what it takes to look

this grief is profound.

the pace is so fast now – today i haven’t been able to catch up with either my life or the names and stories of black death.

no, it’s not that i couldn’t catch up, it’s that i am trying to avoid the news.

but i can feel the weight piling up against the door and i know i will open it soon with my always-soft bruised gut and let the new names pummel me.

(when should i do this?)

i stay off social media (because i believe in what i am doing and) if i open those blue apps i just see what those in blue have done and i never want to believe it, and i know that if i look towards them or i look away they will keep shooting.

but i can’t look away, but i can’t look yet.
(i’m having a good day. is that shameful? is that radical?)

but then i need to know and i want to hear it from people i trust and the door is curving towards me under the weight of black stories or just curving away from the weight of black bodies and any minute now i will know and anyways no minute is safe and these precious black bodies didn’t choose this minute ever.

on each phone call and in every space i enter i wear my #blackband but i have not whispered the newest names into its folds and i swear this wisp of cloth the color of the known universe still gets heavier on my skin.

i can hear it in black voices and see it on our faces – what if (what happens when) we can’t take anymore? what if (what happens when) i can’t take anymore? do we (can we) stagger this trauma and grief?

no.

we hold it, hold it off or hold it close or hold it in shaking hands like a defensive weapon or just hold it up saying why and what the fuck and where can we be and how do we sing our babies to sleep with this weight in our throats?

the door creaks and shudders as the full black lives bang bang bang against it and i sit here doing the shit out of my to-do list with my heart fluttering around trying to get my house in order for newborn ghosts who didn’t want to come, who only want to be home again.

i feel black grief permeate my dreams and thicken in my mouth before i even hear the news. some days even the sun is heavy, even the pale blue sky looks guilty.

when i open the door and look, it is not because i am brave. no one chooses this, no one is brave in this way. some days i run towards the sound at the door, some days i run away (away is a myth, away never lets me stay gone).

we are black bodies and the connection forged amongst us is profound – feeling each other as souls and stories, we are singular and collective grievers.

the way we survive is the only way i can open that door: unconditional love. immediately loving each new name beyond judgment, the way i know i will be loved when they swallow me up with bullets or sugar or grief or madness.

(your fucking anthems are not louder than this infinite grief, born of this infinite love.)

with a heart full of rage, i open the door. with a heart so full, i welcome terence crutcher, i welcome keith lamont scott. i welcome justin carr, killed while i was writing this. i welcome the masses, lost from us and found, become ancestors since last i looked.

i will carry the weight of you, and let it change me. we will carry the weight of all of you, and we will let it change us.

your life, your dearly beloved black life, is profound.

from the freedom side

when the wheat is separated from the chaff, i wonder if there is terror. if the wheat thinks it is god when actually it is food. if the chaff thinks it is the future, part of a wholeness, when actually it is a husk.

trump and those who scream his name with their hands just seconds away from a heil hitler, they think they are the wheat of this country, of this moment.

we who believe in freedom, liberation, being in right relationship with justice and with land – we are looking to see what this country is, if it can heal from its bloody roots. can we nourish each other or should we fly away on the wind?

we are taking and supporting direct actions and interventions of all sizes to assert a future with dignity for all of us on this soil.

this moment is a ‘which side are you on’ moment, not to be divisive about it. on one side we learn to heal and transform our base human nature, become worthy of the miracle of our existence, and we inhabit our freedom. on the other side is neverending war and terror. passivity, politeness, noncommitment, that will place you squarely in the latter future.

there is no such thing as neutral ground. there never has been.

#blackband: how to, a reflection

#blackband: how to, a reflection

i am just over a week into the practice of wearing a black band on my left arm as a statement of grief, and as a statement against white supremacy in all it’s manifestations.

it’s been a beautiful, simple practice so far. people either already know why i am doing it or, when they hear my reason, vigorously agree with my rationale.

i have had people ask me questions about how to participate in #blackband, so here are some answers (with the caveat that i am learning the practice as i go):

1. where do i get a #blackband?

i made mine from old leggings. other friends have made bands from t-shirts and bandanas, or taken black ribbon or hair bands or bracelets and created their bands. my friend sabrina, a detroit artist, drew hers on with permanent marker. my friend adela showed me the black band of one of her sacred tattoos that inspired me to consider that for my next step.

i love the DIY nature of this so far. it was a deeply personal commitment for me to don a black band, and making/finding my band, imbuing it with intention, feels like part of the strength and magic in it.

2. where do i wear it?

left side of body, closest to your heart. i have been wearing mine around my left arm just above or just below my elbow.

you can wear it right on skin or over clothes – visibility is important.

if you don’t have a left arm or wearing it on your arm isn’t possible, wear it on your left leg. if you don’t have a left leg or wearing it on your leg isn’t possible, pin a black circle to your left side, near the heart.

wear it to all of your life, in transit, at work, in sacred spaces. let your resistance be constant.

3. i have my band on. now what?

once i had my band on, i invited conversation around it. i let my friends, family and y’all know what i was doing and why. now i answer strangers who ask about it, pointing them to resources for more information based on their entry point – black folks i point towards ongoing movement for black lives work, non-black people I point towards amazing solidarity work. i invite them to join me if they are tired/devastated by white supremacy and constant grief.

it’s been interesting to hear the responses – a few black folks have said their skin is their black band, and others have said it feels important as a black person in a professional environment to wear the black band to counter the way white supremacy wants to normalize the trauma.

some of my friends indulge me in what they see as my practice, others take it on. i am not pushing it on people, i am inviting us to make visible our resistance in a world that wants to silence us with fear.

i do notice that each time i see someone take it on i feel a bit safer. audre lorde taught us “your silence will not protect you.” the black band feels like a vocalization and harmony.

3. so…can non-black people wear a blackband? can white people wear it?

absolutely!

i wasn’t really thinking about this part when i committed to wearing the black band, but lots of non-black people have been asking me about it and rocking the black band and it feels really important and comforting to see non-black people visibly making a statement against white supremacy and anti-blackness.

it’s an emergent win.

for non-black #blackband-ers i would ask a few things:

– that you pair the wearing of the band with a monthly/sustainer donation to BOLD, blacklivesmatter, byp100, or other groups affiliated with the movement for black lives. support local work led by black people. (donations of any size count – $5 a month from a million nonblack people would really increase what our movements can do and i believe there are more than a million nonblack people who are against white supremacy in this country)

– for white people especially: be ready to be transformed. look to the thorough analytical work of catalyst or the action network of surj for other practices to be in to unlearn white supremacy.

– and if you haven’t yet, bring it up to friends and family explicitly. have the conversations i can’t have with your parents and grandparents, with your kids.

4. how long are you wearing the black band?

i don’t know yet. it may be the rest of my life. i need to see explicit and significant advances of justice and liberation for my people. a lot of people have to wake all the way up to make those advances real. i see the black band as a small daily direct action that helps to turn up the volume on that ‘white supremacy is over’ alarm. i suspect when it is no longer needed, we will all know.

below are images of three people wearing the band – taylor renee aldridge, aurora levins morales, erin ní chonaill, paury flowers, chelsea cleveland, and leah lakshmi piepzna-samarasinha (in black lace!!):

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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.)