Author Archive for Adrienne

Alana Slays Dragons

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

my Black August poems

every Black August I engage in collective practice with many people in the work of abolition and particularly remembering and lifting up political prisoners. I write letters and poems to those still behind bars, and write haikus with my BOLD family.

these are not great poems, but I appreciate the haiku form for pushing me to get to the essence of what I’m thinking.

this year most of the poems in some way relate to prompts from M Archive, Alexis Pauline Gumbs latest spiritual must-read text. the prompts were developed by Spirit House.

enjoy.

1.
cells so full of us
burst open, dear and wild, Black
liberated life
????

2. remember shackles
remember finding magic
these fingers know spells

these hands held the rape
they recall tapping poison
they recall birth mess

remember black bars
gripped in fingers finding sun
reaching for freedom

remember child cheeks
these hands raised up a Black world
these fingers know spells
????
.

3. Detroit Summer youth:
– hard shells that break into smiles
– Black brilliance walking
????

.

4. in her drank and men
in her laughter and babies
grandma brown got free

in her loneliness
unglamorous uniform
she grew too weary

????
(prompt from M Archive, joys and pains in my dna)

.

5. breathing thru this wall
out over fire-dry land
out to the Black sea

all that exists now
back to that cold beginning
beyond future flame

into your broken heart
to the very edge of life…
and then we exhale

????
prompt from M Archive (what collective breathing and love makes possible)

6. beloved precious
innocent unbroken child
needing everything

two streams flowing clear
miracle and breathless awe
enough, once, enough

????
(prompt, M Archive, who you are on first breath)

7. our reparations
need abolition, love song,
the debt so massive

not just our labor
not just money, but Black lives
spent in fields, cages

freedom, nothing less
nothing alive imprisoned
that is our North star

fight not for dollars
but for land, for years, for breath
for bone deep freedom

????
M Archive prompt, what words have not been spoken, are left unsaid

8. bye bob bye bob bye
evil don’t prosper too long
Kayla fights for mike

we win these rigged games
because we fight together
Black back to Black back

???
????

9. anyanwu lessons
I quiet myself enough
to hear bones, fault lines

hear trauma calling
out from my hip, dropping masks
listen on purpose

today Mike Brown waves
ripple through my pain center
touching all my grief

I feel everything
this is how I spend my life
feeling surrender

I practice recall
reclaiming scarred memory
uncoil my sacrum

I practice breathing
be here, right now, regardless
alive, of my time

I practice seeing
beyond the time horizon
shaping the future

I practice quiet
learn when I choose how to be
reclaim agency

practice not knowing
change is all. and miracle.
turn and face your life.

????
(prompt, M Archive on what are you practicing. calling on Octavia Butler’s beloved healer Anyanwu for inspiration.)

10. swallowed the rage and
made it something beautiful
you loved it, not me

now i interrupt
demand true abolition
throughout our movements

not to be righteous –
to get free, all of us free
we must see the bars

we must see our hands
we must follow our dollars
we must love our rage

????

11. sifting through shadows
I find lives I did not live
scars I never bled

massive weight to pull
the years growing back to land
years of blades and wound

centuries mothered
through the impossible pain:
visionary love

we always know home
know we lost, know we seeking
sifting through shadows

????
prompt from M Archive

12. bodies melt into
one mass universe scale ‘yes!’
this is a greeting

‘suck this breast darling
grab onto something solid’
(remember delight)

laughter moves my flesh –
that earthquakeish movement, these
tectonic mood shifts

I can carry it
when I plant my feet earth sighs
saying ‘yes come home’

lovers do marvel
say ‘no, stay naked, feel sun’
unlearn skinny love

children dive into
these arms, this bosom, they know
they can rest deep here

a road to freedom
is held in her fat black palms
when she touches you

????

prompt M Archive (write about the love of a fat black woman)

13. mind knows black brilliance
hands, divine work of pleasure
soma, our oneness

my skin reads the room
my gut feels the storm coming
knows if we survive

my tongue knows your taste
my spine knows undulation,
the music that moves

feet know to open
heart knows release, ritual
body knows to live

my body knows how
to live survive dream give love
and let go, let go

????

m archive prompt: what the body knows

14. always been freedom
dialectical Blackness
spiraling upwards

????

prompt from M Archive

15. woven in my skin
longing, belonging, and loss
still in your rhythm

????

m archive prompt on relationship to Africa

16. we already dead
we lived before, we let go
we chose to return

we not tied to you
but we love all around you:
say yes to what is

when you can’t hold us
we’re in your blood, under skin,
your sound memory

finished with the fear
the small longings, broken hearts
we are left with Black

????
M Archive, on the dead who are with us, while grieving Aretha

24. I kissed the ocean
lost myself in languages
I will never know

unlocked my Blackness
from suffering, from smallness
from expectation

found my skin wider
world scale in undulation
beyond any wall

freedom is quiet
many paths will bring you home
wander further now

here and now is brief
travel back, correct the harm
then, go everywhere

???? (back in land of signals and data, been practicing in other ways for a bit.)

27. ask the question, pray,
tears flowing, dripping, crashing.
hush: I know nothing

quiet politics
until you can hear your heart
learn your own rhythm

in that still pulsing
let your knowing fall away
listen for fire

????

28. we lock ourselves up
the prison concept spills bars
we call shackles love

teach each other ‘nope.’
limits, office hours, greed,
singular beliefs

live in old footprints
circling worn paths throughout time
caught in righteousness

judging each new inch
punishing each stumbled step
we create the walls

freedom is a way
to protect the part we play
in evolution

freedom is a path
from one heart to another
on a long dark night

????

31. we may look so wild
we crying with our hands up
frustration and praise

raging over change
feeling the differences
more than the oneness

we dream together
but the path is long, labor
lasts through the black night

what is emerging
is too new to bear our weight
caught the old trauma

but so beautiful
a movement of breathe and scale
we intentional

flawed midwives, mothers
raise up miracles daily
hands scarred and lovefull

flawed humans, dreamers
rededicate our whole selves
to revolution

????

if you want to go far…

two days ago i got the news that my wage levy is lifted.

in january i was at a meeting and my bank card stopped working. i checked my accounts and all of my money had been withdrawn. by the irs. and they’d put a wage levy on me.

i asked for help, hired a company, and began to wait. and pray. and surrender. and change my relationship to money and value. and assess my financial landscape. and put this in perspective to other things of value. and recenter connection in my assessment of wealth. and lose mad sleep. and learn how to speak my financial situation aloud with my dignity intact. and pray to all the deities and cast all the spells.

i was a war tax resister for many years, and this is my punishment. i still deeply agree with the politics that led to this action, but i know now that i didn’t do it the right way. i acted as an individual, as if my singular act of rage should be respected, as if it could have meaningful impact on the systems of oppression that lead to the military spending i want to divest from.

it helped me sleep well at night, but it wasn’t tied into a collective strategy, a system of accountability around whether it was effective. someday i hope to be part of larger direct action efforts around debt and taxes, but from this struggle i have learned in a most personal way the importance of the collective. i am also interested in debt coverage as reparations in radical communities. more to come on this.

i am very grateful to the small massive circle that has held me down through this. i am challenged in asking for help, a basic human thing, so these are people who read between the lines, persisted, asked awkward questions, were generous with attention and resources, and countered my negative self talk while also encouraging my humility.

it will take me a while to integrate the lessons. moving through the financial-emotional roller coaster of this year has been humbling. i wanted to share this big lesson, that going as far as i am meant to go in this life will only happen with others, because it is so simple, hard and clear. and my gratitude for the lesson is overflowing.

the quiet hours

i love the quiet hours
pale beach or soft lamp light
i slow down until the sound can’t catch me
so slow you couldn’t see me
while they sleep without dreams
while they dream of being normal
i gather light from the stars
stars, you shine? light is time
time is light moving towards us
having let go already of that old life
or, each star is a life being lived
everything we see has happened, as it happens,
we reflect and plan, stars are
until they are not
we go dark some day
but a little bit every day will keep you humble and hungry for that quiet place
between the dark and the light
when it’s too beautiful to look
when no one answers
so you have to live with those thoughts
true. true. still.
maybe it will all get forgotten
maybe apocalypse is a chaos of memory
and if so, if so, why remember, anyway
only memories make a case for it
only the smallest snapshots
and really, only a handful, two
but the gift has no boundaries
spills through fingers
always unexpected, all that vicious feeling
we’re all accidents, walking,
late for purpose.
man, if we weren’t miracles.
i love the quiet hours
no cars pass, the walkers are silent
involved in secrets guided by their soft bellies
singing internal songs that cannot be translated
cannot be measured or placed in a rhythm
in the quiet we shift into freedom
a memory
a fantasy
a structure to our sentience
a longing that seems familiar
what we mean by love
you’re free, you make me feel free
not to run but to rest
not to get lost, but to stay found
not to root but to unfurl into the earth
not to reach but to remember
we have to ‘wait till the midnight hour’
that’s all we ever need to know

Detroit Summer Spell

yesterday i got the honor of spending some time with Detroit Summer on the last day of their programming.

the very first time i came to Detroit was to work with an earlier iteration of this incredible youth program. this year, alumni from those earlier years decided to run the program again. they invited me in to give some emergent strategy framing on the front end. i had each of the young people identify something in nature that aligned with their energy, something they wanted to bring to the summer of collaboration and creativity. they picked things like the playfulness of monkeys, the easy transition of beaches, the calming force of rain.

yesterday we started out by going around the circle and asking each young person what they had brought to the summer program. it is so important to understand that we shape everything we are a part of.

we then did a brief writing reflection: what did i bring to Detroit Summer, and what did i receive from Detroit Summer that i want to bring forward into my life.

i’m sharing this here because we all know about going off and having magical, transformative experiences and then returning to life and feeling like the magic gets swallowed by the mundane or stressful aspects of life.

from these reflections, they wrote brief spells: i use my power of ___(insert things you brought to the program)_____ in order to generate _____(insert things you received from the program)_______ in my life.

many of the spells involved using the power of humor, kindness, listening, calm, confidence in order to generate connection, community, happiness, belonging and creative work. i was impressed and inspired by the growth of relationships and sense of community between my first session with the young people and yesterday.

shout out to zena, jon and dakarai for taking this on and doing a beautiful job! Detroit Summer forever!

small reviews

this summer has been a series of close and distant struggles interspersed with a life of immense joy. here are some things i am enjoying:

Atlanta: The exploration of cool and uncool, making it and failing, safety and danger…this show goes so far and gives me a comfort in how uncomfortable and honest it’s willing to be.

Attack on Titan: Anime heaven. High drama, low logic, fly strange pacing, more questions than answers.

The Call podcast: great conversations with dope women. The lastest interview is with the homey Samhita!

High as Hope, new album from Florence and the Machine: I love how big and dramatic their music is in general. This album had lines that felt big, tender, and perfectly tuned to this moment in time. “oh/Jesus Christ/it hurts”, “grace/I know you carry us/grace/it was such a fucking mess/grace/I don’t say it enough/grace/this is the only thing I have any faith in”, “remind me that it’s such a wonderful thing to love”, “give me arms to pray with, instead of ones that hold too tightly”, “the loneliness never left me/I always took it with me/but I can put it down in the pleasure of your company”…and then these bits on the changing planet, changing climate, on safety, on morality, on surrender, that just feel perfectly timed, and perfectly sung. Florence gives me satisfaction in my Stevie Nicks place, epic witchy truth telling music. Florence sings in the scales of oceans and gods, both vocally and topically. She floods me with feeling.

The King is Always Above the People, stories from Daniel Alarçon: the homey has always written incredible stories and continues his legacy here, dancing in and out of his own history with touches of fiction and emotional, uncomfortable truths.

Lamp Lit Prose, new album from Dirty Projectors: I’m glad I listened to this album on a plane without distractions. Dirty Projectors is one of my favorite bands when I’m in a quirky soulful place. This album may be their most political to date, with songs about zombie apocalypse and “monsters eating their young” interwoven with dynamic and compelling love songs. They have lots of pretty sounds from their mouths, but continually choose to juxtapose those sounds creatively instead of resting in the beauty. They keep my attention.

M Archive, by Alexis Pauline Gumbs: AAAAAHHHHHH. I blurbed this book, and it’s only been out a couple months and I had to read it again because it’s that excellent. Visionary. Prophetic. Beautiful. Matter of fact. So good. Honest.

Pho, Ari Lennox: this is a sweet sexy album. lovely voice, cuddling lyrics.

Queen Sugar: I keep yelling Oh Shit at the screen when I’m watching this season. I love the ways they are adding layers to these characters.

Steven Universe, Vol 1: This show has amazing songs. This show is amazing. The degree to which people appreciate Steven Universe is a new measure for how much I can really like said people.

Scorpion, Drake: KIKI! There’s a lot of great music here. I felt personally invited into this album by the sample selections – Mariah, Lauryn, Big Freedia, MJ. He could use editing, but not because there’s bad stuff. There’s good stuff and great stuff, and he leaves a lot of that good stuff in, which keeps this from being a great album. My cut: Nonstop, Emotionless (that sample! that social media critique! line “hiding the world from my kid” line!), God’s Plan (he’s beefing at the level of karma), I’m Upset!, Sandra’s Rose (the beat is just rich and lovely), I’d There More (Drake on the edge of a meditation retreat), Peak, Summer Games (that 80s glamor shot space movie beat), Nice for What? (twerkfection – pleasure music for working women? yes, still on repeat), In My Feelings, Finesse, Ratchet Happy Birthday (I would just call it Drake Happy Birthday cause it’s not really ratchet), That’s How You Feel (I like the wordplay, the Nicki snippets, just the combative energy), Don’t Matter to Me, After Dark (I love all of this song, levels of love), Final Fantasy (bedroom threats) first half, March 14 (journal entries).

plus: seeing Janelle Monae in concert was great… her stepping into her queer sexy idol self is impressive and endearing.

plus: seeing The Carters in concert with my sisters was exquisite. I wasn’t sure how the narrative would land on me, but I was moved to tears and rooting for them and screaming and loved the surprises and the movie they made alongside the concert.

“kindness eases change” for real

dear aliens-unseen-and/or-beyondhumans-and-spirits/gods/deities-and-other-benevolent-entities-aware-of-this-planet,

it’s probably selfish to ask for your help. you may only know my planet from its space garbage or psychic toxicity. nonetheless, today would be a good day for some advice or intervention.

this morning i witnessed a white man screaming at a black man in detroit. i was preparing to give a brief talk, so i finished it with Octavia’s words, “kindness eases change”…how did she know this? and how do we practice this with those who are not practicing?

i was born in the US and in my lifetime it has not much improved as an experiment in coexistence. mostly it’s been this same type of black and white interaction, with different clothing on. there’s a constant turning away from each other, competing against each other, harming each other for complex reasons and then not growing beyond the harm.

our planet is gorgeous and fecund, but my species is swallowing everything with greed based consumption practices and crowding the biodiversity out of existence. and then we try and come together, sometimes the pressures of the world push us down until we explode.

i am thinking a lot about what kind of freedom is available for sentient beings, and, in a separate but connected part of me, wondering if sapience always has to move us away from freedom because something about being able to think leads to control behaviors. almost everyone i hear talking about freedom is simultaneously proposing an alternative system of control. perhaps we have strayed too far from freedom in our evolution, and it will take many generations to remember how to be wild.

how long is long enough? how long is too long? are we on time?

i’m sending this message to you through many minds, because my comrades and i do not have access to the space range communication devices on our planet. or confirmation of most things we would need to know to send this message to you, such as your existence. still, i write this, and others will read it and it will become a small part of collective consciousness. and i suspect that any species more evolved than us will have the capacity to know what the collective consciousness knows.

how do we get through this? how do we keep going when it’s really very hard and overwhelming?

there are many ways to look at history, one way is as a scroll of suffering. i wouldn’t want to live at a time before this, even though it’s all going to shit right now. perhaps it is my limited imagination, or my ego, which thinks i am more free than my ancestors were, more connected.

i am tired of the story of suffering, of being defined and sorted and gathered and deepened by shared suffering.

i am many kinds of people, and i want us all to get a cosmic, psychic, material break. i think we need a breath in between all the cancer and breakdowns and trauma and bad leadership and kidnapped children and racism and hatred.

i will speak for me, i need a break.

so how do we generate boundaries that don’t become borders? how do find the balance between the self and the collective – how do we learn how full our cups should be in order to have enough to share without getting empty, without constant spilling?

all i’m really saying is we’re tired, i’m tired and i often feel like that’s not allowed. but it’s for the whole species, i’m tired like a velociraptor.

how do we be tired and stagger ourselves and get humble and make our small offers valiantly and with joy? how do we grieve without losing sight of life?

how do we become a species worth keeping?

all answers welcome…i’m sure you aliens-unseen-and/or-beyondhumans-and-spirits/gods/deities-and-other-benevolent-entities-aware-of-this-planet will channel it back through human mouths and fingers and i am open to it, i need it.

thanks,
amb