Tag Archive for 'beyonce'

love and Yoncé and even haters

i have two new pieces out in the world and wanted to make sure y’all saw them.

first, for valentine’s day, bitch magazine asked me to offer some thoughts on love.

the result is LOVE AS POLITICAL RESISTANCE, LESSONS FROM AUDRE LORDE AND OCTAVIA BUTLER – here’s an excerpt:

We’re all going to die if we keep loving this way, die from isolation, loneliness, depression, abandoning each other to oppression, from lack of touch, from forgetting we are precious. We can no longer love as a secret, or a presentation, as something we prioritize, hoard for the people we know. Prioritizing ourselves in love is political strategy, is survival.

From religious spaces to school to television shows to courts of law, we are socialized to seek and perpetuate private, even corporate, love. Your love is for one person, forever. You celebrate it with dying flowers and diamonds. The largest celebration of your life is committing to that person. Your family and friends celebrate you with dishes and a juicer. You need an income to love. If something doesn’t work out with your love, you pay a lot of money to divide your lives, generally not telling people much unless it’s a soap opera dramatic ending. This way of approaching love strangles all the good out of it.

What we need right now is a radical, global love that grows from deep within us to encompass all life.

i was also honored to reflect on the afrofuturist elements of Beyoncé’s grammy performance last sunday.
Beyonce’s Grammy Performance Was a Gilded Afrofuturist Dream

an excerpt:

I want to close with a moment of reverence for the exquisite symbology of healing that is Beyoncé in the last moment of the performance. After the last woman, a white woman, surrenders to her (which, in most parallel universes, would have foreshadowed her inevitable slaying of the awards)—we are left with Beyoncé, timeless and holy, face to face with the camera, her full mother-breasts gleaming, her nails sharp enough to protect against any who would harm her family, her face that of a woman who has learned the sacred witchcraft of healing, who has grown a universe in the landscape of her broken heart.

This performance is, like the best black speculative work, a spell we cast for a liberated, abundant black future. The healing we need will require the creative abundance of so many black women stepping into our wholeness.

i wanted to offer a psa for haters specifically, because i heard round the way that other people have encountered haters who still struggle to feel what Beyoncé is offering up as an artist. it appears that She keeps growing, but Her critics don’t. the knee jerk reactions range from bitter to misogynistic to reductive to outdated to obsessive. as always, i wonder: if Her work doesn’t do it for you, if you can’t respect Her art or Her hustle, why can’t you keep your eyes off of Her, or keep Her name out your mouth? your attention is in your control…isn’t it? mine is – i don’t give it to anything that isn’t worthy of it. which means that in addition to my revolutionary work, and my creative pleasure magic work, i give as much of it as i can to black women artists who delight me with their growth and their success in current conditions – success that creates more room for futures where we all get to determine our success beyond the matrix. so i give my attention to Her, gleefully, because She earns it with Her transformative life, learning, giving and abundant work. perhaps next time you feel moved to critique Her winning, you can pour that energy into doing something impressive with your own miraculous life? mkay, kizzzzzes.

art worthy of our miraculous lives: frank ocean

i spent this weekend with frank ocean, intimate hours where i could not focus on food or sleep or anything but being with him.

he was out of my sight for a while, and all while i missed him i knew that when he came back he would be different, more of himself. and i lived that whole time, learning more feelings, finding more space inside me to fill with heart/ache.

i knew that he’d stepped onto a roller coaster with his last album/confession and gone into a cave and how he would return would be a mystery. and i believed in him like i believe in myself – i will grow. he will grow.

he grew.

i watched endless, then listened to it loop all night. it was an atmosphere i wanted to be in. i sat in the meditation of watching an artist work, do the things with time and space i would not do. that is the most thrilling thing to me about encounters with an artist i admire. if it is beyond my imagining until i witness it, and then i need it, i am satisfied, the artist has upheld our unspoken agreement.

frank is the one who can ‘walk like that cause he can back it up‘, though it doesn’t feel like ego with him – it feels like he can be slow and deliberate and fuck with my sense of pace because his pace, and what he does inside it, feels so good.

cause/and then blond/blonde came and it is a whole separate mood, it feels like moving from the private creation cocoon to the stage, the endless staircase brings us up into the bright light of frank’s full vocal gift.

my dad tells me of laying on his dorm floor with friends, mid-70s, listening to led zeppelin and feeling himself immersed in and changed by music. unable to do much else but give in to it.

that’s how good blond/blonde is. it’s an album that wants to be listened to deeply, repeatedly, undressing more with each pass. i did the genius pass and have different ideas on what the songs mean to me.

i have favorite songs, but to share which ones feels too vulnerable, the songs are that acute. over and over, frank’s songs go like a blade against the most complex emotions and transitions in life.

post genre, post gender, post form, post expectation.

i feel like frank shares a sense of life as precious and unpromised, and he knows inside that love and pleasure and heartache and memory and learning and creating are what matters. he makes art that raises the standard – the standard of what i should gift my attention to, yes. but even more than that – the standard of what any miraculous being should spend their limited time on.

this weekend: two albums, one visual, plus a video, a magazine, plus beyoncé background vocals and andre 3000 mic dropping, and so much more.

frank ocean was the reticent recluse man of a million delays on wednesday. he has a new story now. frank ocean is generous with genius.

black band

i am going to begin wearing a black armband on my left arm, closest to my heart, to indicate that i am a warrior in mourning.
that #blacklivesmatter to me.
that i recognize i am of a targeted nation inside a violence-addicted nation.

i am so moved by and so grateful for the work of #blacklivesmatter, the blackout collective, BYP100, black organizing for leadership and dignity (BOLD) and so many others working to generate actions for our liberation. (give money to each of those groups if you are at a loss of what to do. redistribute a portion of your salary to their work. for serious.)

and…we can’t hope that these currently under resourced formations will just do all the work for everyone. we all need to act. we need a tipping point of brave people willing to move out of complicit silence into action. (yes, i am saying that the resistance in your head or even in righteous conversation between you and a few friends is not enough – honey i wish it were. no one wants to feel all of this and do all of this. but we are in a moment of genocide and anthropocene and we must take ourselves seriously.)

we need all kinds of action – direct action, organizing, healing, strategizing, redistribution. grieving is an action. feeling is an action.

and solidarity. not “ally” solidarity, but solidarity and action by non-black people who recognize we are in one struggle for humanity.

one action is actually being public and open about our resistance, to say we see what is happening and we say no more, not today, never again, stop. we see beyond what is happening and we know love must win.

so. i want to wear what i need – a black circle, a wholeness.

as i cut up a pair of black leggings to make my armband i felt all the things i am longing for. this isn’t what everyone who wears the armband may mean, but i wanted to share.

mervyn marcano posted #blaxit the other night and i thought – ‘yes!!’ and then, ‘but seriously how do we divest from this system of genocide?’

i want to stop paying the percentage of taxes that goes to police, ICE and military forces – to defund this perversion of justice and invest in community models, mediation and healing spaces.
i want to pull all the babies out of schools that teach them they are more than or less than anyone else – either with sloppy histories or preferential treatment and funding of education.
i want a landless workers movement to secure farmland. i want my hands in some dirt – i want octavia butler’s acorn and earthseed.
i want all my money to go to people who love me, love us.
i want the precious earth to be a shared precedent that unifies our decision making.

i want all white people to catch up to the white people i hold close to me, who show me what is possible – those who never make me wonder about our equality, who never say all lives matter, who never ask me to carry the weight of their learning and unlearning.
i want to banish any white people who don’t get it, and who aren’t working on unlearning racism, from my life and the lives of everyone i love (you don’t have the range).

i want significant work stoppage across the country every time our lives are stolen because someone imagined we were dangerous to them. our money matters, our labor matters.

i want people to know when they see me that i am to be treated like a griever and like a warrior and like a healer and nothing less. i want us to come out in our grief and radical commitment to liberation.

this is bigger than police killing of black people – this band is my public declaration of war on white supremacy in all it’s manifestations, including racialized capitalism, colonialism, difference-phobia, gun fetishes, violence as a way of resolving conflict – all of it.

it is also my public vulnerability – i grieve every time i see humanity turned against itself, i feel it. and i believe it is part of my life’s work to feel it and turn others towards feeling it, to un-numb us so that we realize we are on fire. i am not going to keep adjusting and maintaining the social status quo. i am angry and numb and overwhelmed and terrified. i am mourning and trying to step into the shoes of all my newborn ancestors. i need it to be known. i need the world to interact with me with more awareness.

in studying public signs of mourning this one seems most appropriate and accessible. it has also been a sign of protest and political affiliation at times. i think we need it to be both for grief and for resistance. i also know i would feel safer in a world where those who stood against the genocide of my people were visible to me.

i recognize i may be wearing this armband for the rest of my life. i keep thinking of the length of slavery, how not being the property of a white person seemed equal parts necessary and impossible for generations and generations. not being the target of police, ending white supremacy and racialized capitalism feels impossible to me now…but it feels absolutely necessary.

all the love i walk with only lets me move in one direction, towards our liberation.

join me.

#blacklivesmatter #blackband #blaxit

blackband

(and yes, join in all my non-black and international beloveds, especially those being targeted too – this week i have cried for so many people and places all over and i feel our togetherness in our resistance even if we start from different locations. i wear this band with love for palestine, syria, bangladesh, turkey, brazil, iraq – and that’s just this week. together we are the future.)

the overwhelming world: snippets

returning from being out of country and mostly away from the news, i find there is too much to take in. and i am moved to:

– remind everyone that Octavia Butler‘s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents are required reading for all humans right now, not as escapist fantasy, but as relevant instructional prophecy. it was her birthday on the 22nd and i think she is whispering to us through her pages across time.

– send love to those who know borders, walls and fences cannot hold us, cannot keep us from each other. ‘our destiny is to take root amongst the stars’ (we are made of stardust).

and since i last wrote here, jasmine abdullah was released on bail! i love the idea that when she was pulled through that wall we all extended through it with practice and attention and strategies and family, and we didn’t let go, and we pulled until the wall shivered. want to really uplift the practices of chelsea cleveland who pulled a tarot card for black liberation each day, che rene who sent us an original song and alexis pauline who wrote this poem and released it the morning of jasmine’s release.

how you are in relationship is how you are.

i saw beyoncé’s formation tour in detroit. i immediately bought tickets to see her again. that is my review.

the allied media conference was beautiful this year. i spent my time there in healing circles and rituals for orlando. i also got to cofacilitate the say her name gathering. there is a lot of tenderness in my work these days, a lot of opening and closing of circles, a lot of slowing down and trusting the strange processes of humans. we only move forward as we are able. it felt like as we stood face to face with each other we were clear that we have to rise above small differences – we are still more alike than most of the world, moving towards justice. family reunion feeling was in effect, and i met a lot of beautiful new loves over those days.

and i danced.

i want to tell you how i danced but you know it doesn’t fit into words. during and afterwards i felt free and i felt in communication with my body. i am healing and it is glorious, it is glorious to remember in my bones that i am meant to dance. it is healing to dance in queer space, always has been. i needed it, we needed it.

i spent the past week mostly away from the internet, working with first nations and environmental organizers building responses and strategies around the tar sands. the main thing i learned in holding that space is that everyone wants to be seen in their best intentions. then, maybe, there can be a real conversation around impact. people building movement over time will impact each other, but we still want to be seen for our good intentions, for our good hearts. often this is at the root of having disagreements with integrity – being able to see each other’s goodness in spite of the different perspectives that are just the nature of human existence. seeing where we can agree today in ways that increase the space for alignment in the future.

now i am deep in processing a pile of super exciting proposals from detroiters who are shifting the narratives of our city. my heart is swelling and i feel…hopeful.

when i look up it’s all overwhelming, tectonic shifts in global politics, and devastating national decisions. but if i keep my head down on the present moment, on the people i can touch, the places i love – there is a lot of good, a lot of pattern shifting, a lot of micro-liberations. we are learning to hold each other close as the bottom falls out.

it’s falling, it must fall.

in this way we will fly.

national network of abortion funds 2016 keynote

tonight i had the honor of giving the keynote speech for the national network of abortion funds 2016 summit. i spoke after they gave each other awards and there were lots of tears and just so much recognition and celebration of their incredible and radical work. here are my notes from my talk, what i planned to say and what i think i added in. <3

I would like to open with centering words from octavia estelle butler, the black science fiction writer and, I would argue, prophet-philosopher.

first, let’s take a moment to center, come into this moment:
let yourself be heavy with gravity
and light with stardust
and look around your table, connect with the people around you
and connect to this moment

now, octavia says:
all that you touch you change
all that you change changes you
the only lasting truth is change
god is change

i always evoke her into these spaces because she taught me to be visionary.

wow. so here we are in texas, this massive great state that gave us beyoncé.

now, i was also born in texas, not to imply that all first-born singing virgos from texas are at the same level, or that you should expect a beyoncé level performance from my speech tonight. i only aim for perfection.

but seriously – i heard that there are only 6 abortion clinics left in this state. as we sit here knowing how hard we are working to make moves forward, as we make our Best effort to create changes within and beyond the system, as we raise the money to create our own systems of care, we are still only meeting about 1/3 of the need.

and we are traversing an election season that for some of us is ‘so historic’, for some of us is ‘so depressing and/or terrifying’, for some of us is ‘totally irrelevant in terms of tangible impacts in our communities’, and for some of us all of the above.

this fight of ours is both a local fight, and a supreme court fight. it is a fight that can sometimes feel rigid – as if all the territory has been mapped out already. as if every victory is fragile, and every position must be defensive.

and yet we must win, right? we must not only end hyde, but go beyond, beyond smashing our opponent (which can absolutely satisfying, i know). we need to evolve the conversation beyond the realm of opposition – we must create such a change around abortion that no one can deny it.

everyone in this room is part of an effort to create change. and yet sometimes we forget how change actually works. we think of change as an external impact – we will do something, and the other person will change. and we will stay the same, and we will be happy.

we do this at a personal level – how many of us have fallen in love with someone’s potential? with our story of how we were going to liberate another person’s best self?

or educate a family member?

we do this at a collective or organizational level. how many of us have gone to work at institutions that were deeply unsustainable, or patriarchal, or had severe conflict aversion or other really big clear red flags that we imagined we could transform on the strength of our own (naive) brilliance?

(i won’t ask if anyone here is still in that situation. we are all feeling the love – and i know it’s complicated.)

and of course we do this at a political level. we can see so clearly how the other, our opposition, needs to change. and we set forth to change them. we rage against them on facebook and twitter, go head to head in policy wars, or give them the evil eye at holidays. (cuz you know all this political opposition is in the family, right?)

and of course they are doing the same thing.

our lovers are imagining that we will begin to put the toilet paper roll on correctly, and stop interrupting them with important details when they tell a story to our mutual friends.

our organizations hope that with time we will get so passionate about the mission that we will overlook the regressive structural issues and work the extra unpaid hours to close the gap between the needs of our communities and never-quite-enough resources we can generate to meet those needs.

and politically, our opponents hope, and probably pray, that one day we will cave. that we will say fine. you all should make the decisions about what we can do with our bodies. you win – what were we thinking?

now, within this battle of wills, no one actually wins.

we all get amazing at fortifying our positions, at polarizing the entire world in a binary system that has no room for complexity, for changing positions, for life experience. we create hierarchies of ourselves and others.

octavia teaches us that we use our intelligence to construct hierarchy, over and over. and then we revel in it. i am guilty of this. i feel superior in every way to any man who seeks to legislate my body.

i can’t help it!

it is so easy to see the change that is needed in others, or needed in large scale systems. it is so much harder to create those changes within ourselves, to live up to our values, to live into the unknown, the theoretical – what we FEEL is right, even what we have proven is right at a small scale.

it is particularly frightening to see socialization rooted inside ourselves, and to pull it up. and yet that is what we have to keep doing, and what we need to inspire the rest of this country to do.

most of you are in this room because you have done this work to unlearn the shame and stigma so many of us still get taught to associate with abortion, and to step to the front line to make sure that anyone who needs an abortion can get one.

your work here, all of you, has been so crucial in this respect – you are putting your time, life and resources on the line to help us change how we access abortion care from the local to the national level. you are supporting low-income women, women of color, young women.

i commend you all. i am grateful beyond words. (part of why i wrote this down was because of how emotional i was just preparing for this)

i am grateful as a full spectrum doula.
i am grateful as a survivor of ectopic pregnancy.
i am grateful as an auntie to babies who will have more choices because of your work.
i am grateful as an ever evolving pan-queer-sexual human (who knows what the future holds?)

i thank you.

so now i want to explore what the next edge of growth is for us. what will be healing to everyone we touch?

all that you touch you change. but it also changes you. change is a multidirectional activity.

one of my biggest areas of question to offer tonight is – how do we expand our network of change? i mean, not just who we will change, but who we will let change us, in order to reach far enough to change everything.

to even consider letting others change us, we have to have a solid sense of self. a movement sense of self. we can create change around abortion, we are growing reproductive justice. we are creating a new world here. that you all have raised the money you have raised in spite of the cyber and ideological attacks, the vitriol and socialization of this country is a tangible measurement of that change.

but as we succeed, our opposition changes.
as we get bigger, they get frightened of losing power, and become more dangerous.
as they become more dangerous, their strategies and policies become more outrageous.
and then we become more fearful.
and we can get very narrow, trying to just protect ourselves, to hold the line for the tiny sliver of dignity and liberation and basic rights we cannot live without. our vision, tucked tightly in a safe place.

but often what we think we are protecting is already gone. vision is the collateral damage of a reactionary movement. the ‘vision’ begins sounding like “not this! repeal that! stop that! can we just get a little of this? a tiny bit of justice?” (i speak from experience)

remember the personal relationship scenario? you ever find yourself in a fight like – “wait how did we get here? i don’t even care about the toilet paper – i started this conversation because i want our home to feel like a retreat center of love and equity! you got stuck on bathroom habits, and what the heck? are we breaking up right now?”

it can be funny – even if its not funny at the moment we can usually laugh in retrospect, depending on how the breakup goes.

but this happens in our political work all the time. its less funny there.

this has absolutely happened with our work for reproductive justice, we keep finding ourselves in external and internal debates over differences that distract us from our vision – which is that every person has agency over her, his or their own body. it isn’t about one choice – its about a multitude of choices all rooted in love and equity.

humans tend to change in a cycle.

people say history repeats itself, and in some ways it does. but each time, the group of humans is different, the world is different, and even if it looks the same from the outside, within each cycle are evolutions, micro shifts that create different outcomes.

this slow but determined cycle of change is why so many of our movements are evolving beyond silo’d issue struggles and embracing intersectional identities.

it is how this movement is coming to understand that any discussion about abortion is a discussion about race, about poverty, about borders, about prisons, about control, about collective liberation.

that took so much work. your work and so many others. it is imperative to celebrate that work.

in order to realize our vision for a world in which we have safety and agency for all humans in all bodies, we have to understand this iterative cycle of change, and aim not just for surface shifts that advance or regress from administration to administration.

we have to get very intentional about how we “transform ourselves in order to transform the world”. those are the words of grace lee boggs, my late mentor. we have to create an ideological majority and stability around abortion access and reproductive justice, one that can normalize inside an ever changing world.

i know we can do this.

grace also said “we must assume our power, not our powerlessness”.

octavia called this shaping change. understanding that change is inevitable and constant, but if we are awake we are not simply victims of change, or reacting to change. we can be a force that shapes change.

we can shape change around abortions and reproductive justice.

it is time to get visionary about abortion.

(visionary. what do i mean? not idealistic. not never never land. (vision is kind of my fetish – one of my fetishes))

last year a book that i co-edited with walidah imarisha came out, it’s called Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements. we asked organizers to write science fiction, because we realized that our work as social justice visionaries and organizers is to bring about a world we have never seen. a world without poverty, without patriarchy. a world where every human has the right to make their own difficult choices for their health and lives, towards abundance, towards liberation.

we haven’t experienced this world yet – we are cocreating it. so organizing is reaching forward and pulling the future into our present. all organizing is science fiction. (we are all badass super heroes!)

and what we found in our organizers was that many went above and beyond our call. we don’t lack vision, we lack permission.

we called it sci fi to reach the place people are familiar with, but it is more precisely called visionary fiction. walidah created that term to speak of art we create with intention.

art is never neutral – it either upholds or upends the status quo. so Octavia’s Brood gathered stories of the future that show change as a process, as a bottom up, collective process, centering marginalized communities. neither utopian nor dystopian, because as we know those actually tend to go hand in hand. the 1% depends on the 99%. first class has to be in front of coach. even heaven requires hell.

we invited stories that took us beyond binaries, that took us to the edge of what these organizers could see.

because gloria anzaldua taught us: “nothing happens in the ‘real’ world unless it first happens in the images in our heads.”

this is our work. we must dream the impossible, dream it together, out loud, until it becomes practice and pathway. we must collaborate on our ideas, subverting the capitalist practice of competing like gladiators to have the best idea. we must build collective vision, deep intentions that allow radical adaptations in the unknown future.

(now, i say this next part as someone with deep southern evangelical anti-abortion family members)

a lot of the people who are counted in our opposition have been negatively impacted by the execution of their own espoused values – unable to get the abortions they needed; born to people who did not want to, or were not ready to, parent but felt they had no choice; people shamed for their pregnancies; then shamed for their abortions.

our imagination needs to include these women, our story needs to be big enough to invite them in.

i have been talking about imagination a lot lately. who gets the right to imagine? who gets to realize their imaginations in the real world? we are, in fact, in an imagination battle. i borrow this line of thinking from claudine rankine and terry marshall – right now we are living inside the imagination of other people. people who think women and black people and people from other countries and people with different abilities or desires are dangerous and inferior. can be shot down in the street. mike brown, renisha mcbride and so many others lost their lives to that imagination. we can be regulated around the choice to bring life into this world, we can be controlled through the violence people take based on their waking dreams.

those imaginings have created the conditions of oppression that bring us into this room. the results of this delirium are that women, especially women of color and poor women, are not to be trusted with our bodies. it’s not sane, but it has been institutionalized. and as we grow our resources and our ranks, it is imperative that we burst out of the box that the conservative imagination designates for us. this means moving out of a defensive stance.

i am creating work at a particular intersection. octavia is there, grace is there, and gloria. and a few other ancestors who bear naming.

toni cade bambara charged us with “making the revolution irresistible”. i think of this often when i find myself turning to fear or shame as a motivating force for my people (i never mean to do this but it comes out under pressure, fear and shame are contagious).

how do i make a future of justice an irresistible option? how do we paint in the loudest colors a picture of a world in which families are intentional, joyful, resourced with love and longing. that’s what’s on the other side of abortion access.

audre lorde is also at this intersection – she taught us of pleasure – that it is the experience of the erotic, of being fully sensationally alive in real time, that makes suffering unbearable. she said, when i am “in touch with the erotic, i become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.”

so i have been reflecting on how the fear of an unwanted pregnancy seriously impacts pleasure and power. in part because of the process of abortion. but, i think, in much larger part because of the narratives around abortion, the trauma of stigmatization, and the lack of emotional support for those who make this choice.

in terms our opposition might understand, they “deny themselves heaven” in this regard, because i suspect a next level of sexual freedom and erotic evolution is also on the other side of abortion access and human-centered reproductive justice.

the final piece i want to add here brings us back to where i started. one of the ways we change ourselves is to change our stories, yes – and my invitation is to bring creativity, joy, love, longing and pleasure into the next stories told about abortion.

but the other way we change ourselves is to put down our armor, or at least move the shield to the side so we can see who we are fighting with. this is ESPECIALLY important for our internal differences. how much of our time and energy do we spend trying to change each other, instead of working to align with each other?

this is a lesson from nature, which i have been studying in a deep way for my next book, which is on emergent strategies, focusing on the way complex systems and patterns emerge out of relatively simple interactions.

in nature the big creatures, those who are the same species but battle each other for territory – the lions, tigers, bears (oh my) – they are on the extinction lists. the creatures which work together with clear distinctions and roles and a shared sense of survival, those are the ones that are proliferating. ants, birds, roaches. octopi and squid. slime mold. these organisms move at the speed of relationship.

the black lives matter movement has been articulating this practice as moving at the speed of trust – that’s as fast as we can go. and our impact can be as big and powerful as our trust is.

our internal movement armor comes in the form of political positions and think pieces and call-outs. we must practice putting down our armor with each other, spend more time getting into a room together and not just drinking (which i enjoy but am abstaining from sugar so…) but working on our alignment. if we are already clear on where the differences are, how do we turn our collective attention to those places where we align and grow that?

what we pay attention to grows. so let’s practice with an affirmation pledge. turn to the person next to you and really take in this divine specimen of warrior. now repeat after me:

i am not you
oh but I need you
thank you for your work
let’s get this. let’s get free
.

thank you so much for paying attention to me these last twenty minutes.

thank you so much for paying attention to our rights and our bodies as your life’s work.

thank you yamani, tiffany and everyone at the national network of abortion funds for having me.

(after this was an incredible karaoke night that was, as yamani sang in her first ever karaoke performance, ‘more than words’)

love is becoming a safe word

love
is becoming a safe word
one i use
precisely
when the risk is greater
than my courage

and i mean
slow down with me
and i mean
take my hand
and i mean
i want time with you
to see you whole

from this miraculous portion
we call a life
i want to give you truth
i want you to see me
off stage
and outside of wonder

love is becoming a safe word

i can taste the near-loves
with discernment
and say
oh that is unparalleled desire
oh that is a broken bowl who senses the gold in me
oh that is a new sibling
and
oh that is the future

and moving through
fields like curtains
i find what love is:
reflections of my self
that make me uncompromising

i find what love is:
a house where the windows
are gone
and the doors are all open
and i feel contained
and content

i feel what love is:
growing from gut heart
intelligence
to the edges of my body
an ecstatic yes
to who i have been
am
and am becoming

saying absolutely no
smiling visceral yes
showing this, not that
a very specific please
and so much thank you
all this love in action
gives me more of my life

and with this
aliveness
i write more poems
i grieve with my whole memory
i rage from the root
i care with no bitter edges
i accept what is
i surround myself with
sweetness, and excellence
and i create
with each next breath

and it is all delicious
it is all exquisite
it is all opening
it is all
love

Lemonade Screening: A Step by Step Guide

tonight Celeste Faison and i hosted a screening of Beyoncé’s Lemonade at Sole Space in Oakland. before during and after people reached out to us asking if we would do it again or if we could stream it or bring it to them. and the truth is it was so beyond incredible and healing – and very much a live experience! so i wanted to share how we did it as a template – here’s how to create your own Beyoncé Lemonade Church:

1) realize you need a communal experience of this gift. not everyone does, but if you do? don’t deny yourself.

2) logistics!

– find a place that can hold big emotions (we were at Sole Space, where we also mourned Prince and sang Purple Rain for hours two nights ago, where the first Octavia Butler and Emergent Strategy events happened, where many many community events have blossomed).
– make sure you have a screen or sizeable blank wall
– a projector (this should be screening in theaters, bigger the better)
good speakers
– figure out which of your friends was Ready and has tidal.
– load the film beforehand so you don’t experience any unnecessary crises during the screening. if need be, withhold the wifi code from everyone, or demand they go on airplane mode cause this is a meditation and a journey.

3) create an invite that articulates who you are calling into conversation and ritual with you.

here is our invite:

Come gather to watch Lemonade and get your entire life at Sole Space and be in conversation about this blessing.

For: those who have been grieving Prince, who are feeling fragile and grateful for black art, who find this offering from Beyoncé a gift. There is so much room for other conversations around this work, so do honor our celebratory space for this one.

adrienne maree brown and Celeste Faison will host this love in, and continue the work of the album to center the voices and hearts of black women in a shared experience of this masterpiece.

We wanted to be very clear with our invitation: this space is for black women to have a moment together to process this gift from Beyoncé.

beyonce lemonade 6
photo credit destiny webster

All are welcome, but we ask that you self assess ahead of time and make sure you understand what ‘black women centered space’ is and why it is important that we just get to hear from each other right now. if you are like ‘what is that?’ or ‘why black space?’ or ‘all responses to lemonade matter’, then we can totally do a workshop for you at another time :-)

(helpful reading related to this)

With black and purple love!

Get in formation.

i could imagine screenings for:
– side chicks, humans who have cheated on other humans and folks who practice intentional nonmonogamy
– black men!!
– black girls
– everybody

4. provide appropriate refreshments – you don’t want anyone to fall out for the wrong reason.

we offered purple lemonade to honor this complex moment of grieving Prince and celebrating Beyoncé, with options to spike it (rum, tequila, etc).

we also served popcorn because it’s cinema.

5. begin with a brief welcome that reiterates your invitation. if you came to praise, let it show so folks know they have permission to really feel what’s coming.

beyonce lemonade 5

6. start on time. Virgo respeck.

beyonce lemonade 2

7. throw in some centering breaths, because you about to go through an experience together and it is always great to center in collective space.

we used a breath i just learned from someone who isn’t even in the beyhive, the breath is called brahmani pranayama, named for a Black Bee (!!!) where you inhale through the nose and exhale with a buzz. yup.

8. play the visual album of Lemonade and let it take you where you need to go.

with your own behavior as a host, embody and encourage testifying between songs and rapt silence during warsan shire and beyoncé’s poetry. there will inevitably be people seeing it for the first time so don’t let them miss any of it!

folks will think they are done by the end of ‘don’t hurt yourself’, but then serena will appear. and when you think it’s about to end, She will come with the freedom song. i am just saying this is not an emotional sprint.

9. when the visual album finishes, shift the room structure into a circle, and place 4 chairs in the center.

10. start a conversation – we just went up as hosts and testified for a while.

beyonce lemonade 7
photo credit valerie troutt

open space for people to respond. reiterate at the beginning of the talk back time if your invitation is specific.

ex: all are welcome in this space to love and support this moment, but these chairs are for black women, as we are trying to take these clear instructions from the queen, and those are the voices we needed to prioritize tonight.

we invited folks to keep it short, but testimony has it’s own time.

11. hold the people in the circle for whatever they may need. this album evokes a lot of emotion – around relationships, around betrayal and heartbreak, around being used and unappreciated, around the blackness we have been gifted – and that we have been denied, around the rituals and spirits we need. help people move through the confession of being slow to the hive or ‘not even being a Bey fan’ but being in tears.

beyonce lemonade 3
photo credit jocelyn kay

we offered blessings to young people, received blessings from our elders, laid on hands and called in ancestors, offered love for those struggling through this pain, called in fat and disabled bodies for the next evolution, generated compassion and sisterhood for all of us who have been Beckys, and scream-leapt through a ton of testimonial and ecstatic praise for our own strength, transformation, resilience and vision as black women.

we spoke of orishas and transformative justice and forgiveness and shame and loving ourselves and open relationships and queer love and black excellence and Prince and complexity and solidarity and intergenerational healing and so much more.

12. when someone speaks their truth, affirm them. when someone takes a risk, welcome it. do this enough times and something larger than any one person will come in the room, and when you feel it, praise dancing and sangin of all kinds is the only right move. take however long this takes.

13. close with the oldest voice in the room.

our circle closed with elder enid pickett, who spoke right after her healing/weeping daughter sierra pickett. enid told us the code was in each other’s faces.

then she asked us, (you want to click through this time) ‘what kind of ancestor are you going to be?’ that question was so undeniable that we paired up and we asked it of each other.

and we asked, ‘how do you have to change now to become that?’

there were tears and there was great laughter.

14. sing a song to close the circle.

we sang:

oh i love being black
oh i love being black
love the color of my skin
it’s the skin that i’m in

oh i love being black
oh i love being black
love the texture of my hair
and i wear it everywhere

oh i love being black

15. end with three more brahmani breaths and buzz joyfully into the night.

beyonce lemonade 9
photo credit danielle drake-burnett

beyonce lemonade 8

lemonade. masterpiece.

‘beyoncé is fully in her power and is inviting you to be in yours.’ celeste faison, sitting on couch of the house im staying in in oakland where we are watching lemonade.

with love. this is not a review and this is not for folks who ain’t see it yet.

this is my third time watching and i am looking for a flaw but all i see is

warsan shire poetry
kahlil joseph’s eye
blackness behind and ahead

beyoncé’s heart and brilliance and collaborative spirit
lemonade

mervyn marcano said ‘lemonade on HBO was a visual masterpiece. beyonce’s curation is on another level. some of our best living artists collaborating to make magic. streaming the music now, but that visual piece stands on it’s own.’

y’all. y’all.
it’s black love
the next chapter of Her visual album, with direct responses
to partition and jealous and drunk in love and blue and to herself
just then
across both the visuals and the lyrics

‘grief sedated by orgasm
orgasm heightened by grief
god was in the room

sometimes when her nipple was in his mouth
she’d whisper oh my god
that too was a form of worship’

black womanhood and our pain and our irresistability and our grief
from serena’s perfection
to the mothers of the slain

the adoration of the natural world
water everywhere
moon to flood
reflection to truth

nina and malcolm
zora neal and toni

the journey all over black america
the love of black girls and griots
the use of witchcraft, magic, dreams and spells to heal the heartbreak

jay-z’s eyes

transformation, transformative justice
the power of love, vulnerability, walking away until you can be seen in your wholeness –
truth and reconciliation
‘there is a curse that will be broken’

daniel jose older said ‘beyoncé wrote the great american novel and made it into a music video.’

celeste said, ‘thank you Bey- from this black women. this is surely a part of our story. the relationship, the dad, the slain boys. this conjuring, setting prayer, this is the prose of a spell and the breaking of curses. yes. y’all – this is a prayer. a testimony and a fierce warrior call.’

to reiterate this is not a review, its a godbless and thank you after three days of tears, knowing how important it is to give artists the glory and gratitude they earn while they live.

idrissa louise said, ‘Prince had a premonition and said “they gone be alright”‘. she is not speaking in hyperbole.

i know beyoncé had to consider delaying this because we just lost Prince and to go thru with this she had to know she was offering something that would be good, now.

beyoncé took us inside. herself and ourselves and all the women before us. through love and politics and spells and fashion and mirrors. and babies, here and lost.

orgasm and grief.
miscarriage and release. resurrection and life.

‘so we’re gonna heal’

Beyonce’s Visionary Fiction: Formation

Like many of you, yesterday I was sitting in my house minding my own Black History/Futures Month business when Beyonce did this:

This video.

My first reaction:

“Wow. Thanks to musette Tunde Olaniran for letting me know Beybe gave us something new. There is so much going on here and a lot of it gave me feels (tears…Blue Ivy opening and then that baby boy vs the riot squad??).”

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“Overall it reads as Bey slaying (sp) no to govt/popo killing us with no impunity, and I’m absolutely here for it.”

Then I came back to say: “this video keeps on giving. Each viewing there are so many gifts and blessings. Each line is conversational, it is constructed to be used in pieces or as a whole to transform a situation. Spell casting place-based brilliance.”

And this Sunday morning I have watched it several more times, and realized that above and beyond the level of excellence I expect from Beyonce, she is serving visionary fiction here.

But before I even get to the visionary fiction aspects of this work: the references made throughout this video are so satisfying, so uplifting – New Orleans is in the pace, in the lighting, in that black southern mythical witch Marie Laveau finger lickin life and death Sunday church realness. Beyonce rocking her long blond hair preference but meeting haters with braids. Every single outfit, every move, all three perfect seconds of the conqueror Blue Ivy, all of it. Stanned out.

Like, I love that only a chorus separates the middle-fingers-up promise of how she will respond to good sex from the black-bodies-dancing Sunday church spirit catching. Pleasure activism. This is real life.

And then…so visionary fiction, a concept Walidah Imarisha taught me, which we have been popularizing with Octavia’s Brood, centers traditionally marginalized communities, posits change as something that is bottom up and collective, neither utopian nor dystopian. Visionary fiction understands that there is no neutral ground, that art is either advancing or regressing justice.

I think parts of this video (a video which also has non-radical elements, I know, I’m open to that conversation) are as radical a seeding of visionary futures as the lunch counter sit-ins. Stay with me – after the country saw black and white people sitting together at that counter they couldn’t unsee it – it was an option, it was a possibility. It was an aspiration.

In this video, at a point where Beyonce has already taken us from the adorable to the raunchy to the ecstatic, and instructed us to get in formation!!!!, we get to see a riot squad surrender to the body brilliance of a black boy in a hoodie, dancing in the middle of the street.

One day after Trayvon Martin’s birthday. And, as my friend YK Hong points out, one day before Sandra Bland’s birthday.

Then we pan over graffiti which says, in case you are in any way confused: Stop Shooting Us.

Then, a police. car. sinks. into. the. NOLA. waters.

With the Queen Bey as a human sacrifice to keep it down!

I/We cannot unsee these things, they speak so completely to the longing to drown the impulse of white supremacy, of violence against my/our people.

And then, finally, one of the central lyrics is basically a visionary fiction mantra:

I dream it
I work hard
I grind til
I own it

We create from what we can imagine. We are living right now inside the imaginings of people whose mental illness makes them believe they are superior to other human beings. This video is part of the resistance, the new imaginings that we use to pull ourselves towards liberation.

I feel so proud of Beyonce, so moved by director Melina Matsoukas’ vision in action, and just want to say thank you everyone who shaped this incredibly timely work. We needed this, and we need more artists to deliver this kind of flawless politicized work. Art is our public sphere, our culture shaping cauldron. This is a precious black love offering.

Now. Go slay.

37 gratitudes

1. My life.

2. My mother, carrying me, loving every iteration of me.

3. My father, at my back, thinking always of my safety.

4. My sisters. Warrior rock comrades and best friends. So glad you chose this family, with me in it, and have grown it/us with true love.

5. The gift of writing, the place I know myself.

6. My loves, my woes, my partners, each of you have grown up my heart – you orient me all the time towards my highest self.

7. Finn, 8. Siobhan, 9. Mairead and 10. Summer. 11 & 12. The Unnamed.

13. Emergence – surrendering to, and falling in love with, change.

14. Octavia’s Brood. When the time comes, I’ll die satisfied.

15. Facilitation. Giving me, over and over, hope for humanity and earth.

16. Somatics. Teaching me I’m more than my trauma, and letting me experience so much aliveness.

17. Black lives matter. This work, in my lifetime? Thank you all.

18. Dreaming, for the wisdom and wonder. I can’t believe so much of my waking life is spent dreaming and making dreams come true.

19. The places where sky meets water. The sound of summer. The first snow. The wild and calm ocean. The forever stars. Heart beats. This particular planet, this particular universe.

20. Grief – carving me out over and over, making me so spacious inside.

21. Tarot, pendant, horoscope, guides, witchiness and intuition…it helps so much to not know anything, but with some sense of patterns. I love being magical.

22. Sugar. You’ve gotten me to here. No hard feelings. I needed you.

23. Adela, Lisa, Mia, Anna and other healers who have made my body more whole.

24. Weed. Whiskey too. And moderation.

25. Pleasure, in every iteration.
Being a body of nerves in a sensual world and saying yes. (And, I’m learning, no.) Being prolific and alone, laughing with others, complete release, anticipation, joy. Yes.

26. Reading. Reading voraciously. Grateful for the physical and emotional places I’ve been through pages. Playing scrabble (and bananagrams) for the love of words.

27. Happy style: the celebration of my gorgeous body through clothing and adornment.

28. The privilege of traveling freely in this beautiful world. Feeling home in so many places, with so little.

29. Song – singing just for me, singing to heal, singing with others. Song/poems that measure moments in my life (both sides now, all is full of love, purple rain and adore, man in the mirror, a song for you, 22nd century, misty blue, strangefruit, cheek to cheek, home and so on)

30. My ghosts and ancestors, so thick with me these days.

31. Dancing.

32. ‘Never a mistake, always a lesson.’

33. The writers who shaped me, and left room for me.

34. Beyonce. The women artists, mothers, athletes, activists, and academics who keep me looking up and ahead.

35. The unknown. Ok, keep surprising me.

36. Complexity. I know nothing, I know everything. I am nothing, I am everything.

37. Self love. This shit is exquisite.