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a perfect action

it’s a beautiful day to be black.

woke up this morning to a brilliant new d’angelo album dedicated to ferguson and occupy, resistance. it’s full of love songs and funky grimy sexy beautiful man sounds over guitar and…so prince, so shuggie otis, so marvin, so bilal, so brilliant, so worth the long wait.

and then ava duvernay became the first black woman nominated for a golden globe (oscar coming soon i’m sure) for best director for selma.

and between those two things, i got to attend an action called by the blackout collective in oakland, flowing together efforts for #blacklivesmatter, #blackbrunch, #asians4blacklives and others.

i wasn’t planning to attend, i was heading to the airport after a tight trip to california mostly spent in petaluma at the strozzi dojo as part of my first generative somatics teaching team. i’ve been in training building to this for two years and think the work we do is mindblowing. and it’s massive, i usually can’t do social or event time around it.

but my ride to the airport was one of my loves, alicia garza, one of the three women who dreamt up #blacklivesmatter and spoke our longing into movement. we were heading to breakfast when the news broke, oakland police department shut down. so of course we had to go skip breakfast and see what was happening because social media had us both texting in exclamations.

image
(from the blackout collective)

if you don’t know me, a while ago i was part of the ruckus society staff. going to an action in oakland is family reunion time. today’s action was beautifully familiar, and also different in ways that deserve noticing.

on the action front, oh god it was so good, i was taking in as much as i could as my tears of joy and gratitude blended with the soft cold rain. i couldn’t stop hugging people, people who were white, asian, black, latino, taking actions to assert that black lives matter. i wanted to be close to these massive hearts.

the action, from what i observed, was perfection. every entrance into the oakland police department was blockaded. the street in front of the entrance was blockaded on both ends, abundantly. the banners were stunning and clear – ‘black and breathing’, ‘complacency is consent’, and a flag flying from the OPD flagpole, held in place by a brave human who scaled it with muscle and rope, with the faces of our recent martyrs, stating once again that ‘black lives matter’.

image

the action was so incredibly powerful because it clearly centered around the messaging, leadership and visibility of young black leaders, stepping and chanting and singing and marching and fists in the air claiming historical space. the blackout collective. you know that scene in malcolm x where they march to the hospital? it was like that but with no one appearing to call out the directions, with women and queer folks and locs and fros. they seemed to move as a body, dignity head to toe.

just as clearly, allies were providing cover, taking risks, embodying solidarity. such a necessary resource when done right!

the main OPD door was held by loved ones, asian comrades, with the banner #asians4blacklives. another door was held by white allies with a banner reading ‘every 28 hours a black person is killed by a cop or vigilante’. these door blockers were locked down, a good and organized mix of risk. the streets were blocked by what appeared to be white allies, and i saw latino and indigenous leadership as well.

image

i cannot overstate how powerful the container felt, with the blackout collective and other blacks yelling ‘show me what solidarity looks like!’ and the allies on the streets and locked to the doors and guarding the base of the flagpole all yelling back ‘this is what solidarity looks like!’

i am getting chills remembering it to share with you.

here are the protocols being practiced in this ally work:

image

every time the cops moved in for arrest, a hundred devices popped up, those documenting also chanting, to be clear that there is nothing, not anything, that will go unnoticed or unseen. vigilance. a plethora of roles. an abundance of ways to be OF the moment.

i was so moved, trying to smile and say hello to old friends with so many tears in my throat. the personal difference for me was getting to attend as a black person, not in the action, not in the know. i was dressed for femme bonding breakfast and then the plane, ruby woo on my lips, trench coat, boots, suitcase.

i’ll admit here that the whole time i was at ruckus i felt out of my league, the badassery around me so thorough, and me so library-nook-nerd trying to understand how groups and people change. but i felt so good this morning, like all the right people were in all the right places. i felt beloved and held. i am a facilitator and singer and writer and healer in a movement that evolves from and advances many movements. again, not a beginning or end, but not a phase either. a move forward. it isn’t confusing. i wrote afterwards to one of my friends in the action that i felt beloved. i feel it now, that my life is precious, that my life matters. it surprises me to say this, but…it feels new.

it’s such a tender green shoot of a thing, because i am not saying this about america, where i know it will be a long long time before i feel a real mattering, a legislated, cultural mattering. i don’t expect it in this nation state structure.

no what i mean is in the smaller space of movement, where i believe we have to embody the world we long for, where so many of us have been hurt and broken hearted and ignored and disrespected and kept coming back, where so many of us have been stepped on and over and still stood up and kept finding new ways, kept offering our love to this effort to transform it all, seeing the conditioning, working not to take it personally, finding an open artery to send our love into the blood cells of revolutionary work…i mean in that place? to feel that my black queer woman facilitator thinker writer artist healer lover life matters?

yeah i need to go listen to this d’angelo and feel all my feelings. thank you oakland.

All the tears

Ocean is a bowl of salt and water
So am I
Whispering and weeping of a son or daughter
Gone to the sky
Or the dirt

No one knows for bone deep certain
Which way is up
We spin towards the sun until it hurts
We spill the cup
It stings the face to try and dam it all in
What comes to flow
It wears us out to try and grasp the edge
When it’s time to go

Goodbye, to the part of you who thinks
You see me from above
No enemy can know me without weeping in this way
In all this love

Caring for Ourselves as Political Warfare

protests and actions can give us the highest highs and the most gut wrenching terrors or deepest disappointments. in the midst of wildly inspiring actions and protests happening worldwide, there is increasing racialized violence and the urgency of trying to grab this moment, the feeling of pressing up against our edges.

i invited adaku utah, leah lakshmi piepzna-samarasinha and susan raffo to generate an offering of practices to restore us to ourselves, to recenter us on why we are here and doing this work. autumn brown and maryse mitchell-brody are developing a guide with many others for how to create a healing justice practice space.

remember, audre lorde teaches us: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

we need all of us:

    PRE-PROTEST SELF CARE TIPS

adaku

Cast a Heart Spell

HEART SPELL
Return to yourself
Light a candle
Inhale the air that surrounds you, from the soles of the Earth to the crown of the galaxies
Open your heart with breath, with life force
Feel your heart expand with the rhythms moving through you
Exhale
Inhale
See light fill all empty spaces
Awaken the tree within
Breathe your limbs tall
Your roots deep
Exhale
Inhale
Expand heart muscle even wider
Push past boundaries
Break through chains
Reach for your power
Digest its dimensions
Fill through cracks
Pulse with life
Exhale
Inhale
Deep
Deeper
Anchor yourself to the love that is you
to the love that is your ancestors
to the love that is life
to the love that can never be stolen
Radiate this truth
Strong enough to break restrictions
Exhale
Inhale
Increase the flow of love
Let each breath be a magic spell you cast upon yourself

If you will be protesting using #BlackLivesMatter, take some time to remind and align yourself with the inspiring herstory of this movement led by the brilliance of Black Queer women Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza. www.blacklivesmatter.com

Create a poster or chant that is an affirmation and embodiment of the resistance and resilience of Black People. Last week I came up with this chant/mantra I kept repeating to myself during the march:: White supremacy you tryna fuckin rule.. NO.. Black love will rise over you!

If you do not have capacity to hold up a sign during the protest, write the affirmation somewhere you can see. I often write on my palms or glove, a sticker I can place on my water bottle, a cloth patch I can safety pin on my jacket or write something on a piece of my clothing.

Pack a wellness bag for you and comrades. Ask what will sustain and take care of you and your team while you are protesting. Here are some things that I’ve learned to put in mine as I am supporting wellness for myself and community members during protests (Giving thanks to Black Cross Health collective, fellow wise comrades and my intuition for these resources!):

the National lawyers Guild number
Lots of water in a water bottle to drink and to wash of your skin or eyes if needed
healthy snacks and fruits
warm, comfortable protective shoes you can move and run in
extra warm layers if its fall or winter (gloves, scarves, hand and toe warmers)
zip-lock with bandana soaked with cider vinegar (water if nothing else). It can aid in breathing during chemical exposure
shatter-resistant eye protection
fresh clothes in plastic bag (in case yours gets contaminated by chemical weapons)
inhaler, epi-pen, insulin or other meds/healing herbs if applicable
several days of prescription medication and doctor’s note in case of arrest
protective herbs and crystals ie sage, cedar, osho root, onyx, amethyst
Nervous system tinctures: oatstraw, motherwort, lemon balm
Rescue remedy flower essence
Throat lozenges
tampons and pads
first aid kit

Check out these amazing action additional tips from the Audre Lorde Project.

Learn the language of your body and spirit. Notice how your body chooses to respond in the midst of certain people/certain places/certain types of actions/certain types of inactions/certain times of the day/certain times of the month/certain types of noise/certain types of movement. What do you notice? Does what arises bring you ease or tension? Being numb or not knowing is totally fine too and is also information about how your body is choosing to show up at that given moment. Write down, draw or remember what you discover. Affirm what is happening. Your body, spirit and intuition are such incredible guides that can support how we live. Without judgement, recognize that your body has unique ways of responding to what is happening inside and outside of you. Many of these responses have been powerful protection tools that continue to keep you alive.

Create safety and/or support plans in advance. Ask yourself and community that you trust, what will I/we do if ____________ happen? How would I/we like to be supported? Icarus Project has a great tool.

Figure out what your capacity is. Can you protest for 1 hour or 7? Are you currently recovering from illness and need to shift your form of resistance outside of the streets? Are you someone who is arrestable? If it is cold out, how long can your body tolerate the weather?

Make a TURN UP revolutionary mix tape

    SELF CARE TIPS DURING PROTESTS

adaku
Continue to remind yourself why you are there. Recite mantras, meditations or chants when you need.

Tilt your eyes up softly to meet the sun, moon or stars. Let them wash over you with their power and embrace. Feel your connection with other forms of life. Allow your breath to move in and out as slowly as a cloud morphing through the sky. Imagine your breath is pulling in the vast expansiveness of the sky, the radiance of the moon, the majesty of the sun or the consistency of the night. Let each inhale awaken the vast possibilities that exist inside and outside of you. Allow each exhale to blanket where you are with a commitment to a world you desire to live in.

Continue to listen to how your body is responding. What sensations are arising? Where do you feel them? Are these sensations telling you to slow down, eat, keep going, call your support buddy, catch up with the crew you are marching with, warm up your body, breathe deeper, walk with a different contingent, head home?

Remind yourself of a moment when you could feel your own power. Allow yourself to feel that energy all over again. Invite the presence of that power to be with you now. Feel it expand. Breathe in the textures of your truth. Send this power wherever you need it. Let each inhale carry this power as far back to your ancestors and each exhale carry it forward through you and into future generations.

If you are near a tree, with permission, sit under or place your spine on the tree. Let the dignity of the tree encourage yours to rise with every breath.

susan
Vibration vibration vibration…hum low in your throat, as low as you can go, and bring that hum down into your lungs and your chest…feel the vibration, taking a breath in when you need to breathe, and then back to vibration. Let the vibration be a small chosen shake, a rattling of what is held inside, the vibration expanding in circles from your throat out through the rest of your body

Movement. It doesn’t matter what kind, just move as you are able. Move from the inside of yourself, inviting your hands, your arms, your face, your heart, your brain to lead the movement. The movement can be small and energetic or it can be big and take up a lot of space. From inside your self, start the movement like a shooting star, sensing when it shifts direction or wants to stop.

Notice what is happening around you right now. The colors of life around you, the texture, the edges between things, the edge of a building against the street, the edge of a car wheels on the ground, a tree against the sky. Notice where there is an edge, a boundary between two things, sense into that. Let your skin feel texture around you in whatever way your skin notices texture: rough bark or cement, hot flat metal of a car, cold slickness of a window. While you are noticing, tell yourself what you are witnessing. There is a red brick building in front of me and the bricks closest to the street are crumbled. My hands can feel the bits of dust and red brick, their sharp and crumbly edges. Put yourself into whatever part of the space around you is safe enough to touch and sense. The color of it. The sound if there is sound. The taste if you can imagine taste.

    POST PROTEST SELF CARE TIPS

adrienne

with one minute or less:

breathe. take three breaths that are a little deeper. imagine the breath filling you up from the heart, more each time, till your whole body has breath.

speak a mantra or commitment that brings you back to your purpose. here are some examples:

black lives matter. (alicia garza, opal tameti, patrisse cullors)
my people are free. (harriet tubman)
all is full of love. (bjork)
love’s in need of love today. (stevie wonder)
i am enough.
black love. (BOLD and many others)
i am a practice ground for abundance/love/fearlessness/ transformation/magic
i do it! (my niece mairead)
i’ma have none of that (my niece siobhan)
i just want to talk about dragons (my nephew finn)
all that you touch you change (octavia)
I am my ancestors’ answered prayer (Leah)
I am significant (Adaku)
I am the love that I have been waiting for (Adaku)
Tell your child self: You are alive. I am alive (Adaku)
when Black people get free, everybody gets free (Black Lives Matter)
who is worth my love, my strength and my rage? (Leah saw it on tumblr on a lot of qTPOC sites)
act in a way your past, present and future self will appreciate (kyisha williams)
no one said this road would be easy/ I don’t think she brought me this far to leave me (Mango Tribe)

think of someone who you love, who you do this work for, alive or ancestor or dream. hold that thought like a rock.

keep a tincture or flower essence with you to use at these moments. i am currently loving one called ‘boundaries in a bottle‘ (from Dori Midnight) which helps immensely in my work. rescue remedy is a go to for lots of people. a few drops under the tongue can help you breathe. good fight herb co has a lovely self-love potion that is also really helpful after the battleground.

leah
I use motherwort tincture as a reliable anti anxiety aid, that also scoops me up in her arms when I’m grieving, mourning or cried out. Hawthorne and rose are great for heart hurts too.

adrienne
light a candle so the fire can transform your focus and energy. wach it for a while, or let it sit in a sacred space to release what you can’t carry.

with ten minutes

that loved one i mentioned above? spend some time thinking of them at your side, or at your back. lean on them. let them hold you. breathe into it.

meditate. with each in-breath, invite spaciousness and rest into your body and spirit. with each out-breath, release that which is not yours to carry. (some examples: ‘breathing in space, breathing out drama’. ‘breathing in sleep, breathing out white guilt’. ‘breathing in comrades, breathing out fear’. or this one from naima penniman: ‘breathe in beyonce, breathe out condalezza rice’.)

lay down flat on your back, pull your knees up to your chest, hug your knees, and rock back and forth. this gives your body a quick break, your vertebrae more space, a little massage to your hips.

pour yourself a glass of water. drink the whole thing, inviting your body to be like water, transforming to move forward.

write about what you learned at the action/protest. write it for yourself, write it to share with others.

leah
pranayamic breath, or ‘the great yogic breath’ (shout outs to nisha ahuja for teaching me) take a deep breath into your heart, and then into your belly. hold it. feel how full you are. exhale from your belly, then from your heart. repeat.

containment breath (shout outs to vanissar tarakali for teaching me): inhale into your belly. when you exhale, do it in three stages- exhale from your belly, pause, exhale from your middle chest, pause, then exhale from the top of your chest. this breath helps give a sense of containment when I am feeling overwhelmed and EMERGENCY MUST GO EVERYTHING IS AN EMERGENCY.

I also squeeze my arms and thighs and feel the bones underneath when I am overwhelmed and dissassociated- it helps me feel like there is something holding me up all the time, that I don’t have to do anything to get, and it brings me back to my body more than other anti dissassociation exercises.

Train yourself to go outside and take a short walk every couple of hours, if you are locked up by a computer. I was always telling myself “yeah, I know I should but….” and remaining glued to the computer. A recent work gig that told us all to go on quick breaks every hour showed me how much this helped my focus, for real.

with an hour

adrienne

take a nap. a timed nap so you won’t miss anything, or an untimed nap…whichever one is more relaxing for you.

exchange shoulder and neck massages with someone you feel physically safe around. use your thumbs to move up and out, imagine that stress and oppression are small knots at the top of the spine and that you can smooth them out and drop them off the edges of the shoulders.

cook yourself a meal, alone or with loved ones.

write a note of appreciation (on paper, on email, through social media) to someone (in the movement or in your circle) who you deeply appreciate right now. you don’t have to send it, but you do have to feel it.

put yourself in water – a shower, a bath. let the water remind you who and what you are. anything that feels too big, send it to the ocean.

take care of something alive and revel in the impact of that action. water a plant, change a diaper, play a game, hold an elder’s hand. small miracles grow big ones.

engage in a spiritual practice that brings you into yourself. that may be prayer, meditation, movement, song, art. ask someone to hold this space with you. others from your actions, or those who aren’t/can’t protest but are in alignment.

with two hours or more

leah
What feels good? Figure out how to do the work in ways that feel as good as possible. When Healing Justice for Black Lives Matter blew up and all of a sudden I was getting 48 FB notifications an hour- including from a million white healers I didn’t know personally, who were all eager to join in, without maybe noticing how their presence shifted what had been a majority BIPOC action- what had felt like a juicy, generative, wild freedom song action started to feel like a stress ball in my shoulders. But this time, I actually stopped and said, how do I want to do this? How do I want it to feel? I asked for help. I gave myself permission to turn off the computer for breaks. I breathed. I reminded myself, and got reminded, that it’s ok to check people and set limits! Boundaries are beautiful.

Take time for sex and cute outfits and the gender things that make your body strong and shining. My sephora lipstain and eyeliner are on purpose, they are not sidenotes, they are femme armour and blessing and allow me to teach, organize and show up. So is texting my dates and masturbation as self care.

adrienne

yes to pleasure activism. remember your body can release a lot through pleasure. be grateful for your skin, softness, hardness, nerves, mysteries, releases.

community acupuncture. let the acupuncturist know you are engaging in protests and actions, what you want to release, what you want to embody.

see another kind of bodyworker or healer. i ride for somatic bodywork and limpias, but there are so many practices that can help – craniosacral, tarot, reiki, coaching. on december 18 a lot of us are offering our healing services at a reduced rate, and/or donating all of our income to ferguson movement work. we are also offering up healing for black activist/organizers involved in these protests worldwide, not just that date, but in general. find more about both efforts here.

go to a sauna or spa or hot springs. i have a list here, they range in affordability. a lot of places have options to sit in the hot tub even if you don’t get a massage or treatment.

adaku
Continue to listen to how your body is responding. What sensations are arising? Where do you feel them? Are these sensations telling you to slow down, eat, mastrubate, call your support buddy, catch up with the crew you are marching with, warm up your body, breathe deeper, sleep?

Sit, stand or lay down in silence. Breathe in silence. In the deep quiet, find a word or phrase that needs to be spoken. On your next exhale, scream it at the top of your lungs.

Put your arm around yourself. Take a deep breath. Give yourself a squeeze. On your next inhale repeat an affirmation to your core.

Offer up gratitude to yourself, your ancestors and/or your team for protecting you and supporting your capacity to engage in this action.

Do this with someone your body trusts and feels comfortable being vulnerable and close with:: Embrace each other in a hug (Hugging stimulates an incredibly deep nervous system relaxation response). Mirror each other with each next step. Breathe in through the nose slowly and evenly until you fill your lungs to capacity. Hold the breathe for five slow counts. Breathe out through the nose, releasing the air slowly. Repeat 3 times. If you have capacity, whisper an affirmation into each other’s ear at your very last exhale.

Allow yourself to be heard by someone you trust. Call, visit or welcome someone who has capacity to hold space with you to join you where you are. As much as feels comfortable, share how you are doing and what you might need in the coming moments, days or weeks.

Make a dream pillow to support insomnia, anxiety and panic attacks. (Great recipe from mountain rose herbs).

Give yourself permission to come undone. To cry unabashedly, to laugh wildly, to whip your hair back and forth, to dance ferociously, to summon up the fiercest scream. Tap into the primal nature of your emotions. Let it stir what needs to be heard.

Suck on some honey! my favorite. If you can, mix a tablespoon of honey with a tiny tiny pinch of lavender. Both are incredible relievers of stress and anxiety and fortify the immune system. Suck slow and intentionally. Let the sweetness caress every part of your mouth.

leah

because self care is collective care is disability justice:

Lift up disabled and chronically ill folks for how much we have invented the art of collective care (because we have to live interdependently, because we know the medical industrial complex is not our friend.). Ask the crips in your life for tips first! We know how to make access and share resources on no money, we’ve been doing this for forever!

A place I always go to for disabled wisdom about collective care is this blog, which has all the thinking and all the real talk practice (access audits, how to make a spaces that’s accessible except for the bathroom accessible, and more.) Yashna’s article about collective care also never gets old. To see how we organized Creating Collective Access, a group of disabled and sick folks collectively caring for each other, at the Allied Media Conference, go here.

This blog post – about how sick and disabled and mad folks offer support to each other all the time, and how we don’t have to wait to be “healed” to offer care to each other- is really speaking to me right now.

At the same time, it’s not like sick and disabled and mad people all are a monolith or have this issh figured out either! Years ago, I was part of a group of sick and disabled qtpoc who were trying to figure out how to care for each other. My Virgo moon was all about “let’s just get the google doc going!” but another person was like, wait a second- most of us have experienced people trying to care for us in messed up ways- paternalistic, controlling, disrespecting our autonomy, all the ways people try to “help the handicapped” all the time. We need to figure out first what would even allow us to accept help. She made us journal about a time when someone offered help to us in a way that felt good and was about solidarity, not charity.

A lot of the time, I see folks go “I know I should ask for help,but it’s hard…” And that is totally real. And it’s because of ableism. Ableism, inside the white supremacist capitalist colonialist ableist patriarchy (the WSCAP), tells us that if we ask for help, we are weak, and that’s a bad thing. Most of us have lived in the world in ways where there have for real been nobody we could trust to take care of ourselves well but ourselves (on a good day.) This is embedded in everything from abuse in nursing homes to welfare cuts to jail to our families. I’ve heard politicized QPOC comrades blithely call folks who ask for help, “energy vampires” or say, “Oh her, she has issues, she’s so *neeedy.*”

So sometimes the first step you have to do in order to even feel comfortable asking for and receiving help is to unpack all that. And to start small. Make your list of the shit you could really, really use help with, and another list of the people you think would be safe to ask, and ask for the least risky thing first. See how it feels. See how it goes. Experiment.

Do an access check in before you plan an action and before you start. Ask people what they need to be in the space. Often, people have never been asked before and go “uhhhhh…” That’s fine. Start where you are. Let the needs and their brilliance shape the action. That’s actually stronger than trying to force people into a mold that doesn’t fit them.

If you’re already caring for people, but you are wrestling with feeling depleted, giving more than you can, feeling resentful- unpack that stuff too, because it’s not good for anyone.

If you are nondisabled, don’t be texting your disabled friends all the time going “See you at the barricades! Oh wait you can’t do a five mile march in the cold… oh well, take care!” That’s ableism and it’s shitty and we’re all really sick of it. Figure out ways you can do actions where you can all take part. Roll with the krip/sicko crew when we make it to the march. Ask us how and if we want your support. Re read “Wherever you are is where I want to be” by Mia Mingus

Ask your sick and disabled friends what we need to participate, in what actions, and let us steer the boat of what we want/need instead of doing what you think is good for us- we’re the experts on our own bodies and lives, trust me ;). Bring water and snacks. Offer to push a manual chair ( you can often rent them for cheap from a medical supply place or drugstore) for someone who is a cane user or someone who walks but has chronic pain who wants to be able to be on a longer march. Ask your powerchair using friend if her battery needs a charge, and help people get out of the way of her rolling, if that’s what she wants.

Hold that leaving the protest at any time someone’s bodymind is about to give out is just as radical as staying.

This is a good guide by and for disabled folks doing direct action.

Also, recognize that for some of us with disabilities and chronic illness/pain and/or madness, we may make the choice to push our bodies extra hard to be in the streets- but that we may need extra time to recover afterwards. When we shut down the port of Oakland during Occupy/Decolonize, I had to be there at 4 AM and walk 3 miles each way because the accessible busses were badly promoted and left before I got there. I’m glad I did it, but I totally went into a flare, hurt like hell and needed to sleep 12 hours afterwards. Don’t judge us for our choices or tell us what to do or that we are being irresponsible for being in the streets. Understand that we negotiate many kinds of risk in these bodies everyday, that our relationship to pain is different because we dance with her all the time, and we negotiate stretching our limits all the time. Ask us what you can to do support- if you can bring food after, or do childcare so we can rest.

adrienne
and if all else fails, read this again, because…

susan
This is power. This is power humming on this page. Reading it settles me in places where I wasn’t aware of the need for settling. Reading this makes me want to show up quietly and fiercely, to rest quietly and fiercely, and to show up again. This is power humming on this page.

adrienne
please add on more resources you know of, and please take care of yourself. we know you are precious.

black love as a radical commitment

i am writing to you from a plantation, but it might also be the future.

this space, the franklinton center at bricks, was once a place that slaves were sent to be broken in. for centuries.

and then it was a christian school in the same white charitable tradition that led to many of our historical black colleges and universities. for decades.

now it is a retreat center and, if prayers are responded to, in the most tangible manifestations, the future home of BOLD – black organizing for leadership and dignity.

reparations, soil up.

i donate facilitation time to BOLD each year because i believe it is our best chance at liberation. not just black liberation, though that would be enough. but i believe that the liberation of black people represents a realization of the human experiment, the resolution of a tension born out of our distance from the sacred truth of who we are. stardust.

we are sentient miraculous beings. on a magnificent planet, possibly the most biologically diverse planet in an apparently infinite universe, or multiverse. at least so far. who knows – as far as we have seen, we are unique.

and within this unique species, there are so many oppressed peoples.

and within that, the primary sustaining hierarchy of our planet has been that of dark skin to light skin. to be a black person on this experimental rock hurtling through space, obsessed with the sun, is a dangerous thing. in some parts of the world our children are armed soldiers. in most parts of the world our children are the hungriest of the youth. in our part of the world, we are being publicly lynched at a higher rate than ever before in our history.

all of the systems are exposing themselves as built on shaky sand, at minimum obselete. iphone 3. we developed so quickly, so quickly we gained the cultural center, and the white house. but of course we needed, as a nation, to spend a few centuries healing, holding each other, getting our breath back from how this specific nation began just yesterday. genocide and slavery are stones woven into our skirts, bruising our calves as we run, trying to escape the weight.

we need healing.

we need to stop and reconcile ourselves with existence, though nothing ever pauses in evolution. but..i am 36, and i can walk on a piece of ground where the soil still shows bloodstains from my ancestors being broken, and breaking in. slavery is a visceral presence. cotton whisps in my hair, i walk through a school house here that feels thick, like i had to push my way through spirits; young, black, hopeful spirits.

and all of that is done in this place, BOLD, where we are celebrating and cultivating black love as an organizing strategy. the three women who birthed #blacklivesmatter are of this community, not accidentally. they were not created by this community, but gathered, noticed, honored. gathered by denise perry and others, because they, we, are not interested in short tem reactionary responses to systemic violence. because we want to keep our hands on the root of the problem – the solution: black lives matter.

our black love is what teaches us that we matter.

i can’t tell you how nourishing and restorative it is to be in this space, at this time. i cannot count how many of the people said they traveled long and far because they needed to fill up at the well with black love.

because we are lovable, as lovable as anything else on this incredible and utterly unique planet. and even though our recent history includes generations of self-negating branding, physical and psychological, we have begun to love ourselves again.

some people are terrified by this, just by black people saying ‘enough’ and ‘it stops today’. they will try to suffocate us all, put bullets in us all.

but!

we outnumber the ones who feel this way. black people and those who can see us for who we are, we are the ‘overwhelming majority of planet earth’.

bold is the black power movement of our generation. the medicine we claim will heal anyone who swallows it – black lives matter.

we know black love is a radical commitment. an aspirational and healing commitment. you think you are not us, but we know you are. black love means looking in the mirror and remembering who you, and we, are.

we danced in cotton fields, we danced in the darkness of ships, we danced on the biggest continent on this magical rock.

we dance now, screaming “i can hear my brother saying i can’t breathe/now i’m in the struggle saying i can’t leave/calling out the violence of these racist police/we won’t stop the struggle til our people are free,” in new york.

dying-in in small towns.

shutting down highways from the twin cities to l.a.

and singing our ancestors’ words in north carolina.

today i was part of a circle of black women evoking harriet tubman under the guidance of sister doctor alexis pauline gumbs. she had us chant harriet’s words, ‘my people are free. my people are free.’ we chanted until we were swaying, rocking, giggling, glowing, weeping, laughing out loud.

try it. chant it till your body believes.

or june jordan’s words, ‘we are the onces we’ve been waiting for.’

or fannie lou hamer’s words, ‘nobody’s free until everybody’s free.’

or audre lorde’s words, ‘i am who i am, doing what i came to do.’

or ella baker’s words, ‘give light and the people will find the way.’

or anna julia cooper, ‘the world needs to hear her voice.’

alexis had us chanting these words, in a space where folks were contemplating emergent strategy, black love, somatics and resilience.

and what we know for sure at this point is we need each other, and we as black people need to give other black people space to be themselves completely. we have to love ourselves so no one can be confused about our dignity, our preciousness, our brilliance, our lovability.

we keep turning inwards, and back out. breath, ocean, orbits, we are the fundamental rhythm, in flesh. and as we master ourselves, it becomes impossible to serve any other master.

our numbers are massive with ghosts. we are cultivating the liberated state. we know every person killed is a fallen soldier in the greatest war ever fought – and we grieve with parents and community, and we blow on fires of fearlessness growing deep in our bellies, to take action in and through grief.

it won’t be easy, but we will find every pleasure, every sacred instance.

we know we are on the right side of history.

we choose to be the light.

a season of love (for all those killed with impunity)

it is our duty to fight for our freedom
it is our duty to win
we must love each other and protect each other
we have nothing to lose but our chains

– assata shakur

first, we must love ourselves enough to believe in the fundamental rights we have to breath, to be children, to grow up, to love and protect, to walk and play and disobey, to live until we die, not because our skin scares someone empowered by the state to kill us, but because our bodies are appropriately tired from all the living and loving we did.

we must love ourselves like spring, bursting through any containers that cannot grow with us.

i freed a thousand slaves
i could have freed a thousand more if only they knew
they were slaves

– harriet tubman

second, we must love everyone who shares this lineage of being on the dark side of white supremacy. to ferociously, obstinately, loudly and unapologetically love the majority of the planet. to be unafraid to see every black and brown person as a potential comrade. because as patrisse, opal and alicia teach us, black lives matter.

we must love like summer, storming, burning off the surface, sun and rain in the same moment, double rainbow style inspirations, wildfire alchemists.

if you come here to help me
you are wasting your time
but if you come because your liberation is bound up with mine
then let us work together

– aboriginal activists group, queensland, 1970s

third, we must love those who open themselves up against the trajectory of their lineages, who learn, who teach themselves to love us when they have been socialized not to. this means loving those who benefit from a system that doesn’t love us, but work against it in their hearts, beliefs, families, jobs, and actions.

here we must love like fall, stripped down to the spare truth with each other. let the assumptions and projections that keep us from each other be bright enough in their dying to make us gasp, and then fall away – they are illusions. the construct of race is deadly, but it is still a construct. let history give us rich soil to hibernate in – each other. we need each other. we need everyone to stand up for their own humanity in this moment, advancing the work of black lives mattering on all of our divergent front lines.

love has within it a redemptive power…there’s something about love that builds up and is creative. there is something about hate that tears down and is destructive…love your enemies.
– martin luther king, jr

and finally, especially in these moments, we must work to love those who place themselves against us as our enemies, our oppressors. this doesn’t mean forgiving without due process, or allowing to move forward without accountability and critique. in fact it is the opposite, it is loving in the highest sense – compassion.

we must learn to see that the violence they walk with is, all the time, inside of them, make them so so sick. we cannot let them slip by, killing us quietly. we must put the light on them – those images of modern day lynchings, the memories of that violence that brings us to tears, to raging in the streets…that death energy is a toxic poison of guilt festering inside of those who fear and kill us, and they in turn rot our communities, our societies.

racism is a sickness, viral in our species. and it is tricky, reducing the mind that carries it to the least viable, least sophisticated of world views. if we cannot be compassionate for violently racist people, recognizing this behavior as a sickness, we are at risk of confusing their violence and control with the power we seek to gain and share.

to be the worst of humanity is not a power, it is a trauma.
to need lies and corruption to protect your power shrinks the soul.
to be the most inhumane and racist among us and be unable to receive the balm of justice, the release of a genuine apology, the embrace of other people who feel safe in your presence – it must be unbearable. i would not wish that on any human being.

for these people, mostly white men, who are pulling these triggers…for their humanity, and for our species to move beyond this fatal sickness, i want them to feel the righteous hand of justice that comes with real love. i want them to feel the kind of justice i watch the best parents in my life offer the children i live for…’because i love you, i must stop everything right now and give you my attention, to correct you, i cannot let you behave this way, hurt yourself and me and others this way. you must apologize…do you understand what you did and why?’

this kind of love stops everything, so that the violence, the misbehavior, cannot be normalized.

this kind of love yields transformative justice, it reaches all the way down to the root, the part of the wound that is tender and swollen and full of pus and smells like the end of everything. this kind of love is not saintly, it is pragmatic. it is the nurse, midwife, doula, doctor, healer, shaman, witch, magician, neighbor, sister, friend willing to touch, clean, soothe, amputate, say spells, exorcise, journey, listen and find the possibility for healing.

and in this season, this last love feels like winter. when a loved one has to turn away from the violence and leave the violator to contemplate himself, or reach like an icy wind under the collar and through the ribs, or to shut down all the systems that allow the violator to normalize his behavior, it is a cold time.

we must freeze racism and white supremacy – armed and unarmed – out of our system, give it no place to grow. the love we offer here cannot be meted out in half measures. everywhere, winter.

we are the anomaly. our actions must be as unyielding and show stopping as that wall of snow in buffalo.

and of course we know, in the cyclical intelligence of our cells, that winter is a season of abundant nourishing for the land, water piled on top of water just waiting to be swallowed. love made visible.

when you see our rage piling up, snowballing, know that it IS our love.

we have been learning to practice love in actions of collective rage, collective redistribution of resources, and collective healing. our actions stop traffic, stop business as usual, close the schools, interrupt the speeches and the holidays – we love in ways that localize our brilliance.

we divest from the system that refuses to provide justice. we love each other by investing in each other.

join the efforts in any way you can – let’s each be clear about the things we are best at, the things which give us the particular joy that comes from being in our purpose – don’t worry, it can be multiple things. do these things as part of the larger effort for black lives.

if you are a creator, create in ways that ‘wage love’, as charity hicks taught us, that challenge small thinking and uplift black lives.

if you are an organizer or an activist, fill yourself up with righteous vision, take leadership from those most directly effected, stay hydrated, and disrupt the system at every turn. ‘turn your rage into love’, as keith cylar taught us.

if you are a parent, model and speak the message ‘black lives matter’ to your children all day, and make sure to be a presence for black lives mattering in their schools, day care, everywhere.

if you are a healer, donate a day of your work’s earnings to the efforts in ferguson (december 18 is a first day that healers will be doing this, sparked by leah lakshmi piepzna-samarasinha), or answer adaku utah’s call to offer healing to those putting their bodies on the front lines.

invest your time, money and energy into black organizing, black wholeness, black arts, black lives. this battle requires every kind of action.

and yes, some of the most direct actions may seem violent, disrupting business as usual, destroying property. think of it as survival. when someone is choking, drowning, dying, the body becomes very intelligent and willing to do anything to continue. individually and collectively, we are trying everything, and we are being brilliant, so that we, and our children, survive.

because our root cause, our root purpose, is love.

this is not the beginning, this is not the end. but this moment is ours, to ‘bend the arc towards justice’. this battle is a devastating and crucial place to be intentional about how we are showing up, what we are embodying. the superpower we need to be cultivating now is love. radical, unapologetic love.

hands up, pull it down.

#nojusticenochristmas #cancelchristmas #buyblack #blacklivesmatter #blacklove

A Sci Fi Short for Michael Brown

‘We must become experts on lynching.’
‘Again?’
‘Yes. We thought it was a past tense virus, but it was just in mutation. Our danger is escalating.’
‘And if we know more…what then?’
‘It is unclear…right now we need only to awaken ourselves to the presence of this death in our midst. As with everything, awareness yields new practice, new practice yields new worlds.’
‘I am practicing tears, grief, rage. This awareness is painful.’
‘Yes, liberation is a brutal path. It is also a blissful path. It is the only meaningful path.’
‘Axe.’
#scifishort #Ferguson #writeourselvesforward

if you feel moved, please add on to the story or write your own.

hiatus

i am writing a draft of my novel this month as part of national novel writing month. it is really exciting, in the midst of an exciting time – we had a wildseeds gathering at the american studies association national meeting to think through bringing octavia strategies for liberation to the academy – i was a visitor from beyond the towers, it felt like an honor to contribute. octavia scholarship keeps growing!

i also got quality time with mentor/friend tananarive due, who i just deeply admire and respect.

then i met kid fury and crissle from the read today, and kid fury liked my turquoise bracelet game and they were both everything and lovely and sweet…and i think i acted relatively normal in the face of my black queer love for both of them. we got to uplift crissle’s read on ferguson and our weariness at the onslaught of state-on-black violence to her face. they’ve created a segment on their show called black excellence that feels like the podcast embodiment of my political mode of gifting my attention to the things i want to grow.

also, beyonce is releasing something magnificent before the year is out. !!! sigh. !!! breathe. just…just breathe. she makes me need to produce like a virgo.

to that end, i am going on hiatus for at least the rest of the month. i am going to finish this draft.

y’all see how easy it is for me to accidentally write y’all a whole post when i was just trying to say hi…atus. all kinds of brilliant white rabbit level new ideas keep coming up for blog entries. life is just moving so quickly. and yet, with all of that, the characters in my book are calling me over to their table for tea and monologues and dialogues and backstories and intrigues.

so i will put the wonderland blog concepts on a virgo list AND not let them be a way of procrastinating. i will not be denied in this effort. i want to pour every word i have this month into this work.

so.

see y’all in december :-) send love!

Authenticity chant

Authenticity chant:

Let me not posture
Let me not front
Let me not say yes to
Lives I don’t want
Let me not use words that don’t mean a thing
Let me be fly
as I am, no trying
Let me good
For my heart, not my rep
Let me be still
When I can’t take a step
Don’t let me get too caught
Creating my face
Let me just love me
All over the place

sourcing myself and others

There’s a card in the osho zen tarot deck called ‘the source‘, and I love whenever I pull it because it is so humbling. I sometimes pull it when I am in the midst of doing doing doing things, and it reminds me to just be in connection to source.

I pulled it yesterday and had a glorious day. It says:

When we speak of being “grounded” or “centered” it is this Source we are talking about. When we begin a creative project, it is this Source that we tune in to. This card reminds us that there is a vast reservoir of energy available to us. And that we tap into it not by thinking and planning but by getting grounded, centered, and silent enough to be in contact with the Source. It is within each of us, like a personal, individual sun giving us life and nourishment. Pure energy, pulsating, available, it is ready to give us anything we need to accomplish something, and ready to welcome us back home when we want to rest. So whether you are beginning something new and need inspiration right now, or you’ve just finished something and want to rest, go to the Source. It’s always waiting for you, and you don’t even have to step out of your house to find it.

Zazen means just sitting at the very source, not moving anywhere, a tremendous force arises, a transformation of energy into light and love, into greater life, into compassion, into creativity.
It can take many forms. But first you have to learn how to be at the source. Then the source will decide where your potential is. You can relax at the source, and it will take you to your very potential.

This carnivorous summer has left me feeling like all I can do is put one foot in front of the other and listen. It is only in the past week or two that I have remembered – oh I am a body!

My body is storing all of this feeling so I can keep going with life, but it isn’t like carbon being stored deep in the earth for some next generation to benefit from. It’s like a storage rental with my important life things in it that I need to pay some monthly cost for, and I will pay until I go get those things.

I was saying recently that grief has made me feel like a tree getting chopped into or burned. There are rings – years and experiences of my life, all the way back to the beginning – that I thought were never going to be seen, and now they are meeting with the atmosphere, exposed.

I’ve always been a feeling person, as you may have noticed here, but as I come back into my body, I seem to be having a Neo-in-the-Matrix level experience with emotion. It’s palpable, it’s moving through me with no expectation of words…in fact the opposite, it’s like I’m finally liberated from the realm of words as a container for emotions (she says, scribbling furiously in the dark).

Emotions are not just something to reflect on, they are happening in and around me in real time, quickly, so complex and interconnected. And my whole being is wired to feel them, and to make the most of this human experience I have to grow my capacity to feel, to bear the greatest joy. Because the suffering is coming regardless, but it seems the joy part is the part that is pure potential, and requires my intention and skill to manifest.

I have spent a lot of time with my sister and her family. It’s the only place I’ve wanted to be, really…doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen, organizing the toys, playing with the kids. And of course wishing I could get in a fist fight with god for the year they’ve been given, I’ve been given, the relentless pace of loss.

Being around kids having feelings is helpful, I need that obvious direct stuff. It feels like I can’t do enough because I can’t erase the hard parts, but they show me how to make everything generative.

Since their youngest sibling transitioned in the womb, Finn is pouring himself into dragon family art and obsessive gaming, places where he can control the story, where he can win. Siobhan is being very fabulous all the time, giving me a very Rihanna level independence. At first she was carrying around her own ‘dead’ baby doll in a box and singing ‘dead baby, dead baby’ at the top of her lungs. Now she is wearing constant costumes, sashaying everywhere, and overtly figuring out her impact, working rooms until everyone is laughing, oohing and ahhing. Mairead is adorable and inconsolable much of the time, delightfully exploring the realm of language, throwing her whole body into tantrums as she learns to articulate what she wants, and simultaneously learns that saying a wish doesn’t make it come true. I love that she seeks comfort from me after I say no to her, let’s me hold her even though she thinks I am causing her suffering. This reminds me of my relationship with source.

And they teach that my own emotional responses are that clear, even if I’ve been socialized not to express my emotional truth.

My life with family feels like a living meditation – doing the dishes I am serving life, moving the laundry I am serving life, dumping the compost I am serving life.

This awareness expands to other experiences. I went to the hot springs with dear friends and as soon as my skin hit the water I was transported into a realm of sensation, memory and clarity – each of my cells had something to tell me about feelings, had been waiting for me to circle back around and notice. I sat under the stars, steaming and writing notes to my self.

I went from there into generative somatics’ teacher training. Mostly we are there learning and practicing our teaching, but we always do bodywork exchanges, to practice giving and holding it, and to continue opening ourselves, listening to the whole self through the body.

I got on the bodywork table with curiosity, and my partner in the work was so gentle that I thought for a moment it might be an easy, even relaxing session. Then suddenly I felt so much that I thought I was having a heart attack, like grief was carving it’s way up through me, and that if I let it out I would become a scream that would never end. It’s strange to write about the experience of bodywork, but I feel the need to proselytize, because I released more grief in that half hour of gentle attention than I’d been able to move the whole summer.

It took hours to feel like I could be around other humans again, my whole existence was so alert and sensitive. I still have to learn how to feel so alive and be around others.

One of the teachers shared this poem:

For the raindrop, joy is in entering the river-
Unbearable pain becomes its own cure,
Travel far enough into sorrow, tears turn into sighing;
In this way we learn how water can die into air,
When, after heavy rain, the storm clouds disperse,
is it not that they’ve wept themselves clear to the end?
If you want to know the miracle, how wind can polish a mirror,
Look: the shining glass grows green in Spring.
It’s the rose’s unfolding, Ghalib, that creates the desire to see-
In every color and circumstance, may the eyes be open for what comes.
– Ghalib

Since then, my emotional awareness has been turned up. There’s so much happening all the time, in every interaction, in the suffering world, in music, in the passing of hours with loved ones. Beloveds have witnessed me laughing and crying uncontrollably, I can’t contain it, I am feeling so much. The whole history of all living things and all the potential futures are with each of us in each present moment. In talking with a friend, or my mom, or a stranger, I wonder, what are the poles of their life, their joys and sorrows? Does it feel like this inside everyone?

Part of the clarity that came up from my cells is that I have some work to do. I have a novel to write and I have emergent strategy to share. But when I say ‘to do’, that is inaccurate. I have some work to embody. I know again who I am. And to be myself creates such an abundance in my life and relationships and family and movements.

I’ve been taking in all of these experiences, sitting in them. It is time to write, to share, to process, to give.

I am as insignificant as any fragile living thing, but I am not small. I am connected to source as a default. I require only, but no less than, my full attention.

nanowrimo

i am writing a draft of a novel!

i had an incredible experience with napowrimo, national poetry writing month. i spent april writing a poem each day and remembering how much i love poetry, that i am a poet in my own way, even if it isn’t my primary form.

i have been reading a lot lately. i was recently inspired by kiese laymon’s long division, and then margaret atwood’s maddaddam trilogy. both were wonderfully creative and funny stories, the first one on time travel, the second on apocalypse and corporate control.

i was looking around for my next book, which i am pretty sure will be chimimanda ngozi adichie’s americanah, when i was reminded that november is national novel writing month (nanowrimo).

my style isn’t really funny, but it absolutely concerns time travel and apocalypse – in detroit. this is a story i have been trying to get out for a while, and everything i’ve written is too small to tell the story. the goal of nanowrimo is 50,000 words. i hope that’s enough, but i figure that by the end of the month i will know a few things:

– how i feel about novel writing
– how big my love story of detroit needs to be
– what’s possible inside my writing practice with a rigorous daily word count goal

the other thing to share about this story is that it’s all about grief, of course. part of why this story has been hard to land is that grief keeps knocking me sideways. today i pulled together the writing i have done about grief on this blog and it was so much. it was beautiful to see how time has made each loss more bearable, more complete. and it was humbling to see the ways in which my real life grief is being transformed into a generative force in the story i now write.

this novel may be like my songs and most of my poems, for my own release and healing. but i am excited to let it out, to give these ghosts a place to play together.

send me love, and luck. and if there are people you have lost that you would like me to include in some way, especially connected to detroit, please share their names and stories here. i’ll see what i can do.