even though we had very little time in person together, and even though by the time i met her in person she was already diagnosed with metastatic cancer so there was a time limit, which i figured we could best with magic. really i was her fan. but i say friend because she was the coolest, and i dedicated part of my heart to her forever.

i fell in love with her in large part because my friend malkia loved alana in so big a way that everyone who heard about or witnessed the love felt blessed to hold a part of it. it felt like the parachute game from my childhood: everyone hold her here, and live in her beautiful circumference.

7A853255-2BED-454F-A82E-FA282A0BA9F9

after we met, alana and i played games together on our phones (she always won by a lot – and i never took it easy), and i meditated and visualized her health every day. i sent her original songs/jingles, tarot cards, energy and spells on big medical days. loving alana, with and in addition to malkia, became a daily practice. it’s a continuing daily practice for a huge community of people.

when we did hang out we talked. we got high together. we talked about fear and pleasure and big love and what really matters in life. we talked about mindfulness, and how she wanted to keep her attention on life and love. we talked about how badass she felt going through the challenges of cancer (“i was awake while they did shit to my brain!”), and about how much she really didn’t want to die. and then about how cancer was hard. and then about what shows i thought she had to watch before she died.

alana was intelligent – “having or showing the ability to easily learn or understand things, or to deal with new or difficult situations” (merriam webster)

alana had a kind of intelligence beyond any dictionary, too. it is the intelligence that recognizes how unique and miraculous life is, an intelligence that moves towards the best of life – love, pleasure, laughter, nature, connection, ice cream, dirty dancing, play. she rapped kendrick lamar flawlessly. she had an emotional intelligence that allowed her to feel what she was feeling and say so, and find love and connection that was about honesty and feeling together. when the worst news came, she could feel her fear in direct relation to all she loved, and she could wish such love and fear on everyone.

i want to admit that i have been feeling the peculiar bitterness that comes when i lose one of my intelligent friends on a day when lots of unintelligent (by any definition) people continue to live and make horrible decisions that effect me and the whole planet and future.

is there a name for that?

through my grief i notice how ok i am with the human reality that everyone dies, and how not ok i am with us dying in unfair ways, too early, for reasons that may be related to other people’s unintelligent choices about how to exist on this planet. i feel cancer that way, as some misguided response to an environment that is more physically and emotionally toxic each year. it makes me furious that cancer is so abundant and insatiable, and yet not one of the central focuses of our species…we’d rather foment war and wackness.

i feel angry and sad i didn’t get more alana in my life, and i’m grateful for how generous she and malkia were with her/their time, that i got to laugh and sing and learn with her, that so many people got to spend time with her.

and in her honor, i want to redefine intelligence. i don’t care if someone is really quick of mind, not if they only use it to compete with others, to deny the precious gift of life, to injure the relationship we have to the planet as a species. i want intelligence to be measured by the standard of alana – by a commitment to pleasure and loving life.

or the standard of my friend yulanda, who died last year, who made life – particularly moments of terrifying transition – delicious.

or my mother’s best friend kathy, who died last year, who worked to create abundant food sources so all humans could eat.

or my friend donaji’s son chuy, who died last year, who stayed a child in many ways, who giggled when he received grown up art projects (like collective get well cards).

i want intelligence to be a function of adapting to changing circumstances by always moving towards love and right relationship. not just surviving, but filling our days with pleasure and caring and delight, reveling in life.

i want to stop celebrating the quick stupidity of those who use their minds to keep us from each other, or disrespect/harm our connection to our only home in this universe, to those who choose misery, isolation, destruction and ignorance as a life path.

i want to change governance and schooling and media and philanthropy and architecture and math and research patterns and city planning and all human systems to align with alana’s intelligence.

during this thin time, i want ancestors old and brand new to be heard, telling us how precious the miracle of life is, guiding us to treasure it, to taste the ice cream, to say yes over and over to love, to organize our lives and structures around beauty and connection, and to claim our transformative capacity with each breath.

running hurdles at the schvitz

dear humans with capacity to hear about some racisms,

tonight I went to the schvitz in detroit for the first and probably only time. I was excited – anyone who knows me knows I love basically any kind of public bath, banya, hammam, sauna, hot spring. this one is very old, and most of its life has only held the naked public bathing antics of men. but it’s reopened as a bathhouse with men’s, women’s and coed nights.

I wanted to love it.

I was the only visibly Black person there. this is not unusual for me in terms of bathhouses, but anytime I’m in a space in Detroit with no Black people, I feel like I’m in a deleted scene from Get Out!

to be precise, there were no other visibly non white people there.

the person who was supposed to give me a tour didn’t include the actual baths. I didn’t notice this until I saw her giving the full tour later. it gave me a slight hmmm feeling.

I’m often slow to realize racism is happening to me. I can see it for others, like a nibbling sees me sneaking chocolate (this is the most hunter like vision I know of). but I’m my father’s child. he survived impossible racism by denying it was happening, or, if it was undeniable, seeking the humanity of the racist and then quickly forgetting the whole thing. the thought that this was a racist oversight only emerges, for me, in context of what followed.

I brought the Vanity Fair with Michael B Jordan on the front; I love the challenges of reading a magazine as it steams apart, and I wanted to be in my own little world – this was one of my days off in a packed work period. the first sign that I was in the wrong place was when a clueless voice called across the banya (which basically means hot ass room): “who is Michael B Jordan?”

I turn around – I was facing away from everyone and reading in order to send the clear message that I didn’t want to engage with humans. I look briefly at this very young white girl, wondering what kind of social exclusion it must be, to be so out of touch with human contact that you can’t read a full body ‘leave me alone’, and so out of touch with your generation that you don’t recognize Michael B Jordan on sight. I say he was one of the stars of Blek Paintha, a crossover hit. another very young white girl says, “not the star though right? I don’t think, right? but he could be?”

I can’t think of anything nice to say, so I return to my reading.

A while later the woman who didn’t give me the tour sets up to do the platza treatment – the person getting treated lays on the highest, hottest level of the banya and gets beaten with oak leaves and then massaged with soap. I scoot away so I don’t get splashed.

This dialogue follows:

person about to receive treatment: is that Dr Bronners?
untour lady (the bottle is clearly branded): Yes!
patrt: {describes an allergic reaction to Dr. Bronners} but let’s do it!
untour lady: ok.
patrt: {possibly said some other things, but what I next heard was} it’s probably made by enslaved children.

I freeze, because my body carries memories of enslaved children, and it always freezes when reminded of this weight.

someone else, in the banya: right?
patrt: slave child rash!

laughter.
laughter?
laughter.

no one speaks up, and I wonder if I am invisible or too visible. is this cluelessness or aggravation or threat?

I notice where I am – in a basement with no windows, in the back corner of a sprawling tile bathhouse, naked and Black. I splay my energy wide around me like peacock feathers.

I hear the ways I could say something to this room of sweating naked white strangers, but then I add up the cost to myself of doing free educational labor for ignorant white people on my day off. when something so egregious is spoken aloud, it’s not enough to name it, you have to also teach it. I have allocated my free or low cost labor to Black people. and I already paid the $30 entry fee.

I stand up so slowly, like if I move slow enough I could slip right out of this warped dimension of white gentrification and into the future post-horrific bathhouse I’m going to open. I go to cool down in every way in the cold pool at the center of the bathhouse, this is my second dip of the evening. the first time another blather slipped past me, swam, and left without a word. I want to shout her out, as long as she wasn’t in the banya for the enslaved children remark.

anyway the water, it’s super cold, so I just go in to my thighs so my arthritic knees can feel some relief. this time a white woman splashes in loudly from the edge and tells me “it’s shallow if you can’t swim.”

I swim every day that I can. I’m more mermaid than any other magical creature. I feel responses well up, coherent, from deep within me. one response involves me singing Chakra Khan’s classic ‘I’m every woman! it’s all in me” but with the lyrics “I’m Esther Williams! Bitch can’t you see?”

but in equal measure to my rage is my exhaustion from teaching classes I didn’t sign up for.

back in the banya, hoping the racists have migrated, I get a moment’s peace. there is one other woman there, and she’s mostly quiet.

then two tall white women walk in, one of whom has a european accent and is loudly cataloging every thing she sees. I wait, knowing the heat eventually quiets everyone. loud lady is dramatically shushed by her friend. I’m reading and reclaiming my schvitz.

I get up and leave the room. as soon as the door closes they start giggling and whispering. curious. I realize I’ve forgotten my towel and slip back in to grab it. they freeze, three blonde raccoons in a trash can.

I wonder if this is an elaborate prank, or intended to make me feel unwelcome, or just ignorance in the wild. white supremacy is tricky that way, a mixed message, consistent only in its hateful bent.

the rest of the evening was less racist, though it still involved a ton of forced engagement, the kind that makes you appear rude when really you’re just minding your business. I kept slipping to wherever there were the least people, wanting to sweat these small racisms out of my system.

I’m going to stick to the sauna at the gym, where the demographics reflect the city and the other patrons know when to let you cry and when to make you laugh, and how to leave you be. oh, and it’s not a rampant racism zone.

riding the line between memoir and psa,
yours
amb

in the river now

I got a spider bite, a Charley horse, and my period while I was teaching last week. I kept noticing that I was happy in spite of dramatically uncomfortable physical circumstances.

I sniffed a septum piercing retainer into my nose and swallowed it. I’m not searching for it.

I taught 11 of the last 15 days and I’m teaching or facilitating 16 of the next 20. My “days off” keep filling up with calls and yesterday I found myself being rude to someone who didn’t deserve it until I finally just said “I’m too tired to really do this.” This is the level of honesty I need.

I visited my friends Alana and Malkia, who are loving each other fiercely under the weight of metastatic cancer. There was so much laughter that I lost track of precious time. Past a certain age, we are always both living and dying. Knowing or not knowing how, we deteriorate and become vulnerable and need others to hold on and let go. These beloveds are teaching me how I want to live-die, in love, in laughter.

I taught a bunch of somatics over this past month and it has me feeling so much hope about what happens when we can actually feel what’s real. It reminds me that most of us have been taught that our feelings are too much. The muffling and repression of feelings is an industry, and our work is to reclaim the full range of senses, of trusted intuition, of bodyscape memory. Our liberation as a species is tied up with the reclamation of what we can actually feel and do, both in our own miraculous bodies, and with and for each other.

I’m grateful for all the people supporting me as I feel and work and work and feel.

I blew out my right knee and have been lurching around the house, mad at myself for overriding limitations I can now feel.

There’s a voice inside me saying “give up dairy and gluten for a week and see if it helps”. But there’s a voice under that that just rage growls at the first voice while holding Jeni’s Salted Peanut Butter ice cream in one hand and pre-made tzatziki in the other. Yes, my trauma eating patterns are like those of a pregnant woman, but without the 9 month time boundary.

It’s all happening. The climate crisis is now and also moving closer, and it’s devastating to have these decision makers creating dystopic conditions that all of us will suffer in the near future.

I write things to lift my own eyes to the horizon. I’m pleased with this piece I wrote for Vice on making a better tomorrow.

I’m also pleased with how the podcast is going, we have had big talks about burnout and state violence, launched our first apocalypse skills episode, and have a very juicy inspiring conversation with electoral geniuses Jessica Byrd and Kayla Reed coming up next week.

I’ve decided Myrtle Snow is my style icon for my 40s. And I’m going to learn to make cheese rolls like they make at Arizmendi bakery this decade. I have trips to Thailand, Ireland and Belgrade planned for the next year, I keep learning how to balance nesting and migration.

I think that’s all the random bits to share. Shout out to any of you who make it all the way to the end of this rush. I’m truly in the river now, it’s moving fast, but I haven’t forgotten this poorly designed place where some of y’all just come for the words.

Dr Ford’s Dignity

7B2E4F23-BF7E-4080-B643-E33DB845B345

the work was done, and there is heartache and victory in it.

the decision will come and it may be a logical decision (to stop Brett Kavanaugh from becoming a member of a body meant to hold integrity and accountability), or it may be an irrational and politicized decision (to barrel forth with this mess).

regardless, Kavanaugh has been marked by his actions in public, his dirty hands showing, his rageful face showing precisely how a boy who sexually assaults a girl while he is drunk looks when he grows up. his true self showed today, and every survivor who saw his face, who heard Christine Blasey-Ford say she was once scared he might kill her, recognized him as a perpetrator.

and Dr. Ford stood in her dignity, her life – changed long ago by this trauma – is now again forever changed by her bravery. her dignity helped her stand there in her terror and revisit her trauma. she even explained to the world how trauma works in the brain, because like all of us, she is not only a survivor but a whole human being…and in this case, a scientist.

Amilcar Cabral taught us to “claim no easy victories”. i deeply believe that – and i am curious about how we understand what a victory is in this political climate. i was teaching all day yesterday. i read the testimony laying in bed, after reading about Bill Cosby finally being held accountable in the only way possible in his lifetime.

i want to share that i believe it is a victory that the attention of the nation was on this hearing, and that this brilliant woman stood in her dignity and told the truth. now everyone has to face it. those who are doing everything possible to regress humanity back into caves still have a say in the decision of this moment. they may not be transformed by Dr Ford’s dignity, by Kavanaugh’s pathetic guilt. but the landscape of this long war against patriarchy and rape culture is changed by her advance, by this battle.

the #metoo movement is opening up the closets of this country. when Dr. Ford tells her truth, in her dignity, she is flanked by millions of survivors finding our voices and tired of the bullshit. we shake and we cry and we rage and we battle through the day. we cast binding spells. we tell our stories, again and for the first time. we are not passive observers. we are survivors who have learned and are learning to alchemize our pain into futures that don’t hurt our children’s children. our stories are our slingshots, and we are moving forward. and none of us move alone. we are growing from #metoo to #wetoo, and we hold each other up on days like this.

and Kavanaugh, regardless of the decision made about his work, still has options for his soul. his legacy doesn’t have to be that face full of rage and denial, barrelling towards a false entitlement. he can turn and face his actions, his history. he can atone and be accountable. it is important that all perpetrators know that.

but for me, i want to recognize the victory of Dr. Ford, the dignity of that survivor telling her story and shifting the lens through which we see this man and any governing body that would accept him without him taking accountability for these illegal and immoral actions. i hope she is being celebrated properly by those closest to her. i hope there is victory in her heart.

Alana Slays Dragons

6D21BBBE-39CE-42EF-9179-DCA0F4D5B304

my friend Alana needs your help. she is well into the miracle phase of her life. we all know that we are going to die, but most of us don’t know how, and we can pretend the time is far away. for two years now, Alana has woken up every day knowing that cancer is inside her body, too far along to be stopped, the number of her possible days spoken aloud. she shares each step of her journey, finding the humor, the pleasure, the connection in each battle. she reads Harry Potter, and she plays scrabble, and she slays dragons. it’s never fair when someone gets sick in this way, at this young age. but Alana’s fight is especially unfair, because my friend is in the kind of love that humans long for at the cellular level, the kind of love that deserves forever, the kind of love that cannot be quiet. her love and life are a benefit to all who cross her path. please go and read her incredible, vulnerable blog. it ends with this donation link – give her more days to live, more days to love. give her family space and time with this badass angel. give give give!

I’m upset! #usopen

Ooh. I watched the US Open today.

Ooh!

I’m upset.

06B41368-56C2-4554-A7CC-5331C1E0A60A

I feel like Serena was not robbed, she was disrespected. This feels like Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, where a white man did something he wasn’t supposed to do and an incredible Black woman gets shamed in front of a massive audience.

It’s shame. Shame when you ban a player’s functional outfit that fits her incredible black body, when you make the best athlete alive wear a skirt. Shame when you beef with her over her coach’s actions. Shame when you punish her in a measure incongruent the US Open. Shame when you distort the first major victory of Naomi Osaka (the first Japanese player to win here, in a championship over an idol) with unnecessary drama.

Serena was so clear each step of the debacle: this is wrong. She had a right to be mad, she was up against a worthy opponent and struggling. And she’ll be fine, she has saved her own life, she has forged her own path many times. Osaka will also be fine, she’s an incredible player and I wish her all the unmarred victories in the world.

Who/what may not be fine is the US Open itself. The US Open needs to catch up with the race and gender dynamics of their victors. Real adult women are emotional under the pressures of the game, just like men players. A Black woman’s rage at being insulted is not irrational. If you don’t evolve, you will continue to make calls that are sexist, patriarchal, and racist.

The way Serena defended herself though – on her baby she wasn’t going to be called a cheater!

DDE29C26-A04E-4F0C-AF24-BA085FCBCC67

To his credit, her coach Patrick Mouratoglou was like “yes I was coaching,” which we already knew cause cameras. He added, “everyone does it”, with a shrug. Serena – if she saw him or not – also knew the culture, we all knew that. We’ve all spent years witnessing coaching on the court (so much so that I didn’t even know it wasn’t legal), as well as tantrums. It’s so important that everyone has the right to express righteous rage, to stand up for themselves. Serena has transformed her rage into some of the most incredible victories of all sports anywhere. She could have done that here, given a fair chance. Or lost on her own limitations.

This was wack.

White supremacy decides when to enforce the rules, and who will pay the price. Serena’s rage, it ached to witness. It wasn’t fair to her. It wasn’t fair to Osaka – she was heading to victory without this drama.

I’m upset!

birthday blessing

we have now entered the sacred window that only comes once a year, between Beyoncé’s birthday today and my own on the 6th.

a lot of people have asked how they can support me in my new IRS situation, which involves paying the govt more money than i have. every month. (i was a war tax resister, i reflected on my learnings on my blog)

any money given to me will just be more taxes to pay later. but what really matters to me is supporting and protecting the work of the Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute. i don’t want the work to drift because i’m being made to feel scarcity. i’m feeling clearer than ever that it’s time to offer emergent strategy facilitation training, i want to answer this call. monthly or one-time donations to make sure that this budding little institute can actually cover my salary, let me hire someone brilliant to grow the work, and let us focus on making the offer of facilitation training for 2019, this is the birthday gift i want.

if you have been moved by emergent strategy, by the thinking and writing and facilitation, if it can come from the heart, please give. in the memo put “ESII birthday donation” so i can thank you all for being my birthday blessing.

5E9BF723-A00F-4393-91BB-79B527969EA8

lightning guidance

i’ve been traveling for the last month, and in almost every place i’ve been, there’s been undeniable lightning and thunder.

lightning in the woods over Minnesota.
lightning over the sea in Pantelleria, Italy – i may have been naked in it, singing and praise dancing.
lightning from a plane flying through Chicago – so fantastical that I hardly resented the ten hour delay in travel. hardly.
and now, lightning in Idlewild as i write this, long horizontal flashes followed by rolling thunder.

it’s my birthday month, and this is the beginning of my birthday week. i turn 40, and i’m ecstatic, taking nothing for granted, surrounded by brilliant artists and thinkers, letting the number be both random and miraculous.

i looked up the meaning of lightning, since i’ve seen more of it in the last few weeks than i have in the last few years. aretha is the research soundtrack, because i’m grieving her, and because she clearly understood lightning. i found/learned many things:

lightning means a loss of ignorance.
the arrival of truth.
fertility and creativity (if those are different).
it marks a sacred place, or a sacred time.
the union of fire and water in power.
the sign of the coming storm.

there’s so many variations to it – the singular bolts, the wide sky rolling and bursting with light, the split bolts that come in twos and threes, the horizontal ones that seem like rainbows of white fire.

i know less and less about the general, the universal. perhaps everything is connected, even though there are paths of humanity i can’t feel at all. i’m less certain.

i’m getting clearer and clearer about what is true for me, true in me. what i can trust and what i can live without. who gets to measure my worth? i’m learning this. who gets to shape my future? i’m learning this. who do i live with and for? i’m learning.

the way comes through in clear ecstatic explosions, in connection, in a moment where i can do nothing but be present. lightning calls me into the present moment, and i arrive again and again with an undeniable shriek, expecting mass wonder. so i linger in delighted reverence. i watch storms roll in until i feel the spray on my face. i watch near open bodies of water and from under trees, risking proximity until i can smell it, feeling inside that i am safe – if some day i’m not, it will be a spectacular miscalculation. and i’ll die happy.

at the beginning of this year, i had a different relationship to every major area of my life than i do now. it has been a year of deep thunder quaking me open, and bright illuminating light showing me my limits and my memories and my self.

i read American Gods during this period and have been reminded of the thunderbirds, their lightning of the eyes, and what storms can obscure. i was reminded that i am fickle about god in this way – any time i feel awe i see god.

i don’t want a god who doesn’t live in the heart of all this wonder.

i accept the gift of all this birthday lightning as guidance about my work, our work at this time: be nothing less than awe inspiring.
bring light.
move against, but in a way that illuminates the clouded places.
be truth.
cast off ignorance.
cocreate the sacred here and now.
make fire.