Tag Archive for 'dream hampton'

pleasure activism is contagious

yesterday i got to be a part of Arts in a Changing America – ReMap: Detroit. the effort of this work is to address the changing demographics of the US and understand the role art has in shifting narrative and opening justice-based futures.

the day started off with six workshops to immerse people in innovative artistic practices for social justice. i offered a workshop called Writing the Future where i had folks do future memoir entries about art they had been a part of that shifted the course of human history.

in another room folks were writing poetry with tawana, another group was foraging in the wilds of Detroit with shane and mama myrtle, and another group was processing grief with sounds and song with rebecca and ron.

after the workshops we all gathered together for a call and response. the speakers were dream hampton and favianna rodriguez, talking about this moment for Detroit, for Oakland, for artists and activists.

favi showed some of her more recent work, which is focused on challenging the phobias that make us feel shame around our desires and bodies, pussy power, claiming the human right of pleasure. dream spoke about the patterns of mass incarceration and drug sales, advocating for the right of black people to use and sell weed without being criminalized.

i, of course, was the loudest member of the amen chorus in the audience.

to close out the session, both women spoke about the role that masturbation has in their self-care, creative and work processes. i was whooping and hollering with joy!

abby dobson came up and sang while a video of women assaulted and killed by the state played, uplifting the #sayhername campaign to make clear that black women, cis and trans, are being targeted and killed by the state. i must say it was a shocking transition – the work, her voice, were so powerful. i have chosen not to watch most of the footage that comes out, i know we are under attack. to see it with others, with a sacred sound around all of us, was deeply moving.

afterwards a group of us sat, immobilized with grief. slowly, laughter, sweetness, hugs and pleasure helped us to acknowledge that a constant truth of our lives right now is grief, but we are complex, we have so much resilience.

we have the right to each other.

we went out and got “sun all over” our skins, as richard pryor taught us.

later in the evening many conference attendees gathered around dream’s table overlooking the city, and the pleasure principle was the center of our conversation.

i mostly want to talk about pleasure these days. for a long time i have been unknowingly quoting mae west: “an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away,” because pleasure was my health care plan for years before i knew how to talk about it.

at the table we shared survival strategies of pleasure and asked each other questions, to repeat things. we wrote notes, book titles, names. we were learning together, this was sensual scholarship.

we talked about sexual, reproductive, mental and emotional health, favorite toys, increasing the practice of pleasure, decolonizing desire, getting into real practices of consent, asking for what we need, putting action behind our radical sexual theory, how oppressed people cultivating their own pleasure can be an act of resistance, and how ridiculous it is that sex and the pleasures possible in the body are still such taboo topics.

the next book i will be working on is all about pleasure activism and it feels right on time. this day made me feel…titillated to get to work.

reflections on the octavia e. butler celebration at spelman

i am still glowing and full from last week’s octavia e. butler celebration at spelman. the event was the second one hosted by the humble and brilliant patternmaster tananarive due, the horror/sci-fi writer who held the cosby chair at the college these past two years (and who i am thrilled to call my writing coach this year).

last march, tananarive invited friends and colleagues of octavia’s together to reflect, share work, converse and celebrate octavia’s life and impact. writers and thinkers like samuel r. delany, nalo hopkinson, nisi shawl, steven barnes, lynnee denise, jewelle gomez and sheree thomas sat together and honored their friend and ancestor. i wasn’t able to make it, but watched hungrily from afar.

tananarive focused this year’s event on arts and activism, rooted in her own background as the daughter of civil rights activists. when she invited me i couldn’t fully believe it. i said yes much the way i once said yes to going on the space mountain ride at disney world – OF COURSE I WANT TO DO THAT!!, not thinking until later what that might actually be like as an experience.

over the months between the invitation and the event, tananarive told me she was also inviting nnedi okorafor. then dream hampton and bree newsome. then junot diaz. then john jennings. other than bree, i had buried myself in each person’s work. dream is a close detroit comrade. they are all masters in their respective crafts.

i got very very nervous.

knowing i would be near nnedi and junot particularly made me feel like i was about to be upside down in the dark of an unknown depth. i entered a comfortable denial mode wherein i just didn’t think about it.

then a little over a month ago i was at astroblackness in l.a. and nnedi was there, as well as nalo, john, tananarive and steven. they were all quite normal nerdy cool fresh people. i observed nnedi’s presence, knowing we’d share panel space soon, and with the luxury of being unknown to her. she is a striking and direct speaker – perhaps a little uncomfortable with the attention her brilliance brings, but also wanting to be as precise in her talks as she is on her pages. my nervousness around her became excitement. i wanted more time around her present-moment mind.

now i was only in denial about junot. and the live streaming – did i mention that? the whole thing was sent out to the world and the galaxy in real time. no wardrobe glitches or tripped over words allowed.

my honey lynnee denise was in town, in an alignment of magic she spoke at spelman a few days earlier at the toni cade bambara scholars/writers/activists program at the women’s research center. she kept me in my body and feeling cared for throughout the week, for which i am deeply grateful.

In terms of the event, everything was awesome.

it started off with a black sci fi film festival with piece after piece that inspired and moved me. dream’s video for theesatifaction’s ‘queen’ showed, a gorgeous expression of radical black queer beauty and fashion. there was a short film critiquing spelman’s founders’ day through a magical realism lens. there was a sci fi interactive movie/game about the work of depersonalizing and battling ‘dark forces’ that get inside us, which was funky and spoke to so much of what i have been working through in my own life. bree’s short film ‘wake’ showed, totally creepy and beautiful – it was exciting to experience her work before we met and shared the panel space. then tananarive and steven’s ‘danger word’, a short take on a zombie film, had me in tears – excellent efficient storytelling. the festival closed with pumzi, a short film out of kenya which i have seen a few times and find stunning and challenging. the way the lead character loves her planet always opens me up.

after a short break, tananarive and nnedi gave a reading in the museum, which was full of renee stout’s stunning ‘house of the conjure woman’ exhibit. it was the perfect backdrop for their words. tananarive read from the good house, which i just finished this morning. she read in the voice of the book’s magic ancestor, a part of the book i hadn’t gotten to yet. i am learning so much from her about research, place, description, story arc, and how important the characters are, outside of the horror, science and technology.

nnedi read from her new adult novel lagoon, and as she read she took us into this vibrant world she has created. i downloaded the book immediately and am excited to get into it.

at the end of the event, tananarive said that junot had slipped in the back. i didn’t turn around, but my denial ended abruptly. he was here! so was bree, and the gifted artist john jennings, who is doing the cover of octavia’s brood. so were dream, nnedi and her daughter, tananarive and her father, lynnee, soraya and sage from the NOLA wildseeds coven, a group connected to the octavia butler and emergent strategy work. so was my old friend samirah from college, who is now a textile/fabric artist living in atlanta, who reminded me i had basically been like this since school. and bill campbell, an internet friend for years who i had never met in person. and so was shamika, a new facebook friend who had flown down from NY to connect with all of us. people were texting and tweeting as they prepared to watch from afar.

the pattern was gathering.

shortly before we went up, as i finally frantically gathered my thoughts, tananarive reminded me that she wanted me to do one of the grounding exercises i’d told her about, instead of just a talking intro. all of the sudden emergent strategy flooded my system and i lost my nervousness. i only had to do what i loved and be myself.

junot diaz came over and became just junot, a human with a wicked smile, bad back, and brilliant mouth that talks in essays and curses. dream was there, covered in sparkles. we were all there because of our shared love of octavia.

exhale, be here. i landed in the moment of it, in my body.

a group of spelman and morehouse students opened us with a reading of earthseed verses. then the speakers took the stage. i went first, and had folks stand and do a meditation and sharing around the Octavia’s earthseed concept ‘all that you touch, you change.’ i asked them to share what they are in this world to change, and to manifest it with one other person in the room. i referenced octavia’s brood and emergent strategy to ground the work.

the other panelists introduced themselves with a variety of love stories about octavia and her impact on them. junot and dream both shared what it was like to read her work as it was coming out. john spoke about coming to her work as a visual artist, and how he is in the process of doing a comic book adaptation of kindred. nnedi spoke about her friendship with octavia, and how they corresponded about world events, including 9/11, and octavia’s disdain for bush. bree spoke about the impact of octavia on her creative and activist work.

the q&a that followed had us speaking on the new intelligence of social media and how to use it as a way to connect people for social justice, the blackness of outer space, sci-fi and theology, how to make sci-fi work and ideas more accessible – including changing who is seen as a creator, and using image and film to tell stories. we were asked whether we wanted to write about a world beyond race (most of us said a resounding no…for me identity is one of the most interesting ways we evolve and layer), what themes emerge in our work (i said pleasure!), and how to deal with the fear of changing the world with our writing. the audience was lovely, alert, leaning forward.

i notice that spaces created around octavia feel sacred to me, always.

the next day i got to hold a circle around octavia and emergent strategy. it was an intimate group of about twelve people – students, professors, cultural strategists, artists. tananarive’s father john stephens due was there, which was awesome. elders bring such value, and he has been doing social justice work for over fifty years. he jumped in and played with the ideas of emergence and sci fi.

i introduced emergent strategy and had people personalize it for their lives. it was beautiful to hear what came out as folks talked about being more intentional, interdependent, transformative, adaptive, decentralized, fractal and creating more possibilities in their lives and work.

i deeply believe in the work i am getting to do these days. i think it is a path that will liberate many paths, and i think i am merely a conduit, a gathering place for the ideas to marinate and continue.

i am being shaped, i am shaping.

Doing my best

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what is my best.

When I was young it was clearly laid out for me what the best was, there were prizes and gold stars and north stars and ways to measure: grades, parental smiles, degrees, solos. I can count my not-best moments (when I saw the failure coming and did not change course) from birth through college on one hand. Generally, I was ambitious because I thought that was good.

Then began a dance, a crumbling of drive, a dusting off of something essential which appeared like an inner resistance. I would achieve some honor, title, position, or acknowledgement and feel erased by it, instead of seen. That I was conforming to other people’s idea of the best, in a society which measured things in ways that didn’t resonate with me.

This has been slow, and its ongoing. It has meant rejecting or sidestepping degrees, money, and certain spotlights. I am beginning to tease out what feels right after years of just being able to sense what didn’t resonate. There are two aspects which are emerging, which work in tandem as a compass towards doing my best: love and dignity.

These two aspects work in a couple of ways – as I follow them, when I feel them in myself or sense them in others, they are leading me to the best life I’ve known. And tasting these feelings, I want more of them – I want to let love grow through me, and guide me. I want to stand in my dignity against all the odds.

If I ask, ‘Is love here?’ and/or ‘Am I in my dignity here?’, I can feel answers that help me move towards my truth and back away from future regrets. I still do things that might be morally questionable, all the time. But with intention, with the consideration of love and dignity being present, I am learning to trust myself to do my best.

Last week my friend dream posted a mini rant about the ways people judge each other’s work and passions. She was responding to general local critiques of folks who aren’t in the streets over the emergency manager in Detroit, among other things.

I was really moved by her words, probably in part because I haven’t been in the streets. To a large extent I see the EM as a distraction, pulling people away from their work to create a future for this city rooted in abundance and community, to fight for a symbol of power instead of continuing to learn how we generate and hold power in community.

But I care about a lot of the people impacted by, displaced by, and focused on resistance to the EM. I’ve been reflecting and writing and meditating and praying on the well-being of all the people I love here who are internalizing this period of Detroit’s history, taking it into their breaking hearts.

I also care about gender justice, which dream named as one of her core passions. And Assata. And the men in Guantanamo Bay. And the sexual health of black women and girls. And people impacted by terrorism and violence the world over. And Palestine. And the tar sands pipeline, environment, trans liberation, combating obesity and fat phobia, education and so many more things.

I want to do my best by these things.

I actually think most people want to do their best, to be good people and create a good society. But there are so many paths to do that good. Is it by being a body in the streets, or infiltrating the school system with radical content, or making new media, or creating more art, or opening cooperative businesses, or raising awareness on social media, or disrupting every city council meeting, or writing science fiction about new worlds, or, or, or?

How to choose? What is the best way?

What I have been exploring over the past few years is that the work I do best is that which I am most passionate about, work which encourages my health and well-being, affirms my power and the power of everyone else, and keeps me in a space of creativity and solutions.

I don’t think this is unique to me. In my heart I feel there are a thousand paths towards justice and liberation. Yes to all of those things, all of that work, all of those strategies. All of these issues need to evolve – which means they each need people who are most passionate about them, people who feel powerful in moving the work forward, who are healthy enough to do the work well, who are creating solutions.

This happens, for me, at the smallest scale. It has felt hard to explain, unimportant after some of the national and/or urgent work I have done in my life – where I felt special and smart and strategic and at the table. But I am beginning to really understand how political it is to do personal emergency management.

Detroit is one epicenter amongst many – we are in the midst of systems which are imploding. Systems which we – well I, and I suspect/hope many of you dear readers – know better than to want to save, because these are systems which rely on our oppression and inequality, on seeing each other as competition rather than family.

So we are working to remember and create new ways to manage our shared home together. And yet many of us are still in the elementary stage of learning how to manage our personal homes – our bodies and health, our relationships, our movement work, our hearts. Not to mention our actual homes and our finances.

I might be in pre-K.

In this chaotic state we try to create change in the world and find ourselves stretched, tired, demoralized, and unable to create the transformations we yearn for, though we feel the possibility within ourselves. But in the lack of knowing how to do things differently, too many of us still do our work from places of fear, obligation or anger. From no, instead of from yes.

I am sitting now with the question of what it means to do my best, as an adult in a world full of crisis and tragedy. I’ve written about cultivating joy as a weapon, as a frontline. And here I don’t mean a general upbeatness. I mean joy powerful enough to generate authentic resistance in the face of hopelessness. Joy that makes people want to create new worlds and new life together.

I think a first step in cultivating that joy is measuring my best based on how well I can manage my personal state. I was in an emergency state for a decade – my mental, emotional and physical health were deteriorating and I wasn’t even really aware of it except occasionally as a badge of honor to mark how dedicated I was to the work. I was, like many activists I love and respect, doing my best impression of eeyore-on-speed.

eeyore

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I am on the journey now of getting my health, spirit, heart and finances together, with the belief that the more grounded, joyful and dignified I am, the better I can live and lead. The more clearly I can apply my gifts and energy towards work I am passionate about, making the most of my miraculous and limited human capacity. Then, the more inviting my futures become. And the stronger my emergent strategies can be.

Because when it is time for us to manage it all – whatever we call it, our neighborhoods, our cities, our sovereign collaborative tribes – I want to be capable of the task, I want to be experienced, I want to be trustworthy. I want it to feel like love and dignity are there.

I suspect we won’t even get a real chance to manage it all until we have generated so much love and dignity and joy that our future is the irresistible one.

I see everything I am doing now as learning, as preparation. Now, and then, I want to do my best.

afrofuturism and detroit

what an exciting morning in detroit.

started off with the always elegant ingrid lafleur speaking on afrofuturism and detroit in a talk oriented towards creatives.

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here are some twitter highlights, mostly quotes from ingrid:

“An apocalypse doesn’t end in something destroyed, it’s opportunity for transformation. For example, look at @octaviabutler’s parables.”

images from wild seed, pictures of sun ra and imani uzuri, art from bodys isek kingalez were flipping through as she spoke.

“#Afrotopia (the gorgeous logo/imagery from brilliant wesley taylor) is creating radical futuristic art in a majority black city to generate positive social change. Includes magical daily practice.”

“I like #afrofuturism because u have to know ancient history, cosmology, quantum physics, beyond school, broaden black identity.”

sun ra, who was from saturn and was helping us journey through music.

“I enjoy that #Detroit is 82% black & that informs the culture & art…I believe I live in a magical reality all the time.”

“I don’t think you need disposable income to go beyond your current reality. It’s about getting out beyond assumptions.”

“A lot of these ideas are tradition, are within us, they don’t come from going to school.” (beautiful particular as an offering to the mostly art student audience who were genuinely perplexed as to how to engage)

“#afrofuturism is about black being at center – diversity can come, but it’s about the liberation we, in a majority black city, still don’t have.” (in response to the ever brilliant and fearless dream hampton, who questioned the need to constantly move to diversity instead of learning to be in a black space, where black is the center of the work)

“Within our gritty, our bones are beautiful, we have great housing stock, our city is already beautiful & quite vibrant.”

“I need me to exist, even when I die.” – George Henry, at #afrofuturism talk.

after the talk, a few circles of blackness pooled together in the room, vibrating to be in each other’s presence. we talked about octavia butler salons. we talked about how as black people it isn’t about demanding entree into white spaces, especially white spaces in this black city. it’s about creating work so undeniable that being centered is not a question. it was thrilling to meet folks in the arts, design and performance world also bubbling about octavia and black brilliance.

as we were leaving, one of the lovely black men i’d met at the event backed his car into another’s. we all looked at the damage and instead of anyone getting mad, they decided it was an opportunity to sit down for dinner and get to know each other better. it felt like afrofuturism in practice, leaning into each other, creating more possibility, because we need each other, rather than indulging in potential conflict.

then i took some of my broccoli/cauliflower/leek/manchego soup over to grace lee boggs. on the way i had an exciting scifi idea about self-governance in detroit. i shared it with grace and we giggled our way through updating each other on the opportunities we are seeing now. she’s always been ahead of her time, which is saying a lot as she approaches 98 years on the planet this summer.

i’m nearing the end of a beautiful month at home and spring is everywhere. detroit love, black love, that is all.

extra, and ordinary

yesterday was an extraordinary day.

i pulled a tarot card in the morning and it focused me on ‘ordinariness’, giving my all to the mundane and seeing that every simple thing can be special.

i was game.

and as a result i had quite a day.

perhaps it was an offering from the universe because i couldn’t go to the octavia e butler celebration of the fantastic arts. by the time i heard about it, i couldn’t afford to get there – or i could, but it wouldn’t have been a smart and informed financial choice. several people who did go are sending me pics and reports.

meanwhile, back in detroit, i had this lovely easy day full of highlights including making a scallion pine nut pesto (inspired by the homey sofia), hearing about exciting new potential gigs, getting invited to offer meditation at the charles wright, and topping it all off by going to food power.

food power was a lovely event pulled together by momsrising.org (dream hampton holding it down in the D), hosted by oya amakisi, featuring filmmaker byron hurt screening his latest documentary soul food junkies.

sitting in that room i was struck by the realization that reveling in the ordinary is part of what makes people extraordinary to me.

in the room were extraordinary people, including but not limited to dream hampton, jessica care moore, lottie spady, shane bernardo, myrtle thompson curtis, kadiri sennefer, tepfirah rushdan, monifa bandele, eryka marie, of course byron hurt, just so many. and what was so beautiful was that all of those people were there because they are trying to figure out very ordinary things: how do we eat healthy, how do we feed our children, how do we reimagine food that is at the center of black culture?

it is restorative to watch these all of these amazing people shift from being extraordinary to trying to do very ordinary things wholeheartedly. it is amazing to feel this shift within myself. to be present and intentional more and more, in each task, in each aspect of life.

it’s extraordinary.

the octavia symposium (aka: not faster caterpillar – butterfly!

yesterday was one of the best days of my life. i hosted my (the?) first ever octavia butler symposium to create a strategic octavia butler reader for social justice visionaries.

it was incredible…i want to place the raw notes here so we all have them. i will craft these into a strategic reader which will live here on the blog till it finds a new home. Enjoy the transcript of our magic geeky time together :) Below that is a list of related creations to consume.

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adrienne’s words:

want to uplift some key themes for me from each of these books that are relevant for us in the movements for social justice.

the parable series shows us the apocalypse, and then the agricultural and spiritual solution, and then the true smashing of almost all vision, and – to me the most important part – the zapatista-style person to person relationship building that maintains and spreads the vision.

the patternist series shows us two beings, good and evil, who are basically immortal and thrust together simply by the shared experience of not dying. their offspring are a race of telepaths who illuminate the digital divide of new forms of communication (even if they are organic), the elitism that can come with communication, and the power of networks and relationship.

the xenogenesis series (also known as lilith’s brood), is about the key question – what is necessary about humans? do we deserve to exist? what would we do to survive and what elements of our species are worth preserving. this is after we have destroyed earth, another species (more advanced) picks us up and begins to integrate us into their physical and cultural existence.

it’s also the series that has the most evolved vision on a near darwinian level of what works for survival – organic creation and building, zero waste, networked families instead of 2 parent households, things we need to pay attention to.

i won’t do too much on kindred here, or fledging, or survivor (which octavia took out of print and didn’t want us to read. and it was awesome.) simply because they are not part of series where we can see the arc of lesson flow.

blood child and other stories is an important collection of short stories – first for the essay on how being a writer is about persistent practice much more than raw talent.

also, the story in there about people digging and gouging at themseves makes me think of how we dig and destroy our selves, our organizations, our movements. how can we redirect that intense energy into creativity?

fishbowl conversation: Developing the Intro for the Octavia Butler Strategic Reader.

(here we placed 4 chairs in the middle of the room and asked a few questions – there were no lulls in this conversation :) )

Why is Octavia Butler strategic/important to your work?
– seeing a strong dynamic powerful black leader was important
– we had an eternal summer of the black feminist mind on octavia butler…everything we read has the question – are you willing to be transformed? [even past human?]…its not a cooler version of what you were, its something completely new. its important because it’s transformative. caterpillar to butterfly – not fast caterpillar, BUTTERFLY
– she provides me with a place of rest – her work IS her, she can teach me things, i can melt into her…
– in most of her books there’s a capitalist mistake that leads to something new. corporate medicine leaked into water makes smart people empaths – the empaths that are an underclass in the parables.
– often in her stories the protagonist meets an older woman/mentor who wasn’t supposed to live. and they name explicitly that because of who we are and what we do, we can’t work together, we even hate each other…for my political work this yields the lesson of how to rise above ‘shit’ and honor different territories and shared skill for the greater goals of the work
– people long for the apocalypse (or revolution) – folks are always waiting for it to get really bad before they change….octavia shows what its like to get thru the bad, and then it gets worse, and gets worse. a cycle of apocalypse. resilience (not as a word to throw around) is what it is to go thru the cycle of apocalypse with your visions intacts.
– how does octavia relate to disability? how does it become a strength – and what does the agricultural vision from many of her works mean for folks who can’t farm 8 hours a day?
– when we think about priorities and class – i’m thinking about healing and class. what does it mean to FEEL oppression, vs folks who are more insulated. how is that a liability and a resource? she walks many paths with it.
– she’s all about the dry run – as a campaigner i always ask how would [that] look? she takes us on a pageant play of what the iterations of the apocalypse are gonna look like. i wake up at night thinking of the image of the 16 year old girl and her folks roasting a baby on a spit. we’re going on a journey, and we’re seeing all this suffering – and its our responsibility to go to the stars. we can’t solve every problem. how do we take from these lessons, and survive?
– when you talk about going to the stars it makes me relate to…how we relate to colonization…at the expense of what people, what means? i feel octavia is asking – do humans need to be here? its a hard question. if its about survival, and we see ourselves as connected – is this species one that needs to survive? connected – she asks hard things about incest and age. this really disturbed me when i read her – how we don’t talk about hurt and power differentials – childhood sexual abuse (gen 5 and others are thinking about this)…how do we see non-consensual acts that create other things that people use and find helpful…

why octavia (as or not as sci fi) now [at this current moment, in the age of sb1070, the flotilla, economic crisis, technological advances]?

– i think we are in a spiritual awakening, looking at what our society could be in a spiritual realm. she holds that space for us
– i think when u bring up the apocalypse, its not science fiction, its happening. especially what she writes in the parable.
– the guiding philosophy that lauren (olamina, from the parables) has in her life is that god is change – that gives me strength. the only thing i can count on is change, so how to be of use at a time like this?
– what she presents forces me to face my deepest fears…like, when the apocalypse comes we will have to walk. that scares me. when i moved to oakland from the midwest i had to wrestle w/what about when the apocalypse comes and i can’t walk to ohio to see my family?
– i think the issues are timeless. when she wrote them she was forecasting. and some of what she has written about has come to pass. if we continue on this path this is how it will look.
– she writes from the perspective of the marginalized, often first person. they are dealing with gangs on the highways and border control [“no one wants california trash”] – really personalizes it: how do u feel?
– i want to put in a pitch for science fiction. its a great gateway – i am always looking for anti-racist and postcolonial thought. this world is so vaster and more beautiful and has more potential than we give credit to it – if that wasn’t true we would have no hope for the social movement work we are doing now. octavia is only one of the writers who approaches this work.
– octavia draws into play: if there’s all that magic in the world why don’t we use that potential? there’s the potential of all the characters – they have these powers. its not just the apocalypse, her protagonists have the potential to destroy as much as save their communities.
– its weird that its labeled as science fiction – her work brings up race, gender, sexuality…how do we deal with living in a world where folks in some places actually ARE eating babies – and how do we deal with our comfort?
– introduces us to the power of stories of the future. we’re trying to look into stories of the future in our organizing – to see what obstacles we’re trying to create. it allows us to role play. things are complicated, folks don’t act the way you want them to – her work is complicated. there’s many reasons the characters fail, many reasons they succeed, all those reasons are human.
– if u can imagine it u can build it – she lays blueprints for social change. also – the digging – people have loads of creative energy…what would it look like to release our creative potential? [self-critics and haters particularly]
– i came to her as a sci-fi fan, not knowing she was a black woman, she was in the sci-fi ghetto. the power of sci-fi is – if u wrote a novel about detroit, people have all these expectations {oh this a race analogy, and poverty, etc]. but if you take it out of that context, there’s a suspension of disbelief that allows you to get at issues without peoples’ walls going up. it IS a parable, it is an allegory, and it fits into what we’re dealing with now
– the evening, the morning and the night – our work in detroit summer is all about transforming our energy – that story shows the value of investing not in keeping schools open but in creating spaces to rechannel their energy.
– with lilith’s brood, i have been thinking about the concept of the singularity – a friend of ours (kweli tutashinda) has been writing about how folks in the science world are moving closer to merging human genes and technology – and there are nearly cults that believe its the next stage of evolution. NASA had a conference about it – its coming. kweli writes about whats at stake for indigenous and grassroots communities in that shift?
– [editor’s note: this is making me reflect on how we keep recreating the technology to do what we know how to do naturally but have forgotten to practice: awanyu has to pretend to do things a normal way when she knows another way. telepaths having to speak. how do we release or re-member what we know how to do?]
– also reflecting on speculative democracy and we are all going to be impacted by it. access to technology is one way to experience this.

Then we shifted into small groups to think specifically about each series of Octavia’s work. We had two groups work on the Parables, a Patternist series group, a Xenogenesis group and a short stories/other group. What follows are their verbatim notes. Many folks signed up to stay in touch about this work – if you are interested as well, let me know.

Enjoy!

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Notes from the Short Story group. Starting off with a go around with names and the stories that brought us to this group:

– “The Morning, the Evening and the Night”
– “Speech Sounds”
– _Fledging_
– “Bloodchild”

Interest in
– what it means to be a writer
– class differences in “speech sounds”
– people of color scifi as a way of decontextualizing our struggles and framing them in a new light
– trauma as a context of transformation of people’s relationship to their bodies, their relationships and how they perceive reality in the short stories
– consent, parenting, what makes a familyand how we support each other in “bloodchild”
– disability in her stories. mental health.

Going deeper into one of the stories: Bloodchild

Question:
1. Octavia Butler says in the comments of Bloodchild that she is not writing about slavery unless she explicitly is writing about chatterel slavery. Do we agree with that? Do we believe her?

2. What are some reasons she might have said this?
– Pigeonholed as an African-American author
– Slavery as a specific historical instition
– Thinking about other forms of oppression

3. What do we understand as the relationship between Octavia Butler as an author and the statements of her narrators?

We are all vibrations. The moment we share here is a preparation for the next moment. She leaves her writing in order to prepare us for the next meeting.

Two people shared dreams related to Octavia Butler, touching on the power of our own prophetic dreams. Magical, prophetic experiences related to the AMC.

Being able to create, imagine bigger is a process of decolonization of our dreams. Our dreams have gotten smaller and smaller, but as we engage scifi in reading and in dreams, our imaginations can grow and decolonize.

PATTERNIST SERIES NOTES

How does immortality or longevity relate to morality?
(bc to them, there are no consequences)
> how does it relate to immortality as privilege
> longevity as privelege at the expense of other peoples live
>what is interdependence? (i.e. communities)
> there is a leader – the patternmaster – people are very resistant to the patternmaster
> what does it mean that there even IS a patternmaster?
> female leader/patternmaster was able to kill the male immortal thru the power of the network – she was like a conduit for their power, but she was actually controlled by them (the network) – question: what are the patterns of de-centralized leadership?
> what do the actual lines of de-centralized leadership look like?
> how to we go about accounting for the disabled – i.e. ppl born with the alien disease, ppl are disturbed by that/them… how do we affirm bodily differences? – in the world that we create?
> alot of tension btwn ideas of a scarcity mind-set vs an abundance mind-set…?
…theres this abundant amt of this energy in the world and the way to sustain it…
>how do we do the emotional work to help each other after the trauma?
“Is there more than just getting through the day?”
> Wildseed – reliance on gender-based binary set-up, then subverted into…? there is some gender-switching throughout, but still reverts back to male-female dichotomy.
> are you willing to be transformed into service work – patterns of people grouping together around ‘differences’ – how are we going to group in this way w/o one or the other eventually rising above in privelege?
> scarcity vs abundance mindsets – how does that play out in behavior patterns?
—also, does she illiustrate this in the form of class? does a “middle class” exist?
> didnt really touch on race in this discussion yet….
> white history + anthropology books gloss over human origins as being people of color…. and her way of presenting it is more an adam and eve thing… eden is africa, and its not the same idea of eden…
> evolution presented in a way of turning darwinism on its head and address instead human vs superhuman vs subhuman…?

<<< >>>

Notes from Parable Series 1
questions:
-How are these books closer to reality than fiction?
-Question for Parable of the Talents: Even if we have different values, how can we still relate to each other without disrespect? (based on Lauren and Marcos’ relationship, Marcos keeping Lauren’s daughter away from her, brainwashing her to keep away from Acorn)
-How do we within our movements really find ways to heal intergenerational stuff.
-What can Lauren’s daughter offer us? What kind of commentary is she offering through her resistance to Earthseed, and her mother’s obsession with ‘the cause’ at the expense of family. Often time we have outsider status within our own families because of our political work, where we are so often organizing other people’s family members and not our own.
-From perspective of whte folks/ those in power, the difference between sympathy and empathy, to learn that the pain they are inflicting is hurting them too… how to organize a world on those principals as well
-Ques. related to Lauren’s hyperempathy… How do you create spaces where we can strongly empathize what another’s feelings, when we have to deal with so much oppression and numbing ourselves becomes survival.
-Parable of the Talents freedom after acorn is taken over, mudslide scene: Planning you can do to move towards liberation and what happens our of control that can also help us. What role does faith play if a role at all. In what are you taking solace?
– Parable of the Talents: Snitching on the lesbian couple: How do we trust and build relationships in themidst of oppresive situations?
-Very end of the Series, and they are successful–imagining a way to move forward… the ship Earthseed leaves for the stars on is called Christopher Columbus… what is Butler saying there? Is Earthseed beautiful as something that works right here right now, what does it mean that they will move to colonize another planet?
-Preparation for the unpreparable… how can we make meaningful links with one another ahead of time before crazy apocolypse
– Black Church: apocolypse and prophesy, today’s 2012 phenomenon and how we are all talking about it… How are similar themes present in this series?
-How do we develop technology for social change in a hostile environment or co-opt technologies that have been used for say military defense.
Themes:
empathy in relations to power structure
belief in faith
Super-power of change

PARABLE GROUP 2:

Feelings, being overwhelmed by feeling – critical question about what does it mean to feel empathy?

Relationship between healing, empathy, creativity, movement

Gendered expression of feelings – how women are treated when they express their feelings and how men are treated when they express their feelings

(Kat) Wisdom and strength comes from pain. In POS POT, what wisdom and strength comes from pain and trauma? How is that healed, or how is it not healed?In our reality, how can we can respect and hold the wisdom that comes from pain and trauma, while healing from that. How can we respect the wisdom, while working to stop the trauma from happening to other people?

Source of pain is stolen daughter – how does she use that pain as a driving force?

What does OB believe her characters learn from trauma and how does that trauma help them approach their work, guides and motivates their work?

How OB talks about feelings – sometimes feels like a little dissociation/detachment – writes about humanity in a really big way, people facing trauma, but keep going – don’t have time for healing circles etc, we have to just survive always – role of emotions in OB’s work – processing trauma in a community way is really imp – reading POS POT – acorn built on concepts of interdependence, but not in an emotional way — (Tyrone)

(Jesse) That might also be part of dealing with trauma – part of impact of how trauma is dealt with in that book – example funeral ceremony where planting trees, realize the emotional content of the tree planting – something so interesting about the gathering ceremonies – they are about emotions, welcoming people into the community, transition life death – also logistical, are we going to build this thing or not, interdependence or not – intermeshed logistics and emotion – Olamina constantly being commented on as unemotional – all about blocking what you feel

How does distance from feelings help in POS/T? How does it cause problems?

(Kat thought) also she is saying that logistics and emotions can’t be separated

She felt deeply but her father was v stoic – looked upon as weakness to display emotion, something to be manipulated – overcompensating for that

When first began journey – what this looks like in our society – ppl who put on bigger clothing and takes a male identity – ppl in our reality do that too, to take the power of maleness –

(Josh) what is the role of empathy in our own work? Polit arguments based in empathy, or respect, what are the themes of our own work?

What is it that makes her – empathy, her father, her experiences?

When we have overwhelming feelings, how do we strategically deal with them in our work?

What are our rituals?

(Jesse) When we have political talk, we often talk in terms of hyper-empathy – how does Lauren separate/balance the empathy and maintaining her own strength? If she doesn’t get some distance, she loses focus and ability to work…

How do you distance yourself and be in it at the same time? Carrying and balancing empathy…

How do women assert our strength in our own form, as opposed to transitioning to someone else?

How do people assert strength in their true form, without being oppressive?

What is the role of body and gender performance to power in POS POT?

What stands in for gender normatively and lack of GN in OB’s books, and how do people use it, are influenced by it

Disability as strength, as community, as weakness, as vulnerability

Apocalyse – some people love her bc of our fantasies of the apocalypse

Agriculture, seeds, as related to food and freedom, and control

Religion – how do we embrace and reject religion, how does she do that in her books?

How do we balance logistics and emotions in our work? How does OB do that in POS POT? What lessons is she trying to share with us, what to learn?

—-

Lilith’s Brood
Questions: Cancer as a metaphor-the way the oankali can survive–how can we take what we see as inherently distructive and make them healing and liberatory?

what does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be alien?

What would I do if I were Lilith? Is the pleasure Lilith sucumbed to a tool for domination?

What is the place of pleasure in our work?

How do we frame the other? How do we define the othter/alien/immigrant?

How do we deal with our complicated reactions to difference? (looking at Lilith’s first experiences with Oankali)

How do generations surpass each other? How can we see more possibilities than those that come before us?

How can we raise our children recongnizing they are totally separate/different/other beings?

What are the connections between Lilith and the Lilith in the bibile? Within traditional Jewish beliefs?

How does the oankali explore gender is ways that are helpful/transformative to us? Related to how we see it? Limited?

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Other works

listen to:
Nina Simone’s 22nd Century
Tamar Kali’s Warrior Bones

read/join:
Carl Brandon Society – sci fi readers and writers of color
Minister Faust
Tanarive Due
Nalo Hopkinson
Jewelle Gomez
Nnedi
Janelle Monae’s whole songbook!

live blogging 50 for 5E

what is up beloved readers!

so i am at the 50 for 5E event [our last night in this venue] – a fundraiser for our Detroit community-owned hip-hop venue. the funds will go to the restoration/construction of the new venue.

the event will run from 5pm tonight till 5am tomorrow morning and i am gonna be liveblogging it for as long as i can hang! i just drank a big old iced coffee drink which should keep me poppin for at least the first 5 hours :)

i got dressed up for the event:

one of the freshest aspects of the event is the ticket package – tonight you can buy a $50 package [designed by Wes, 1/3 of the Emergence team] which includes 10 entries into the future 5E Gallery location [just down Michigan Ave from the venue we’re in tonight] and 5 drink tickets.

the first act i saw was karanji featuring the soul water band. the singer in the band has one of the loveliest voices i have ever heard come out of a man. there are 50 artists performing tonight – i hope this dude sings with all of them.

i have my computer so that i can get several hours of work done for ruckus and us social forum. i bring the movement to the club.

to balance that, i have not 1 but 2 flasks here tonight because people always get generous with my stash and it’s 12 hours after all. #don’tjudge.

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mz jonz is hosting right now. that enough is reason to stay all night – she is the funniest person i know who isn’t a paid comedian.

detroit has so much talent – aztec is rockin the stage right now. they took all the tables and chairs out to accommodate how packed it’s gonna get in here tonight. right now there’s a half-moon of folks trynna bop their heads as hard as his flow.

the most exciting thing to me so far is that Fowl is in the building. i worked with Fowl through Detroit Summer when he was a baby. Now he towers over me, and easily holds the title of “Person who is gonna be unbelievably famous real soon”.

self says has the whole room chanting ” i love myself – i like myself – i love myself – i like myself.” yes i do. you can chant from afar :)

Big A is on the microphone. this dude is so angry and political on the mic and then get him on the side and he is the sweetest person ever. he’s heading to lebanon for while – i really appreciate the content of his lyrics, he talks about the hardships of life and how love comes through it all.

fowl just rocked the mic – 3 songs but it coulda been 20 – he is such a star already :)

oh my goodness. a little baby just got up and rocked her abcs over the beat. that is what’s up.

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ok we been in it for a minute now. i am still going strong. if you check my twitter feed we’re posting occasional photos of folks who got the ticket package. you can donate online at 5egallery.org.

ok, finale just arrived. he took a pause from patiently waiting for his baby to arrive to come through and perform tonight. my girl dream just arrived looking lovely.

its beautiful to see all the familiar faces here tonight – this really has become a family event – folks roll through with their babies, folks come to support each other. there are folks in here who had their first performance ever in this spot. its a beautiful thing.

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ok we got 5 hours left…i can’t lie i am a little sleepy already. but i love 5E, and i love the folks who are here who haven’t performed yet. finale, invincible, miz korona, monica blaire, mz jonz…quest mccody? mu? big tone? yeah the night has barely begun. so i am hangin tough.

it helps that Jessica Care Moore has been hostin and performing. She is wearing the smallest purple thing that’s allowed outdoors – every time she walks outside it’s 5th avenue. this is the sound: “i’d fuck you but then i’d have to kill you – with interest, for your interest.” ok?

and the money is rolling in. you can give, no matter where you are! just go to 5e Gallery to donate from afar.

community venues are so important – 5E has hosted an all women’s hip-hop night which has revitalized the city. piper carter and sicari ware have put in hours of time, along with dozens of other members of the community, to create a truly beautiful space for folks to come together and create.

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wow an artist named dumani just got up and did a gorgeous rendition of lift every voice on electric guitar. that song is one of the most perfect things of all time, in my opinion. here’s the lyrics:

Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

in my research i just discovered [remembered?] that this song has many verses. some are very religious. this is on the list of stuff i have to learn for my repertoire of black music. being in this space tonight makes me remember that we have always come together and supported each other, created together, and made each other’s dreams possible. that’s all that is happening tonight – piper and sicari and invincible and others have organized a space to uplift the community and now the community is giving back.

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finally.

finale is on the stage. in my humble opinion, he is an unparalleled artist when it comes to speed and complexity, and he’s kind of the quiet storm. off-stage he’s quiet, humble, sweet. then he gets on and it’s just the most raw in your face flow you ever heard. he’s my favorite rapper in detroit after invincible. matter of fact – i’ll be right back.

+++

i have returned. 3 hours left. i went to check out finale and invincible performin together. these are two artists who are amazing on their own, but my first experiences always involved them performing together and i love the impeccable respectful energy present when they share a stage. it always feels a little dangerous, like they could push each other over some edge of quality into a new form of music. every time i see finale i feel an upswell of love that is reserved for my chosen brothers, which includes finale and sam, my sister’s husband, who i literally, instinctually call brother when i see him.

i wonder how clearly i am communicating at this point.

i wonder who the deep detroit readers are who are reading this 2:19 part of the blog :)

miz korona is now on the stage. she is slept on in a way that makes me wanna shake people. she was in 8 mile. in real life she is an incredibly raw, incredibly charismatic rhyme artist with a bullet proof delivery. “i’m from the zoo where the lions, tigers, and wolverines live…it’s a zoo i go ape/spit banana clips/ill monkey bars…”

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just went running like a screaming michael jackson fan to faint on the floor while monica blaire delivered, as she always does, the performance of the night. part of me wants her to be famous, and a smaller more selfish part wants to keep her here in detroit as the pearl in our oyster. i can’t even quite explain what happens when she sings. she dances. and she throws her head back in ecstacy. and then she opens her mouth and this thrilling, sensual, spiritual wall of sound comes out. she plays with you and then she delivers. on my very first trip to detroit, on my ride to the airport, my ride jenny lee passed me her cd. and i kind of fell out. i was a superfan before i ever got to see her live.

and then i saw her live.

i think she could save the world if her full power was unleashed on the masses. because she makes everyone feel better about themselves, and about being alive. she has two songs right now that are restorative: “i’m not scared any more of bein something great.” and then – “you’re a rocket/you’re on fire/you’re gonna take us/so much higher”. blast off.

really longing for skittles and m&ms at this point in the evening.

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ok now i am freaked out excited because diana nucera and i just made a date to make music with sterling on monday.

i honestly have no idea who is on stage – music is playing. i am asleep but still got my eyes open interacting with folks and writing this.

+++

it’s 4:18am. this is one of my favorite times to be asleep. being awake right now seems a little like an insult to my soul. or my body. i never used to do this without help.

i just met mike “agent x” clark – one of the best house djs ever. i didnt get to hear him but he’s on podomatic.com so go check him out.

wow – i had to correct my spelling like 18 times in that sentence alone. i am focusing and bringing myself into present. the desire to sleep is just because i am normalized to think i should be sleeping now. but i remember a time when i would always be up at this time on a saturday. and i would see the sunrise. wait for it.

ok y’all. the event is done, we are breaking it down. i could say a lot of things right now and the majority of them would be unacceptable for public consumption. i don’t know tho, this might be private writing at this point. i am literally writing just to move my fingers and thus be doing something and thus not sleep. drums still goin, music still goin, so we can bop while we clean. but that was quite the event and i am so excited to climb in my bed and stay there indefinitely.

thanks for reading!