Tag Archive for 'blacklivesmatter'

pulling back the veil

image

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.)

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’)

#freejasmine (they want us to be afraid; even fear is fuel)

they convicted jasmine abdullah richards of lynching. on tuesday june 7 she is set to be sentenced.

at this time police officers continue killing, getting occasionally indicted, never locked up, never held accountable. but they convicted jasmine. of lynching.

this makes me feel angry and afraid, makes me think of charity hicks, berta carceres, syrian refugees drowning in the mediterranean, whistleblowers gunned down in flint and so many others they determine to be disposable, collateral, or threatening.

and no, i know, i know it’s never a monolithic they…it is many individuals tied together by the willingness to twist out of accountability, out of relationship with community, to harm anyone and anything to uphold their myth of power.

to contain us they contort their own humanity.

in these tragic moments we must notice we are angry, and afraid. we know we are advancing on the energy of rage, moving through our collective reactions towards a vision of dignity, wholeness, connectedness, liberation.

fear is an intelligent response to terrifying changes. they want this fear, want us to be cowered by this fear – of change, of punishment, of each other, because fear is fertile ground for suspicion, division. and yet we cannot be pulled apart from jasmine, or any of the other black organizers putting their lives on the line for our collective justice.

so we must learn how to hold on to each other, grow and advance our work with our fear beside us.

‘they tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds’ – i love this mexican proverb. overwhelmed by shit, by the torrential rain of frightening news that storms down into the deepest places, we grow. we are seeds regardless of the appearance of borders, of control, of life or death.

many mushrooms are designed to absorb and process toxins for nourishment. i want us to learn how to do that right now, because they convicted jasmine of lynching and we have to process this into a radical fuel to free her and free ourselves. we have to feel everything and let it grow inside of us as urgency, depth, as longing for the justice we want, as our commitment to each other.

everything is fuel to us.

i don’t know jasmine personally, but i feel she is my comrade, and know she is someone i look up to. jasmine is in the work of freedom fighting and everything i hear about how she is standing in her dignity calls forth my courage – in her final moments in the courtroom after being convicted of lynching, jasmine was shouting assata’s words and hearing them back from her community:

“it is our duty to fight for our freedom
it is our duty to win
we must love each other and protect each other
we have nothing to lose but our chains.”

the more effective we are, the more outrageous the responses will be. the more they will seek to terrify us, erase us. we must have a plethora of moves to choose from. we are on one long journey from slavery to freedom, out of the trauma of identity-based hierarchy.

and we will set them free as we free ourselves, because freedom is a function of our interdependence, and what we imprison imprisons us. we must be free.

jasmine must be free. we have to do what we can to hold her close. today that means signing a petition:

I am advocating for Black Lives Matter organizer Jasmine “Abdullah” Richards who was wrongfully convicted of attempted felony “lynching” for a “Peace March” that she organized last year. There were no allegations of violence and no injuries suffered at the march, yet the event was dubbed a “riot” by the prosecutor. Judge Elaine Lu presided over the case and is set to sentence Jasmine “Abdullah” Richards on Tuesday, June 7th. The charge could bring as much as 4 years in state prison.

Please join me and tell Judge Elaine Lu: No Jail Time for Jasmine! http://act.colorofchange.org/sign/freejasmine-no-jail-time-black-lives-matter-activist-accused-lynching/?sp_ref=203214790.176.169279.e.535244.2&referring_akid=.1737426.cS1Ucj&source=em_sp

myth of safety (rant/love from istanbul)

hello from istanbul.

yesterday as i spent the day falling in love with this city, it was bombed, and people i love around the world were reaching out to me to find out if i was safe. i posted a message that i was safe, but it felt like a lie, so i want to say something more honest.

i am in a country that was bombed yesterday, 4 people killed, over 30 injured. it was a group of tourists killed and injured, apparently not the intended target, but the lives available for taking when the police started noticing the bomber. the bartender at my hotel is from east turkey, he said ‘isis’ with a shrug in his shoulders, a mournful and familiar shake of his head. since it happened i can’t access most social media directly.

i was doing the same thing yesterday as those who died, walking around taking pictures, in crowds, looking up in awe amongst strangers. the bomber just chose a different tourist center in the city. or perhaps it’s because i am kept very local due to my healing but still compromised knee, so i chose the places near my hotel.

so i am not safe, i am just randomly still alive.

and i can’t feel too much of a way about it because i actually stopped believing in safety a long time ago. i was in college when amadou diallo was killed walking distance from my dorm room. i was stopped by a group of undercover burly police, surrounded, guilty of walking while drunk, and i ran home shaking. i was in the subway under the twin towers moments before the first one was hit, i walked home through the ashes of other people and still see ghosts.

i live in a city where water and heat are not guaranteed to individuals, only corporations. i live in a country where we need a movement for black lives because the rate of police/state murder is so high that we don’t want to speak the numbers to our children. where children of immigrants are building a wall to keep out immigrants.

i live in a country where people are so economically desperate that they are uplifting a presidential candidate running on hate speech.

i live in a world where friends die because they take their own lives, exhausted by oppression. and friends die because people are texting and driving, and friends die because they are fighting for mother earth and get assassinated.

i live in a country whose tax dollars continually move towards disrupting stability and sovereignty all over the world, a nation of never-full consumption of the world’s resources, a nation outsourcing growth and greed as our worldviews.

so…i am not safe. we are not safe. if we think we are safe, it is because we are not awake to the intersecting crises of economy, environment, privilege and militarism. none of us are safe, and, as adults, i am not sure i even think we deserve that.

how can we be safe while also complicit in conditions of constant unsafety for others? even the ones who walk away from omelas had somewhere else to go – our planet is so small. it’s reductionist, yes…but all of us or none. safety is an interconnected magic, it only comes from holding each other, whole.

so. what i am instead, what helps me to sleep at night and to laugh with my whole body and to love as many people as i can, is on purpose. i am doing everything i can to focus the offering of my life towards the best that humanity has within us, to be an ultralight beam nourishing what is dignified and healing and collective and miraculous in us.

my soul is intact, thank you nina.
i feel deliberate and afraid of nothing, thank you audre.
i know that god is change, thank you octavia.

i am going to spend another day in this city, more alert than yesterday, and even more focused on the beauty of the people i meet here, the rocks and hard places they are in, the preciousness of all our lives.

Ben, Don and Raven-Symone at Dinner

Setting: Halloween night, warm and cozy Italian restaurant, candle lit on table. Ben and Don are seated, with glasses of wine. They are both eating pasta, we join mid conversation.

Ben:…and I simply don’t care what he has to say about me, he’s just a puffed up real estate emperor in the nude.
Don: Do you think you can actually win though? Not just against him, but against the lesbian?
Ben: Anything can happen. I mean heck, a Muslim named after a terrorist is president right now. Blacks can do anything.
Don: I’ve been thinking of running for office. I don’t really understand much about the Congressional system though, so I’m aiming for Veep.
Ben, shrugging: I don’t know much about human anatomy but they call me Dr every single day.

Raven-Symone enters and joins them, smiles and hugs all around.

RS: Well guys, it’s been a shitty week.
Don: Do tell.
RS: My girl broke up with me because she felt offended by my stance on black names.
Ben: I wouldn’t exactly call ‘Asgard’ a black name.
Don: Oh come on, you were just being realistic. As an example yourself!
RS, perplexed: What do you mean?
Don: Name me one white person in your income bracket with a hyphen in their first name.

Silence ensues.

Then, RS: Honestly, I get checks based on how many times I get myself or the show mentioned. That doesn’t happen if I don’t cross some eyes and dot some lines.
Don: Ditto! Ha, I know my job. Angry attention is still attention! I bring in numbers and, frankly, make my costars look downright liberal.
Ben: We really should get some credit for the way we’re unifying our people!
Don and RS cringe a bit at the grouping in with black people.

A fourth person approaches the table, a light skinned black man in a clown suit. His face is covered in black paint, an exaggerated red pucker around his mouth. His hair is a used mop, shoes floppy and tattered.

He pulls up the last chair at their table and sits down, smiling at each of them.

After a moment of silence, three voices start at one:

RS: Excuse you –
Don: That seat’s taken –
Ben: I don’t have any cash on me right now!

The stranger grins.

Stranger: I don’t need any cash my brother! And you missy, don’t you get all high yellow and mighty on me – you don’t recognize me?

He spreads his fingers out and wiggles them.
The three look at each other, clue free.

Stranger: I am the Ghost of Minstrels Past. (Theme music plays)

Ben: I don’t believe in ghosts.
GOMP: And yet, like so many things you don’t believe in, here I am.
Don: How did you die?
GOMP: Like all minstrels, alone and ashamed.
RS: Do you hyphenate all those words in your name?
GOMP: No, but thanks for asking.
Don: Why are you here though?
GOMP: It’s Halloween. Every Halloween I offer a few of you another option.
Ben: A few of who?
GOMP : You! Modern day minstrels.
Don: But I don’t sing. And I never do jazz hands in public.
GOMP: Our number includes anyone who benefits from blackness while simultaneously hating blackness.
RS: I don’t identify with blackness at all.
GOMP: Exactly my child of black America, you came from everywhere and nowhere! You emerged from the fractured fourth wall of fictional fame.
Ben: Huh?
GOMP: You don’t love who you are – trust me I remember. None of you even know who you are. There is a place I can take you where you will learn. It is a journey of time jumping along your own ancestral line.
Ben: Do we get to go all the way back to the Arc?
GOMP: Beg pardon?
Ben: All humans alive now trace back to Noah’s Arc.
Don: The white people on the boat with the monkeys? Who you calling a monkey?!
RS: I think you’re confusing your creation mysteries Don.

A moment of silence.

GOMP: I can’t with y’all. And I don’t have to. It’s been unanimously decided by the collective will of your peers. And if an arc is where you came from, that is most certainly where you’ll return.
RS: You can’t just take us! We are beloved unhyphenated-Americans! There will be an uproar!
Ben: I’m the president. Ish.
Don: Can I document this?

An instant later the table is empty, the wavering candle the only hint that something has changed. Black people, dreaming together of minstrels scrubbing their faces with soap, sink into a more restful sleep.

You Have Permission

We are winning.

It’s devastating.

Those who believe that the attention of this country (and world) needs to be placed on the death, violence and oppression that result from white supremacy are winning. Black lives matter, we are asserting it with body, mind, heart, spirit, media, disruption, dance, art.

It’s a lot. Some of us are not doing well, treating ourselves like temporary participants, even though we know this is a long struggle.

There are those who want to ignore the ways their own internalized racism connects to this violence. We are raising that attention, making everyone reckon with racism, argue about it, take notice. And, if they are allies, grieve with us, and grow.

But it’s hard.

It means we have to reach our hearts into the bloody mess, lift it up to the light with our grief and attention. Some of us have known how bad it is, have been doing movement work around it for decades. Others of us are relatively new to this awareness, have been living ‘normal’ lives, are politicizing in the streets or on the internet. The growing documentation of black death and assaults on black bodies feels like an escalation. It’s exhausting.

From one awakening human to another, I offer you permission to be long term with your attention. Some movement moments are really quick, some moments feel like a lull, for years. Regardless of the pace, this is life long, generation long work.

Khalil Gibran taught us that the sorrow we experience carves out the space for the joy to come. I have been thinking that the devastation and grief we are experiencing now is carving out a space for the liberation and freedom and safety that future generations will live into.

But in the meantime?

You have permission to take care of your whole self on this journey.

You have permission not to educate strangers about racism on social media.

You have permission to turn off auto play on social media and decide when/if you can watch videos of black people being harmed. You have permission not to seek out visual and audio information of black pain and death.

You have permission to feel your grief.

You have permission to take breaks. The pace of violence is intense, take care of yourself.

You have permission to feel numb, overwhelmed, silenced, enraged, scared and hopeless.

You have permission to be small and need care from your community during this time.

You have permission to ask others to just hold your black body while you breathe, cry, laugh, vent, and feel fear.

You have permission to confront racism in public.

You have permission to feel pleasure. You have permission to dance, create, make love to yourself and others, celebrate and cultivate joy. You are encouraged to do so.

You have permission to rest inside of cultural release – get lost for a bit in a new movie, or analyzing what Drake’s ghost writing means, watching babies samba, or futball magic, or compulsively read horoscopes, or dance to Trap Queen in your living room.

You have permission to heal.

The pace isn’t going to slow down, right now we are in the phase of movement that is about making the truth undeniable. It is not the first, worst, or last of our battles.

It helps to create rituals that allow full emotional range for this time. I use candles and meditation to process the losses, water and moon to ask for emotional/physical healing for those who are harmed. Saying the names is also a powerful practice.

Don’t bottle it up inside, don’t try to move through this time alone.

You have permission to grieve. And you have permission to live.

Open Letter to Those Participating in Elections During This Uncivil War

Perhaps you are running for office in this nation, with its ancestral slave black population, in which those empowered by the state to enact justice have been using their power to advance a white supremacist agenda of black genocide in the forms of lynching and public executions.

Or you are supporting a particular candidate running for office in this country, your mood somewhere between rabid excitement and terrified desperation.

And here we are, in this inconvenient Uncivil War. It could be argued as a war to assert the supremacy of whiteness via all economic and social systems. I’m sure it could be argued as a class war via all racial and gender systems as well. Regardless, there are casualties. Black people, yes. And indigenous and immigrant and brown people. Any of us can experience sudden death by state authority. Or the longer death – having our families separated, being brutalized, tortured, imprisoned, etc.

Perhaps you are not directly impacted by this war, so if you’ve made it this far, right now you find yourself asking ‘What war?’. And even when the stories and pictures and videos cross the path of your attention, you think, ‘the cops would never do that unless the person was disobeying’. And you generally avoid thinking about all this black death and trauma too much because you yourself aren’t racist, you just (insert racism).

Since black folks got here, our electoral participation (which now includes gaining the top office) has not liberated us, much less kept us safe. Still, we are working every possible strategy for the sake of our lives, our children’s lives.

So at minimum? You/your candidate’s platform needs to explicitly state what y’all are going to do to change the conditions of black and brown people in the immediate future if y’all achieve power.

If achieving power isn’t actually probable for your campaign, if you are running to raise issues and challenge the status quo, then the precision of racial justice analysis in your platform has to be excellent, because it’s up to you to pull the eventual winners towards significant impactful commitments.

Do not expect civility and deference. Maybe in some mythical peaceful election time that would make sense…but this is a time where our lives are on the line, are being lost daily. It’s a wartime, in denial of itself, with constantly changing rules.

Those who are working to assert that black lives matter are soldiers. We are advancing a front line that exists inside your head, inside the collective consciousness of this country. That line says that your silent compliance carries the same burden of guilt as overt acts of racist violence – it’s all part and parcel of the same thing, self-supporting. If you are quiet on these matters then we absolutely cannot be, because we are in a fight for our lives.

If the only way you’ll speak and act on our mortality, on structural racism, is in response (positive or negative) to direct action, we will continue to disrupt, and act, and to support and escalate that action in others.

Don’t wait to be acted on. Come correct.

And also too?

Do take time to mention how you’re going to navigate us through the now inevitable global climate devastation (especially if your heart is like…’But all lives matter!’)

Love
Your friendly post-nationalist

lies for sandra bland

we all know how to make a noose
yeah they teach us when we are young
when we are laughing
then we are in stitches

our cheekbones crack open concrete
you know we got this other pulse
in our nomad hearts
a cyanide vibration

when silenced we string ourselves up flagpoles
let the wind whip us into our own histories
before you script us a horror
and sign our names

we beam joy, breathe calls for justice
tie our names around your heart, and jump
just hoping our weight
will come and bury you

– for Sandra Bland and Kindra Chapman and the million other lied on women.

when we die in police custody, know our lives are being taken from us in so many ways, and our lives are precious. we are being killed, fast and slow, abruptly, methodically.

and this drives us mad and makes us depressed and hopeless.

no one wants to do this, to be grieving and angry and exhausted and disappeared and lied on and terrified all the time.

filling our lives with fear is a taking.

traumatic interactions with ‘authority’ is a taking.

having to grieve over sister-strangers is a taking.

having to explain that even though this country gives us every reason to give up, we do not, that fighters don’t hang themselves for traffic violations, we do not…this too is a taking.

life is a miracle, getting through the day shouldn’t be.

I want to rest, celebrate, dance, love, generate, heal, create. but every time I start to find a rhythm a new grief knocks me down.

everything I’m writing these days is about black rapture, resistance, resilience, black escape and safety, black love, blackness.

but today when I sit still to feel, all that rolls over me is black rage. what can I do to make this useful? what I do to move myself and others to anything better than this pain?

the only thing that pivots me away from the abyss is the question: how did my ancestors survive?

and I don’t know the answers, but I know that they did, and while I breathe I will, and while black people breathe we will.

but at what cost?

post nationalist on holiday

I don’t believe in
Or celebrate
Your borders

But I love fireworks
(as an act of magic
I suspend my memory of violence)

I love your black ribs
I love the laughter
Inside them

But I don’t wave flags
Even rainbows have
Ownership intentions

I love all the people
But I smell my blood
In the dirt

I am free
Not because of this place
But in spite of it

– July 4, 2015
#blacklivesmatter