Monthly Archive for December, 2010

a volcano

i am in detroit after a coast-to-coast family visit trip that was incredibly sweet, deep, full of near death experiences. there’s a lot that happened that i don’t need to write about – we all have our own miracles.

but there is one thing i want to share.

the shifts i have made in my life to give myself more time to be – be with myself, with my family, be what i am called to be, value what i am more than what i do – have already yielded tectonic results.

i understand myself to be an earth in the purest sense of the metaphor…the deeper i press, the more unbridled sun-like heat bursts up from me and reshapes even the surface. i don’t know the science of it, but i have been wondering if the sun was an earth, or will be one…i know the sun is me, the source of all that i am…i am alive in a way the moon cannot be, the sun and i are of something common, and i feel like a tree before the fire, coiled up heat just waiting to reshape everything.

the deeper i press into myself, the more that comes pouring up, new ways of thinking and processing which feel…purifying. this new energy is clearing out tired ideas, old processes which don’t serve me, clearing my life of activities and individuals who don’t feel like a space for transformation. i am not surrounding myself with easy people or moments, but leaning into spaces where there’s openness to mutual changing, shared discomfort before new flight.

this shifting shows up in songs, poems, ideas, dreams, and even my capacity to be in conversation and relationship to others.

this shows up in massive questions banging around in my mind right now, which i am wondering if i have the courage to ask in print, online, out loud. i don’t want to cast a shadow on this moment in history, i think it has as much potential as the moment that just passed and the one to come to be a transformative moment. but how do we stop looking so far ahead we can’t see success, or so far behind we can’t remember how things actually happened through our nostalgia. how can we learn to be in the present, creating our best possible existence in that moment?

being, creating, forgiving, reflecting, evolving, being – all at once.

for 2011 i plan to write, write about these questions, write what i want to know about in the world, write science fiction, write about love, write/illustrate books for kids, write recipes, write letters, write memoirs. i want to challenge myself to open up even further, letting everything you see give way for something more pure to emerge, the truest words i have to offer, just to know what it feels like as a human being to live right now and speak what is present.

i think there is solid ground in the fire.

The Scholar + The Feminist + Me, oh my…

A long time ago I started hearing about a project called Polyphonic Feminisms, and thought about submitting for it in an anthology. The anthology may still be forthcoming, but in the meantime the editors were invited to guest edit an issue of The Scholar + The Feminist and my piece, as well as a conversation I got to be a part of with other women Detroit organizers, is posted there. Please go check it out – lots of deep content :)


Does A Movement Need A Name

videos by Adele Nieves
Conversations between four women organizers in Detroit – Adrienne Maree Brown, Shea Howell, Jenny Lee, and Grace Lee Boggs

Transforming Ruckus: Actions Speak Louder
essay/memoir by Adrienne Maree Brown, on the transition of the last five years of The Ruckus Society

An Open Letter from a Non-Mother

To Whom It May Concern,

I have been asked a lot in the past few years: so are you thinking of having kids? When are you gonna start your family? Don’t you know you’d be a good mother?

I’ve gone on a journey with my responses, from annoyance to compassion to clarity.

Annoyed at all the assumptions embedded in such a question about who I am and the life I want. This particularly annoyed me during the years where I was having dreams of being barren and wrestling with what that meant. It felt so personal, like some trying to throw themselves against the door of my heart and peek inside.

Compassion for myself and those who ask, because we have such longing for life…what is more basic as a sign of being alive than procreation? I contain the capacity for a miracle or 8 – why wouldn’t I want to experience this? Compassion for the root of the question.

And finally, a clarity: Right now, I know exactly why I don’t plan to have kids, and its personal and political and I’m ready to talk about it.

1) it’s very unlikely it will happen by accident, as most of the miracles around me seem to. I’m in a open/monogamous relationship with an incredible person who has promised she can’t knock me up. My Big Gay Theory is that it is an evolutionary leap for us to normalize gay relationships and commitments and parenting because it would so vastly increase the percentage of planned pregnancies, leading to more sustainable, intentional families. I know all the things I would like my partner and I to have in place before bringing a child into the world, and have no intention of being that together for at least another decade.

2) there are so – so so so so so – so many children out there not receiving adequate love right now. As I feel no ticking inside myself, I can give that love bomb energy to those who need it without adding to that number. My love is massive, trust.

3) for every child out there, there are parents who need support. Getting to support my sister and brother-in-law as they have brought my favorite people into the world has been humbling and wonderful. It takes so many people to give a child the love and attention zshe deserves, and right now our society in the U.S. isn’t really structured to encourage that thorough loving of our children, that communal responsibility to be there and share the holding of the child’s spiritual, emotional, educational and physical development. I want to be that kind of auntie in the lives of the children in my life – overwhelmingly, memorably present and encouraging of their true selves to burst forth.

4) I am so incredibly selfish, its incredible. I have learned this by watching friend and sister turn their lives over to children – their time, bodies, sleep, space, dreams, attention, and sometimes sanity. Mothers are saints, mothers are deeply selfless, mothers are divinity in practice. For those of you who think I’d make a good mother, thank you. I am sure I would have some awesome moments. But I place on a pedestal above all other radical commitments that of being a good mother. I accept and embrace my limits, my need for sleep and space. I will give all I can within that limit, to as many as I can.

If any of this changes, I’ll declare it just as loudly, I promise. Until then, please accept it as a decision, not a discussion.

With love
The Naughty Aunty
Adrienne Maree

exorcisms and other holiday fun!

I guess I am not at all enlightened.

I learned this past week that as of now my mind has no real control over my body or physical experience, and if my body has decided it needs to get rid of something, it will.

I went to see one of my families, in the backwoods of MN, and after one perfect day, found myself in the very humbling position of exorcising a demon I didn’t know I had ingested.

I misread the warnings: oh that’s just acid reflux. Oh I’m bloated.

Oh no no no child…it was the inspiration for Carrie, for Aliens. You know I never exaggerate…within hours I had tried to manifest having no stomach, no intestines, and no…well, just to be out of the misery.

Didn’t my body know this was my precious time with my niece and nephew?

Now I am reduced to bananas/broth, rice milk, applesauce and toast – the brat diet. In addition, I discovered Rehydration Drink in my sister’s book Where There Is No Doctor”. Awesome, simple enough I could make it in the airport (because yes, I had to travel in recovery) with pilfered salt and sugar packets.

I have been in a period of feeling how slender the film between human and divine experience is, and suddenly, I felt/feel so mortal.

Fortunately, the death pangs I felt the next day were simply muscle spasms, and now, if I don’t eat, I don’t throw up. Temporary solutions seem utterly wise in crisis.

My niece and nephew were fantastic, avoiding my vomit pail, only knocking over my water and broth occasionally, and still upholding their end of our special pre-christmas visit.

Now I have seen my portland family, minnesotan family, and my boston family – in every space I have been struck by how complex and beautiful the bonds of family are, and how unique and demanding and absolutely delightfully incredible children are if you can give them all you have.

Have to get south soon. But first, I am going to be a child again, and let my mom take care of me…its good for both of us.

decentralized deep thoughts

it’s been a nice busy end of the year. i have had a LOT of thoughts in the past week and wants to share highlights, out of context, because they all interconnect.

as you may remember i hit a cat while driving last week. that struck me like a wake up call, that there was something very important to pay attention to at this moment. i started by researching what cats mean, and based on what i learned, i became very alert and present to the lessons in my physical and spiritual worlds. here’s a harvest:

1) after the incident, people kept telling stories of their cats dying…people who had not read the blog or heard about my cat incident. each time i heard it i thought: transform/change [death] relationship between the physical and spiritual world [cat]. i realized that the universe will go over the top to keep repeating a lesson to you really get it.

2) i had an awesome series of facilitation moments.

3) i got to reconnect with a lot of people from various points in my life, many of them at an idea meeting which in a way was a healing meeting – lots of long-term relationships having a talk about organizing and culture shifting now.

here are some thoughts that built up over that time:

- Sometimes healing an unresolved problem requires you to ask a broader, more inclusive question, stepping out of your view of the problem.

- The Four Agreements are one of the most liberating facilitation tools out there – almost every group I bring it to takes it on as life agreements.

- Are we ready to be spiritual leaders – to engage people in much more than short-term campaigns which engage people in their anger, are we ready to organize our lives and share governance and vision in a way that inspires and uplifts greatness?

- How can we begin to see our work as transforming opposition for the sake of evolution, rather than smashing/killing an enemy? Can we make “ideas” opposition, instead of building endless lists of individual enemies?

- Looking back through history you can see ideas time travel through languages and contexts, unchanging. Superiority, for instance, looks about the same from Roman times to now – some people exist to serve others, without choice. Short-term organizing means that the growth of ideas is very slight over time. Are we ready for major idea evolutions?

- A recent re-reading of Sun Tzu’s Art of War reminds me that the most effective strategy is to win without fighting – victory over war, not through war. What does that look like in today’s political condition? What does it look like in relationships, personal and professional – in movements?

- From a movement building perspective, I have often found that if the root of your work is opposition/reaction, just trying to win win win with 50 + 1% of any population, the organizers don’t have the authenticity to engage folks at the lifetime commitment level – and that’s the kind of movement we need to build right now, one that transforms people for life, not just getting their signatures in a moment.

- Who/what are modeling ourselves after? My favorite metaphors right now are dandelions and mushrooms :) – resilience is in those viral/fungal structures, as well as a clarity of identity. A mushroom IS a mushroom, a dandelion IS a dandelion…what are we as humans, what is our function? Are we Love? If so, we can’t operate like hate and fear, because our fundamental state is what will proliferate mushroom or dandelion style. To carry the metaphor too far, there is work above ground and work below ground, and I don’t know that we understand all the potential for the human organism just yet.

- Learning this lesson in Detroit the hard way –> The world, the country, the communities we work in – wherever you focus, there’s not a blank canvas to create on…There is perhaps a disconnected canvas. If you begin with the perspective that amazing work is happening all over, and you should seek it out and support it rather than starting up a new project, then there is a chance for real scale. But scaling up that work will come through investing in and building deep relationships. For national efforts, that means not skipping past the local infrastructures, even if they are complex to work with, to reach some romantic concept of untouched masses. On a personal level – you as a person are not a blank canvas either – all you need in order to survive is within you, within your life…do you know how to harvest it?

- I am not the only one who says this all the time, but i deeply believe it: Scale must mean depth at this moment in time, we need to re-root in the earth, in communities, in spirit, in work that is meaningful, in visions that are long-term.

- As I am working on this science fiction anthology, I have been thinking about how we make certain sci-fi norms into the real/now: Watching The Matrix, or Avatar, millions of people connected with the idea of being the change makers, the rebel forces. People in a cultural state can grasp the reality that we are the ones we are waiting for…how do we make people all feel that way in their real lives, as I imagine the American dream must have once felt?

- How close are we to evolving U.S. movement work beyond the borders of non-profit organizations and foundations, if what our movements need are structures closer to intentional communities [churches? militaries? farms? what form or structure would you most like to do your life's work in?]

- the universe teaches you what you want to know. as soon as i asked aloud a question around how to release the concept of enemy, a number of people i would have considered enemies at some point came into my life, so i can learn. i’m grateful :)

- I’ve been cooking a lot, and thinking about the lessons that come from working with food. For example:

a. Bursting garlic out of its skin taught me that there’s a perfect amount of pressure you can apply from outside that makes the skin no longer fit without destroying what is inside. This makes me reflect on how to work with communities/societies on releasing antiquated ideas of ourselves…what external pressure, and how much pressure would it take, for us to shed the skin of colonialism?

b. Baking bread is teaching me a lot about processes. A good baguette has to be prepared in a certain order, with a certain amount of time spent waiting for the dough to rise before and after it is shaped. I feel like a good organizational process is a lot like this…you put the right elements together, but you have to be really patient for the fusion, the inner expansion, to get a baguette with a strong skin, and massive delicious light inside. Additionally, the flavor of the bread gets better and more mature if you make use of the remains of the previous dough – the sourdough. Again, what are the long-term ideas and processes we can continue to mix into our work?

c. Food that I make, or watch get made, tastes better to me than any other food. I never suspected I could be the kind of person who would bake my own bread, make my own soups, look for local produce and feel the joy of serving a meal where I know the source of every ingredient, and I know it’s good for me…if I can do this, I suspect all humans can, because I spent years surviving on frozen pizza. It takes a certain shift in mindset, planning and how you value your time, but it is so deeply worth it.

- I’m surrounded by brilliant people. like, people who regularly blow my mind and who i think will change the world.

- the less i engage in gossip, the less i harbor suspicion, the more space i find within myself for miraculous experiences.

- i feel like i am in a major manifestation period of my life, through meditation and awareness, and having let go of some practices that weren’t serving me. one thought that came to me: when i fear the universe i fear myself. when i love and am in awe of the universe, i love and am in awe of myself. imagine then, the power when i align with the universe.

- meditation – in the shower, or the pool, or during acupuncture, or while cooking, or while sitting in front of a candle, or in the first moments of morning, or walking through the snow – lets me connect to the part of myself that is divine, aligned with the universe, and the place within myself where I can be a conduit for spiritual truth. at those times i understand that nothing is required of me more than being, and creating. simultaneously being present with who i am, who we are as a species…and creating who we must become, who i must become.

to that end, i wanted to share here the lyrics of a song i wrote a few years ago and sing sometimes:

isn’t this heart the only heart i have to give
isn’t this soul the only weight i have to carry
isn’t this dance the only one my body knows
this is the only way home

isn’t this path the only one my feet will walk
isn’t this song the only prayer my mouth with utter
isn’t this life the only life i have to give
this is the only way home

counting down til i am with family this year. i can’t wait to bring all this joy, awareness and attention to them.

my submission for “aunty of the year” award

i finished this propaganda/children’s book just in time to take to my nephew and niece before christmas. the whole story is designed to illicit a demand from my niece and nephew to visit detroit.

this is my first ever children’s book and my first time really illustrating, writing and putting together a book – it was super exciting and fun. maybe next time i will do a children’s sci-fi adventure!

check it some photos of the process and finished product :) :

wikileaks!

wikileaks is one of the most exciting things to happen in politics, media and culture since the beginning of the internet.

i made the commitment here and in other spaces to step out of the news cycle, because i am tired of knowing very little about lots of things, and i am tired of becoming a temporary expert on things over which i have no power. i make a valiant effort to only read/post stuff where i can contribute…

but wikileaks makes me want to look at newspapers and news sites again.

here’s why:

1. it’s real stuff! part of the reason i don’t like news cycles is because it seems like they are so rarely based on fact. while wikileaks has so much on it that i can’t even pretend to read it all, the difference is that the documents are real. and while analysis is necessary, our media has become an echo chamber of non-information, pure opinion, creation mythology. it is refreshing to see actual documents that show actual corruption, and have to respond to that.

2. it means more people can be radical! the decentralization of wiki posting allows a much larger population of radical thinkers to act, and allows us to redefine who we see as radical. there’s not a lot of paid work for social change agents, and a lot of folks who want to change the world end up in corrupt institutions (or non-profits, keeping it real).

and it’s so easy to fall into blanket generalizations of “the government” or “the CIA” or “corporations” and not remember that those are institutions made up of people, each with their own moral code, their own senses of right and wrong. wikileaks, and the many leak-pages which are proliferating from digi-comrades across the globe, opens up the door for people to act on their values even if they are working within a corrupt system. now insider-outsider strategy can mean more than professional compromisers vs professional critics.

3. decentralization is strength! in nature, the strongest systems are those that can survive in a way that is linked but self-organized – dandelions, oak trees, fungi. anyone who has studied social change movements knows that hierarchical systems of organizing are easy to take out – google “assassinations in the 60s”.

wikileaks’ strength is that it invites self-organizing to happen in a way that makes it fairly meaningless if one person in the process is taken out. it’s fascinating to me to watch everyone hone in on julian assange, fundamentally misunderstanding the decentralized nature of this information war. wikileaks and the hacker army are everywhere, and have been for some time.

4. transparency is strength. we have been living in a hyper security culture, told that secrecy and backroom proceedings will keep us safe, and to just trust the government to determine when it’s a level orange moment. but…do you feel safer? i certainly don’t. i feel patted down and spied on and suspect, but not safer.

for that antiquated idea of democracy to even be attempted, there has to be transparency of information, so that voters can make choices to direct the systems of our collective living. otherwise it’s a chess game, and we’re on the board while someone else makes the moves. the more we know the more we can determine our identity relative to how we live.

5. history repeats itself. by exposing past offenses, wikileaks let’s us see how anti-democratic forces strategize, and make ourselves distinct from that politic and approach.

case in point – over and over again, our international American identity is of regressive climate policy, and acting as a block to changing our environmental footprint. why? wikileaks shows us specifics around how the U.S. worked to obstruct climate policy moving forward in international climate talks in 2009. this is meaningful and relevant as thousands of people are gathered right now in cancun for the next set of these talks.

we can say “Americans have a different identity than what you have been told, world. see how our government is working outside the democratic processes of the people? see how we voted for major changes and corporate bureaucracy silenced our desires?”

6. this scales up movements worldwide. the people who take the risks to expose corruption in this way are walking out on a limb over a yawning and dangerous chasm – but that is the limb we all need to walk out on. calling for a transparent, accountable world is one thing, pulling back the wizard’s curtain is another. it’s thrilling to see things that progressive/liberal/radical/anarchist/etc folks have suspected and/or believed showing up on the front page of every news source – and it means we have to be up to the task of strategically using this new content we have access to, and supporting those who are taking these risks so that others who are willing to take the risk aren’t silenced.

society is changing, possibly very very quickly. don’t sit it out – one immediate move to take over the holidays is to talk about why something like wikileaks is important with your family! growing cultural understanding and desire for an informed population can lead to other shifts – like an education system that produces folks who can read and analyze such information; like localized wikileak operations where politicians and businesses know that a step towards corruption is a step out of power.

all that to say, in case you haven’t noticed, wikileaks has put an exclamation mark in my consideration of the possibilities of mass media. woot.

for the cat i killed, from that alternate universe

this blog post is in honor of a cat which may or may not be of this world, the cat i killed the other night.

on this ‘other night’, someone told me a story about their childhood cat being run over by a car. i giggled (inappropriately) because the context for this memory was that we’d been speeding down a road and come across speed bumps, and it occurred to me that we were no better than that speeding driver so many years ago..but thankfully these speed bumps would stop us from repeating those mistakes.

the moment was over as soon as it began and the evening went on.

the image stayed in my mind tho, and on the way home i kept conjuring up an image of an animal coming out of nowhere, and i kept pushing myself to be super alert.

about halfway home, out of the nowhere and dark nothing of the middle of the highway, a small animal apparently made of bright light dashed in front of the car. i swerved and screamed, suddenly overwhelmed by the cars behind me and this cat (or was it a fox?) in front…and there was no missing it. the sound of the cat’s last seconds were simple, loud, violent, fast.

i was in shock – a few months ago i was in a car that hit a squirrel (who turned out to be ok…we got out and sat with it til it ran off), but i had never been driving a car and hit something – as a general practice i brake for every living creature.

in that place of shock, a blankness came over me. the first thought i recall is – did i predict that? is that why it was on my mind over and over?

my passenger, the same person who had told me the story of that childhood cat, thought the reverse must have happened – by locking in on the idea and repeating it in my mind, i had manifested it. sort of a multi-verse theory in effect. if any and all possibilities can and do co-exist, then perhaps we can flip worlds, flip experiences, or call in an incident with intense focus.

these theories both seemed more likely than an actual cat trying to run across this highway, close to no exits or towns. the sad mystery of this cat, the trauma of it’s speedy death, and my inability to change or undo the situation – all of this has conspired to have me a bit melancholy since it happened.

i’m sure this sort of random devastation has it’s place in the universe too, and i should just go ask sterling.

i was very calm in moment, in my shock. it didn’t occur to me to drive back, or to cry, or any of the things i have since reflected could have happened. it just made me deeply curious – where had that cat come from, and why had this happened? what was the lesson?

what does it mean to hit a cat….cats symbolize “a high degree of sensuality with a deeply psychic and spiritual nature, teaches us that the physical and spiritual worlds are not separate, but one.” this is the center of my current thinking and work. it must be somehow relevant to hit this cat.

i can’t tell if this curiosity is more or less vulnerable than any other emotional response, but it’s just as constant and consuming.

it cycles around in my mind: it was a cat, not a person. but it was a living breathing being with a personality and surely someone loved it. but there are other living breathing beings who are suffering and can reason about it, maybe who aren’t loved. this is either road kill or destroying something sacred, either way you can’t reverse what happened, this cat moved from this world to another in a portion of a second.

as i go through the other parts of my life, working on agendas, sitting in meetings, mingling, baking bread, making soup, cleaning house – i think part of me is dumbfounded by this very obvious metaphor for my/humanity’s life story right now. we are on a road, manifesting or predicting a devastating future – can we change the story? and for the wreckages we have already created between the physical and spiritual world, where there is no relief, no easier story in this world, what does redemption look like?

and for my readers who might say my approach to this incident is dramatic, please understand that an easier existence just doesn’t satisfy me.