dispatch from dc

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I am finally at a web connection after a powerful night and powerful morning. As you may know, I am not a fan of marches in general, because they don’t turn out people of color in large numbers and often there is not a clear sense of accountability associated with the use of people’s time. My girl Malia Lazu has written up a brilliant missive on this, which I will try to get a hold of and share with you. But direct action that is purposeful and well-planned, I love. And Cornell at the front of the march is a nice sight – see the pic I took…

This morning I got to be a part of a direct action here in D.C. in which Cindy Sheehan and Cornell West got arrested, organized by Rev. Sekou, with the Code Pink ladies and the Military Families Speak Out group. We gathered at the church on 16th and P for inspiration and song, then marched over. I switched between talking media strategy with Davey D, and then following him around taking pictures as he interviewed folks, and then starting up songs in the crowd. The focal point for me was the Clergy and Laity Concerned About Iraq – religious leaders from all over, including Christian, Buddhist, Muslim and Jewish leaders. Folks spoke and sang, laid on hands, raised blessings, and marched right up to the White House and sat down to be arrested. The police then came and started (and are still doing so as I write this) arrested mothers who have lost their babies in Iraq for asking to speak to the man who sent those babies into the desert from which they would not return. I stayed with them, taking pictures and singing, until the last minute. My mom’s in from Japan and wouldn’t fogive me for spending one of our two nights together in jail.

I was at Riverside Church when I first got hear Celeste Zappala speak. Her son was the first Pennsylvania National Guardsman to die in combat since World War  II. I was so moved I nearly wept, but poured the tears into my song instead. Last night, at the Washington Monument, I got the honor of singing to open the program. Celeste was next to me, and when I sat down I just had to put my arm around her. She said, "It seems like these tears will never stop."

Today I found her in the crowd again, alone and crying. She is trying to speak up through her grieving and she moves me, perhaps because she looks like my own mother, like anyone’s mom. She and Cindy Sheehan, who I also got to meet and build with this weekend, are such normal, every day type people. And the bravest people I know. I think of Celeste, calling through her grief, calling a warning, trying to stop other families from experiencing the grief and pain, the story that she is carrying. Again today I held her in my arms, and I can’t express in words what it feels like to hold someone who is carrying around that combination of emotion, to whom the front lines have come, unbidden.

Last night, before the Interfaith Service, I was at the Green Festival for the panel of women writers for ‘Stop the Next War Now’. I mistakenly thought it was a book signing, and when I got there it was actually a series of speeches, so I wrote one quickly – there is so much in my heart right now, as I and those closest to me go through changes and the swift maturation of tragedy and grief close to home.

In my speech I said we are living with the New Gulf War, the Gulf Coast War here on American soil. It’s a civil war exposed, a race war, a class war, a war of history against the present. Every casualty is a civilian, and now so many are American. Those who go to document the stories come back shocked and speechless, breaking down. Now is the time to listen to the silence, see what’s in the absence, ACT for those who are paralyzed by their circumstances.

This is a personal war for me, not just because my father has been in the ARMY my whole life, and I have seen the silencing of military culture, how hard it is to speak against the norms of your community…not just because my roots are Deep Southern and I am deeply aware of the segregation bred into the hearts of good people there, the honesty and pace of change there…but because everywhere I turn now I see the constancy of this period of history writ on people’s faces, either as terror, hopelessness or denial. We have time for none of that, we have time only for waking up.

In my speech I also said I had good news. And I do…good news about the resistance of giving, that in the wake of the tragedy it was clear we had everything we needed to sustain our own communities. When the government refused to go to the heart of the tragedy, average people rode past them with rescue, with water, food, clothing, offers of homes and transportation and money. And that giving was from poor, rich, white, black, children to elders, all giving as they were able.

Now, we have to get out of the habit of only mobilizing to protect and sustain our communities when it’s too late and the bodies are floating, are bombed, are buried. The oppression we fight is organized to operate daily. Our resistance must be daily. That’s what I said.

I got to meet Ysaye Barnwell from Sweet Honey in the Rock and recruited her as my mentor for the movement singing stuff. At the gathering last night the Noble Peace Prize winner Mairead Corrigan spoke of the work they did in Belfast…I am so moved by these people, all these everyday people who have responded to the violence of the modern world with courage and creativity, reconciliation and resistance and love.

Speaking of love…I saw the heartbreaker. It was amazing the way normal interactions after a chaos can be. We fell into some comfort, but I held my heart like a deck of cards, schizophrenic directions but all close in my hand. I can see a future in which we’re cool with each other for real. Not right this second, cause I cannot lie and say its butterflies dipped in rose honey to see him, he’s having hard times and my instinct to swoop and save is deep. But he’s a man, and I have faith he’ll get it together. He’s surviving. We all are.

Overall I just feel inspired. The faith community is coming together, the youth community is coming together, the heartbreakers are coming together, and tomorrow I attend a meeting in which the voter organizing training community is coming together. This is no time to mope and feel sorry for yourself. Do better than that. The world is turning and people are getting up and moving forward, this is the time, we are the people.

For inspiration watch the middle passage of Chris Rock’s Never Scared. It’s not too late to figure out whatever the hell you could contribute to this moment and make it happen. Don’t fall into the well of self that gives nothing to the world. Live!! It’s on and poppin!

and here’s what i had written up before all the work began:

Required Listening to be my friend right now: Joni Mitchell ‘Both Sides Now’; Missy Elliott ‘Can’t Stop’, ‘Teary-Eyed’ and ‘We Run This’

Jiggle drama: I’m sitting in the union station in

d.c.

listening to kanye and being tired and hung-over and a bit out of sorts. I went out last night to BirthDAG and accidentally ended up sippin’ on some sizurp and involving myself in a conversational grindfest. Y’all know what I’m talking about, when u haven’t seen someone in a while so you have to have a really loud catching up conversation over the music while simultaneously grinding as inappropriately on each other as possible until a good friend pulls you out the door by the seat of your drunk ass pants? You know what I mean? You live in my lap style.

The grindin is in no way the drama, grindin with someone who can keep up and work it out, is one of my favorite things in life, plus I earned some cab money home! so bup bup J-Mar on the boogy…

However! I have a signature jiggle I do – introduced it three years ago at the first ever Virgo Bash – which I think just might have popped a whole vertebrae out of wack. I have been massaging myself – on the train, bus, plane, train and walk I’ve already taken on this remarkable Sunday. It isn’t helping, I just want to cry, it hurts.

But!!! I heard from that woman in

Ohio

. She’s been in her head, her process, but we got to have a moment. A couple – she holla’d and I holla’d and I made her laugh and that made me happy…She is such a brilliant fabulous woman, on the real. she’s the type of woman who asks you for things, and you are like yes, yes, yes and can I give you more? Then you realize after the fact how much it means, how much she needs. Wish me luck readers!

And next week I get to see my

Cali

make-out buddy. I could almost call this dispatches from the cut, where i’m laid up. Almost! :)

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