Tag Archive for 'denise perry'

i cannot run to freedom/interdependence by any means necessary

feb 26:

tonight i was walking home across a space that was once a plantation, once had a whipping tree, once had a school, once was a major source of cotton, once was a lot of things i cannot see in the soil. the stars are bright and everywhere.

today i got to watch barbara ransby, linda burnham, n’tanya lee and kali akuno share stories of their years in black radical/revolutionary movements – the choices they made in terms of where to place their distinct offerings. they were facilitated by my north star, denise perry. they are each, all five, young with commitment.

and i feel too old. i shouldn’t be walking. my leg is in a brace, because of grief or weight+time or just because i have done something yucky to my left knee. all of the above? i have acupuncture and chiropractic and orthopedic doctor appointments behind me and in front of me, and lots of loving caring people around me who are supporting me to rest and heal.

but sometimes i want and need to be alone under the stars, the so-clear-and-familiar stars that always make me feel both smaller and more at home in the universe. tonight was such a night, my heart full and tender with black love and black grief.

my gait is different these days, painful as i hitch along, one leg always straight, the other overused, my hips tilting. having to sit, prop my leg up, ice, rest, wait, get rides, depend depend depend, accept advice from anyone who sees me, watch others dance…i do get to feeling self-pity.

then, here on this land where black organizers gather to contemplate all the paths to freedom, i think of slaves. i walk the sucking mud and crackling leaves, struck again by how loud everything is in the dark. how did anyone ever get free when just breathing is such a thunder?

tonight i was moved to tears by my current state, my vulnerability. if i time travel back, in my mind, exploring what my magic witchy wild self would have done on this land, i hope i would have rebelled and run away. but i cannot feel it in this body. i cannot run to freedom. i cannot even dance the way i want to.

these days it feels like all i can do is ask for help. this doesn’t come easy, but i do it, i practice, i forget and get reminded, i practice some more. i resist, and then practice some more.

i am changing through this injury, my perception widening. there are so many others like me. as i am wheeled through airports i suddenly notice there is a whole society of people being wheeled around, in various states of temporary or permanent disability. occasionally there is camaraderie or curiosity, but it’s not a given. in me, a certain amount of being either ignored or body shamed produces a turning inward.

my own internalized ableism is so big right now, i don’t want to be noticed in this difference, in this need. i don’t even want to have to transform this pain into magic. i just want to howl and run fast and dance low and be wild.

feb 29:

as black history/futures month comes to a close i am feeling tender and ecstatic. the gathering of Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity filled me up, overflowed me with a sense of wonder and possibility for black people.

i also loved the concurrent celebrations of blackness that were happening, any of which i feel sure would have nourished me:

in LA my loves in the octavia e butler legacy network gathered to honor the ten year anniversary of the transition of my heart-study octavia butler.

in jackson mississippi, black sci fi heads gathered for planet deep south.

there was also a gathering of the echoing ida team.

it was black girl genius week and before that black tech week.

and this was a week after i got to facilitate the foundational meeting of the ida b wells society for black investigative journalism.

and all of it at the end of a month full of escalating direct actions and black musical explosions (i have been reveling in beyonce and kanye and rihanna and chance the rapper and others), music dancing with messages that got everyone twirling and meming and conversing.

we’re feeling the reverberations of movement thinkers and organizers who are continuously dreaming for black people. that is what flowed out of stevie wonder’s mouth as he dressed down governor snyder in the culmination of the magnificent #justiceforflint event last night, where $130,000 was raised for babies who have already learned, too young, that lead can poison.

(i think in the history books, stevie’s truths will resound louder than chris rock’s shameful attempt at whatever he was simultaneously doing out west)

and me? i landed home feeling stronger, more self-compassionate and loving. i went to the orthopedic doctor and got the next steps lined up for my healing journey. the last few days, and these past few months, feeling how many people were/are loving me and wanting to care for me, wanting to support my health and my body as it is right now, and wanting to see me slow down and land inside my health…all of you are helping me to turn and face some truths.

i cannot run right now. i cannot even imagine future running right now. but i can imagine dancing.
and i can imagine nurturing those who run, cooking and plotting and strategizing, dreaming and singing to the moon, quilting maps, and building such deep ties with those who can run that they would always come back for those who cannot, we would always be part of one liberation. i can see as far as 2050. i can see black emergent strategy, radical black interdependence, landing and proliferating inside revolutionaries like dandelions.

i have to offer and receive interdependence. that is the most strategic thing i can do in my black body right now, let myself be quilted deeply into the pattern.

i am sitting in three intersecting commitments for my somatic work – to authentic intimacy and generative boundaries, to teaching more with less words, and to resilient movements that sustain relationship through change and difference.

i am turning towards my body and asking what i need to do to sustain relationship with myself through change and difference. offering myself less story and more feeling. really listening to my truths and to the boundaries i need in order to fly.

and all i can hear is black love.

report back: loving on st louis

“we need this. we have needed this.”

spannaltaderrek

that is what we heard over and over from the people who showed up to saint john’s church on grand avenue in st. louis this past week. i am now reflecting at home after an incredible and intense week as part of a healing justice team from generative somatics and BOLD who flew in from detroit, new york, cali, hawaii, miami.

lisaalta

deniseprentis

we were invited and anchored by patrisse marie cullors-brignac, cofounder of #blacklivesmatter, founder/co-director of dignity and power now, and general sister goddess extraordinaire. she collaborated with the brilliant ashley yates, one of the first st. louis activists to call the nation to attention. it’s something else to be in either of these women’s presence. both at the same time? black girl magic.

patrissestarsky

ashleystarsky

our host at saint john’s UCC was reverend starsky, who really does give me andre 3000 pulpit edition, and president marco, who gives hugs that feel like rearrangements. they are flanked by uncle/brother cornelius and kara, who took care of everything we could need, and camielle, who hung in with every single thing we did the whole week.

these blessed people have been offering up a space and structure for healing, gathering, song, prayer and growth for a long time. seven months ago their church became one respite in the war that the st. louis police department is waging against the people. so that’s where we went.

i tried to write y’all while we were there, but i couldn’t. the place is both too beautiful and too heavy. and i actually wasn’t even alone to write or reflect the whole week, except for a few ten minute showers. those who know me well will know how incredible the week was, because i didn’t notice not being alone, i just felt love, love and purpose, the whole time.

adaku

octavia butler reminded us that ‘god is change'; st. louis is a city overflowing with god. the conditions and mood change constantly, and each person we met showed that same ever mercurial energy, along and under the surface. they had other jobs, and loves, lives and grief, often very fresh grief, when they were called on to become the front line of a defensive battle.

that is, when mike brown was murdered.

mikebrown1

i have to share with y’all about where mike died. not anything new, but something deeply felt. it is different to see something on the news, and then to touch and breathe it.

on our last night in town, after days of healing and loving up on st. louis, we went to the place where he was gunned down. i always knew it was out in the open, i’ve seen the pictures and film. but there are so many windows looking at the street he ghosts. there it is…on a major street in a housing complex where a thousand eyes of all ages were able to easily look out from their living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens.

as we pulled up, a young boy walked across the street. as he stepped off the curb i wanted to build a fortress around him, knowing it’s impossible, knowing there are so many boys like him. one of the grown men we did healing work with wept as he spoke of being young, large, awkward and black – feeling the fear people had of him in the face of his innocence.

mike was murdered in a neighborhood ringed by three story apartment buildings, many of which now stand empty. he was murdered on a road folks speed down, between a busy parking lot and a slew of yards and balconies. there are two monuments where he died, one long and slender in the middle of the street, the other a mountain around the base of a streetlamp nearby. they are primarily constructed of stuffed animals – teddy bears, toy elephants, soft floppy birds, pink puppies. mixed into this pyre of toys are candles, letters, protest signs, sandals and shoes, v for vendetta masks, flyers, folded banners, cardinals hats, jerseys, photographs.

mikebrown2

mike’s face looks out from the pile, his beautiful young face. his familiar stranger face.

the fur of the toys gives the effect of a muted rainbow in the yellow lamplight, pressed upon by time, slumped, tainted. these teddy bears have been through the first winter mike missed. toys. it’s so sad, so devastating, so enraging.

rage. there is no other way to speak of it. i can’t find anything beautiful in it.

when i stepped from the sidewalk onto the street, my gut started shaking and didn’t stop until we drove away. it’s a stained tar middle passage – the body knows when it crosses a place of hate.

“we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”

after the memorial we went to the ferguson police department, one night after the police chief stepped down and two officers were shot. there were black activists holding the center – ‘if we don’t get it, shut it down’ – white activists, clergy, politicians.

i have been many places where we yelled ‘no justice, no peace’, and then, for a million reasons, we went home. but in st. louis right now, the truth of those words is so palpable – i feel it in my bones. this is the gift st. louis has given the nation. this small, tight knit, intimate, imperfect place has been showing us, for 216 days now, what it means to deny any myth of peace in the absence of justice.

brittanycamielleprentis

being black and loving black people in an armed and militarized police nation infected with unchecked institutionalized racism is traumatizing. the shivers that journeyed my body standing across from the ferguson police department felt like intelligence. i could see the fear, the desperate longing for control on the police faces before me. armed and dangerous humans, and they are in a war against people who are…living and black. some of us are flagrantly and radically living, resisting and calling out the truth.

but the ones getting killed in this war…there’s so much innocence in the murdered ones.

and in the survivors.

“it’s so much scarier when it’s just in your head.”

the people who came to sit with us each day are the heart of this local movement that has captured international attention. they are warriors, comrades, beloveds and people of faith. many of them are young in that way that feels lit from within. several older folks came to check us out and it was humbling to see them look the younger activists in their eyes and say ‘you changed me’.

wiwo

every single person who came through our doors had trauma before, after, inside and outside of the moment on august 9 when they learned mike brown’s name and story, when they drove to ferguson and wouldn’t go home.

spannprentis

our team was led by lisa thomas-adeyemo and included alta starr, denise perry, prentis hemphill, adaku utah and myself. we centered, taught, did one on one sessions and story circles, sang, saged, practiced, listened and held everyone we could reach. we worked with people as individuals and groups to move trauma out of their bodies, and to give them practices for bringing what they care about to the center of their lives and decision making.

theteam

each day was emergent, and each day we learned more about each other’s capacity and the place we had come to. there was a lot of awe, wonder, resilience and love.

adakulisa

denisepatrisse

the work we came to do, somatics, is not about healing for the sake of individual wellness, though that is a radical act for any people slated for extinction. it is about healing trauma such that individuals and communities are not operating in reaction to oppression, and not relinquishing control over and over again because of changes outside their power. it is about organizing our lives, ourselves, around what we most care about and long for. and then living positive, generative, whole lives from that place.

ambandprentis

there is always going to be so much devastation to react to, especially for those of us on the wrong side of racism. the trauma won’t stop. if we hope to advance, we have to find ways to move through and out of the vice grip of trauma that so drastically limits our choices.

it felt like a beginning. so much more is needed.

lisa led us in a song the last day that keeps rolling through me:

‘we gonna rise with the fire of freedom
truth is the fire that will burn our chains
stop the fire of destruction
healing is the fire running through our veins’

black love as a radical commitment

i am writing to you from a plantation, but it might also be the future.

this space, the franklinton center at bricks, was once a place that slaves were sent to be broken in. for centuries.

and then it was a christian school in the same white charitable tradition that led to many of our historical black colleges and universities. for decades.

now it is a retreat center and, if prayers are responded to, in the most tangible manifestations, the future home of BOLD – black organizing for leadership and dignity.

reparations, soil up.

i donate facilitation time to BOLD each year because i believe it is our best chance at liberation. not just black liberation, though that would be enough. but i believe that the liberation of black people represents a realization of the human experiment, the resolution of a tension born out of our distance from the sacred truth of who we are. stardust.

we are sentient miraculous beings. on a magnificent planet, possibly the most biologically diverse planet in an apparently infinite universe, or multiverse. at least so far. who knows – as far as we have seen, we are unique.

and within this unique species, there are so many oppressed peoples.

and within that, the primary sustaining hierarchy of our planet has been that of dark skin to light skin. to be a black person on this experimental rock hurtling through space, obsessed with the sun, is a dangerous thing. in some parts of the world our children are armed soldiers. in most parts of the world our children are the hungriest of the youth. in our part of the world, we are being publicly lynched at a higher rate than ever before in our history.

all of the systems are exposing themselves as built on shaky sand, at minimum obselete. iphone 3. we developed so quickly, so quickly we gained the cultural center, and the white house. but of course we needed, as a nation, to spend a few centuries healing, holding each other, getting our breath back from how this specific nation began just yesterday. genocide and slavery are stones woven into our skirts, bruising our calves as we run, trying to escape the weight.

we need healing.

we need to stop and reconcile ourselves with existence, though nothing ever pauses in evolution. but..i am 36, and i can walk on a piece of ground where the soil still shows bloodstains from my ancestors being broken, and breaking in. slavery is a visceral presence. cotton whisps in my hair, i walk through a school house here that feels thick, like i had to push my way through spirits; young, black, hopeful spirits.

and all of that is done in this place, BOLD, where we are celebrating and cultivating black love as an organizing strategy. the three women who birthed #blacklivesmatter are of this community, not accidentally. they were not created by this community, but gathered, noticed, honored. gathered by denise perry and others, because they, we, are not interested in short tem reactionary responses to systemic violence. because we want to keep our hands on the root of the problem – the solution: black lives matter.

our black love is what teaches us that we matter.

i can’t tell you how nourishing and restorative it is to be in this space, at this time. i cannot count how many of the people said they traveled long and far because they needed to fill up at the well with black love.

because we are lovable, as lovable as anything else on this incredible and utterly unique planet. and even though our recent history includes generations of self-negating branding, physical and psychological, we have begun to love ourselves again.

some people are terrified by this, just by black people saying ‘enough’ and ‘it stops today’. they will try to suffocate us all, put bullets in us all.

but!

we outnumber the ones who feel this way. black people and those who can see us for who we are, we are the ‘overwhelming majority of planet earth’.

bold is the black power movement of our generation. the medicine we claim will heal anyone who swallows it – black lives matter.

we know black love is a radical commitment. an aspirational and healing commitment. you think you are not us, but we know you are. black love means looking in the mirror and remembering who you, and we, are.

we danced in cotton fields, we danced in the darkness of ships, we danced on the biggest continent on this magical rock.

we dance now, screaming “i can hear my brother saying i can’t breathe/now i’m in the struggle saying i can’t leave/calling out the violence of these racist police/we won’t stop the struggle til our people are free,” in new york.

dying-in in small towns.

shutting down highways from the twin cities to l.a.

and singing our ancestors’ words in north carolina.

today i was part of a circle of black women evoking harriet tubman under the guidance of sister doctor alexis pauline gumbs. she had us chant harriet’s words, ‘my people are free. my people are free.’ we chanted until we were swaying, rocking, giggling, glowing, weeping, laughing out loud.

try it. chant it till your body believes.

or june jordan’s words, ‘we are the onces we’ve been waiting for.’

or fannie lou hamer’s words, ‘nobody’s free until everybody’s free.’

or audre lorde’s words, ‘i am who i am, doing what i came to do.’

or ella baker’s words, ‘give light and the people will find the way.’

or anna julia cooper, ‘the world needs to hear her voice.’

alexis had us chanting these words, in a space where folks were contemplating emergent strategy, black love, somatics and resilience.

and what we know for sure at this point is we need each other, and we as black people need to give other black people space to be themselves completely. we have to love ourselves so no one can be confused about our dignity, our preciousness, our brilliance, our lovability.

we keep turning inwards, and back out. breath, ocean, orbits, we are the fundamental rhythm, in flesh. and as we master ourselves, it becomes impossible to serve any other master.

our numbers are massive with ghosts. we are cultivating the liberated state. we know every person killed is a fallen soldier in the greatest war ever fought – and we grieve with parents and community, and we blow on fires of fearlessness growing deep in our bellies, to take action in and through grief.

it won’t be easy, but we will find every pleasure, every sacred instance.

we know we are on the right side of history.

we choose to be the light.