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black band on flesh

last summer i started wearing a black cloth band around my arm as a sign of continuous black grief and resistance.

over the year i felt the commitment spread through and over me until i was mostly wearing black in my clothing. it made me feel aware, spiritually protected, connected to my life’s work.

as i’ve slowly returned to the bright colors and patterns of happy style, i have needed to feel that band in my flesh. today my friend Vanessa, an incredible creator and black queer tattoo artist, put it on my body. ?

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a few things I try to say to the children, without words

I am not here to surrender to mediocrity

I am not here to deny the many ways of being
or anyone else’s pain

I know the water flows around obstacles
and I know it can get stagnant sometimes, need the heat to raise it up, to move
up and over,
or the earth to swallow it up

I am here to love deeply, to love beyond my means, recklessly and then like the sun loves,
into the void, no favorites, only orbit

I have no bottom, I am not separate from hell or heaven, they are in me, they are in this world

I am learning to dance with every part of myself
to leave nothing to shame
to declare my love from the inner recess to the stars, light years pound out of my heart
make me visible to the nebulae I love

I am not leading, I am experiencing
earthworm chrysalis snake skin
and the pond where the geese rest on their journey

I am not mothering a child, but I am raising a way of being, nurturing inside myself
a liberated self
knowing one day it will cast aside everything I have known as me

I am a beautiful detritus-to-be,
a candle wick in the molten wax
just smitten with fire
as it changes everything in me
convincing me that everything, with a breath,
can change

happy birthday octavia

today is the day octavia butler was born into this world. the majority of my adult life has been spent reading her work, engaging it, geeking out with others about her as a writer and a person, and building work like barnacles on the structures she left behind her.

on her birthday i feel gratitude that after four miscarriages, her mother’s body was able to hold onto octavia’s body. and then that octavia was precocious enough to surrender to her calling early, to practice so tirelessly.

there were times when i wanted to be more like octavia, more serious, more demanding of respectful awe, more prolific and fearless in fiction – my queer strange distortion of love and admiration. i would wonder what octavia would make of me, and usually landed at: annoyed and amused.

but the longer lesson has been that octavia was so utterly herself, and what she channeled across time and space came through her own acceptance of who and how she was, her unapologetic realization of her self.

i don’t need to be her, or impress her across the barrier of life and death. i just need to be me, the me that nearly worships her and tries to maximize the reach of her wild and wondrous mind. the me who knows there’s an abundance of space and attention and bookshelves for brilliant black visionary fiction writing.

i met her, i shook her hand, i heard her voice, i listened to her cadence, i loved the shape of her face and how dark her eyes were, the width of her shoulders. i was moved to tears by how she understood the world and spoke of it to a room of 19-year-olds as if she believed in us, believed we could understand humanity.

it turns out that octavia is one of the great loves of my life. i have so far avoided the huntington library because in my heart she is too present to be archived. it brings me to tears to truly sit with who she was, who she is in my life.

happy birthday great spirit. i continue to give my life work and attention to you, with joy.

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summer solstice tarot and I-ching reading

summer solstice tarot and I-ching readings say:

to be a good conduit of the divine, humble yourself (you are not special), while accepting your callings and gifts (you are each special).

rest and resource your body.

keep finding the work that can be done in authentic relationships.

build up everyone you can honestly uplift. and if you can’t, make the choice not to bring others down, especially others oriented on freedom…turn your attention to the places you are connected and respected.

keep growing.

wake up again and again. and again.

reflections post #amc2017 (movement. crissle. emergent strategy.)

movement reflections post #amc2017:

we must build each other up.

conflict is generative if we engage in transparent, direct, emotionally honest communication. the rest is a waste of time and a dragging weight on movement.

we must hold each other’s impossible stories with gentleness.

we’re all learning and doing our best.

we must stand/be next to each other and share the risk and effort of stepping/moving out of the status quo towards liberation.

*

me-eee aa-and crissle, crissle west:

i got a teensy taste of what famous feels like (because amc IS emergent strategy so everyone at home base had the book) and it was pretty overwhelming. now granted, i wore a catsuit with a tail on it for the opening, a very leo move for this virgo. but by hour three i promised myself not to put anyone on any pedestals ever again.

but then i saw crissle from the read on the closing panel and she was so funny and lovely and smart and great. i would have romantic intentions towards crissle but she’s publicly said she isn’t into boobs (or any non-studs really), and i respect her self knowing, so i know our relationship would be challenged.

but i immediately wanted her to feel my gratitude for her existence. her graciousness with my fumbling hellos and requests for a picture was good teaching to me to just let it flow and keep it moving. she immediately did something awkward and cute and i was tongue tied and danced away cause there isn’t much to do with an intellectual crush in a loud bar.

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emergent strategy exercise premier:

i wanted to premier an emergent strategy exercise at #amc2017 that was built live. here’s what emerged, feel free to use, remix, share!

1. i reviewed the elements of Emergent Strategy, as well as the lineage.

2. i had people get in circles of four.

3. i had people reflect on which elements they already feel at ease with, or expert in. each person got two minutes to share their expertise. they could also share silence if that felt right.

4. i overheard people naysaying their wisdom and made an adaptation of not wasting time denying your knowing.

5. once everyone went, we did learner affirmations – each person got one minute of appreciation, reflections from the other three on what they learned. that way everyone had to admit they knew and had taught something.

6. then we increased the pressure. it was suddenly apocalyptic conditions and they had to figure out survival priorities and skills as a team. 7 minutes.

7. next we did a silent assessment of how well the group upheld emergent strategy under pressure (thumbs up/down/neutral on each element, looking at each other)

we closed with open discussion on what we learned.

*

i’m feeling so grateful for ill and our long friendship, the outstanding closing ritual (that song is in my head) and our work at Detroit Narrative Agency, for jenny, mike, muna, mo and oren for the film we’re creating for AMP’s 20 year anniversary next year, and for my sister autumn, who encouraged me to rest and thrilled me during our first podcast recording session. it was also incredible to be at #amc2017 with the babies of my life ones meeting each other and the extended family.

love bursting.

spells for radicals

these are a collection of spells from radicals, generated in the spell casting workshop today at the allied media conference!

if you didn’t get it to me yet don’t fret, just send it along and i’ll add it. or if you want me to add your names, send them <3. enjoy and add on: IMG_5357

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Console our childlike memories
Caress it’s hood, drink tea with the child
Repeat the emotion of lovemaking
Speak in love into our existence

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we call on earth, ancestors and friends to hold us, to stand at our backs
give us ground and give us cover

nurture what we instinctively and lovingly knew as children

for the ground to hold people with privilege as we face the reality of the ancestral and active harms of racism and colonization, for a spark of possibility to push us into transformative action

share your pain, I’ll hold it with mine, release it towards ones that play with your power, a discomfort heered

Nah
Loreto
Carly
Erica

*

Clear the illusion and make space for love.
Clear the air surrounding our bodies, identifies, and broken pieces.
Together we will practice forgiveness in the service of creation
And accept uncertainty and all that it brings.

*

“a flickering light ignites the spark to our rebirth / growth pulsates as we tend to the fires at our center, / illuminating our way so that others are guided by / this ever-deepening love for our eternal liberation.”
— co-created with lucecita cruz, yvonne gail estolas, tara scott-miller + katherine tom

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let us counter fear with radical love and generosity

healing our wombs with fierce care for ourselves

going beyond binaries, birthing the revolution

we follow the sun like sunflowers carrying our ancestors wisdom

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as the light dawns on you

when the wind disrupts your leaves
carelessly dropping your former fruits to the ground

be patient.

from the top of your crown
down to your sturdy roots
in the nourishing clarity of the earth

your branches are still growing.

peace, love and gratitude,
Quito, Ayshea, Clare, and Mary Joyce

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I am whole in all I bring
Smoke and water flowing things
Protection like a sacred skin
Letting go and letting in

*

some images:

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philando loved

“my son loved this city
and this city killed my son”

the child watched
her voice was calmer than ours
and because of her eyes
because she smelled the gun smoke
and listened to death
because she tried to comfort her mother
it seemed there was a pure wrong
seemed that everyone could see
this man through child’s eyes
that this man followed the rules
that this man swallowed his dignity
and then died with it in his throat
belted in
witnessed in real time
pushed right out of his own body

we learn again and again and again
that in this nightmare, there is no rule
nothing we do in our skin is right enough
in a nation that never feels white enough
there is only fear, quivering on triggers
smashing life underfoot
justifying itself

or love, learning to hold tight
and then learning to govern
without obliteration
of anyone’s wholeness
all of us ignorant in at least one direction
and yet holding each other
pale knuckles and pounding hearts

daily we have more proof,
more reason to be afraid
and more cause to “love each other
and protect each other,
we have nothing to lose”
we have nothing to lose

we have nothing more to lose
than our very selves
let’s lose this not enough no good
bloody mess of a nation
let’s lose any borders within which
justice cannot prosper
let’s become a sanctuary species
let us love a place
and do more than survive it
let us love a place not in spite of itself
but because we are creating it

let us make a world
worthy of a child’s eyes

stagger

it helps to say that i’m on the edge of burnout. in the past i flew right by all the telltale signs and right into the flames, almost welcoming the rest that came when i relinquished all ability to live in my life.

right now i feel like i don’t want the rest that comes inside of, or post, burnout. i want to intentionally bring my attention to my well being, and make adjustments so that i can sustain. i want all of us who are tired to learn how to stagger our efforts with each other.

when i think of staggering, i think of geese migrating long distances, and how they take turns holding the lead position because it is the hardest labor. cutting against the wind, setting the direction, setting the pace – it’s maximum effort. we all need to hold that position sometimes, and we all need to fall back in the formation sometimes, in order to all make it, to collectively go all the way.

that means collectively paying attention to the signs of burnout.

my signs include feeling tired and irritable and uninspired to connect with others or engage new ideas. i recently found myself rewriting the words to that song “if you don’t know me by now”, adding the lyric “i may never ever want to know you.” crispy.

in groups i often see signs like flakiness and haphazard communications, constant conflict that people accept as inevitable, and a shape of power under – no one wanting to take responsibility for impact, everyone feeling like victims of the world, powerless to shape the future.

i’m naming this precarious personal state as an invitation to stagger. i recognize that i am not alone in my exhaustion and we all need to name how we are and what we need so we can sustain our efforts.

for now, if you don’t need me, let me rest. there are so many incredible people out there! i list many of them in Emergent Strategy, and there are lists of awesome people at Social Transformation Project, or this list Mia Henry just pulled together.

if you have energy to lead, i am down to follow and support.

free labor feels heavier right now, so if you just need information, consider picking the internet instead of my/others brains.

if you do need me, be gentle and spacious with it – urgency feels like a serrated knife right now.

i’m practicing emergent strategy and resting and stretching and taking my vitamins and hydrating and shifting my diet and adding turquoise and ceremony and easing my schedule and all the other unglamorous things which make it possible for me to give what i can right now, and give more as my cup fills back up.

it already feels better.

to talk to gods

lately i have been overwhelmed by the need
to talk to gods
to humble myself with mountains
to normalize my insignificance

to say i may not have believed in you the way you wanted, at least not long enough
but that one time
with Aretha playing in the car speakers
the moon on my right
the dead body under a white sheet to my left
i understood at a deeper layer than words
the need for god
and i believed
but i didn’t surrender
and here i am, no white flag
and i need your counsel
anyway

to say that when i did pray so often it was only with half my heart
the other side convinced it knew something
that the universe did not
a path without suffering
a love without shadows
gentle things that were never broken
perhaps all of that is just greed
or the limited capacity of my generation
feeling everything
we can do almost nothing
and yet this must matter
it feels so bright
it feels like you

so. it’s always been a world of stars
when i look ahead
in a dream or just cast my eyes up through the years, so many stars i can’t hide
but lately it’s a night fog
slowly swallowing all the light
and i want to know what it means
can i rest? can i exhale sometimes?
is it black brilliance, is it a new move for light?
for us, for my people who have found the miracle of blackness
is it the beginning? is it the end?
are these ever separate?

my smile is tired (burn out chronicles)

seven months to the day:

i forget how to puddle
how to surrender to sleep instead of putting myself down
forget the path that leads to my house
and what’s left in the icebox
forget i don’t have wings of my own
that i couldn’t really relax onto those clouds
i forget how to inhale into my belly
and everything feels too heavy
even the good stuff, even love

when people ask me how i am
i want to weep about the end of the species
how cancer is winning, how greed and emptiness are winning
how i wish some nights to be normal, no, to be ignorant, to see no futures in my dreams
no blood, no guilt, no drought
but then i can’t really swallow
i can’t really catch enough air for all that

i say: fine, a little tired,
exhausted but inspired
overjoyed, emphasis on the over
moving a bit too fast, you know how it is
flip the focus away from me
barreling towards the end of my questions
you can say almost anything with a smile
even if it’s all a blur these days
i’ve been getting by
smiling a light beam cloak over everything

but my smile is tired
all the requests are fair but there’s too many
yesterday i found a circle of women on the verge of tears
we were all the eldest sisters of our houses
and we whispered to each other
‘i know how to stand up and pull
i know how to push and handle it
i know how to care and attend to
but i never really learned to rest’

i’m slipping back and away in myself
gonna study something i wasn’t taught
to trust in my body
to choose the longest path,
to go so slow you can’t see me moving
to focus on the intimate and avoid the crowd
to expand my black time*, to be a real person,
to learn what i can before i die
to fill my smile back up from the inside

* thank you to Prentis and Mark-Anthony for this concept
* thank you to lots of beloveds for catching the ashes and breathing them back towards flame