my body is a spell i’m casting

because this is an unfree world;
because it is sandra brand’s birthday;
because change is happening so quickly;
because i need armor;
because i have lived and loved these words for so long;
because i needed to feel a black queer woman make a mark on me;
because there is pain i can endure;
because the idea made me feel more of myself:

i got two tattoos, spells from ancestors in my lineage of liberation creativity, this evening.

on my right arm, camus says: the only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.

on my left arm, octavia says: all that you touch you change, all that you change changes you, the only lasting truth is change, god is change.

my body is a spell i’m casting towards everything i long for, towards being so absolutely free, towards being a divine and willing force of change that builds the absolute freedom of all beings – freedom from hatred, inferiority, violence, regression, stagnation and facism. freedom to cocreate a society worthy of a miraculous world, freedom to love and change the world always towards joy and interdependence. freedom to live days full of good news and togetherness. freedom to learn to be sentient and be an essential fragment of something so vast and glorious i can never conprehend it. freedom to be special and humble. freedom to move beyond paradigms of winning, losing, reforming and surviving – to move towards life and more life.

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the letters are written in my own hand with the intention of being worthy of wearing them. with deep gratitude to vanessa reynolds for being a calm presence and sure hand in this work.

<3

things i think i said at eso won books

the other night i got to do an artist talk at eso won books, in leimert park los angeles. super grateful to cultural shapeshifter lynnee denise from international locals who organized the event, which included an artist talk with the sci fi writer nature grrrrl homey lisa bolekaja, and a book signing. it felt like a portal opened up, and i said some things. below are those things. afterwards i got to sign their big book of famous signatures where octavia butler’s signature from 2005 was on the first page! then i was told that one of my future wives, queen latifah, had just purchased octavia’s brood the night before.

!!!

so here are some thoughts:

as you do anything, as you write new stories, you are either moving towards justice or away. there is not a neutral space actually, you’re either perpetuating the existing paradigm of power, or you are disrupting it. that’s why visionary fiction is important, fiction that intentionally disrupts existing paradigms of oppression.

writing sci fi, writing futures we want, is a mindfulness practice. we need mindfulness practices to intentionally grow a future up through our collective and familiar cycles of trauma.

time is non-linear – octavia butler’s stories or nina simone’s music are good proof of this, as relevant now as when they were writing and singing it.

(in response to a question around what and how we create in a world that doesn’t want to acknowledge and celebrate our work…referencing hugos, world fantasy, oscars, etc, i stood up and turned around and said:) look at me. look at my body. i don’t have a body that is seen and affirmed in the mainstream space. i see some reference to it now in people like nicki minaj, but still nothing quite like all of this. so learning to love my body has been choice after choice after practice. it has included self documentation, self pornography, not engaging lovers who want my body to change, learning how i like to look and feel, learning what health is for me. my mind is as divergent from the mainstream as my body is. all of our minds are. which means we can’t look to mainstream systems for affirmation and approval – that’s why we created octavia’s brood. that’s why there are anthologies, and malkia cyril’s work and center for media justice are fighting to keep the web accessible to all, so we have room to create our own spaces and celebrate ourselves. our self love and full realization are dangerous to the mainstream.

capitalism has skewed what we think is enough. everything doesn’t have to be huge bestseller on mainstream markets for everyone. figure out who you want to reach and measure success against that.

we have rituals for collective trauma – we spread the word, and our outrage, on social media where you have to be careful, the trauma is on auto play. we create a hashtag and seek justice and take action and then when justice is often not send we have a next round of grief. we listen to music and sing and numb ourselves. we have less ritual for collective healing. black zen teacher angel kyodo williams pointed that out to me, how technology is connecting our pain so fast, but we have to develop the individual and collective capacity not just to respond, but to evolve together beyond this paradigm.

(in response to a question of the difference between black sci fi and afrofuturism). i see black sci fi as a literal thing, black people doing sci fi – it includes anything, can be the regular old tropes, action narratives, can be conservative, heteronormative, misogynist, etc. whereas afrofuturism to me implies a worldview beyond the western paradigm, being explicitly distinct, born from a different perspective from the mainstream white male American sci fi stuff.

create create create. find people to read your work and get feedback and let people see and hear and engage the part of the future you hold.

wild seed dinner, albuquerque nm

on june 3 we had an octavia butler dinner in albuquerque, an intimate event, just three of us (myself, host andrea quijada, and ob lover elena letourneau). this format made me kind of want to do it this way more often – the intimacy we were able to achieve was quite remarkable before we even started speaking about the book.

then we moved into speaking about wild seed, the first (and achingly good) book in octavia butler’s patternist series (the first series she wrote). this book is my favorite starting place for anyone who hasn’t read her work.

we had one of those gorgeous conversations where you get to the root by exposing it. a lot of what we shared wouldn’t fit into words. however, at the end we summarized the shareable things we thought/discovered together:

it’s quite possible that gardening and living together and building community together is the most radical work. intentional community is a skillset to develop. but in a u.s. context, individual spaces, interdependent. shifting to intentional living – but slowly. everyone has their own space in it, with shared kitchen, yard, garden.

the interconnection of these communities brings to mind safety in relationships. right now with the balancing between online and offline work and organizing, there is a way we can commune globally. (example given: march on monsanto). we have lost a lot of physical relationships with people, which leaves everyone feeling isolated. but safety is in relationships more than any other structure.

wild seed speaks to the isolation of being a leader, of being special. (how that loneliness piles up, how deep the desire to be met and matched.)

the radical strategy is to love.
we are in perhaps a dark age. our legacy might be that we maintained and remembered the way to love.
vulnerability, attachment, care, attunement, these are the ways we remember. we have to remember to feel.

anyanwu is the living embodiment of ‘transform yourself to transform the world‘.

this book is an incredible exploration of the arc of long term relationship, from the initial passion –> to negotiations and struggle over power –> to transformation.

noticing that in the relationship between anyanwu and doro, that they loved each other after seeing the shadow sides of each other. there are people who are our mirrors and show us what we don’t want to see, and we want to run. we need mirrors. we need also to be able to see and love ourselves. (moved to share nina’s song ‘images’

She does not know
Her beauty,
She thinks her brown body
Has no glory.
If she could dance
Naked,
Under palm trees
And see her image in the river
She would know.
But there are no palm trees
On the street,
And dishwater gives back no images.
– poem by william waring cuney
)

loving the body, feeling the potential of breath and self-love and healing in each body is radical. (anyanwu is a study of feeling deeply – perhaps we all have her capacity to heal if we could listen inward?)

we appreciate our bodies when we use them. yoga! breath. walking and being outside doing what it is meant to do. ‘moved to tears using my body for myself.’

our culture teaches us not to love our bodies, that something is wrong. it is radical to reclaim loving our bodies.

gender and body insecurity is interesting too – men/boy bodies usually have to do something to get called names. women bodies just walk in, just people look at us and call us names. doing things for ourselves in our bodies is radical. other gender norms…women have to look good on outside, but vagina always good. men can generally look aight but their penis has to be big/just so. insecurities related to those stories. what does this mean for how anyanwu and doro traverse the world, him jumping bodies, coming to her in any body, with her healing and shapeshifting the one she has.

‘i want all women, all people. to lay on the floor and just feel your body and loving each amazing living part, the living organism of the body.’

what is most radical? to transform ourselves.

**

makes me wonder – what is your secret gift?

this life is miraculous. what if you don’t waste any day, any gift? if this day, this activity is as miraculous as anyone’s very best day and offering…what then is the call?

say it out loud

lately i’ve felt like god-is-change is saying to me something like ‘you can have what you want, everything you want, but you have to say it out loud.’

today i got to visit with a curandera, a traditional healer of the kalpulli izkali circle in albuquerque. and after she worked with me, cleansed and cleared me, she said, now say what you want, to yourself or out loud. i shuddered a bit (how did she know/of course she knows). i knew exactly the words i wanted to say, and i knew i had to say them out loud.

it felt so good. i love this practice, i want to encourage it.

so: i have at least four gray hairs now, and my niece is asking me all about my body. being unashamed and feeling beautiful as a big brown woman in front of babies is radical. i am no longer a beginner living in my body. i know that loving it and listening to it is political work for the babies in my life as well as for myself. i want my body to be a practice ground and conduit for healing and transformation.

earlier i was driving around in the desert, staring at red rock formations and mesas and trying to remember what i used to think a mesa looked like, when it was just an idea in a storybook. mesas and fjords and savannahs and volcanoes. i think i am less an environmentalist than an earth lover, an earth sensualist. i document and protect her as a body i love. i want to keep seeing and feeling this world and falling in love with her.

i woke from a dream the other night in which a boy i knew in college was showing me a poem that had changed his life, that was changing the lives of all the people who read it. it was such a powerful poem – i woke up and tried to write it. i got snippets and rhythms. i want that poem. if it comes back to me i will share it here.

perfect new people just came into my life and several others deepened into our knowing each other, all in some way because of my ‘let it cut more deep’ blog. i want this intimacy – i want connections through vulnerability.

i spent the weekend facilitating a circle of radical women of color in visioning and naming their work around providing support in all aspects of birth and/or parenting. watching them push out past the familiar and comfortable and into the new and needed was humbling, it felt like an important place to be. i want to always work with people living their values that deeply, creating ways out of dark ages.

last night was another octavia butler and emergent strategy conversation, this one perhaps the most intimate yet. octavia butler is such a liberating force in my life. in speaking about her ideas, people have the option to consider their own freedom, and pathways for freedom from prisons of mind, body, heart for all human beings. i can’t tell you how many of these conversations, from small to large, have been alive with tears, confessions, longings, commitments to live miraculously, and that incredible tingling up from within that tells me yes, this is it! i want emergent strategy to be a viable option for anyone trying to change the world.

these are not small desires, but they are true.

do you know what you want? you don’t have to tell me, though i will listen. but say it somewhere.

say it out loud.