when are we / #whoisburningblackchurches

If 7 white churches had burned down in 14 days, after 9 white people were killed by a person of any other race in a house of worship, can you imagine what would be happening right now?

Imagination muscles flex…right now we’re calling for media coverage of the horror of it, yes. But that’s not all, not hardly.

Imagine further – National Guard, militia, local police and folks flocking to the region to support armed guard shifts of those churches still standing.

Millions raised to rebuild and never forget.

Terms like terrorism and war thrown about.

And, accurate or not, we’d have been had a clear answer to #whoisburningblackchurches as well.

So that’s why #blacklivesmatter can’t be all lives matter. The racism and hatred black people are up against is so devastating that most days all we ask for is folks to look at the fire.

But it’s not enough – fire spreads…that’s the law of nature. We have to pinpoint who is playing these death games with fire.

We have to be an ocean.



When are we
I feel I, we, all mine
Are lost in time

They raised the battle flag
In Avon Minnesota today
To show the borderlessness
But we already knew
Everywhere is war

But when

And why
Do we hear bugles
Do we smell smoke
When we hug black bodies?

Oh, the church is on fire
No another one
No another one
No another one
No another one
No another one
No…another one

It’s those ghosts again
Their children’s children are
Non-linear haunts

Isn’t this the future

How are a million eyes open
But no one will look…
When can we run go hide

When are we

These days of ashes
We wake up wary

Which illusion is killing us
Which construct
Is it our flesh hunted
Or our time

Each moment fills up with smoke
We are catching fire

We feel the rocking of ships
The grief of the sea
We stumble
We moon walk in chains
We dance free

But when could we
Just be

we are so fantastic/it hurts so much

this morning i woke up and again watched bree newsome take down the confederate battle flag from the capitol of the state my family is from, where most of them still live.

i cried watching the video.

i watched her all day yesterday too, slowly hitching herself up that pole, which i know from my ruckus years is hard as shit to do.

she did it beautifully, like a warrior in trance, in meditation, from a center outside of here-now.

and it felt like, in the wake of the charleston murders, i needed that flag down to properly mourn.

i am proud to have met bree last year – she is a sci fi filmmaker social justice warrior and tananarive due had us on a panel honoring octavia butler‘s legacy at spelman.

i’m proud to be alive at the same time as bree. and patrisse, alicia, and opal. and mervyn, deirdre, ashley, celeste, thenjiwe, malkia, adaku, prentis, moe, phil, denise, dream, hiram…there is such a beautiful blackness emerging right now, what intelligent mischief is calling a black renaissance, an explosion of artistic and strategic resistance and world changing. there are too many creators to even begin to name us all. and we are so fantastic and complex and different and learning to love each other and grow together.

as the charleston 9 are folded into the earth, and smoke from black churches floods the sky, i can only sleep at night because i look to my left, right, front and back and see multitudes of black people willing to be afraid together, and honest with each other, and keep advancing on our dignity.

and now we can get married.

it was beautiful to see the divergence of responses to the end of straight-only marriage in my circle – from straight friends putting a rainbow wash on themselves and posting their own wedding pics (are there a lot more trans people in my network than i realize?) to queer/trans folks explaining marriage abolition. i felt an internal spectrum…tears to see my friends for whom this really matters proposing to each other, and also a niggling sense that we’re celebrating something that never should have been an issue.

i call this my alien sensibility. being human, being american, means having to fight for and then celebrate things that should just be a given. my many kinds of love are equal to anyone else’s, so when anyone thinks otherwise and then comes around to reason, my celebration is actually for their liberation, not mine. my love has been good and real and sacred all the time.

i also saw a lot of issue juxtaposition in these last few days…like ‘oh gays can get married but black lives still don’t matter so i can’t celebrate’. this seems to move in the wrong direction, not because there isn’t a hierarchy of isms that are playing out in legal time…but because gays getting married is not equality, it’s not liberation. it’s a step towards those things.

just like if cops were disarmed. it wouldn’t eradicate racism, but it would make it harder to practice racism with such violent state-sanctioned outcomes.

there is very little in my identity profile that is beloved in this country, and for now love is not what i expect. where we are in the arc of change is awakening, and reducing harm in a nation strung out on supremacy and patriarchy.

i say this not to belittle our victories, but to encourage intersectional thinking. lots of queer black people have an increase of basic shoulda-been-had freedom with this ruling, and there’s no need to self-compartmentalize.

you can whoop-whoop and propose to someone if that’s in your heart.

and also sign the petitions about to be circulating to redistribute HRC funding to struggles for queer and trans health and safety.

and also cry a million tears for charleston. and also feel tender when the president sings amazing grace for those lives.

and also wish he would go sing at the border, some song of welcome.

and also feel terror that racists are burning churches down across the south as the unnamed civil war of values within these borders escalates.

and also cheer on bree, and tear down every hateful flag you see, including the american flag anywhere its not at half-mast over this onslaught of lynchings and burnings.

and also curl up with your poly boos or your monogamous other or your super besties, or your beloved pets, and revel in your non-married love and post-normative family.

and rest up, because we are in no way finished, not on any front line, not in any direction. we celebrate not the end of anything, because every moment we are awake it hurts so much to be black and queer in this country.

we celebrate because with these steps and these action, we show each other the future. and we know that we will win.

in octavia’s lineage

happy Octavia Butler birthday!!

last year i was beginning the inaugural class of VONA’s Speculative Fiction workshop on Her birthday.

this year it’s her day and i’m up early for the first day of the clarion sci fi writing workshop – six weeks of reading and writing original sci fi!

i’m nervous and excited. Octavia attended this workshop, her first draft stories are in the archives and i’m going to visit them today as part of my celebration of her existence.

i learned last night that another of my favorite writers, kim stanley robinson, has read my stories and will be around here. we also get to attend comic con, my first one, and there’s a chance of total nerd immersion. those kind of things really make me fangirl out.

leading into this i was on a 12-city run, so i am definitely on fumes and anticipating being in one place for six weeks (even if that place is a cement dorm block with cafeteria food), meditating, yoga, reducing sugar intake, being still-ish.

just before this i was at the Allied Media Conference in detroit and it was deep to feel the growth and transition pains, and also be reminded of the utterly unique, self-evolving and unicorn-loving space that it is. i’ll be posting more from that experience, including notes on a debrief of a racist incident, emergent strategies for organizations, and new Earthseed verses for grief.

part of being in that space that was so hard, and will make it hard to be here or in any space that isn’t all black, is that less than a week ago there was an act of terrorism in charleston that is incomprehensible. for some of us it’s hard to function in the aftermath.

yesterday as i flew here, i wrote a lot about it, about the hour the wolf was amongst the black sheep. i wept a lot, but couldn’t pull anything out to publish, it hurts too much. this morning i woke up with a short story about it coming forward, and am going to write it this week.

i want to encourage all of y’all to also find a way to create – create from rage, from grief, from anguish – do not be silenced, creation is the finest tool we have.

i love y’all, and may blog less during these six weeks, but trust that it’s because i’m writing so so much.

i love y’all. send me focused, restful writing energy.


p.s. i received a partial scholarship, but the workshop still costs a couple thousand dollars – if you want to support my being here, feel free to become a member of this blog, or just make a donation via paypal.

Dolezal Affectation and other sci-fi poetics from Rachel

We are piles of secrets
We construct truths to survive
Now we are all looking at yours

At first glance
We are appalled
How does this disgust feel to you?

It is a black thing.

Scenario 1:

RD: My cover is blown. This family ain’t loyal.
White Supremacist Overlord: Well. I told you the knee length faux locs were pushing it.
RD: Naw son…it was my family. We should have relocated them. Anyway, all eyes on me, and I wasn’t able to seduce anyone at NAACP national yet. What do I do now?
WSO: We’re going to reassign you to South Africa. Maybe go colored instead of full black. We don’t want to lose the investment in you. The weave alone, my god.

Race is a construct
Criminal walls and nails
Used to justify
Miniscule and massive horrifics

Are you in construction?
Are you an architect?
Are your hands coated in dust?

Scenario 2:

RD Howard Diaries:
I’m feeling so isolated again, so lonely. I wish everyone could see my heart. I feel like I was born in the wrong skin, but nothing I do shakes me loose.

Black is magic. Black is where I feel home. Black is my real family.

We are all from Africa, this is my journey home. Why can’t anyone see that? Why doesn’t anyone welcome me?

Did you think
You could taste blackness
Could transform blackness
Cast it lightly around you
And be safe?

Are you of blackness?

Black centuries are heavy
Dragging behind, they put a shape
Into the bones

Does it trail behind and inside of you?
I have only seen you walk away

Scenario 3:


Blackish Students Organizing Hall
Dolezal Affectation Orientation


Based on your emogenetic profile, you currently believe you are Black in spite of your DNA testing which shows less than 1% African lineage.

Look at each other. This is your first day, and first assignment. Not one of you has modern African diasporic ancestry, though it’s hard to tell now, given your thorough practice of Black culture.

You may just be coming into your Dolezal Affectation, or you may have been raised in an environment that supported or encouraged this transgression earlier in life. Either way, this will be your political home for the next year. You are not a prisoner precisely – you are a student who has been consigned to this area of study on the mandatory recommendation of your friends and family.

We have therapists on hand for any potential trauma this causes. In the long run we hope to eliminate your unique affliction and all the trauma in which it is rooted.

You are welcome to be here and study Blackness, and to explore your own relationship to it. We commend your curiosity and your study.

However, there are guidelines. This is not a place to emulate or appropriate Blackness – I’m more lenient about hair than other decolonizing instructors. But no Black or Orange face, and no code switching.

Tomorrow you are to show up with none of these, so we can begin the work of self-seeing. You will learn to love you.

You are here to find right relationship with the construct of Blackishness, an iterative construction of your ancestors which was then innovated upon by survivors of the slave era genocidal effort.

You will learn why trauma is not something to opt into, and ultimately what solidarity looks like.


Did whiteness break you in half?
Or did you need to drop it
Like a hot stone the size of 2/5 of your hand?

Did it regress you to origin?

Do white people dream of the motherland
Epoch-deep in the cells?

I never considered origin-grief.
It cannot be held.

Scenario 4:

RD: My cover is blown
Reverse Integrationist Radical Front: Well yes honey, going full NAACP might have been pushing it, boo boo.
RD: What should I do?
RIRF: we’re considering if you’ll have to go public about us. This might be a good time for a mass unveiling, or at least for a few of the celebrities. White people will feel under attack otherwise – and really this is about loving them.
RD: ‘loving white into blackish, eradicating white supremacy one life choice at a time’
RIRF: how long will it take the latest treatment to wear off?
RD: one more week
RIRF: ok radio silent. and stay in the house. When you emerge, you’re Rockwell white. You’re grieving that integrated life. We’ll get Diane Sawyer.

People ask you questions
Maybe you know these things

I don’t even know all the answers
I grew up away from here
With a white mother

You study us, or nah?


Harriet Tubman was a) a dreamer b) a superhero c) a black woman

Rekia Boyd was a) incredibly young b) a martyr c) a black woman

I am a) light skinned b) fine haired c) a black woman

You are a) a white perpetrator b) a betrayed black woman c) an alien beyond our comprehension

I am not black because of a quiz
Or a sibling
Or a longing
It’s shaped in my bones
Memories live in my cells
Escape dreams and owner searches

Scenario 5:

RD, journal June 9 2015

Now she is threatening me. She says if I don’t concede the case she will go public with the story that I am white, the story she constructed by bringing her white saviour into the hospital of my birth.

I know the truth, I know who my father is, I know who I am, I know the family has all been turned against me, but I will survive this like a strong black woman always survives in the face of oppression – head held high, dignity intact. She will not break me with her time traveling shame. I’ll pass any test of blackness. Any test.

If you have been wearing culture
Like a masters degree
An earned identity
A reward for study and attention


If you’ve been maligned
In an act of complex familial scandal
Even misled


If you are an alien
Finger outstretched to understand
The wounds of race in our species

You know
we’ll need to see your blood

BALLE 2015 Closing Plenary Speech

Here are the notes from my talk today at the BALLE 2015 Conference! Enjoy.

Thank you first and foremost for your work to bend the future towards justice, love, cooperation and liberation.

I would call your work science fictional – being concerned with the way our actions and beliefs now today will shape the future, tomorrow.

You are excited by what we can create, you believe it is possible to create the next world, you have been building it here these last few days. You believe.

So do I. as michelle mentioned, I’m the Co-editor of an anthology of original science fiction from social justice movements called Octavia’s Brood, which has just sold out its first print of 10k books, so i suppose now it’s public…but I’ve held this belief that we can create new worlds for a long time.

This might be because I was born to a trekkie – meaning one who watches star trek obsessively. My dad watched Star Trek in a way that seems logical to me now. He watched the way a black man from the deep south bringing mixed race children into a racist world would always watch a post racist narrative – eyes wide, faith bubbling up.

We all watched it together, as his military career took our family from place to place. My parents intentionally took us away from the US for our early years and I think they believed that by the time we came back here things would have changed.

When that didn’t happen, they brought us back anyway and took us to Georgia. I think what I experienced there, the casual and constant presence of white supremacy, the knee jerk assessments of my intelligence and humanity, is one of the foundational catalysts for my study of sci fi, apocalypse and post-apocalypse, emergence and complexity.

i thought then in middle school, and i think now…This can’t be all. no one survives this approach, not long term. This can’t be the purpose of our species, to constantly identify each other as ‘other’, build walls between ourselves, and engage in both formal and informal wars against each other’s bodies, build an economy that could never serve the whole.

I feel miraculous. its confusing to feel so miraculous when so many people hate my skin and my history.

i see the miraculous in others – even those who hate me have heartbeats, and, I generally assume, have people they love. why can’t they love me? should i love them anyway? how can i hold these massive contradictions?

I started reading sci fi, obsessively, looking for options. Other worlds where I wasn’t dismissed as an idealist or an inferior.

On that path I discovered octavia butler. Decades before my birth, she was working these same edges in her heart, pendulum swinging between curiosity, possibility and hopelessness. Because if we can’t articulate more viable futures, and adapt, our human future is pretty hopeless.

Octavia Butler wrote novels with young black women protagonists meeting aliens, surviving apocalypse, evolving vampires, becoming telepathic networks, time traveling to save slave owner ancestors. But woven throughout her work were two things: 1) a coherent visionary exploration of humanity and 2) emergent strategies for being better humans.

I’ll say more about emergent strategy in a second.

First I want to say that what my Octavia’s Brood Co-editor walidah Imarisha and I call or work is not actually science fiction. We call it visionary fiction.

Fiction that disrupts the hero narrative concept that one person, often one white man, often matt Damon, alone has the skills to save the world. we write Fiction that explores change as a Collective process. Fiction that centers those who are currently marginalized – not to be nice, but because those who survive on the margins tend to be the most experientially innovative – practicing survival based efficiency, doing the most with the least, an important skill area on a planet whose resources are under assault by less marginalized people. In these ways visionary fiction is constantly applying lessons from our past to our future(s).

Visionary fiction is neither utopian nor dystopian, instead it is like real life: Hard, realistic…Hopeful as a strategy.

We’re here in Arizona, a land where the voting majority believes in aliens, and where my safety is determined by the proximity of my passport. also, the future is unfurling here. Utopia? Dystopia? Perspective is everything.

As long as the future comes from imagination, there will be divergent paths that are moving in and out of alignment, in and out of conflict. Our ideas of right and wrong shift with time – right now it’s clear to me that something is wrong if it hurts this planet. But if we don’t claim the future, that sense of loyalty to earth, of environmentalism, could become an outdated concept. Kenny Bailey from Design Studio for Innovation shared that recently on a panel called black to the future – that justice, rights, things we take for granted are not permanent.

That affirmed to me how important it is that we get into the game, get dirty, get experimental. How do we create and proliferate a compelling vision of a new economy that centers humans and the natural world over the accumulation of material?

We embody. We learn. We release the idea of failure, because its all data.

But first we imagine.

We are in an imagination battle – Claudine Rankin and Terry Marshall speak of this. Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown and Renisha McBride and all of them are dead because in some white imagination, they were dangerous. And that imagination is so respected that those who kill based on an imagined racialized fear of black people are rarely held accountable. imagination has people think they can go from poverty to millionaire as part of a shared american dream. imagination turns brown bombers into terrorists and white bombers into mentally ill victims. imagination gives us borders, gives us superiority, gives us race.

We have to imagine beyond those fears. We have to ideate together. The poverty that results from our current system allows all of this Imagining to be fed by the results of scarcity economics. We must imagine new worlds that transition us from seeing black people as murderers, or brown people as terrorists and aliens, to ones that can see black and brown people as cultural and economic innovators.

Black lives matter, which has issued a clarion call to us in this time, is brilliant on so many levels. they created products to support their work almost immediately, making the look of the movement irresistable and undeniable. Now they are gathering stories from black people about what the world will look like when black lives matter. This is a time travel exercise for the heart. This is ideation – what are the ideas that will liberate all of us?

The more people who collaborate on that ideation, the more people who will be served by the resulting world (s).

Sci fi is simply a way to practice the future together. I suspect that that is what many of you in this room are up to, practicing a future economy together, practicing economic justice together, living into new stories. it is our right and responsibility to create a new world.

And what we pay attention to grows, so I’m thinking about how we grow what you are all imagining and creating into something large enough and solid enough for a tipping point of humans to cross over?

Ursula Le Guin recently said “We live in capitalism – Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.”

she went on to say It’s up to authors to spark the imagination of their readers and to help them envision alternatives to how we live.

I agree with her. We must make an alternative economic future, as Toni Cade Bambara taught us, irresistible. That was our goal with our anthology, to have a collection of compelling, irresistible stories.

I think you are amongst the protagonists of what might be called the great turning, the change, the new economy.

And I think it is healing behavior, to look at something so broken and see the possibility and wholeness in it. That’s how I work, when a body is between my hands, I let wholeness pour through.

And I think you are healers too – because you are creating possibilities, because you are seeing a future full of wholeness and equity and hope.

I suspect this is in part because you are practicing what i call emergent strategies.

Emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of relatively simple interactions. My mentor Grace Lee Boggs first raised this concept with us in detroit after reading Margaret Wheatley’s work , about biomimicry and mycelium magic. Grace started asking us what our movements would look like if we focused on critical connections instead of critical mass.

We need each other. I love the idea of shifting from ‘mile wide inch deep’ movements to ‘inch wide mile deep’ movements that schism the existing paradigm.

Strategy is a military term meaning simply a plan of action towards a goal. We use it to mean good or bad, but it’s not that discerning. Horrible plans can be pitched as strategic. We must be more precise.

Emergent strategies are ways for humans to practice complexity and grow the future through relatively simple interactions. It was what made sense to me when I was trying to explain the kind of leadership in octavia butler’s books.

It wasn’t just that it was black, female, or young leaders. Or perhaps it was because of all of those things, who leads matters.

But what I noticed is that her leaders were adaptive – riding change like dolphins or surfers ride the ocean.

Adaptive but also intentional, like birds migrating south who know how to get where they’re going even when a storm pushes them 100 miles west. I just came from supporting a meeting naomi klein called in canada, to set an intention to build a clean energy economy. I was so moved by their work to build a shared intention. that is radical imagination.

Octavia’s protagonists were also interdependent, often polyamourous, because the personal is political, because pleasure evokes change perhaps more than shame. right now there is an effort called BOLD, black organizing for leadership and dignity, is cultivating a safe space for black vulnerability and mutual support of leaders, countering the usual model of leader isolation. we all need a place where we can weep and be held and feel our feelings and figure out how those feelings can direct our next evolution. what amazes me is that in the space of such constant black trauma, we get together and we celebrate and love on each other, we laugh, we find the pleasure of community, of interdependence. it feels good together.

Octavias leaders were also decentralized, and they were generative – resilience came from that decentralization, no one person held the power. Ferguson showed us the power of individuals willing to act without a single leader, their leaderfull example is inspiring others to stand up in real time, offline and online, to change legislation and perception.

Ferguson and other movements right now are fractal, practicing at a small scale what we most want to see at the universal level. no more growth before experience. There’s a group in new Orleans called the wild seeds that’s doing this fractal work – women of color practicing pop up galleries and stores to sustain themselves on their radical creativity.

Rather than narrowing into one path forward, her leaders were creating more and more possibilities. that is what i see here – not one perfect path forward, but an abundance of futures, of ways to manage resources together, brilliant together.

So I have become obsessed with how we can be movements like flocks of birds, underground power like that mushroom under Oregon, the sea shell representation of a galactic vision for justice.

I invite you to join me in writing ourselves into the future, naming the principles of total transformation, building an economy in which black lives matter because every single life, and all that supports life, matters – let us practice in every possible way the world we want to see.

the black fantastic

Hello loves!

I’m in the midst of an 11 city segment of this Octavia’s Brood book tour, so I’m sorry for writing less.

Here’s a little something I posted on the Brood blog about Celebrating the Black Fantastic – the way that in this #blackspring moment communities are using our anthology to catalyze celebrations and collaborative dreaming of black futures.

In the midst of this tour I’ve been doing a sugar cleanse and Mercury has been in retrograde (and it impacts me in rough ways even when I try to have a rosey outlook) and I’ve been thinking about how we have to turn up the challenge sometimes to see how we’re doing. So how am I? Exhausted and stretched too thin and needing an assistant, and no more crises, and a beach…

AND I’m surrounded by love, interacting with people who inspire and fuel me, feeling clearer each day I step away from sugar, like I’m facing things from my dignity…and as far as I can see there are abundant opportunities to answer my calling.

I’m quoting Rihanna’s body art all the time – ‘never a failure, always a lesson’. Because of course ‘god is change’.

I’ve been thinking how grateful I am to be alive in an age of the Black fantastic, being of a creative class of black people explicitly bending the future to be grand enough for our survival and brilliance. I look at rooms full of people of all backgrounds and I feel so grateful to see the black people realizing themselves, and all the other folks celebrating us, standing with us, reorienting to the shape of a different center. What we pay attention to grows…attending to black dignity, and growing it, creates more possibilities for all of us.

I’m case you are curious, my big thought these days is what kind of world we would need in order for there to be no enemy of blackness. Where no one feared black children.

I’m traveling with this thought, and generally wondering if we can sustain a vision of a world without enemy in the face of hateful realities…how do we stop rearranging blood, weapons, power from one deranged isolated system to another…how do we get in right relation to the planet as a species? I think realizing the fantastic, the pleasure available to each of us, is key to this exploration. This, too, is pleasure activism.

That said, last night when asked about pleasure activism, in front of my mother, I answered ‘to have more fucks’.

This is a bit of a random post but I miss y’all. In all things I am working to keep it simple.


this is all the miracle (adapting towards pleasure)

it is easy to think everything is a miracle during a moment of external joy – falling in love, welcoming new life into the world, celebrating a major accomplishment, seeing a wonder of the world, being part of a successful march or action…those moments when rightness flows through my body and i feel connected to the great way/force/energy that makes us all one. 

what is harder is to bring my miraculous perspective to grief, to injustice, to delayed travel, to broken technology, to conflict, to changes of plans, to mercury retrograde – things that can be filed under ‘bad day’ or ‘bad life’.

mindful adaptation, however, makes it possible to experience the miraculous more often, if not constantly. 

here’s a little story about this:

i offered an emergent strategy training hosted by the group intelligent mischief in boston. it was full of opportunities to practice adaptation and other emergent strategies, none of which were expected.

first, i was late. 

generally i am becoming a late person as i age. i don’t want to sound shady, but basically i have been adapting because i was tired of being the only person on time. 

kidding! mostly kidding…

i just haven’t fully accepted that i need more time, and slower time, to live my life. i have been trying to adjust around this slower self, so this morning i’d scheduled myself to arrive an hour early. 

(i am going to try to tell this story without ‘bad at math’ feelings) 

i know that the commute from my parents’ house to downtown boston is usually 45 minutes, even with traffic. i left home about 15 minutes behind schedule because i was catching up with my mama, and when i plugged in the address it said 1 hr 15 min commute. my gut made the ‘ruh-roh’ scooby doo sound (my nibbling mairead loves scooby doo so this sound is running fresh grooves in my brain), but my mind overrode that with lots of rational options for the added time, including but not limited to traffic and the grandiose nature of boston and how everything in life is a mystery. 

as i flew through the tunnels under downtown and my directions said i had 30 minutes left, my intuition got louder – something is wrong. 

but i couldn’t figure out how to change the situation while moving at that speed without endangering everyone. also, i didn’t have time to be wrong.

so i kept going.

i finally pulled up to what i really wanted to be the downtown seiu building. instead it was a residential white clapboard house with laundry blowing on the line out front in a near-rural enclave south of the city. 

my mind immediately conceded to my gut (as opposed to making an argument to go knock on the door) which i appreciated. i figured out that my error was an understandable one – there are two ’26 west streets’ in boston in different neighborhoods. only one is downtown. now i was 30 minutes from the training which was scheduled to start in 15 minutes. 

this is where i adapted towards pleasure. 

well, first i yelled. one good strong wordless yell that filled up the car and released the tension that had been building between my mind and my gut. this is something i have been working on, to engage my anger. actually releasing it when it’s live in me.

then i emailed and called the organizers, to say where i was and to adjust the start time. they didn’t sound stressed at all, which helped.

then i had the thought that often shifts my mood – this is all the miracle. 

these 30 minutes of being late to a meeting in boston traffic is being lived by my miraculous irreplaceable body in a dynamic and outstanding system of life moving towards life. 

what i mean is, i think it’s my choice…if i spend these 30 minutes berating myself for not triple checking the directions or in some other way not being myself (because most of my stress takes the shape of self attack – ‘why don’t you have a better memory?’ ‘why don’t you prepare your travel better?’ ‘why aren’t you more like [insert superior human of the moment]?’ ‘why don’t you listen to your gut more?’) i will just show up feeling funky, lesser than, and like my life has been wasted.

i don’t want to waste any of this precious stuff, especially not in a context where i am asserting that my life matters.

so i put on alabama shakes.

the last song on their new album sound and color is something perfect called ‘over my head‘ (go watch the video) – it is about that kind of love so good ‘i feel it through all my past lives’. brittany howard sings like she is putting her heart on her lover’s table as a post-patriarchal dowry. 

i have been listening to the whole album on repeat, but that song in particular has all this space for me to add my own vocal flourishes to it. so i put it on repeat and i sang it all the way back to boston. 

i sang it while playing my video for it in my head. in my video, the song is a slave ship love ode where, in excruciating slow motion full of thick glances and the movement of sun in water, we watch an enslaved woman leap off the side of a slave ship after her love, who thrashes in the ocean waiting to die with her. once they hold each other they surrender and sink together away from the murderous light into the beautiful blackness of freedom. 

i also sang it while imagining performing it on the voice someday, which i suppose is a regular activity for everyone who can kind of sing.

suffice it to say, i arrived at the actual seiu building for my training feeling gloriously alive, flushed in the cheeks, laughing, clicking together the mind heels of the body in my head that can achieve enough height to click heels together. i walked in the room and…everyone else was late! 

the rest of the day was a shapeshifting adaptation fest. 

emergent strategy is something i am still discovering, but a lot of it for me feels like tuning into the natural operating systems of this universe and being humbled, as opposed to trying to barrel through and against all the change, trying to best nature. i am learning to see human behavior, even my own mistakes, as part of a larger natural order. leaning towards rihanna’s tattoo wisdom: ‘never a failure, always a lesson’. 

also, i am wondering where i have agency, where i am moving and where i am being moved. i keep making decisions and declarations about my life, and then that larger force deftly, elegantly adjusts me on my path.

i keep coming back to response and reaction as the place where i have the most agency, where, as octavia puts it, i can ‘shape god’. i am moving towards the horizon of the end of my life, i am generating as much liberation as i can on that journey. 

i choose what to embody, what to long for, even as the horizon shifts before me. the adaptation is up to me. the laughter between grieving friends, the justice of advancing a righteous anger, the first moments of surrender into new love, the opportunity inside of apparent failure…how often, how quickly, can i become aware of the miraculous nature of the moment i am in, and adapt towards the pleasure available in that awareness?  

this is also what i mean by pleasure activism: in addition to turning up the sensual and erotic experiences of life, i choose to experience pleasure in the onslaught of reality, finding the people and places with whom pleasure comes easily and giving them all my attention, extracting and/or growing pleasure as a radical act, a radical claim of what the miracle of my existence convinces me i am due. 

interdependence is iterative

interdependence is one of the elements of emergent strategy that i have been studying (and, i thought, embodying) over the past few years.

i love it theoretically – no one is alone! in an ideal scenario of radical interdependence, we would take from the planet what we needed to sustain ourselves, and care for and protect the place and life forms of home. we would take from each other what we needed, what we lacked, and offer to each other from our abundance. its a lovely idea and i am slightly obsessed with cultivating it, particularly in movement spaces.

this past month i have gotten some practice in it, and really noticed the iterative nature of interdependence. what i have been studying by being hyper aware inside my life is how much being interdependent is a series of small repetitive motions.

i am excited to share observations anytime i am able to from inside an experience, and that isn’t always possible. much of this past month was hard in ways i couldn’t move through my mouth or fingers with any coherence.

the feelings were clear, though…

perhaps not all feelings fit inside of words anyway. it is presumptive to ever assume we are understanding each other, but what a balm it is to feel understood, or even just held tightly when your spirit is dancing beyond comprehension.

the things i had do repeatedly towards interdependence:

1. be seen.

initially with defensiveness (i am not like you say i am) even/especially in the face of experts (i have diagnosed myself, i know what is wrong with me).

and then, perhaps, without agency. because being seen is actually non-negotiable, though i can hide or i can determine my level of grace and relationship in it.

on so many levels, interdependence requires being seen, as much as possible, as your true self. meaning that your capacity and need are transparent.

meaning even when i don’t want to look in the mirror, i am (and i choose to be) open to the attention of others.

sometimes i start with my w.o.e.s., or those with whom i am co-evolving through friendship. i show something i’ve been hiding, and hope i’m still lovable. this generally goes better than could be expected, every single time.

i have also tried starting out naked on a hard table under a bright light, shivering from the cold of so many strangers’ eyes.

i can walk towards this ‘being seen’ and experience the beauty of releasing all that guard and protection, that miracle distortion. or i can resist it and only be seen in moments of trauma and loss of control.

but i will be seen, and the more i open to it, the gentler and more necessary that attention feels.

(as i was writing this i was reminded that interdependence is basically the song lean on me in practice: ‘for no one can fill those of your needs that you don’t let show.’)

2. be wrong.

there is nothing like the wrong feeling of being an intuitive witchy healer and having to be told something indisputable about your body.

particularly if you’ve already done the thorough work of disputing said something. out loud. at a volume that might, by some, be described as unmedicated anguish level. it’s pitiful wrong.

the easier ‘being wrong’ is for you (the faster you can release your viewpoint), the quicker you can adapt to changing circumstances. adapting allows you to know and name current needs and capacity, to be in relationship in real time, as opposed to any cycle of wishing and/or resenting what others do or don’t give you.

sometimes there isn’t one definitive truth (my favorite situations).

and sometimes there is one and you can’t see it. (least favorite. least.)

just at least consider it, that place where you are wrong might be the most fertile ground for connecting with and receiving others.

and in a beautiful twist, being soft in your rightness, as opposed to smashing people with your brilliance, can open others up to whatever wisdom you’ve accumulated. i am grateful to all the people who were softly right about me this past month when i couldn’t see my own needs.

3. accept my inner multitudes.

an honest self would agree to some self-care practice or limitation that would protect my recovering wounded body. and then another – honest, even earnest – self would almost immediately act against that agreement.

i’d be half bent over to lift something when the voice of one of my precious beloveds would slip through – ‘seriously what the fuck are you doing?’

(my loved ones are pure molasses sweetness.)

there is a me that wants to get that sugar devil away from me for good. there is a me that can’t go through physical trauma without ice cream, can’t even imagine that.

the more i accept this, the more i can share my contradictory truths with those who can support me, help me move towards my best self.

i am not turning against myself, i am multitudes. the tide to be turned is a process of inner alignment, those who wish to support me need me to be vulnerable with that inner contradiction.

4. ask for, and receive, what i need.

can you drive me to the hospital?
can you explain what is happening to me?
can you stop my pain?
can you open this water bottle?
can you help me stand up and sit down?
can you open the door?
can you put my bag in the overhead bin?
can you bring me groceries?
can you drive me to the airport and actually park and help me bring my suitcase inside?
can you hold me while i cry?
can you heal me?
and so on for what feels like forever…

and most of all, the childlike request inside of story telling: can you listen while i feel this?

i’m learning that interdependence is not about the equality of offers in real time. i had to ask most of these things of people i didn’t necessarily know, or knew but wouldn’t be able to offer anything to in the foreseeable future. i had to trust in that karma-ish idea that the support i’ve offered in the past or will offer in the future would balance this scale which felt so me-tilted.

over and over and over i offered up my small self and was held in big ways. thread through me, again, again.

the result of this experience is that i feel so much more woven into the world. i still anticipate my independence, my default can-do self space. but i don’t want to sever any of this connecting fabric between myself and all of the incredible people who held me through this past month, saw me, corrected me, held me in my contradictions, met my needs. i want more of my life to feel this interdependent, this of community and humanity. i love knowing how incredible it feels to have a need met, to be loved and cared for, and also know how incredible it feels to meet an authentic need.

it’s data, all this learning. tender data.

y’all who fed, held, carried, cleaned, transported, protected, scolded, listened and loved up on me through this…i’m in really love with y’all.

Support Stories for Chip!

Dear Mr. Samuel Delany,

I didn’t start with Dhalgren; I had to build up to that. I started with a slender, beautiful volume containing Nova and Babel-17, on display next to a picture of you. You looked like family to me. Then I read Dhalgren, at times turning the book sideways in my hands, looking under and around it for clues, feeling the world. This was a new way to read: feeling everything, relinquishing the familiar. You made me blush, you made me start considering the decimal system to measure my new loves, you showed me how brave it is to write yourself into the future as an object of desire.

And then I read in your autobiography that you were living these explorations of pleasure as a radical, world-changing practice. Your writing and life suggested to me that pleasure was a way to claim race, class, ability, body size, beauty, gender, and other marginalizing tools as distinctions of sensual relevance, potential delights in a delicious world. I call myself a pleasure activist and a sci-fi writer, and I thank you for being a beacon in the dark for strange, beautiful, black desires and liberations.

With respect, love, and gratitude,

adrienne maree

Give today to support the Stories for Chip campaign to fund an anthology of fiction and essays on honor of Samuel Delany (who made my life today by commenting on this note on the facebook)…if you’re not familiar with his groundbreaking work, go read all of it!

your pain is your own

my pain is my own.

i have been aware, lately and again, of the desire to compare pain. i think science fictionally, so i often live in a mythological world where my pain is invisible.

even to me.

i sometimes have the feeling of coming up short for an explanation of why i hurt the way i do. others are going through far worse situations. i layer on devastations every day from my loved ones, from my timelines and newsfeeds.

and yet, i’ve been crying again. tears particularly for me, for my grief and loss.

tomorrow is mother’s day. i’m blessed that my mother, and her mother, are still here, and that we are not only in a good place, but i would say in right relationship, with lots of love, respect and transparency present.

i miss my father’s mom. and i have a lot of people in my life for whom mother’s day is a day of grief, sadness, tenderness, memory, and longing.

i enter this mother’s day with a vastly different reproductive system than i had last year. i hold my half system tenderly and reach out to my grieving community with an awareness of how small my hands are, compared to a mother’s hands.

inside my hurt, i know there is pain i can’t imagine, even as i offer something to counter it.

i believe we have the right to take up space with our full emotional lives and processes. pain, anger, joy, ecstacy – it’s all our right to feel.

right now there is so much pain to feel, and the healthy move is to feel it. we are increasing our capacity to hold and transform pain as individuals, as communities, as societies.

we fear pain so much, and yet it is part of how change happens.

when movements builds, there emerges a constant battle of pain. some of this is righteous, necessary, an awakening process. ‘why can’t anyone see my pain?’ is a legitimate question in a world where supremacy and oppression make so many of us invisible. the primary way supremacy works, in fact, is to erase the humanity of others, in order to enact genocide, or implement slavery, or, in other less overt but still dangerous ways, live in the realm of believing your life is more miraculous than the lives of others for purely superficial reasons.

our fear leads to stagnation, inflammation, emptiness. it is a wisdom, learning to be with my fear, our fear…to know when it is intelligence.

but we can’t let our fears silence us.

we have to be careful of internalizing the ability to embellish or erase the miraculous emotive nature of others. this can happen a number of ways.

there is a way to feel invisible and self-erase, make ourselves small, quiet – swallow our truths.

there is a way we can create the conditions in which no one wants to look in our direction because we can only see our pain, and diminish everyone else’s.

there is a way we can become obsessed with attempting to compare our pain to the pain of another.

there is a way we can prioritize the grief of others, ignoring our own brokenness, our own need for healing.

the thing we each have some reference for is pain. the thing we cannot imagine is the pain of others.

i have been reflecting on the saying ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. i think that is only true if i take time to turn and face the places that hurt the most. not concerning myself with comparison, but rather with the longing to integrate that suffering into a stronger self.

what doesn’t kill me makes me weep, makes me over, makes me new…makes me me.