not all love is requited…

yesterday was full of intersection. i spent the morning wrapping up facilitation of a circle of black women focused on black reproductive justice. i spent the afternoon in the company of my friend and her 1-year-old, a precious baby black girl from new orleans. in the evening, i watched the oscars with my twitter feed open.

and i can’t help but feel it’s all connected somehow.

because what does it mean to be 1 in new orleans now, and be a black girl – when you can call a real live gifted little black girl from the south a cunt as a joke in public?

because that black baby starlet was in a movie that swirls around in the actual climate crisis truth of what it means to live in this region at this time (where when it rains i feel an undercurrent of…terror? memory? foreshadow?).

because i sat in the room with all these women talking about how far we still need to go to transform reproductive health for black women and girls. because of rape and sterilization and shackles and domestic violence and population control and poverty and the other ways we get hurt. and when they wept i felt them unleashing a hurricane like wood releases the sun. such pain, how can we use it for anything but room to build – build joy, build pleasure, build the power of belonging to no one.

because i am getting used to seeing kerry washington cry for white men, and she still has a dignity, she is so fierce to me. is that acting?

because so recently, in this region, you could put a black woman in a hole in the dirt, and no one would come in blue satin and save her. and part of me needed to see someone show up once, even with all that pale ego behind it. because part of me suspects you can still put us in a hole, as long as you put in our babies and lovers too, or as long as you put a whole city in.

because i am working to transform myself, but i can’t ignore the hole black women are in, if i look at us mathematically. which i tend to check into around this time of year.

because if you look at us mathematically you might see why we want to protect our little girls.

because we want them to be held, to grow up and win oscars and sing louder than anyone else at the oscars, and be beamed in to the oscars from the white house, and then we want so many more radical things.

because i want to see more black everything – days of the year, and faces while driving around this city, and honored on the screen. it is hard coming out of a loving black space and seeing how unseen we can be.

because you know it’s not like i expect much, and i think i have a sense of humor (i don’t get mad about most pothead white dude humor), but 900 people reposted or favorited a sentence calling a 9-year-old black girl that.

because i want to invite quvenzhane to come over into the circle of black women i was co-holding for the past few days and get to soak up how brilliant she is, how people are rooting for her life and her health, not her fame. and rihanna, and jhud, and shirley, and kerry, and halle – and salma too.

because black women are coming together to ‘conscious study how to be tender until it becomes a habit, because what was native has been stolen from us, the love of black women for each other.’ (audre lourde)

because i woke from a dream where someone on the internet wished me dead and wondered if that was a cultural or racial dream, maybe for all women. maybe a dream for a species. i started thinking about what becomes acceptable if we let people go too far without an apology. we become jokes – domestic violence survivor jokes to open the night, genital jokes to close it.

because we have to see when someone doesn’t have the capacity to do better, and have the compassion not to depend on them for our liberation.

because look how much i love hollywood, i love the movies and tv shows and the glamour and fashion, and the photo spreads and red carpets. i go see everything, i notice, i just want to enjoy it, i just want to love it.

because not all love is requited, and what gets us through the heartbreak of being black girls in this country is loving ourselves more tenderly, and comprehensively, and unabashedly. and then continuing to create our own stories, visions, writers, directors, executive producers, academies, networks, foundations, communities and definitions to honor our uncompromised and non-monolithic brilliance.

how about a beginning of self-determined care?

my friend b loewe wrote this blog an end to self-care, and i was moved to respond.

hi lovely b 🙂

thank you so much for putting this out there, i feel the energy of it. and as a community-supported self-care queen on day 8 of a juice cleanse, i have to engage.

my negative feelings on self-care kept me in a state of not caring for myself for years, delaying me in getting what i needed, keeping me in unhealthy movement spaces, feeling powerless and tired.

my community had to intervene. they generated the resources to send me off to take care of myself. if they hadn’t done that, i don’t know if i would be here at all.

once they had intervened, i still had to go through an internal process to get to a place where i determined that i needed this healing, that i wanted to be able to give to movement from a healthier place.

so…i love the idea of community care…but what is that, if not community supporting each other in our self-determined efforts to care for ourselves and our families?

there’s that relationship wisdom, “you can’t change someone else.” i feel that – i know it’s true for me, when people try to change me i root my feet down into the soil of what is.

grace boggs speaks it into movement, echoing gandhi, “we must transform ourselves to transform the world.”

for me this includes self-care. or perhaps more precisely, self-determined care. because the messages we receive are that our lives don’t matter, that we don’t deserve love, or even to exist. to choose instead to value ourselves, our health, and the health of our communities – all as one, not at odds with each other, is radical, it’s self-determination.

and i love the idea you put out that “movement work is healing work” – it absolutely should be, and sometimes it is. and when it is, it’s amazing.

but so much of the movement work we do these days is not structured in ways that promote sleep, much less healing. there are some beautiful flows of intense work, but more often than not, in my work as a facilitator, organizational development lover and coach, what i see over and over again are isolated, exhausted and overworking organizers in endless loops of tasks, conflicts and fundraising. i observe work done in a state of urgency that often leads us to not have time to cook for each other, care for each others’ kids, or even to pursue that “political clarity” which maria speaks of.

when movement is full of individuals with scarce energy and health, that scarcity flows in every direction – it leads to us competing with each other for resources. that’s what this capitalist system wants us to do, compete with each other for what we are told is enough. the shift towards grassroots fundraising is a beautiful response to this – that we generate abundance within ourselves, so our movement work can be self-determined.

that is the same thing we need to seek as individuals – abundance that allows our lives and work to be self-determined, community-determined.

i think that burn-out happens when life is not lived with intention. when we are mindful and intentional, we can begin to experience abundance, not in the material sense, but from the joy of living our lives on purpose.

its a privilege for us to even have this conversation, i recognize that. but there are some people, people with less time and resources than either of us have, who are just beginning to get a tiny little bit of encouragement to take care of themselves, and i would hate to see your words take away from that, or make people feel guilty for that.

i think it matters that we value and love ourselves and each other. and to me, that looks like affirming the radical act of love however it comes, without judgment, whether it’s through a movement retreat, or a yoga class, or knitting, or a protest, or a garden.

so yes, let’s get specific about community care – how does it look to do this so that people are able to do for themselves what they need? some people thrive working long hours with very little alone time…others thrive with two hours of meditation every day, or physical activity.

how do we create communities where everyone can self-determine and ask for what they need, offer what they have to give, where the result is abundance?

long blog short, i don’t think this is either/or. i think this is yes: more health, more care, everywhere. getting more people in more communities talking about what a healthy caring life looks like, how they are already living and caring for themselves and each other, and how we all support each other. and not just how generations from now people might live a healthy live, but how we are and can be practicing health, well-being, joy and justice in the here and now.

because from experience, the healthier i am, the more authentic love and contribution i am able to give to movement, to the next generation in my life. the more i prioritize caring for myself, caring for my community and accepting care from my community, the better and brighter spark in the movement flame i can be.