Monthly Archive for February, 2010

that you love what you are

my friend sofia finds the best things in the world, the most perfect things. this is one, for all of us who are right now in the snow and cold.

Lines for Winter
by Mark Strand
(for Ros Krauss)

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

here is a video of mary louise parker, (who i love and try to emulate in ways that definitely don’t quite work, as she is long and awkward where i am soft and comfortable) reading this poem.

people keep asking me how i am doing these days, how i am finding detroit. i am finding myself in detroit, and i am loving myself in detroit. there is work here i am suited to, and visions here i am inspired by. i sit in conversations where people are able to speak to lineage, tradition, ancestry, meditation, capitalism, deep ecology, life schooling, healing and resilience – and these are meetings, where we are doing logistical work.

i am being localized, and challenged, and pulled into the glorious mundane that is daily revolutionary work. i couldn’t be more grateful.

and the little blessings keep coming. i went into the Y today and they had a special where they were waiving the joining fee. the family membership here is the same as a single membership in oakland – i am going to get my swim on.

and i baked my first bread loaves, and have plenty more dough in the fridge!

let it go

i am learning an immense amount about drama these days. humans can cause each other so much unnecessary stress and pain, sometimes without meaning to, sometimes because they cannot bear the lack of attention that might come along with being stress-free and drama-free.

in the many arenas of work i am engaged in now, i am very observant and appreciative of those people who prioritize getting the work done over getting a title, or to be the leader, or to win an argument. i appreciate those who have a high degree of self-awareness, are skillful at asking questions and listening, and are open to the learning we are in the midst of.

there were over 30 unique crisis, tension or drama moments in the past week, from very small to very large dramas. and i expect that number won’t drop in the coming weeks. don miguel ruiz’s four agreements come to mind again and again:

1. don’t make assumptions
2. don’t take things personally
3. be impeccable with your word
4. always do your best

when people aren’t doing their best, and aren’t being impeccable with their words…there’s actually plenty of time to make assumptions and take things personally. and where there is more of a commitment in self than in community, everything seems personal…the movie i went to see the other night, My Son My Son What Have Ye Done, had a scene where a man’s mind had broken with reality. and he was shouting – “why are the mountains looking at me!?” that level of self-absorption can become a sickness, and on a communal level we have to love people enough to be honest, and get well together. or let it go…being able to assess where to work and where to release is perhaps the most useful skill we can all develop.

it’s becoming my new motto for drama: is it fixable? no? let it go.

in other news: i got my bread stone today! inspired by my sister, i am going to bake breads in the house. with all the snow here, and all the soup i am making, i think this will be a wonderful skill to develop :) wish me luck!

deconstructions and ego

i don’t have too much to say today but i saw this building the other day and snapped a shot on my phone. you can see the sky through the remaining wall and windows. the buildings in the back look like the twin towers to me. i wish i had a better camera. i am still new enough to the D that when i turn a corner and see something like this my jaw drops while everyone around me keeps going, oblivious or beyond.

this week i had several little ‘learning to live in detroit’ moments. i had to shovel my car out from the snow all by myself. prior to detroit i spent a carless decade in ny and then 3 snowless years driving around cali. novice. it took me half an hour, and i did it wrong in several ways, getting snow on myself and in the car before mastering a stroke that moved the snow both off the car and away from me. i left too much snow on the hood, which melted while i was in meetings and was iced over by the time i returned, so i spent another half hour chipping that away until a detroit elder drove by laughing at me and said, ‘you don’t have to get it clean child, just clear enough to drive. get in the car before someone else does and drives it away.’

i got home to the little locked lot [where we park the car so it doesn't get stolen, because having a stolen car is a more common experience in detroit than having a job or health insurance] and the part of the lock where you slip in the key was iced shut. i looked around me but there was no magic, no elder, no answer. so i found a lighter in the car and melted the ice inside the lock.

each of these moments was a meditation, a surrender to the time and place and reality of my circumstances. upon completion, each of these tasks became a victory. my life is very busy right now, i need every victory i can get. plenty of people want to suggest things, tell me how to do things, and give me things to do – but not enough people want to celebrate. my nephew is a teacher in this – he is amazed by everything, especially everything he himself figures out.

my friend gibran rivera, who i am realizing has become a teacher-friend because i now hang on his every word, said something to me the other day which landed hard. he posted an article on multitasking, and how it literally seems to make people less effective and overtime weakens the mind. i said that i prided myself on multitasking, which is true; i play tetris on conference calls or take notes, i keep a show running in the background while i write essays, i say it helps me focus – and i believe it.

gibran responded: “consider the amazing power of your attention, you shape your universe with it – imagine this power when focused!”

facing the elements in detroit is reminding me about this, giving me lived experience with it. i can’t multitask while walking on ice and snow, i have to step. i have to shovel the snow off the car without getting soaked. i have to give it my whole attention.

and then give my whole attention to the next task, and the next, whether its work, or a conversation with my sister, or listening to my partner, or cooking, or watching a movie.

oh – tonight i was dragged away from my computer and phone to a movie. i recommend it – thoroughly entertaining and interesting and a brilliant depiction of the inside of a broken mind and/or heart, an episode – it’s called My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, by Werner Herzog, produced by David Lynch. there’s one scene where the lead character, who has committed matricide, screams “why is everyone looking at me? why are the mountains looking at me?” and it’s just the quintessential element of my own experiences of mental illness – being completely consumed by the ego. which led me to think – again – that there is sanity, longevity, and sustainability in the collective, the collaborative, the humble, the selfless.

and..it’s late and i didn’t come here with much to say :)

nite.

traps

woke up with a poem coming out this morning. here it is:

in that other world
flowers can bloom in your mouth
we are all pollinator
the world sleeps in shadows
waits for our warm touch
and where we love her
she comes alive
bringing us everyday
a new wonder
venus flytraps, pomegranate
anemones
and horses in the sea

i have seen the
heartbeat of the desert
that vibrant shifting flesh
i have known the
pulsing of the jungle
an inward rhythmic roaring
how the growl of the belly sounds
to the eaten

in this land at this time
i only hear explosions
the clank of machines
metal, scraping
i only see hollows
and unsleeping eyes
persons clutching their chests
for the empty inside

and she who could hold us
on tips of her finger
and arch us in pleasure
and make our days linger
is packed under concrete
mined for her riches

and she cannot remember
whose love story this is.

i have started a new virtual sci-fi readers club. it has 3 members including me, and we are going to read The Dispossessed, by Ursula K Leguin. i want to reread it because the first time [mere months ago] i read my sister’s copy and didn’t mark it all up. and there’s a lot in there that rings true or raises questions for me, and i dont’t feel like a book is read until i have marked and underlined the parts i love. since i read it i have looked at all my belongings as suspect and rediscovered the parts of myself that exist beyond jealousy/ownership. to be a part of the club, just read the book and then holler at me, and ill grab the best stuff for a collective post on here.

i’ve had some super vivid flying dreams lately where i wake up disconcerted that this body doesn’t remember how to elevate even a little bit. according to three different dream interpretation websites, flying indicates a liberation, a new freedom. since dreams are supposedly unbound by reality, its hard for me to take seriously an art of dream interpretation where something translates into the same emotional experience for everyone, but i love that idea.

now here’s some wonderful free music:

Golden Age by Sonnymoon [free album download, particularly find myself grinding around the house to Houstatlantavegas]

Material Girl and Promise Me by Monica Blaire – teasers for the album that is sure to be amazing, Back to the Future.

Cold War and Tightrope, by Janelle Monae, a super quirky soulful performer who space travels to music.

And finally, Dope Muzik from Miz Korona, one of the mega-stars of the local Detroit scene, personality for days.

feeling el-hajj

Detroit Red is someone we all know. Bright, beautiful, hustling, trying everything, wanting more, with the unhealed recent familial and current experiences of racism all around like four walls, eyes bigger than hands, prison immanent.

Malcolm X is someone we all know. Deep, raging, righteous, always reading and challenging himself, and challenging his community, and challenging his teachers. Holding court from the street corner, from the pulpit, in community center basements. A voice of his people’s history, speaking from the whip’s lash, speaking from the lynched neck, seeing liberation just there and calling us all forward to reach it by any means necessary.

El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz is someone we all need to know. He has looked under every rock and still not found the answer. He has submitted himself to God, and is just beginning to see the divine in all of his brothers and sisters, even those he had understood as his enemy. He doesn’t care anymore what people think of him, he has been alone, he has been surrounded, he has broken with every comfortable space and made room in his heart only for love. He has a lifetime of transformative experience to reflect on and offer to the world, he comes to tell us what is possible, he knows we can go with him.

We had Detroit Red, we had Malcolm X, but they took El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz from us, with his whole story, and for that we must mourn, while living into the pathway he was beginning at the end of his life.

Are you supporting transformation? Who is the Malcolm X in your life, and how are you supporting him or her?

the forum, in a nutshell

over and over i find myself explaining to people the structures and processes of the us social forum, of which i am a national coordinator. everything is on the website, and you can literally read all the meeting notes on the wiki, but still – i want to make it clear to yall.

i thought it might be useful to write some things up here, so folks who know me can get involved and feel knowledge-able when talking to your friends.

the forum has been around for a decade in the world, and the first one in the u.s. was 2007. for general info about the forum, it’s politics, what we believe, the charter of principles and all that, go to www.ussf2010.org.

in terms of how to get involved, there’s lots of options.

first and foremost, register. that way we know you’re coming and you can be getting all the info about how to book a workshop (including the list of workshop tracks), travel to the forum, have accommodations in detroit, and all the organizing that’s going on.

second, figure out how you’re going to get to the Forum. Yes Magazine actually talked to us and got information on how to get to us and wrote a great piece on it, so check it out!

in terms of what’s going to happen over that 5 day period, on the first day (Tuesday) there will be a massive opening march and ceremony. on the last day (saturday), there will be a huge People’s Movement Assembly {see below} and then a Closing Ceremony. In between, there will be:

1. self-organized workshops. any registered group can propose one workshop once they register. we’re expecting 20,000 people, which is why there’s only one workshop per group. but you can collaborate with other people, which we encourage. workshops are encouraged to be interactive, popular education style, with clear ideas for how folks can incorporate the lessons into their upcoming work. The themes for the three workshop days are:

Day 2: Connecting Detroit and the U.S.
Day 3: Connecting the U.S. and International Work
Day 4: Solutions, Alternatives and Visions

2. people’s movement assemblies. the PMAs are my favorite way folks can get involved. a PMA is a process by which a community can identify a specific and tangible proposal for actions or policies to advance work. communities and whole cities are doing PMAs to uplift local issues all over the country leading up to the forum, and then at the forum there will be PMAs. four or more organizations can work together to offer a PMA. Generally the PMAs at the forum will be organized like this:
Wednesday Day 1. Listening to Detroit (economic crisis)
Thursday Day 2. Discussion
Friday Day 3. Resolutions
Saturday Day 4. Actions (calls to action) beyond the forum

3. Plenaries. We JUST officially decided to offer plenaries – this was not an automatic because there is legitimate concern about the role of plenaries in an open space process. However, we felt that with 20,000 people coming together with a desire to advance tangible political outcomes, the plenary space was a necessary one. The plenaries will align with the themes for each day, and we are thinking about all kinds of formats to make the plenaries truly interactive and meaningful. I have received a ton of plenary requests, but the plenaries won’t be something that’s formed around one issue or request, they will be intersectional interactive sessions and, just like in 2007, we won’t be looking for big name famous folks to fill the slots. we’ll be looking for humble amazing grassroots organizers to reflect on the intersections that they’re witnessing at the ground level.

4. Work Projects and Work Brigades. Leading up to the forum hundreds of folks are coming in work brigades to do projects in Detroit, from gardening to exchanging organizing methods to retrofitting houses. During the forum there will be Work Projects where folks can go into the community and get their hands dirty making real-life, needed improvements here in Detroit which will last long after the Forum. This is one of the most exciting areas of the Forum for me.

5. Detroit Expanded – DEX. For those who can’t make it, nationally and internationally, we’re working on an interactive web presence so y’all can see what we’re doing and input on it. This helps us tap into the reality that we’re part of an international political process, not just a 5 day event. We want the world to see us here in Detroit, and engage with us in these conversations about our collective future!

6. Canopies…in 2007 we had tents…in Detroit we’re calling them canopies for legal reasons, but it’s the same idea. Folks will be able to secure a canopy that can be set up throughout the forum where self-organized activities can happen, merchandise can be available, folks can screen videos, hold ceremonies, and immerse folks in their work.

7. Culture! In addition to the self-organized workshops, there is a process by which folks can put in a cultural submission – to sing, bring art, act, bring poetry, participate in a film festival and so much more. There is a true goddess helping organize this component, and she recognizes that our creativity is where we shift and embody new culture, so the work of this part of the forum will weave in through the plenaries, the open spaces and every other part of the forum. We have Cobo Hall and Hart Plaza for all our work, and there will be stages with ongoing amazing performances throughout the forum.

8. Children’s Social Forum and Youth Camp. In 2007 we tried this on, and as part of the Allied Media Conference I have seen how powerful it is to engage children not as creatures to be dropped off and just cared for, but as political beings to be engaged. There’s a lot of work needed to pull this off, but it’s definitely happening and promises to be one of the most exciting aspects of the camp. There is also -at every forum – a youth camp. In Detroit the youth working group and local community are working to pull off a youth space for youth to stay and organize and network throughout the forum. Email youthussf at gmail.com to learn more.

9. Detroit Local Organizing…the DLOC (Detroit Local Organizing Committee) also has some other stuff popping off – tent villages and a bike warehouse for folks who are biking to Detroit. The Boggs Center will be hosting a transformative space with some gardening projects. Detroit is one of the most exciting transitional spaces in the world right now, and these projects will be a way to see it all!

10. International Participation. There is a team of folks who are working on invite letters and visas for folks who are coming from outside the country to participate in this forum, and this same group is also helping to weave international voices throughout the forum, so if you’d like to be matchmade with someone who is doing similar work in another part of the world for your workshop or PMA, you’ll be able to do that!

11. Direct Actions. The local community is thinking about some major actions that will advance local campaigns and local needs, and developing an action protocol that asks anyone coming in from out of town to respect that local action schedule. We also know folks are coming and wanting to do actions on all sorts of issues. We will be working to coordinate these to maximize the attention each action gets.

12. Open Space. While it seems like there is so much planned that there’s no space for openness, we feel it’s a major political priority to have open unplanned space for folks to converge, plan, share and network. So we’re securing spaces for that to happen.

13. Tours. Detroit is a living historical center. We will be doing tours of the gardens of Detroit, labor tours, movement tours – there are so many ways to see this amazing place you will be in.

14. Grassroots Fundraising. This is a collective effort and the bulk of funds are going to be drummed up from the ground up. Start now raising funds with and for your community to participate, and to contribute to the capacity of the overall forum. Feed the Roots!

I’m sure there will be more. I really encourage folks who want to be be influential in the forum process to get involved. There’s several ways – including a Brand New Way.

Grassroots groups focused on basebuilding with low income communities and/or people of color can still apply to be members of the National Planning Committee through the website. We have added a brand new thing to the website – Endorsers! Organizations and individuals who have less capacity, or don’t match the demographic priorities of the NPC, can become Endorsers. That will posted soon.

There are also Working Groups – this is where ALL the work of the forum happens, from communications to logistics to outreach to program and culture. These groups are open for anyone in the world to be a part of and we need more people! This is my biggest recommendation to people who want to get involved in shaping the forum.

If folks want to do work towards the forum that isn’t necessarily part of the official process, they can form a committee.

I can’t really imagine folks not planning to be a part of this process, though I am sure they exist. But this is my major focus for the next few months, and this is the information folks seem to want, so hopefully this is all helpful! Ask me questions if you have them – I am here for my folks!

Ah – and here is something I found as I go through a process of grieving for my cousin’s stillborn child: I have withdrawn from the world, I have withdrawn from the world’s tumult and live alone in my own heaven, in my love, in my song.

With love!!

the darker side

there are some experiences that are so nightmarish and horrible that no one should have to experience them. someone i love is in the midst of such an experience right now, and i feel the powerless and the pain. its a crystal clear type of wrong. there are massive tragedies, and then there are intimate personal impossible heartbreaking singular tragedies and i simply struggle to stay civil as i listen to the trite dramas people can create in their lives and in any process…there is enough real struggle, real pain, real grief and real work out there.

i feel so sad and so angry.

what occurs to me as i go through these days with so much painful stuff happening in my family is that – this is the common human experience. tragedy and crisis is happening to folks all the time, just as healing and love is. to be present with people is to realize that they might in pain, part of their heart might be with a loved one. we all have to do a better job of holding each other gently.

what has gotten me through the past few days has been that there are so many incredible people, working hard, bringing solutions, offering to pick up work, being gentle, acting with respect and love. those folks greatly outnumber those who can’t seem to think outside their own concerns or problems, and give me something good to focus on.

i usually keep a list of questions for the goddess, this week all i could was cry and light a candle – there are no answers right now.

i am focusing my love, and focusing it again, sending it the only way i know how.

when in doubt, default to love

my love capacity is massive.

just finished two days of work with the most inspiring girls in the world over at the young women’s empowerment project. literally ended with the room shouting ‘I AM PRICELESS!’

the practice of being with women in a space that is action-oriented, non-judgmental, uplifting, grounding, centering and real is so healing, and it drives home to me how much we long to default to love with each other – instead of suspicion, jealousy, hatred…those are the systems we face, and to face them together means to hold each other, as we are, whole/broken/bent/bruised/scared/strong/hilarious/glamorous/whole.

here’s some of the art from the walls.

anyway

this first piece is a poem i couldn’t stop reading – “i want someone to call me beautiful, when they see my shame. i want them to place me on a wall, anyway.” the rawness of that need made me ache; how much of the essence of love is seeing and being seen for your darkest, most shameful, most imperfect self, and called beautiful? who do you love that way? who do you let love you that way? open up.

YWEP art 1

YWEP art 2

i am also in a swirl because my grandfather, who i love and who loves me – across generations, faiths, political differences and life – is in the hospital and i want to go sit by his side and listen more. the moment reminds me that only faith can stand up when grief and crisis enter the room, and i have to remember what my faith is. there’s something in defaulting to love, and something in Earthseed. god is change, change is god. i think now how my life has been touched and shaped by my grandfather, how i have touched and shaped his life, and what a blessing that is. and no matter what happens, no matter how long we have, we will continue to change each other. i have faith in that.

it’s been about 6 months since i moved for love [to detroit, same time zone as cuba, the greening city, the burst of future in a regressing economy, and home], and since then my capacity to default to love has been growing. what i have learned so far about defaulting to love:

– you have to be present and attend to what you are actually feeling/thinking/experiencing…that is the essence of self-love

– once you acknowledge the truth, you can let go of what is irrelevant.

– love lets you see what is distraction, what is ego, and what is learning.

– love lets you move past taking things personally, and begin to see and honor the pain and survival under the surface of your own and others’ behavior.

– love reminds us there is no right or wrong life, or choice.

– love sees the blessing and the lesson, laughs at regret, nods wisely at unintentional acts, and carries only the wisdom forward.

– love is physical, spiritual, social, political, solo, duet, chorus, universal, isolated, natural, technological, chemical…more states than water, all at once.

– we are always capable of love.

i will of course keep you posted as i learn more.

because…i love you.

many kinds of love

as we head towards a strange mainstream celebration of love, a new friend reminded me of this poem i wrote for my nephew in 2008:

Finn:

my sweet new one

holy discovery of the day

wide eyed, wide, opened wide

sweet smell, just-here smell

of clean

of new-to-the-world

of softest skin

skin with the tiniest

and fragile hair

all the softest kind of cover

changing-daily skin

my sweet loved one

your mouth shaped like kiss and suckle

a place to sense + taste + learn

vulnerable

dependent and strong

standing, shaking with effort

head held high

bones committing to solidarity

you will walk

you will run

you are as new as the daily sun

and it made me think that it’s time for another one, so here it is:

Finn 2

you shriek when you see me
you clap and you giggle
you run to the door and
turn circles and wiggle

from perfection
you grow ever dearer to me
lion heart golden boy
you, the newest of friends

and i, full of wonder
at all things you do
know the miracle is current, ever prevalent in you

the unknown is leading
and you, leaning into
i learn from the ease
with which rage comes and leaves you

your mind is working, all out of bounds
and i wouldn’t be the one to rein you in
i come to your edge, prepared to jump off
it’s the joy of my life
finn, sweet finn.

i am having a moment of complete alignment with happiness. i feel like i have everything i need right now – fully engaged in my work, fully engaged in my relationships with friends and family and loved ones. the more i work, the happier i am. the more i reach out and make plans with my family the happier i am. the more i connect with folks on strategic actions that excite me? i mean happy isn’t even the word – it’s love. the more i do things i love, with people i love, the more love i experience. i grasp that it’s limitless.

it’s the only advice i can give these days, the only answer to any question…do you love it? are you acting from love? can you feel my love? do you need some more love?

i got you.

what it is…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, learning a lot, and feeling very humbled. It’s occurred to me that if i want to be a better human being, then i have to be less selfish, more selfless. Movement building, in fact, is shifting the inner dialogue of self or community from “I want to..” to “What’s needed?” And from that place of what’s needed, its easy to see that the self has something to contribute – that every single self has something to contribute. Only from the perspective of personal ambition, of wanting to advance or gain something purely for the self, it is easy to feel defeated, unworthy…

The number of organizers I come across who are driven by ambition and don’t see why they aren’t succeeding is too many to count….many are brilliant people, with the capacity to truly move others. But those that truly inspire me rarely have a big following – rather, they are part of something inspiring, they participate in mechanisms that are miraculous because they combine work and joy.

This can happen in any community, in any network or alliance, any place of work, any place where the tasks of being alive occur. The tiny functions of the body might seem mundane when they are happening, food moving through the body, blood pumping. But altogether it’s so miraculous – a contained sun-processor, oxygen transformer, lined with pleasure receptors and holding emotions in flesh…it’s so something-out-of-nothing. In the community there are a million small functions like that, that can become a miracle, an interdependence, a movement – if we remove the barriers.

I am not convinced everyone has to be in some radical organizing job, not at all. I am absolutely convinced that the world would function with more humanity and equality and joie de vivre if it was understood that hard right work and joy bubbled up from the same fountain. (r)evolution is an internal process that can happen in anyone, and it takes work, rigor, discipline to reach that joyful place.

Maybe this is just my Virgo sun talking, but I have seen it over and over again, the look of elation when someone is placed on a task that suits them perfectly, and they complete it. All of our genetic, astrological, circumstantial and soulful tendencies turn us in a certain direction, and there is nothing like the feeling we get when we are able to run that way, full speed.

The world needs all of the skills that are out there – the creative skills, destructive skills, the maintenance skills. As organizers we must be asking ourselves how we can liberate all of the work and skills people have to towards our communities, towards what is needed.

For me this means releasing the elitism that can come with an organizer mind or an organizer job. I am so impressed with nurses, mechanics, carpenters, farmers…I am most impressed with people who do wonderful things with and for their community. I want to learn how to apply my creativity and visions to the needs of my community, rather than just some fabulous glamorous rock star dream life [which is always in the shadow of my thoughts - that's normal right?].

This has made me think – how am I holding back from giving what’s needed to my community? What more can I give?

In the spirit of miracles and resilience and movement building – here’s a blog of the living!