interdependence is iterative

interdependence is one of the elements of emergent strategy that i have been studying (and, i thought, embodying) over the past few years.

i love it theoretically – no one is alone! in an ideal scenario of radical interdependence, we would take from the planet what we needed to sustain ourselves, and care for and protect the place and life forms of home. we would take from each other what we needed, what we lacked, and offer to each other from our abundance. its a lovely idea and i am slightly obsessed with cultivating it, particularly in movement spaces.

this past month i have gotten some practice in it, and really noticed the iterative nature of interdependence. what i have been studying by being hyper aware inside my life is how much being interdependent is a series of small repetitive motions.

i am excited to share observations anytime i am able to from inside an experience, and that isn’t always possible. much of this past month was hard in ways i couldn’t move through my mouth or fingers with any coherence.

the feelings were clear, though…

perhaps not all feelings fit inside of words anyway. it is presumptive to ever assume we are understanding each other, but what a balm it is to feel understood, or even just held tightly when your spirit is dancing beyond comprehension.

the things i had do repeatedly towards interdependence:

1. be seen.

initially with defensiveness (i am not like you say i am) even/especially in the face of experts (i have diagnosed myself, i know what is wrong with me).

and then, perhaps, without agency. because being seen is actually non-negotiable, though i can hide or i can determine my level of grace and relationship in it.

on so many levels, interdependence requires being seen, as much as possible, as your true self. meaning that your capacity and need are transparent.

meaning even when i don’t want to look in the mirror, i am (and i choose to be) open to the attention of others.

sometimes i start with my w.o.e.s., or those with whom i am co-evolving through friendship. i show something i’ve been hiding, and hope i’m still lovable. this generally goes better than could be expected, every single time.

i have also tried starting out naked on a hard table under a bright light, shivering from the cold of so many strangers’ eyes.

i can walk towards this ‘being seen’ and experience the beauty of releasing all that guard and protection, that miracle distortion. or i can resist it and only be seen in moments of trauma and loss of control.

but i will be seen, and the more i open to it, the gentler and more necessary that attention feels.

(as i was writing this i was reminded that interdependence is basically the song lean on me in practice: ‘for no one can fill those of your needs that you don’t let show.’)

2. be wrong.

there is nothing like the wrong feeling of being an intuitive witchy healer and having to be told something indisputable about your body.

particularly if you’ve already done the thorough work of disputing said something. out loud. at a volume that might, by some, be described as unmedicated anguish level. it’s pitiful wrong.

the easier ‘being wrong’ is for you (the faster you can release your viewpoint), the quicker you can adapt to changing circumstances. adapting allows you to know and name current needs and capacity, to be in relationship in real time, as opposed to any cycle of wishing and/or resenting what others do or don’t give you.

sometimes there isn’t one definitive truth (my favorite situations).

and sometimes there is one and you can’t see it. (least favorite. least.)

just at least consider it, that place where you are wrong might be the most fertile ground for connecting with and receiving others.

and in a beautiful twist, being soft in your rightness, as opposed to smashing people with your brilliance, can open others up to whatever wisdom you’ve accumulated. i am grateful to all the people who were softly right about me this past month when i couldn’t see my own needs.

3. accept my inner multitudes.

an honest self would agree to some self-care practice or limitation that would protect my recovering wounded body. and then another – honest, even earnest – self would almost immediately act against that agreement.

i’d be half bent over to lift something when the voice of one of my precious beloveds would slip through – ‘seriously what the fuck are you doing?’

(my loved ones are pure molasses sweetness.)

there is a me that wants to get that sugar devil away from me for good. there is a me that can’t go through physical trauma without ice cream, can’t even imagine that.

the more i accept this, the more i can share my contradictory truths with those who can support me, help me move towards my best self.

i am not turning against myself, i am multitudes. the tide to be turned is a process of inner alignment, those who wish to support me need me to be vulnerable with that inner contradiction.

4. ask for, and receive, what i need.

can you drive me to the hospital?
can you explain what is happening to me?
can you stop my pain?
can you open this water bottle?
can you help me stand up and sit down?
can you open the door?
can you put my bag in the overhead bin?
can you bring me groceries?
can you drive me to the airport and actually park and help me bring my suitcase inside?
can you hold me while i cry?
can you heal me?
and so on for what feels like forever…

and most of all, the childlike request inside of story telling: can you listen while i feel this?
again?
again?

i’m learning that interdependence is not about the equality of offers in real time. i had to ask most of these things of people i didn’t necessarily know, or knew but wouldn’t be able to offer anything to in the foreseeable future. i had to trust in that karma-ish idea that the support i’ve offered in the past or will offer in the future would balance this scale which felt so me-tilted.

over and over and over i offered up my small self and was held in big ways. thread through me, again, again.

the result of this experience is that i feel so much more woven into the world. i still anticipate my independence, my default can-do self space. but i don’t want to sever any of this connecting fabric between myself and all of the incredible people who held me through this past month, saw me, corrected me, held me in my contradictions, met my needs. i want more of my life to feel this interdependent, this of community and humanity. i love knowing how incredible it feels to have a need met, to be loved and cared for, and also know how incredible it feels to meet an authentic need.

it’s data, all this learning. tender data.

y’all who fed, held, carried, cleaned, transported, protected, scolded, listened and loved up on me through this…i’m in really love with y’all.

music that got me through

This morning I woke up before the kids did, in the light of a Christmas tree, thinking of my ghosts.

I’ve also been thinking about the rebel Jesus…faith is a kind of ghost in my life too. I was raised with stories of a poor family of resilient miracle makers, and the birth of a freedom fighter who rolled with the same types of folks I roll with now, speaking of compassion, practice, sacrifice, forgiveness and love.

I’m not big on organized religion in this era of institutionalized greed, but I love these stories of justice, and I think in many settings, in my family, Jesus (radical, martyr, murdered, unarmed…and uplifted after death to create change in an unjust world) is another way to speak of black life, of dignity as a path out of oppression.

I’ve been thinking about how to live my values today and every day. Sade’s lyric ‘it’s only love that gets you through’ comes to mind over and over. I’ve been feeling ‘no justice, no Christmas’ these last few months, knowing that I wanted to reconcile magic and grief, resistance and abundance.

I’ve been exploring how ‘no’ is both necessary and not the shape of my daily life or work. Or perhaps more precisely, there are many ways to say no, and one is by turning up a righteous yes. So I thought, what do I want to say yes to, to grow, to multiply?

Love, yes. Creativity, yes. Black excellence and brilliance, yes! Authentic relationships and transformation? Yes.

To that end I gave gifts that reflect my values for creativity, spirit nourishing, genius. I gave and requested gifts that increased resources to black life. I gave to the families of as many of our black martyrs as I could.

Over and over I came back to music as the gift I wanted to give, and it made me realize what an incredible year this was in black music.

That sparked this post for today.

Here is the Spotify playlist to go with this post!

This year has had many many moments when music was the only thing that got me through. I want to thank the new and old artists who were medicine, soundtrack, and light at the end of converging tunnels.

I started the year in a Beyonce universe that kept providing joy and contemplation throughout the year, with 7/11 as a gratuitous cherry on top.

When my loved ones died this year, there were a few songs I needed to listen to, to move things through. Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers to Cross was the first and central song of my grief soundtrack. I’m also grateful for the familiar voices of Sade, Whitney Houston, Donny Hathaway, Johnny Cash and Sam Cooke.

In terms of new albums, there were a few that I want to lift up and shout out as healing either in content or just by exhibiting the beauty of fully realized creative output.

Obviously D’angelo has claimed the end of the year. Black Messiah is an instant classic, and a gift that is both on time and on purpose. All I want to feel in this moment is the easy good continuous blackness that he and Questlove deliver on this album. It works as a coherent whole, and as a loop with no beginning and no end. There is no moment, no note, no moan or snare, no rhythm and no lyric on this album that I don’t love. Black excellence.

Little Dragon released an incredible album – mature, daring, gorgeous music. I forgot this and had to come back and honor them because Nabuma Rubberband was excellent and feels classic as the year ends.

FKA Twigs, on EP1 and LP1, is the other artist who gave herself to us as a sensual whole this year. On the lyrical tip she is specific, naughty and evocative. Her voice sounds both heavenly and carnal, she arouses with an incredibly light touch. She’s theatrical in performance, she’s gorgeous and strange to look at, she feels both young and very comfortable in her grown-ass-woman-hood. I could listen to her curse all day.

(I want to note here that Lykke Li’s album No One Ever Loved is incredible. Heartbreaking direct feelings – and it almost gave me whiplash in terms of the growth from her previous work. It feels like an emotional bookend to FKA Twigs work.)

Azealia Banks is the truth. She’s better than all the other rappers and she feels her feelings, she is as emotive and intelligent as she is ruthless. Her album is not perfect, but it’s exciting, her flow is fantastic and as I decipher her lyrics I am impressed with her mind and her choices. She and Kendrick Lamar , whose performance on Colbert gave me life, look back at their field from a distance.

I really enjoyed Mary J Blige’s The London Sessions. It feels experimental, produced by all these dope British artists I like including Sam Smith and Emeli Sande. I liked Sam’s album ‘In the Lonely Hour‘ as a set of well done pop songs that reference black music in every vibration, but he didn’t have the depth to hold me for more than a week of focused listening. However, paired with the life force of Mary J, there’s some really beautiful pieces. ‘Doubt’, ‘When you’re gone’, and a set of house dance tracks move this through.

Tunde Olaniran’s Yung Archetype was the most stylish stuff I heard this year, the music I put on when I needed to stomp around the house feeling fly. He’s an amazing performer and a righteous organizer and it’s a necessary combination.

As the year comes to a close, I have Nicki Minaj, Coultrain, TV on the Radio and Jesse Boykins III in the queue. (Speaking of Jesses, Jessie Ware was also the truth this year, and Jesse Williams made me believe in celebrity radicalism again.)

But the thing I am most anticipating is Toshi Reagon’s production of The Parable of the Sower. She’s collaborated with her mother to translate Octavia Butler’s work into an opera, and while I will miss these physical shows, my Christmas wish is a live recording, to spend years with this new music.

What about you beloveds…what are you balancing? And what music gave you life through this impossible year?

a perfect action

it’s a beautiful day to be black.

woke up this morning to a brilliant new d’angelo album dedicated to ferguson and occupy, resistance. it’s full of love songs and funky grimy sexy beautiful man sounds over guitar and…so prince, so shuggie otis, so marvin, so bilal, so brilliant, so worth the long wait.

and then ava duvernay became the first black woman nominated for a golden globe (oscar coming soon i’m sure) for best director for selma.

and between those two things, i got to attend an action called by the blackout collective in oakland, flowing together efforts for #blacklivesmatter, #blackbrunch, #asians4blacklives and others.

i wasn’t planning to attend, i was heading to the airport after a tight trip to california mostly spent in petaluma at the strozzi dojo as part of my first generative somatics teaching team. i’ve been in training building to this for two years and think the work we do is mindblowing. and it’s massive, i usually can’t do social or event time around it.

but my ride to the airport was one of my loves, alicia garza, one of the three women who dreamt up #blacklivesmatter and spoke our longing into movement. we were heading to breakfast when the news broke, oakland police department shut down. so of course we had to go skip breakfast and see what was happening because social media had us both texting in exclamations.

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(from the blackout collective)

if you don’t know me, a while ago i was part of the ruckus society staff. going to an action in oakland is family reunion time. today’s action was beautifully familiar, and also different in ways that deserve noticing.

on the action front, oh god it was so good, i was taking in as much as i could as my tears of joy and gratitude blended with the soft cold rain. i couldn’t stop hugging people, people who were white, asian, black, latino, taking actions to assert that black lives matter. i wanted to be close to these massive hearts.

the action, from what i observed, was perfection. every entrance into the oakland police department was blockaded. the street in front of the entrance was blockaded on both ends, abundantly. the banners were stunning and clear – ‘black and breathing’, ‘complacency is consent’, and a flag flying from the OPD flagpole, held in place by a brave human who scaled it with muscle and rope, with the faces of our recent martyrs, stating once again that ‘black lives matter’.

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the action was so incredibly powerful because it clearly centered around the messaging, leadership and visibility of young black leaders, stepping and chanting and singing and marching and fists in the air claiming historical space. the blackout collective. you know that scene in malcolm x where they march to the hospital? it was like that but with no one appearing to call out the directions, with women and queer folks and locs and fros. they seemed to move as a body, dignity head to toe.

just as clearly, allies were providing cover, taking risks, embodying solidarity. such a necessary resource when done right!

the main OPD door was held by loved ones, asian comrades, with the banner #asians4blacklives. another door was held by white allies with a banner reading ‘every 28 hours a black person is killed by a cop or vigilante’. these door blockers were locked down, a good and organized mix of risk. the streets were blocked by what appeared to be white allies, and i saw latino and indigenous leadership as well.

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i cannot overstate how powerful the container felt, with the blackout collective and other blacks yelling ‘show me what solidarity looks like!’ and the allies on the streets and locked to the doors and guarding the base of the flagpole all yelling back ‘this is what solidarity looks like!’

i am getting chills remembering it to share with you.

here are the protocols being practiced in this ally work:

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every time the cops moved in for arrest, a hundred devices popped up, those documenting also chanting, to be clear that there is nothing, not anything, that will go unnoticed or unseen. vigilance. a plethora of roles. an abundance of ways to be OF the moment.

i was so moved, trying to smile and say hello to old friends with so many tears in my throat. the personal difference for me was getting to attend as a black person, not in the action, not in the know. i was dressed for femme bonding breakfast and then the plane, ruby woo on my lips, trench coat, boots, suitcase.

i’ll admit here that the whole time i was at ruckus i felt out of my league, the badassery around me so thorough, and me so library-nook-nerd trying to understand how groups and people change. but i felt so good this morning, like all the right people were in all the right places. i felt beloved and held. i am a facilitator and singer and writer and healer in a movement that evolves from and advances many movements. again, not a beginning or end, but not a phase either. a move forward. it isn’t confusing. i wrote afterwards to one of my friends in the action that i felt beloved. i feel it now, that my life is precious, that my life matters. it surprises me to say this, but…it feels new.

it’s such a tender green shoot of a thing, because i am not saying this about america, where i know it will be a long long time before i feel a real mattering, a legislated, cultural mattering. i don’t expect it in this nation state structure.

no what i mean is in the smaller space of movement, where i believe we have to embody the world we long for, where so many of us have been hurt and broken hearted and ignored and disrespected and kept coming back, where so many of us have been stepped on and over and still stood up and kept finding new ways, kept offering our love to this effort to transform it all, seeing the conditioning, working not to take it personally, finding an open artery to send our love into the blood cells of revolutionary work…i mean in that place? to feel that my black queer woman facilitator thinker writer artist healer lover life matters?

yeah i need to go listen to this d’angelo and feel all my feelings. thank you oakland.