Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
keep going Trayvon don’t look back here,
nothing here for you but our stranger’s/
twisted tonight to a grief.
go on home,
this place doesn’t know how to love you.
i didn’t watch the trial.
i watched loved ones watch the trial, and i wondered: what is right action? where should i put my attention?
i focused on releasing Trayvon from being a story or statistic, and then loving Rachel, sorry to know their names in this way.
(from the moment you were made to feel afraid, there was no justice to be had for you.)
i love many children i know to be irreplaceable. if anything happened to them, if they were hurt, if they died, afraid, i know this country’s justice could never appease their ferocious spirits, or mine.
i hope that we wouldn’t have to rely on the system that set them up for death to deliver their justice.
not guilty. hmmm.
the peace we are expected to hold in these moments is some mandela coming out of prison with a smile peace, some truth and reconciliation amongst piles of skulls in rwanda peace, some continental cultural genocide-survivalist peace.
…something not matured in me yet honestly.
…something I am growing, because I suspect both justice and evolution are tied up in that sort of massive constant practiced inner peace.
…something seemingly required to be a parent in this country, which thinks so little of our children’s lives that we shoot them, accidentally and on purpose.
(it was the familiarity of assumed powerlessness that i felt when i heard you’d died, and saw your beautiful face, in that order.)
i think about all the people expressing their anger on social media and wonder, do we miss the opportunity of our collective fury as we sit alone together? or do we build a beautiful pattern for feeling too much?
(wouldn’t riots be an appropriate second line for you though? how can we sing you home while your killer picks up his weapon again?)
the riot that comes is inside our hearts, on our streets, in our words and music and art. it is keriah writ large, our torn garment of grief for centuries of sitting shiva.
(i sit still in the dark with your name on my lips. i light candles and sage and send the qualities of the four elements to your parents.)
we keep seeking something greater than our suffering to share. ‘we must love each other, and protect each other’ as assata taught us, fiercely, outside of boundaries, borders, bars, laws and the myth of safety – ‘we have nothing to lose’…
(you are long gone.
i’m tired of falling for ghosts.)
i hear coyote wailing in the distance and it sounds like grief. i wake up thinking of blood on the leaves, and bloodletting. then i feel it all over me. i slap at my body, but i know i’m defenseless.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what is my best.
When I was young it was clearly laid out for me what the best was, there were prizes and gold stars and north stars and ways to measure: grades, parental smiles, degrees, solos. I can count my not-best moments (when I saw the failure coming and did not change course) from birth through college on one hand. Generally, I was ambitious because I thought that was good.
Then began a dance, a crumbling of drive, a dusting off of something essential which appeared like an inner resistance. I would achieve some honor, title, position, or acknowledgement and feel erased by it, instead of seen. That I was conforming to other people’s idea of the best, in a society which measured things in ways that didn’t resonate with me.
This has been slow, and its ongoing. It has meant rejecting or sidestepping degrees, money, and certain spotlights. I am beginning to tease out what feels right after years of just being able to sense what didn’t resonate. There are two aspects which are emerging, which work in tandem as a compass towards doing my best: love and dignity.
These two aspects work in a couple of ways – as I follow them, when I feel them in myself or sense them in others, they are leading me to the best life I’ve known. And tasting these feelings, I want more of them – I want to let love grow through me, and guide me. I want to stand in my dignity against all the odds.
If I ask, ‘Is love here?’ and/or ‘Am I in my dignity here?’, I can feel answers that help me move towards my truth and back away from future regrets. I still do things that might be morally questionable, all the time. But with intention, with the consideration of love and dignity being present, I am learning to trust myself to do my best.
Last week my friend dream posted a mini rant about the ways people judge each other’s work and passions. She was responding to general local critiques of folks who aren’t in the streets over the emergency manager in Detroit, among other things.
I was really moved by her words, probably in part because I haven’t been in the streets. To a large extent I see the EM as a distraction, pulling people away from their work to create a future for this city rooted in abundance and community, to fight for a symbol of power instead of continuing to learn how we generate and hold power in community.
But I care about a lot of the people impacted by, displaced by, and focused on resistance to the EM. I’ve been reflecting and writing and meditating and praying on the well-being of all the people I love here who are internalizing this period of Detroit’s history, taking it into their breaking hearts.
I also care about gender justice, which dream named as one of her core passions. And Assata. And the men in Guantanamo Bay. And the sexual health of black women and girls. And people impacted by terrorism and violence the world over. And Palestine. And the tar sands pipeline, environment, trans liberation, combating obesity and fat phobia, education and so many more things.
I want to do my best by these things.
I actually think most people want to do their best, to be good people and create a good society. But there are so many paths to do that good. Is it by being a body in the streets, or infiltrating the school system with radical content, or making new media, or creating more art, or opening cooperative businesses, or raising awareness on social media, or disrupting every city council meeting, or writing science fiction about new worlds, or, or, or?
How to choose? What is the best way?
What I have been exploring over the past few years is that the work I do best is that which I am most passionate about, work which encourages my health and well-being, affirms my power and the power of everyone else, and keeps me in a space of creativity and solutions.
I don’t think this is unique to me. In my heart I feel there are a thousand paths towards justice and liberation. Yes to all of those things, all of that work, all of those strategies. All of these issues need to evolve – which means they each need people who are most passionate about them, people who feel powerful in moving the work forward, who are healthy enough to do the work well, who are creating solutions.
This happens, for me, at the smallest scale. It has felt hard to explain, unimportant after some of the national and/or urgent work I have done in my life – where I felt special and smart and strategic and at the table. But I am beginning to really understand how political it is to do personal emergency management.
Detroit is one epicenter amongst many – we are in the midst of systems which are imploding. Systems which we – well I, and I suspect/hope many of you dear readers – know better than to want to save, because these are systems which rely on our oppression and inequality, on seeing each other as competition rather than family.
So we are working to remember and create new ways to manage our shared home together. And yet many of us are still in the elementary stage of learning how to manage our personal homes – our bodies and health, our relationships, our movement work, our hearts. Not to mention our actual homes and our finances.
I might be in pre-K.
In this chaotic state we try to create change in the world and find ourselves stretched, tired, demoralized, and unable to create the transformations we yearn for, though we feel the possibility within ourselves. But in the lack of knowing how to do things differently, too many of us still do our work from places of fear, obligation or anger. From no, instead of from yes.
I am sitting now with the question of what it means to do my best, as an adult in a world full of crisis and tragedy. I’ve written about cultivating joy as a weapon, as a frontline. And here I don’t mean a general upbeatness. I mean joy powerful enough to generate authentic resistance in the face of hopelessness. Joy that makes people want to create new worlds and new life together.
I think a first step in cultivating that joy is measuring my best based on how well I can manage my personal state. I was in an emergency state for a decade – my mental, emotional and physical health were deteriorating and I wasn’t even really aware of it except occasionally as a badge of honor to mark how dedicated I was to the work. I was, like many activists I love and respect, doing my best impression of eeyore-on-speed.
I am on the journey now of getting my health, spirit, heart and finances together, with the belief that the more grounded, joyful and dignified I am, the better I can live and lead. The more clearly I can apply my gifts and energy towards work I am passionate about, making the most of my miraculous and limited human capacity. Then, the more inviting my futures become. And the stronger my emergent strategies can be.
Because when it is time for us to manage it all – whatever we call it, our neighborhoods, our cities, our sovereign collaborative tribes – I want to be capable of the task, I want to be experienced, I want to be trustworthy. I want it to feel like love and dignity are there.
I suspect we won’t even get a real chance to manage it all until we have generated so much love and dignity and joy that our future is the irresistible one.
I see everything I am doing now as learning, as preparation. Now, and then, I want to do my best.
last week i finished the somatics and trauma training 2012, offered by generative somatics. a few years ago i took their somatics and social justice course, and it left an imprint in me, a longing for more capacity in feeling my body, healing myself, and learning to be a generative healing member of community, towards liberation.
here are some reflections upon completing this cycle of learning, which lasted 7 months:
to set out on a path i believed was impossible, i had to develop an opening towards miracles. and it is a miracle now, to be feeling what i am feeling, all i am feeling, all throughout my body, after years of numbness, self-harm, emotional eating and trauma.
i have had many teachers, some immediately recognizable in the moment, others only clear in hindsight; some positive models, some teaching me what not to do. part of what intrigued me about this course was i could see how it was impacting those who stuck with the training process and practices over years – it seemed to literally be reshaping people into their highest, most centered and grounded selves.
i’ve been involved in many leadership development efforts, and seen a few of them work in some ways. too often, however, they are about recreating one teacher’s style, a cookie cutter model of developing a leader.
having come through those processes, and helped shape them for others, i was starting to wonder if there was any process to truly develop leadership that wasn’t just throwing folks into the fire and shouting ‘good job’ as they learn to keep moving while burning.
the somatics and trauma course really touched something in me. now i am in a new relationship with learning, and my body is the teacher.
it/she has held on for me to get to a place, an age, a yearning that would turn me inward for the love and healing i was seeking.
it/she was/is patient as i hurt myself, made myself big to protect myself, disparaged it/her in internal and external dialogue.
it was years i spent internalizing revenge, cultivating the bitterness that curves up around the heart in clear walls that turned love away even, especially, when i could see it wasn’t serving me.
now i am beginning to see the world through a different lens, or more precisely, to feel the world.
i feel my grandparents’ hope in me,
i feel my father’s hard work, and
my mother’s continuous opening and curiosity,
my sisters’ adorations, wisdoms and patience,
i feel the vulnerable spirit in the babies i love
i feel my strength,
my vibrant race, and my dynamic ability,
my beauty, my brilliant body
my privilege and power
when a beloved leaves, i feel the pull of them on my heart, physically, i feel my life without them physically in it, i feel my responsibility to carry their essential gifts forward in my actions. my body is learning to cry, to grieve, to love, to open, to be whole.
i feel that the next generation of my family is depending on me learning more about how to feel, that it is necessary for evolution, for their own life work.
and it feels like such radical work – to be in a community of people feeling, including my family. and sharing those feelings, growing the capacity to feel. in this world where we are socialized towards numbing, fear, powerlessness and greed, leading to depression, militarism, racism and materialism, it is imperative that we get well.
i am beginning to feel what wholeness in community might look like.
i am learning that getting well in community is liberation. we are interdependent. when one of us attains freedom it elicits/rekindles that longing in each of us. when we learn to feel, when we learn to stand with each other in feeling, when we learn to tune into the wisdom of our bodies, to love ourselves, to love each other, we are doing the unthinkable, we are creating new worlds of possibility.
we were socialized to sleep, y’all. sleep and spend. to break out of that cycle and reclaim my humanity, for these magnificent instances i have experienced, makes me feel like i am in integrity with the universe, serving my highest purpose.
what becomes possible is, without destroying anything or anyone, we can claim power. claim it and live it. this matters for every identity, today i feel the depth of it for my blackness, for my womanness, for my queerness, for the child still within me.
recently i was regrounded in this chant from assata via my friend patrisse:
it is our duty to fight for freedom
it is our duty to win
we must love each other and protect each other
we have nothing to lose but our chains
remember, you are reading this in a body full of miracles you could not create. honor yourself, let love flood your body.