remarks from a radical wedding

this past weekend i had the honor of officiating my first wedding. it was a queer wedding, a trans wedding, a love story. here are my notes and remarks from the wedding, crafted in collaboration with martha and nissa, the bride and groom.

We wanted to open with a perspective on love from the science fiction classic, Firefly:

‘You know what the first rule of flying is? … Love. You can learn all the math in the ‘verse, but you take a boat in the air you don’t love, she’ll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she’s hurting ‘fore she keens. Makes her a home.’

Welcome to the wedding of Martha and Nissa!

It is a beautiful and powerful thing to be able to witness and support these two in their brilliant love. I am honored to be here, and to affirm before all of existence that love is a transformative force which bends the world towards liberation.

Octavia Butler says God is change. I feel that here. God is also love. Love is the most sacred thing we can learn to do in this life, that we can practice every day, always getting better.

Thank you to everyone here for showing up to witness Martha and Nissa committing to practice love with each other, every day that they live. And we want to take a moment to honor all of those loved ones and ancestors who are not here in body, but in spirit.

Let love fill us all the way up.

(The groom’s brother read from) Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:

9 Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.

(The bride’s sister read from) bell hooks’ all about love:

The moment we choose to love, we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others. That action is the testimony of love as the practice of freedom.

We do this by choosing to work with individuals we admire and respect; by committing to give our all to relationships; by embracing a global vision wherein we see our lives and vour fate as intimately connected to those of everyone else on the planet.

In our society, we make much of love and say little of fear. Yet we are all terribly afraid most of the time. Fear is the primary force upholding structures of domination – it promotes the desire for separation, the desire not to be known. When we are taught that safety lies in sameness, then difference of any kind will appear as a threat.

When we choose to love, we choose to move against fear, against alienation and separation. The choice to love is a choice to connect, to find ourselves in the other.

To live our lives based on the principles of a love ethic – showing care, respect knowledge, integrity, and the will to cooperate – we have to be courageous. Learning how to face our fears is one way we embrace love. Our fear may not go away, but it will not stand in the way. Those of us who have already chosen to embrace a love ethic – allowing it to govern and inform how we think and act – know that when we let our light shine, we draw to us and are drawn to other bearers of light. We are not alone.
     
I wanted to take a moment to honor what it means for community to hold love.

I believe we are all love stories unfolding, learning over the course of our lives how to truly and unconditionally love ourselves, and then be vulnerable enough to let someone else love us.

There are a lot of strong love stories between these two merging families. If we are lucky we have the support of our families, friends, and community as a support structure for our love.

There are moments when we get lost in each other and it is hard to breath, and we need friends to remind us to give our love space, air, light.

There are moments when we get lost from each other and need direction and guidance to remember and rediscover our love.

There are moments when we turn our backs on each other, overwhelmed by the beauty or trauma of life, when we need to be reminded to lean back against each other.

There are moments when we hurt each other, and need community to support us to continue to reach for each other and be honest, speak our needs and let love flourish between us.

There are moments when our love reshapes the world around us, and we need our families and communities to step forward with us, to let us know we are not alone in our joy.

Community, we ask you to join us in reading from On Marriage, from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. The poem is on the back of your programs, please read the sections in bold.

On Marriage by Kahlil Gibran(community reads the bolded parts –poem to be printed in program)

[...]
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

Now, before these two vow themselves to each other, we thought it would be great to say a word on what a vow is.

A marriage vow is a Commitment to be with each other through changes. We are each mercurial creatures – it is a sign of health that we are growing, changing, learning. When we vow to spend our lives loving each other, it is not a commitment to the person standing before us, as they are, forever and ever. It is a commitment to witness and love their changing self. To continue to learn and grow and change and allow our beloved to witness us. Forever is indeterminate. It is a way of speaking about the horizon we can see, and whatever is beyond the horizon. It is a commitment to journey with each other, whatever twists and turns the road may offer. To stay curious, present, open hearted, compassionate, aware of and beside our beloved.

Got it?

Nissa, will you share with us your vows to Martha?
Martha, will you share with us your vows to Nissa
Adrienne: Do you both promise to honor these vows during your life together?
Nissa and Martha: I do.

(yay!!!)

As family and friends, you form a community of support and love that surrounds Martha and Nissa and will continue to sustain them as they move forward in marriage. Each of you, by your presence here today, is being called upon to uphold them in loving each other, and to fulfill their responsibility to love their community. We ask you to enthusiastically stand with them in this love, with these community vows.

I will ask you some questions and if you agree to them say “i will”

Will you who are present here today, surround this couple in love, offering them the joys of your friendship?

Will you support this couple in their relationship?

At times of conflict will you offer them the strength of your wisest counsel and the comfort of your thoughtful concern?

At times of joy, will you celebrate with them, nourishing their love for one another?

Then it is time for the exchange of rings.

Martha/Nissa, will you repeat after me these vows inspired by the great Al Green?

I am so in love with you.
Whatever you want to do is alright with me.
Cause you make me feel so brand new.
And I want to spend my life with you.
Since we’ve been together
Loving you forever
Is what I need.
Let me be the one you come running to.
I’ll never be untrue.
Let’s stay together.
Whether times are good or bad or happy or sad.

Please place the rings on each other’s hands and repeat after me.

‘I give you this ring as a pledge of my love and commitment to our partnership.’

By the power of love seized by me from the state, I now pronounce you husband and wife!

You may now kiss each other!
(Kissing!!!)

Let the wild rumpus start!

collapse, release, feel

I crawl up the hill
My life too full to carry
I practice collapse

I’m writing haikus this month for Black August, a month of remembering and honoring our political prisoners. Wanted to share this one, which feels like an exact statement on my being right now.

I’m heading into an intensive Somatics training that promises to be intensely physical and, I hope, a good place to get still. I’ve been feeling at breakneck speed. I’ve been talking too fast, too much. I’ve been forgetful, foggy, so happy, so loved, so overwhelmed, so lost. I’m excited to sleep in a tent, significantly reduce my technology use, cry, be a body in a natural world, be in that magical place: away.

Till soon.

thank you to the gallant david strathairn!

so.

yesterday i get on my plane and i am minding my business and look up and see this guy:

20140803_140835

i knew him. i could see him in an FBI jacket, in a military get up. what was his name? argh. i knew that i liked him as an actor. i snapped this picture to send my mom who is The Best at ‘name that actor’. watching movies with my mom is like watching movies with a friendly funny embodied IMDB.

i got off the plane and went to the pick up area. he came walking by while i was on the phone with my sweetheart and i told her, ‘one second.’

i tapped him on the arm and just said, ‘hi, i am a big fan.’

he nodded warmly and then i went back to my phone call and he went on down to sit on one of the pick-up benches.

my ride pulls up. it’s my girl jodie who has this very special white van from japan that is all opposites. she drives on the right side of the van, and i as a passenger had to go around to the left (or traffic) side to get in. i am opening the van door when a car behind us pulls right up on jodie, trying to get around us. the driver immediately starts laying in on the horn.

i lean back and wave at the driver with the universal hand signals that communicate: ‘just a second’. i realize she is some sort of official person, though i couldn’t tell you what she was officially in charge of. but she was maybe airport traffic cop patrol?

my waving and logical hand gesture appeal won us no reprieve, she is on the horn like she is personally having a baby that is having a heart attack and needs to rush them both to the hospital, like that level of urgency. plus yelling, ‘MOVE YOUR [curse curse curse] CAR MOVE!!! MOVE!!!!’ (such language in front of the imaginary urgency baby? no bueno.)

jodie and i are shock laughing as i get my bags in, which are heavier than usual because i am going camping, all with the horn blasting. i think: what a bad day that lady must be having! vitriol is spilling from her mouth like so much dragon fire.

then i hear it, the voice of the aforementioned and now overtly gallant actor. he is yelling back!! i daresay he is defending us! he yells at her to back up and stop making all this noise. when she doesn’t stop, he comes around to the driver’s side and gets in her face, both hands pleading as he yells at her to BE QUIET.

i yell to jodie, ‘that guy’s a famous actor!!’ and we both try to see more and then realize the situation is escalating.

part of me wanted to stop and thank him for being such a beacon of appropriate confrontation, but the larger part wanted to avoid jodie getting a ticket, so i slammed the van door shut and jumped in the front seat.

at this point, jodie is in a tight place because dragon lady had driven right up on us in her beeping fury. jodie backs up enough to kiss the lady’s bumper. in the mirror i see the dragon lady open her car door and explode out, all suburban hair-do and high waisted uniform pants.

‘go, go, go!!’ i yell to jodie as dragon lady starts pounding her fists on the back of the van.

we tear off into the stop-and-go airport traffic, laughing like bonnie and clyde, blessed with our innocence. for no discernable reason, dragon lady stays behind, utterly thwarted. i wonder if she realized she was in a yelling battle with the gifted and elegant david strathairn (figured out not by my usually accurate mama, but by google).

so i just had to take a minute to say: thank you! thank you david strathairn! now i am an even bigger fan.

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nuanced voices on the detroit water situation (shifting from false solutions to real ones)

this past week a victory was declared for the detroit water fight. i got tears in my eyes, i got excited. honey we need some victories.

but i also got concerned and started digging a bit because the groups i have known to be working on this (the people’s water board, michigan welfare rights and others) were not mentioned, or posting the good news. as i have focused more on my writing, i have defaulted to the late sister-warrior charity hicks regarding most things about the water issues in detroit. in her absence, i have started tuning into some of my other favorite detroit minds.

will copeland, shane bernardo, shea howell, bill wylie-kellerman and tawana petty have all been saying brilliant things about what is happening and why the ‘victory’ of emergency manager kevin orr handing control of detroit’s water over to mayor mike duggan is actually not quite the success that is being claimed.

shane reminded me, for context, that this is all connected “to emergency management and the bankruptcy. in short, this is not a singular instance or issue but one in a protracted and carefully thought out scheme based on predatory economics.” yes sir.

so, i wanted to share some of their clarifying, inspiring and informative words.

first, from bill wylie-kellerman, quoted in al-jazeera’s article on west virginians driving water up to detroit: “The emergency manager and the mayor have been working hand in glove all along. The mayor doesn’t have any power that the emergency manager doesn’t grant him. It’s a fake appearance of a fresh start.”

from shane: “If you didn’t know any better, you would think that Duggan taking over control of DWSD was a good thing. Citing this as a victory is misleading and self-delusional. Lest we forget, Duggan was part of the emergency manager selection process. Making Duggan in charge of the water dept is like taking it from one hand and placing it in the other.”

i commented that we need victory, and will responded that “the victory is in the fact that they/the power structure is responding and adapting. They are making overtures towards us. The fact that they made two overtures (15-day moratorium and now this) shows that they are struggling with public opinion and trying to silence the movement. As Shane Bernardo points out, Orr and Duggan are for all intents and purposes in the same camp. It is not an objective ‘victory’ but definitely a subjective victory, meaning they are feeling the heat. But we still have to be vigilant to make sure the shutoffs have actually stopped in this moratorium. Duggan is not committed to ending shutoffs – his stance is on ‘warning consumers’. Duggan has significant privatization experience also. Our level of vigilance remains constant.”

shea howell was quoted in a release from the people’s water board, a really clarifying piece on what’s being asked for: “The crowds that brought media from all over the world were not chanting for ‘more advanced warnings of shut-offs’ as the Mayor said he would have given. If you can’t pay the hundreds or sometimes even the thousands of dollars demanded by DWSD, more warning is useless. We’ve received news that 40 people in a Palmer Park apartment have been shut-off. Has Mike Ilitch paid his overdue water bill? Has DWSD moved in to shut off the golf course? No. Corporations can get by while families are deprived. Is this what Mayor Duggan meant when, this morning, he referred to some Detroiters have to pay for the bills of others?”

shea added to me that, “One thing that I think is critical for us to tackle is Duggan’s calculated effort to turn one Detroiter against the other….with his ‘those who don’t pay are forcing those who do pay to have ever higher rates’. This divide and conquer strategy draws on deep rooted stereotypes that dehumanize people who are poor (let’s remember this is nearly half the city – and most of the rest of us are close to it). But in trying to say there are good Detroiters and bad Detroiters, he is trying to deflect attention away form the real structural issues facing the water department including:
1. more than half the water department budget goes to banks to pay debt..
2. a small number of corporations owe as much as nearly half the city and they are not aggressively assaulted.
3. Last month Detroit lost Flint as a customer because of Governor Snyder and legislative action creating a new Flint water system (that was completely unnecessary) taking the scarce dollars needed to maintain existing infrastructure to build a new infrastructure along side it. This will mean Detroit water customers will have to cover a new 12 million…the Flint cost…”

and finally, poet warrior tawana shared these words on real solutions, which have been dispatched to the president via food and water watch: “We know the Mayor’s been handed a hot mess. However, we are clear that this is not a solution to the water crisis in Detroit. An immediate halt to water shutoffs, a rejection of any effort to privatize the water, restoration of all residents’ water currently shutoff and enforcement of the Peoples’ Water Affordability Plan is the solution to this crisis.”

stay tuned in!

one sentence sci-fi story.

sun sci fi short

And then the blue sky cracked open and it was obvious, too late, that we were in and of the Sun, we’d been worshipping a hole in a great fabric, we were ash, breathing.

grief is not linear, and it is everywhere

my friend charity died on july 8. she’d spent more than a month in a coma after a hit and run accident in ny. since she was hit i have been in a grief process, been of a community in a grief process.

i visited her in the hospital, where a split happened. part of me knew, seeing her on full life support, that she was not there and would not be back. another part of me felt numb, hungry, thirsty. another part bucked up with an obstinate hope, because something was filling up the room, and it felt like an aspect of her, and she was a genius and if anyone could figure this out she could. i imagined her telling stories about it.

i have been sitting with the complications of knowing her, the mysteries, the struggles, the differences, the unfinished conversations, the respect of her spirit, the awe of her mind. where do these big things fit between two people trying to do a piece of work together, through the daily tasks of justice, each one so small?

another 44-year-old woman i’d known briefly in california also passed, of whatever natural cause can kill a brilliant woman of color leader in her prime, priya haji. she’d offered me important guidance once when i was just starting my short and intense path as a non-profit leader. she saw that i was called to other things and told me to do what i could, but not to waste time.

i’m trying.

the day before charity’s funeral i flew home from a mindblowing, generative and romantic trip with my sweetheart in amsterdam. while i was in the air, another flight that had left from amsterdam was shot out of the sky on the russia-ukraine border, leaving no survivors. a third of the passengers were heading to an aids conference in australia. i am thinking about how our movements are precious, how we can’t afford these losses. and how we can’t do anything in response but keep stepping up, seeing leaders everywhere and in each mirror.

throughout charity’s funeral, and in this moment, there are wars being waged. these are generally purposeless, endless, violent, rule-less, ruthless wars. these are mostly wars about borders that spill over whatever boundaries we determine to be humane when setting out to kill and conquer each other. the loudest in my world is the continued colonial war against the people of palestine, happening at genocidal pitch in gaza.

after charity’s funeral, i watched a video of a father named eric, murdered in the crook of a police officer’s elbow.

all of this is simultaneous, and the frequency is increasing, or we are simply more immediately aware of the crises. i say this as a person with a life full of miracles, laughter, creativity and love: it is overwhelming to be alive with all of this violent, sudden and constant cause for grief, most of it extracted from the brownest bodies and communities under the dispassionate sun.

at charity’s funeral i wept, i screamed, i sang. i averted my eyes from her person, on display – i had seen her far enough on, i didn’t need to see her absence. i believe she is gone.

sort of.

afterwards i went to a wedding as a dear friend’s date. she was taking a break from sitting at a beloved family member’s hospital bed. we’d planned to go before the funeral was scheduled. we kept the plan because we needed some black joy.

i witnessed two beautiful black strangers dedicate their hearts to each other with their families watching, praying, dancing. i danced with them, i needed to feel like i was a pure body.

they committed til death do them part. i have been reflecting on how falling in love is, among other things, committing to future grief. the more you know someone, love them, share life with them, the more you also carve out the space for future grief. i have been falling more and more in love lately, even with this awareness. i know it is worth it, to find a woman i connect with in ways that make me long to be my best self, to gift her my attention.

love is what i am most certain we are here to do. sometimes it is the only clear thing to me. i still want love to be the thing i am best at, even if i fail at all else.

the evening of charity’s funeral there was a beautiful celebration, ‘i do mind dying’. i was reminded that detroit is overly familiar with grief, and has a capacity to erupt into grief-stricken celebration that i have only seen before in new orleans. when david blair died, we artists and activists who loved him marched around the cass corridor singing and chanting while a police precinct erupted in flames where we passed, which felt like his kiss blowing to us.

the night we let charity’s body go, we screamed and sang and a marching band led us out under projections of ‘wage love’ and ‘water is a human right’. it felt like charity was there in the crowd, i kept thinking i saw her just moving through the people, laughing and smiling and pushing us further, louder.

a day later i came to minnesota, thinking i would bury myself in the sweetness of my nephew and nieces and not think about endings too much. and, of course, the main topics they have been interested in are grief, death, extinction, how we let people go.

so.

my sister and brother-in-law told me that last week finn was weeping over extinct animals and death. they said at one point he grabbed the edge of the table and cried, what is the point of all of this? why are we here?

he is five. i am wrestling with the same questions with 30 more years of experience and no clearer answers. they told him simply that those are the big questions.

his primary text for life is a pretty incredible nature show called wildkratts, in which two brothers and their entourage explore the natural world by taking on creature powers to learn about each animal’s unique gifts. recently wildkratts did two shows where they traveled back in time to see now-extinct creatures, both to educate themselves and us about said creatures, and to raise a desire in young viewers to see all animals, especially endangered ones, as precious.

in both episodes, towards the end, one of the brothers tries to bring the extinct creature (first a dodo, then a tasmanian tiger) back to the present. they decide not to, adhering to some unnamed logic of time travel.

and afterwards, finn wails: why can’t we save them? why can’t i meet them? he is truly heartbroken, feeling everything, a leo with a new moon coming right at him.

when he learned the other day that there are not even (currently) time machines, he was again shocked. but he quickly adapted, saying, ‘we can just make one. using batteries.’

he may be finding his life’s work through this grief.

two days ago siobhan found a dead dragonfly in the driveway, a big one. there are so many dead things in nature, it helps to see how normal it is, even beautiful. you get to bloom, be beautiful, be a visible distinct part of an ecosystem, and then become one with it. i am excited to see how being raised here will shape the babies’ relationships to mortality.

siobhan called the other kids over and they did a little ceremony and buried the dragonfly. finn explained that this is what happens when we die, people cover us up. mairead tossed dirt on the dragonfly, then grabbed it out of it’s little grave and tried to throw it in the air to fly again. i cheered for her instincts.

the other two explained that dead things don’t fly, and buried it again. mairead didn’t buy it, we finally had to just lead her away. the first stage of grief is denial.

siobhan is obsessed with death right now too. yesterday she told me her baby doll was dead, that she was so sad that she was going to have to burn her baby up and put her in the sky.

her great grandfather was cremated this year.

as i write this she is ‘reading’ a book where a whole chicken family dies, daily, over and over. she is making up the story as she goes, looking at me intensely as she turns pages in an unrelated book. i’ll just document a moment of it for you:

‘the babies were dead, the mommy was dead, the daddy was dead. all the people were dead. everyone was dead. and they were so sad and said, ”but why, why is everyone dead?” (here she takes on a sobbing stage whisper) but everyone was dead, everyone was dead, everyone was dead! except the pond. the pond was alive! and the tree. and the universe! it was alive. and there were no humans left. that is the end of part one.’

i wonder if she can feel the suffering of little ones her age and younger happening right now around the world. i also wonder if she is a prophet or conduit.

two other reminders of how unavoidable grief and death are showed up during this visit. a friend-family came to visit, with their kids. at one point their daughter was saying something about how her grandpa should bring pizza pies to her dad’s funeral. and her dad responded, i want tequila and dancing at my funeral, ok honey?

it was cute and i also logged it because i want to know how everyone i love wants to be remembered, celebrated, burned, buried, released. because it is happening, all the time, and we should know these things about each other. and i felt that sliver of bitterness again, looking around this table full of loved ones who are going to die, as i am going to die.

i am holding the babies too close and eating too much trying to just feel this singular truth in a new way. i have moved through grief before, i have reached places of peace and even liberation around it. but now i am like a child again, distraught, incredulous.

it helps to look at the pond, to wake up early and listen to life in the woods.

two nights ago there was a performance outside at a local college. a singer named robert robinson came up from minneapolis, a black disabled gospel operatic tenor with a queer beautiful energy and way with the mostly white crowd.

after one song, he shared that just before he’d come onstage he’d received a text that a good friend had lost her battle with stage four cancer. he then sang ‘i hope you dance’ and ‘tears in heaven’, with that loss in his pretty voice. and again i was crying in public, singing through tears, raising my hands to offer my gratitude to this stranger who knew my heart’s need in that moment. he also sang songs about how god has never failed him yet, and aretha’s arrangement of bridge over troubled waters, and i just let his voice work me.

and i am left with the fact that grief is not linear. i can still tap into the tender wound for each person i have lost, from charity to my grandfather to a boy i had a crush on in middle school who was killed by another boy playing with a gun. i have personal ancestors, not as many as some, more than i’d want. i feel them learning how to be elsewhere, i feel them still connected to me.

i feel them everywhere.

emergent strategy in the world cup

i am not generally a futbol (or any other kind of sports) watcher.

i read and saw a lot about the racial and class dynamics of the world cup, and what brazil did to ‘clean up’ for FIFA. a lot of those dynamics, which follow athletic competition around the world and show up most prominently in world cup and olympics years, reminded me why i can’t deeply engage in sports as a regular outlet. it is so oriented around competitive and capitalist indulgence, uplifting heroes and gathering faceless erasable masses to cheer them on.

but i am beginning to suspect that nothing operates outside the realm of emergent strategy.

being in amsterdam, it made a lot of sense to watch the world cup. it was part of being immersed in this place, sitting at coffeshops and watching the game with an international spread of locals.

i didn’t have a particular team i was rooting for, and really only engaged around the quarter finals. but once i got hooked i couldn’t stop watching. and rather than rooting for particular teams or players, i was fascinated by the patterns and rhythms, the art of the game. so i want to offer some analysis from my non-expert vantage point.

lynnee and i were watching the semi-final match when germany scored seven points on brazil, most of those points within an 18-minute free for all in the first half. it was brutal to see.

i had the humbling opportunity, during my dad’s last assignment in germany, to be a fairly useless part of my high school soccer team. we were invited to play a friendly international match against a team of german third graders. they scored like 30 goals on us while barely seeming to move or break a sweat. over and over they took the ball away while we ran in circles, gasped for air and tried not to cry.

i didn’t understand why brazil looked like my high school team. in the semi-finals of the world cup! i needed it explained to me. i was reaching out to people, because the commentary was in dutch and i needed to know where the gorgeous warrior dancing magicians i’d witnessed in the quarter-final against colombia had disappeared to.

my sister autumn reminded me that in that very breathtaking match, neymar was injured, and silva was carded. she broke down how much neymar and silva were the center-captain-irreplaceable aspects of offense and defense, respectively.

the night before last, lynnee and i were in rotterdam at an incredible outkast 20-year anniversary show at the north sea jazz festival. and we snuck out to sit on the floor with a bunch of mostly germans and watch the end of the world cup. we caught the only goal of the final match as germany bested argentina.

it occurred to me, first as i found myself hoping for a mercy ruling in the brazil-germany match, and then again while watching germany seem to easily work together to defend and score on argentina in the final, that this was a perfect example of emergent strategy in action.

emergent strategy includes being intentional, which, at a basic level, i think all of the teams were. they each intended to win number one, period. but it also includes being intentional even in a fractal sense, at the smallest level. watching the way germany had one to two people in pursuit of the ball even when the opposing goalie was trying to figure out where to kick it, there was a hungry focus on possession of the ball that presenced their intention to win in even the smallest moments.

emergent strategy includes being resilient through decentralization. brazil’s team was oriented around key stars who embody certain skill sets. when those players are in and on, it is the most beautiful playing i have ever seen. for germany’s team, even after watching them play several games, i couldn’t point out anyone irreplaceable on their team, any superstars or best players. based on my limited viewing, they seemed to easily interchange players and fluidly move together to defend their goal – not as dazzling, but consistent, effective, beautiful in its collectivity.

emergent strategy is adaptive and interdependent. when neymar and silva were taken out, brazil didn’t have the capacity or depth on their team to adapt. the lack of cohesion from their team felt loud. germany moved like a flock of birds over and around the field. they worked as one body to take possession of the ball and move it. any time brazil or argentina got the ball, germany suddenly had four players around them. it didn’t feel like a formation, it felt like interdependent murmuration towards a shared intention – they flew towards the ball. the sheer number of team members attending to the ball at any given point meant that germany was consistently creating more possibilities for itself to have the ball, to have choice over what happened next, to get the chance to score.

one other element was transformative justice, which i didn’t see much of in the finals. i saw glimpses of it in algeria’s decision to give their world cup winnings to gaza. not because of the charitable aspect, but because of the use of their platform to raise awareness of the genocide happening in gaza while the world gave it’s attention to a game.

there is more to emergent strategy of course. just as there is so so much more to the world cup – contradictions, hypocrisies, tragedies, elations. what did you see?

allied media conference 2014 share out (octavia’s brood, storytelling black women, emergent strategy handbook!)

this year’s allied media conference felt like one miracle after another and i wanted to share out with you all (especially those not there or unable to get into certain workshops) a few stories, agendas, occurrences and the link to the emergent strategy handbook which is now available for viewing online or downloading.

storytelling black women’s lives

this friday morning workshop was proposed as a five person panel of storytellers, featuring some of my favorite scholars of black women ancestors. the panel shifted a few times, and by the time the session rolled around we had two panelists in person and one on a google hangout. but it appears that certain ancestors were so pleased to be told on that they made it not just work, but become a time for praise, healing and magic.

we realized the night before that what we were really engaging was the fine art of being oracles, imparting wisdom as presented through the lives of these ancestors. the oracles were sister doctors alexis pauline gumbs, moya bailey and ayana jamieson.

alexis made an alphabetical list of ancestors and we filled it up as far as we could, trusting that the workshop would be able to keep growing it.

the first part of our workshop was the oracles channeling. a participant would ask a question, and the oracles would let the right story come to them, about octavia butler, or toni cade bambara, or harriet tubman, or another black woman ancestor.

the questions included how to we honor our ancestors as we transition into our own power, how do raise multi level genius babies if we don’t see ourselves as geniuses, how do we tell our mother’s stories in a culture of shaming?

the second part of the workshop gave everyone present a chance to give and receive guidance. i have heard lots of feedback of how accurate the guidance was.

we closed by sending love to sister warrior charity hicks as she sat between here and there in an ICU unit. we conjured up a shared sense of her aliveness and power, and let the universe know we want to learn the next chapters of her life, whether it was to stay or to go.

octavia’s brood

the brood had two fantastic experiences at the AMC.

first, we got to present four brooders as part of the opening ceremony. alexis, gabriel teodros, dani mcclain and leah lakshmi piepzna-samarasinha (whose name is a joy to my tongue). they hadn’t heard each other’s stories, and it was exciting for us as editors to hear these stories in their voices.

my co-editor, walidah imarisha, was delayed in portland and arrived literally five minutes before we took the stage. we threw on our heels, had a mindmeld and walked out there.

the next morning we got to offer our first behind-the-scenes session. the brooders, including the editors, shared where our stories came from, engaged with the participants about the art of writing visionary science fiction, and offered lessons from the overall process.

walidah and i have learned so much about ourselves and each other in the effort to do this project in line with our principles. we have learned to laugh at each other, keep it real, and offer each other support as our personal lives have unfolded in parallel to this life’s work.

it was beautiful to share that with folks who cannot wait for the book to be out, the transformation is not the end product, it’s the entire journey.

emergent strategy train the trainers

this workshop felt like it’s been building for a while. i created a handbook for it, which you can download now.

i want to decentralize emergent strategy, share it in a way that others can deeply engage and take ownership over and keep learning and shaping.

our room was much much too small. we had 80 people inside and somewhere between 40-50 outside and upset. next time i will request the auditorium, i want so many people to be in practice around this approach and these tools.

i started by reviewing the handbook (shout out to eli feghali for getting it printed the morning of!), which includes three different pieces i have written about emergent strategy, in chronological order, as well as a clear illustrated articulation of the elements of emergent strategy thus far.

the elements were up around the room, and we used emergent strategy methods of flocking and adaptation for the group to engage these elements. while they were flocking about we found a larger room and reconvened the group there.

people were then partnered up with one other person to make emergent strategy commitments. the idea behind this is that you ‘transform yourself to transform the world’. the best way to implement emergent strategies is to become emergent in how you process information and show up in the world. it was beautiful to watch the energy with which people claimed their commitments.

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we then came together to reflect back learning and lessons. here are the lessons i offered as a way of deconstructing what we had done:

- collaborative ideation. at the root of generating our ideas, we want to learn to be collaborative, to see the best ideas as growing through conversation and sharing (rather than competing, isolated moves forward).

- begin by listening. this AMC principle is the key practice of emergent strategy. we are tuning into each other, listening not just with our ears but our awareness, understanding, bodies.

- deepening one-on-one connections builds the strength of the whole. to change what is possible in a room, let people connect with each other directly.

- people are more passionate about the things they articulate themselves. don’t over-structure an agenda, let people articulate what they most want to work on together.

- passion over obligation. understand the motivation for people being in the room.

- lao tzu on trust: if you don’t trust the people, you make them untrustworthy.

- make room for the conversation that wants to be had in the room.

- reach for the horizon but realize that it is only a limit of your sight, keep checking for new horizon info as it changes.

letter to charity, as she goes home

i just received the news that my friend and comrade charity mahouna hicks has made her transition. here is the statement on her life from lila cabbil:

Our dear Charity Hicks joined the ancestors on July 8, 2014. She had recently directed her community in Detroit to “wage love” as a strategy in our fight for justice and equity. Her mantra was her love for her people and consistently bringing in the voice of those who were marginalized. As we prepare for her homegoing services let us reflect on her rich legacy of passion, knowledge, vibrancy, sharing, commitment, mentorship, persistence, giving, wisdom, advocacy, and deep pride of African heritage and culture. We are all Blessed by her God given gifts. The global beloved community she cherished is collectively charged with continuing her extensive, unmatchable, intellectually brilliant, work that reached out lovingly to people world wide.

Support for services (including bringing her home) can be directed to Gofundme.com/wagelove

i have been writing to charity since the accident, trying to understand it all. here are some words pulled together from that writing and in response to her transition:

charity love,

i write this with tears in my eyes – i just heard that you’re gone, at least in the way i know you. black beautiful soft round tall beaming you. i want one of your hugs. i have a hard time believing your body could not recover. i knew it was impossible, i knew it. i thought of you as a cosmic ancient superhero.

when we worked together, i found myself trying to keep up with your mind, trying to stand with you in massive emotions. your mind moved faster, drew easily on more data, connected everything together. and the connections you made filled you with rage, with sadness, with incredulity…and with such tenderness.

the way you would take my niece’s face into your hands, the way you would hug people in greeting, the way you would listen to a curious young visitor to detroit and then affirm her curiosity by blowing her mind out with an explosion of stories and facts. you brought to the world equal parts tenderness and fire.

and no one could bring fire quite like you.

we had our different approaches. i wanted you to focus, you wanted me to ignite. the place we found each other over and over in our work together was love – for family, for Detroit, for justice, for our own bodies, for the ways spirit was moving through us and our lives, for new ways of grasping the universe, for our own potential. i loved our kitchen table talks. i wish we could have more of them.

and what will Detroit do without you?

for the years we worked together i watched you with amazement and worry, as you tirelessly attended one meeting after another on the unreliable bus system of Detroit, carrying a mental map of issues and people and histories, bags full of documentation and computers and flyers, a hundred keys to the universe hooked to your top.

i remember meetings where you stood up and demanded that we all get naked, say what we really meant, say what we were going to do. you were daunting, generative, wholistic, healer, soldier. if there was a right action you would take it first. you embodied a commitment to justice.

i didn’t always understand your fire, love. you were a friend and a mystery, deeply rooted and incredibly complicated. Detroit needs your fire now, your kind of thorough love, compounded, burning out of control. the world does.

you led with your love, water warrior earth goddess in motherland cloth armor. you have always been larger than life.

when i last saw you, i felt awe. even as you were in the between place, your vibration filled the room. i hope you heard and felt all of the love that was flowing towards you, from me, from Detroit, from all of the people you touched.

i need you charity. you inspire me. simultaneously, i hold on in disbelief, and i let go wishing you only ease and rest and goodness on your journey. keep an eye on us, on Detroit, send us some divine sacred fire for the work and the change that is coming.

love you, and miss you
amb

amsterdam 1: biking

i landed in amsterdam monday morning, and i have been biking every single day, miles and miles. it is the primary mode of transportation.

it has made me tender, and it has made me feel very strong and accomplished. it is a healing experience to get places with my body, to feel the pain of body use, and feel it subside, normalize. i have been experimenting with strategies to make it work, and the best approach is so obvious: slow down. everyone here appears to bike with such ease and confidence, while i struggle to get my machine in motion, stay balanced, not collide, discover the best angle for my delicate body with the machine. and it goes better if i take my time, stop and walk up hills that daunt my knees, and take in the gorgeousness around me.

and i feel myself getting stronger every day. biking is another confidence worth developing, more and more of my travel is in places where bikes replace cars much of the year.

biking these allies and canal roads feels very different from biking the wide slow streets of detroit. i am relearning the etiquette of crowds, conscious of the brief important relationship i have with this wheeled creature, who i just decided to call The Darkness. (lynnee is on a bike appropriately named little red corvette.)

The Darkness is an all-black steed like i have at home, heavy in front with a massive basket, reverse peddle brakes. she stands a couple inches longer than my legs.

i have had two unremarkable falls. both times i have watched my embarrassment with amusement, receiving the help of others.

last night was the best ride so far. on our way to and from a place that ended up being a non-destination, we found ourselves on a road where every floor had a wrought iron balcony, little minarets edging rounded towers, shades of periwinkle and lavendar, navy blue doors, red window frames, little orange futball flags strung out like world cup christmas lights.

the end of the day here, from around eight til ten, is the time of perfect light, slow sunsets and magic cloud formations. we time our days so that we are on our last ferry as the light goes, on our way to a quiet place across the water from centraal station.

it is time to ride now.