Monthly Archive for July, 2011

closure

what an incredible weekend of celebrating through poetry, song, 2nd line, hugs, stories the life of Blair. I feel so abundant in the process of this, abundant because I got to know him.

I’m about to be away from everything, for a bit. I need that. grief requires some space to restore, too.

check http://dblair.org for more about blair’s work. I will stepping out of my comfort zone and onto a stage this coming week, and in coming weeks, to live into some of that space of creative performance inspired by Blair.

have reached the love, again.

please support memorial for Blair

please visit http://dblair.org to support the memorial fund for Blair…if he touched you, or if you love an artist and know they need support.

because Blair was rooted in new jersey and Detroit, we are working to raise enough for memorials in both places.

give, and give again.

thank you in advance.

grief stricken

this past week, I have experienced what it means to be grief stricken.

on Sunday we found out Blair is dead, Blair the poet laureate of the allied media community, Blair the Michael Jackson scholar, Blair the singer songwriter, Blair the youth worker, Blair of the bear hug, Blair with the voice of an ancient oak coming out of the winter.

and perhaps because the news came so quickly after my grandfather’s passing, most of me jumped up to another place as soon as I saw the news coming, the look of death news is a very particular and recognizable look. I decided it was a mistake, initially. it took some time for me to believe…it wasn’t until I had to tell other people that I began to believe.

because we just…and I just…and he just…we were just alive together just a moment ago. and he was so good at being alive, lively, sort of breathless and magic and massive. and generous. and genius. and we had things to discuss still.

with my grandfather I had some heads up. years of heads up in fact, years of near death experiences to prepare me.

Blair baby what the fuck. what the fuck?

so this week has been coming face to face with this sadness, anger, shock, aching, weeping stuff that is love moving through the process of grief. basically everyone I know in Detroit, and many people I know in other places, were touched by Blair. so all we can do right now is shrug, and sigh, and speculate, and succumb to the next step.

we try and go about our lives and then wash back into the ocean of grief, then forward again, and back.

other things happened this week. my nephew is learning to read. he isn’t yet 3, so this means his geniusness is no longer simply my opinion, but something objective. right? but…

Blair is dead.

no! no, no…

Blair is dead.

I just came home from a hearing with the historical designation something of Detroit, who approved making my friend grace boggs’ house a historical landmark. it was a hilarious and lovely affair where grace pitched them her book and everyone talked about how grace has transformed their lives and what Detroit means in american movement. it was uplifting…but.

Blair is dead.

no.

Blair is dead.

it’s amazing how many times my mind has moved over memories of him and my skin has shivered up, because that’s what he did to me.

we were just getting started, I thought. I have regrets…we could have…

this is all love, I know, all it’s formations. under all the anger and sadness, it’s love. my mother has been modeling love-based grieving in the loss of her father, and it has been amazing to understand that it is possible.

it is possible to not ask why. to not ask how. to accept that it is true that this person is not here in the way you have known them, and never will be again. and to just go straight into the love you felt for them.

the love i feel is expressing itself as longing and sadness, wanting the sensual: the smell, the feel, the completely singular sound of the two men I currently mourn.

with my grandfather, my sadness quickly shifted to relief, even joy. he believed in heaven so hard that I know it manifested for him, and I know the misery of his late years is relieved, and I just know he’s good. it feels like he has told me this himself in many ways since his transition, little things that only he would have made me notice in the world.

but blair? I don’t have a way for this to end, no closure, to this piece or to this experience, or to this relationship. it feels thoroughly undone and not enough and I am one of many people in Detroit who just want him back, and that is all.

someday I am sure I will drop to that next spiritual level, and remember nothing is promised, being present is what matters. someday I may even be able to consider things like…perhaps Blair had so much magic because he had such a short time to share it. or, of course, that there is no death.

but I’m not there. I’m greedy. I want more Blair.

and Blair is dead.

no.

Blair is dead.

why

when someone dies
suddenly
when they suddenly go
your heart demands a logic
a story
each fact to stack high
the vertebrae
the spine
a way to stand the thing up
the grief
to make it account for itself
to explain why it has arrived
in the place of your someone
your vibrant
booming
and pulsing someone
that one
who articulated to you
both your love
and your fear
there must be a logic
a way to align this new world
with the one left behind
a why
when its sudden
all reason is shy

Scarcity of Solidarity

it feels like every time some unspeakably sad thing happens, there are those who respond from a genuine place of sadness, anger, grief…and then come the scarcity of solidarity folks:

“why are people only talking about this thing here, and not this thing over there?”

there is enough pain to go around, and people are moved to emotion by different things – starving children, murdered children, a ruined artistic genius, an ongoing genocidal injustice, apartheid, the human onslaught against nature…where is it written that we must have a hierarchy in our pain? where is it written that we are allowed a finite amount of empathy?

it is particularly sad to see attacks on the ‘mal-educated’ consumer…capitalism underdevelops our relationship building capacity, while upgrading our fear on a slow and steady path towards paranoia and gated living. capitalism survives on certain guidelines of fame and fear that dictate aspects of our emotions whether we like to admit it or not.

rather than railing against those who express their grief, their solidarity of emotion with the struggle of another living creature’s suffering, contribute something meaningful to the discourse.

instead of smashing on folks for not having your precise analysis of power and injustice and -isms in the world, or not choosing to respond emotionally to the thing you think is most important or tragic, make a connection. show me what you feel, move me, make a connection between what moves you and what moves me.

I have not found a limit to how much my heart can ache, how grief stricken I can be. there is some efficiency, in fact, to opening up the heart to the grief it needs to feel, instead of comparing incomparable pain, or repressing it. once I let my heart feel the pain, I can move back into the work I do in the world, the small way that I can do such work, to transform the world by transforming myself.

and sometimes a distant sadness can render me human again, when I have been too involved in tasks and not in being, feeling. the pain is all related in my heart, that of losing a loved one, that of acts of violence from one human against others, from a government against it’s own people or others, or of one person against themselves. the pain is born out of the loss of something I love…life. this loss, and the grief that accompanies it, in all different forms and conditions and expressions, it’s ALL part of our human condition.

it’s all ours.

if there is a pain you think is being missed, don’t list it as an also-ran anti-solidarity bit in a thread of thoughts about the most current tragic news-trend. shout it out on its own merit, let it draw its own response from the abundant pool of human solidarity and emotion.

more importantly, feel it yourself. let it flood through you.

don’t build up a wall between those we should feel love, compassion, empathy and grief for, and those we shouldn’t.

it’s the separation that is a myth. it is the hierarchy of suffering that keeps us from each other. the borders, those are the thing to rail against. it is humanity that died alone in a house in London, whose song could not save her. it is humanity that was attacked on that island in Norway, in the streets of Norway, every day in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, humanity is starving in Somalia. humanity is hurting.

we must transform ourselves to experience the world, all of it, as a whole of which we are a part. we have our walls and fences and passwords and keys and we have forgotten much of what it means to be community, to experience solidarity with each other’s joys and sorrows at a somatic level.

whatever it is that gets us outside ourselves, feeling something because of the suffering or loss of anything, let that be. that pain is sacred, and educational. it takes nothing from your pain.

let it be.

p.s. this is not in any way to say, read more mainstream news and immerse yourself in things you can do nothing about. you know how i feel about that. it is instead to say, sometimes feeling IS what you can do. most of the time, feeling and then sharing the story with another is what you can do. when you share, do it from abundance, not in competition with another’s pain or need, but because it is what you, and your community, can do.

conflict in oakland

I got to spend the day in a beautiful community conflict resolution and accountability process, and then I witnessed an act of extreme violence and conflict in which I couldn’t help. this has left me thinking about conflict in community, and who we see as community, who we will accept support from.

in the first instance, members of one of my communities were able to ask me to hold space for some healing.

in the second instance, a woman who could have been a family member didn’t seem able to hear my offer of support through her own rage and survival mechanisms.

I pulled up to the stop light at mlk and 52nd listening to dam funk and feeling the glow from the healing sessions of the day. suddenly the van waiting next to me lurched forward and smashed into the car in front of it. the people in the van were fighting, perhaps before the lurch, definitely afterwards.

two years ago my Oakland neighbor, after months of escalating domestic violence, was stabbed to death by an ex and pushed out of his truck, left on the side of the road. the ex was caught back at her apartment where he went to wash up. I couldn’t sit in the car not seeing this.

I hopped out, approached the van yelling ‘are y’all ok?’ he said they were fine, she yelled out the window hell no, hell no. he got out, blood on his face, and went up to the car they’d hit, where the driver rolled up her window. I tried to talk to the woman in the van, asking her if she was ok, if she wanted to get out of the van. she didn’t acknowledge me at all, her nose was bleeding and she kept yelling at him, ‘n—- you gonna hit me like this?’

he came back, looked at me, and got in the car, yelling at her, ‘you hit me first’. I ran to the back and memorized the license number as he took off with her.

the person who had now been victim of a hit and run looked hella shook up and couldn’t listen to the license plate number. I thought about my neighbor, and if people had seen her hurt that day. I called 911 and filed a police report.

it hurt to make that call, to report an incident between two black people in Oakland, to feel I had no other option.

it hurt to juxtapose that helplessness against the day of healing and health i’d had thus far.

I feel I have to be responsible and transparent when I do call the police, as much as I share about the times when I don’t. do folks have ideas on what I could have done differently? what you might have done?

now sitting in compassion for them, both of them, whatever happened to get them there, and what happened after.

i was left with a lesson on how long the path of community healing is, from being able to request real time support from your community of care, to being able to demand and receive support from a stranger in a moment of danger.

I felt my heart shaking, I felt unwell for some time afterwards. my friend recently reminded me of this quote which helped me get my breath again:

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
- Krishnamurti

m.i.a.

as my niece says so endearingly it makes me want to faint, “hi.”

sorry i have been m.i.a. the past few days. after the allied media conference (download the official mixtape here if you haven’t yet), i went to ny to facilitate a gathering of the rockwood “leading from the inside out” (LIO) network, which was inspiring. seeing a field of leaders who are putting deeper purpose and vision work at the priority of their organizing is exciting.

i have been learning to ride the little motorboat my partner inherited from a detroit mentor for her birthday. this has involved a lot of cursing, running in fear from massive barges, trying to write on the waves, watching gorgeous sunsets, and shouting at imani uzuri, jessica care moore, steff christian, erykah badu, eryka marie, joi, piper and other friends from the water behind chene park during their show. we’ve had a few little celebrations as some totally impossible mysterious boating skill becomes easy. no license here, you just have to learn. i’m also getting to know the incredible black boating community in the d, truly a whole other side of the city.

i’ve been listening to beyonce’s latest album, 4, inspiring me to strut around my house being a loud southern diva. it’s summertime, so this is completely appropriate behavior which i highly recommend.

these are the things i am doing when i am not writing. mostly, however, i am writing. or at least making a valiant effort to write. i said yes to writing a variety of things, incredibly timely things which i very much want to write. somehow the deadlines and expectations are making it much harder to churn out that writing than this blog, so i decided to take a break and come visit with you.

admitting that, i must also admit i have taken as long as i can on this break, and clearly words are flowing. back to the grind.

motto for the summer: work, but do it in the sun.

read this poem by nazim hikmet, brought to my attention by my brother samuel, to remember how to live:

On Living

1
Living is no laughing matter :
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel, for example -
I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
you must take it seriously,
so much so and to such a degree
that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
your back to the wall,
or else in a laboratory,
in your white coat and safety glasses,
you can die for people -
even for people whose faces you have never seen,
even though you know living
is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
that even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees -
and not for your children, either
but because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
because living, I mean, weighs heavier.

1947

2
Let’s say we are seriously ill, need surgery -
which is to say we might not get up
from the white table.
Even though it’s impossible not to feel sad
about going a little too soon,
we’ll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we’ll look out the window to see if it’s raining,
or still wait anxiously
for the latest newscast…

Let’s say we are at the front -
for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
We might fall on our face, dead.
We’ll know this with a curious anger,
but we’ll still worry ourselves to death
about the outcome of the war, which could last years.

Let’s say we’re in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
before the iron doors will open.
We’ll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind –
I mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
we must live as if we will never die…

1948

3
This earth will grow cold, a star among stars
and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet -
I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day.
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
in pitch-black space.
You must grieve for this right now
- you have to feel this sorrow now -
for the world must be loved this much
if you’re going to say “I lived”…

February 1948

and look at these babies:

or watch the babies:
terriblewonderfulchickenbutt

:)