Tag Archive for 'harriet tubman'

harriet is a north star

13 trips
70 people
no lost passengers
my people are free

19 trips
300 people
no lost passengers
my people are free

i can’t stop thinking about Harriet Tubman!

i think about all the resources she did not have at her disposal – grants, organizations, markers and post-its, masses, privilege, a copy machine, social media, social norms, a job that could be done with recognition and safety.

she did not have a perfect language with which to critique her oppressors, a quick way to travel, time to suffer fools.

she had a vision (my people are free), a theory of change (i will physically lead to freedom those who know they are slaves), a gift for adaptation (the underground railroad was about finding the next open space in a series of precarious moves across a deadly chess board) and her body.

1 raid
700 people
no lost passengers
my people are free

i have so many questions!

i wonder if she dealt with people who were made so heavy by their own sense of being victim that they could not take the first steps north.

i wonder what happened when she faced dissent, someone who questioned her leadership. if there were people who would follow her for a week and then say they’d found a better route, a better map in the sky.

when did she tell people about her episodes, her disability?

how did she trust each group of frightened strangers with her vulnerability and freedom?

did she ever feel imposter syndrome – ‘oh what do i know about the way to freedom, i’ve only been that way twice?’ if she ever wanted the recognition of the name Moses, if she just longed to do her work unseen.

how did she survive the heart betrayal of her husband, who found another wife while she was working on his freedom, who rejected her when she returned for him? who else did she love, who tasted her pleasure, who saw her private tears?

how did she know to sing as a strategy? how did she choose the song, the pace? how did she sound?

when the Civil War started, how did she decide to align her skills with spy work? and had she built relationships beyond her family and those she had freed, the relationships with armed white soldiers who said they were on her side? did she trust them?

13 trips
70 people
no lost passengers
my people are free

or 19 trips
300 people
no lost passengers
my people are free

freedom is the scale.

getting yourself to freedom, experiencing personal liberation, these are crucial acts, but not enough. we have to continue the risk, find the many ways to get each other free.

even when there is a price tag on our heads.

and it is not enough to know, in detail, how things are unfair. we have to know we are slaves, to see the evolving mechanisms of entrapment, to always keep one eye on the cage and one eye beyond it. we have to be able to show other people when the systems that fill the hours of their lives are stripping them of dignity and agency. we have to be impolite and disruptive. we have to move in the dark, quietly, listening for each other’s heartbeats, learning as we go.

we have to be willing to pull a revolver on those who, in their fear, would risk the lives and well being of everyone else. we have to be willing to say we will complete this journey to freedom, one way or another.

we have to give our lives to the future that comes through in our dreams. to talk directly to god, to listen directly. to be so much more than we’re told we should be, to be shocking, to be myth, leaving legacy.

8 years
so many trips, in the long winter nights
so many people, directly and indirectly
train ever on the tracks
no lost passengers
my people are free

Harriet guide me today
teach me generosity
adaptation and bravery
teach me the beauty of each small cluster
moving north, moving together,
moving towards liberation
teach me rigor
teach me humility
teach me to listen to the divine
directly, to let myself be well used
remind me that you did the work in hiding, in danger, hoping no one would know your name
teach me to sing when the way is clear
teach me to make freedom more compelling than the slow death of slavery
teach me to work alone and in interdependence that requires astonishing trust
break my heart in order to keep me moving
keep my mind set on freedom
remind me that all the time
and even now
my people are free

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black august reflections and poems, week 1

i am fasting from food and water today. i’ve been tidying my house, listening to records on my new little turquoise victrola, burning frankincense and sage and reflecting on this week.

what kind of surrender is necessary to become a prisoner? to surrender to each day, and continuing to build connections and relationships and ideas even though society will not make room for your freedom? to surrender to the work you can still do?

i feel the limits of this time. the limits of us in movements, how we cannot grow beyond our trust of each other, but we still refuse to offer each other more trust. the limits of analysis, how once we have it we don’t want to welcome those who don’t share it to our table. the limits of communication, we are calling each other on compromised lines, making our plans on corporate ground. there are cages of body and cages of mind and connection and our movements are operating inside all of these.

i love black august, both for the foundational intention of remembering and uplifting political prisoners, and for the ways we reach for each other as black people all month in poem and practice. i think we grow in this month.

i’m practicing many things this black august, including writing to political prisoners, mostly from this list. i’m also practicing writing haiku poems, a collective practice i believe is 10 years old now.

here are some of the poems from this week.

reclaiming my time
singing it out: surrender
precious black hours

reclaiming my time
dancing inside boundaries
feeling small and free

– so happy #blackaugust #blackaugust575 is here! thank you congresswoman maxine waters!!

we cannot ungrieve
the black death experience
it walks with our bones

we weep like icebergs
drowning the world in sorrow
boiling but so slow

we lose tender minds
broken inside the onslaught
spilling everything

we only have us
we only have this thin love
to start the fire

we are not yet dead
we can still do anything
never forget this

we are not dead yet
do anything we still can
let’s break everything
– #blackaugust575

may every cage
you build up, and go fill up,
capture your own dreams

may each wall on earth
block your food come from the sky
no door, no window

may your circling feet
step on wolf tooth and shark jaw
a bloody stumble

may each innocent
punished long for one mistake
crowd your memory

when you glance back, may
you finally understand
we were always free

– #blackaugust575 #blackaugust
thank you Harriet Tubman for the spell “my people are free”

Baldwin, Lumumba
are you in conversation
and can you hear us?

Baldwin, twenty three
when Lumumba came to us
y’all became massive

now, tributaries
flow from you, flowing through us
onwards to freedom

– birthday haikus #blackaugust575 #blackaugust

you are terrified
that what makes you man is glass
already shattered

you are deluded
think control is in your hands
and can be taken

you crown yourself king
punish the non believers
who can taste your heart

you can’t erase us
you can’t subject us to myth.
change, or disappear.

someone lied to you
for centuries, forever
but we are still true

we been loving you
and we’re no longer martyrs
no longer afraid

become relevant
uncage your self, surrender
let yourself be held

divine masculine
disarm yourself, surrender
don’t get left behind

– #blackaugust575 #blackaugust

we learned to eat wrong
to think all the time of nothing
we learned not to want

black girls go hungry
in a million bleeding ways
black girls underfed

I disappeared me
I ate to erase myself
to tidy the mess

I ate my questions
I ate to soothe the fire
I ate to ghost me

we starved since we came
who can eat without welcome
without dignity

we starved since we came
full up on acidic rage
appalling longing

we learned to eat wrong
now we swallow each other
word by sacred word

we learned to read stars
we stopped looking down, or back
you beaming you lead

we learned to eat wrong
we learning to feed ourselves
our mouths wide open

– #blackaugust575
dedicated to Tchaiko, Roxane and Meshell for an inspiring night.

your heart might get caught
not a feeling but a state
a cage of longing

your breath can be trapped
in a flutter of kisses
promises, questions

I never give up
I get tiny, then I grow
be patient. I am.

– a love haiku

I start with my love
traverse wild interior
and end with my love

build you an altar
black skin, black longing, black heart
cast you all my spells

I come from my love
impossible and still true
my miracle love

I fight from my love
I don’t know right from wrong yet
I am learning, love

freedom is in love
when the whole world is the cage
I see your freedom

freedom is your love
the whole world is made of bars
only you hold me

– love song to black people
#blackaugust575 #blackaugust

black august 2016 week 1 poems

you like me quiet
you like me caged or buried
you like submission
.
you like me waiting
you like me demanding more
you like ownership
.
you like me dancing
you like me begging, pleading
you like all my need
.
i promise one thing
the time is coming, is here
when you won’t like me

i see the future
centered and noncompliant
we can walk through walls

i see the future
we are not above our fear
we weaponize it

i see the future
the babies are sassy, wild
freedom protected

i see the future
in each of your black faces
whispering our dreams

i see the future
all of us in our wholeness
irresistible

home is a love song
spun between bodies and breath
catching only good

dragon’s blood burning
sweat in the dark of our dance
we get down to heal

gratitude moves us
into the ocean of yes
that loosens our bones

we, now, are enough
to open portals and touch
the divine, the whole

notice who grows you
who will not settle for less
than your everything

follow her slinking
follow him grinding and popping
harriet and preacher

follow her moonwards
follow him out past your skin
tubman and prophet

taste our resilience
the salt on our cheeks unhushed
we deserve grief time
.
armed And protected
our backs sourcing our advance
we spread over earth
.
secrets in kitchens
blueprints and freedom dances
‘i love being black’
.
sangin and smokin
we make up new rituals
beyond the moonlight

mike brown, our lost child
we met you as a body
we would grow to love
.
down here in the dirt
you left us changed by our grief
precious and lost child
.
in ancestral realms
we nourish with attention
put life on your name
.
down here in the dirt
we learning black love, learning
resistance magic

i just want to say
black august is nourishing
lets sing all the time


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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.

a season of love (for all those killed with impunity)

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

– assata shakur

first, we must love ourselves enough to believe in the fundamental rights we have to breath, to be children, to grow up, to love and protect, to walk and play and disobey, to live until we die, not because our skin scares someone empowered by the state to kill us, but because our bodies are appropriately tired from all the living and loving we did.

we must love ourselves like spring, bursting through any containers that cannot grow with us.

i freed a thousand slaves
i could have freed a thousand more if only they knew
they were slaves

– harriet tubman

second, we must love everyone who shares this lineage of being on the dark side of white supremacy. to ferociously, obstinately, loudly and unapologetically love the majority of the planet. to be unafraid to see every black and brown person as a potential comrade. because as patrisse, opal and alicia teach us, black lives matter.

we must love like summer, storming, burning off the surface, sun and rain in the same moment, double rainbow style inspirations, wildfire alchemists.

if you come here to help me
you are wasting your time
but if you come because your liberation is bound up with mine
then let us work together

– aboriginal activists group, queensland, 1970s

third, we must love those who open themselves up against the trajectory of their lineages, who learn, who teach themselves to love us when they have been socialized not to. this means loving those who benefit from a system that doesn’t love us, but work against it in their hearts, beliefs, families, jobs, and actions.

here we must love like fall, stripped down to the spare truth with each other. let the assumptions and projections that keep us from each other be bright enough in their dying to make us gasp, and then fall away – they are illusions. the construct of race is deadly, but it is still a construct. let history give us rich soil to hibernate in – each other. we need each other. we need everyone to stand up for their own humanity in this moment, advancing the work of black lives mattering on all of our divergent front lines.

love has within it a redemptive power…there’s something about love that builds up and is creative. there is something about hate that tears down and is destructive…love your enemies.
– martin luther king, jr

and finally, especially in these moments, we must work to love those who place themselves against us as our enemies, our oppressors. this doesn’t mean forgiving without due process, or allowing to move forward without accountability and critique. in fact it is the opposite, it is loving in the highest sense – compassion.

we must learn to see that the violence they walk with is, all the time, inside of them, make them so so sick. we cannot let them slip by, killing us quietly. we must put the light on them – those images of modern day lynchings, the memories of that violence that brings us to tears, to raging in the streets…that death energy is a toxic poison of guilt festering inside of those who fear and kill us, and they in turn rot our communities, our societies.

racism is a sickness, viral in our species. and it is tricky, reducing the mind that carries it to the least viable, least sophisticated of world views. if we cannot be compassionate for violently racist people, recognizing this behavior as a sickness, we are at risk of confusing their violence and control with the power we seek to gain and share.

to be the worst of humanity is not a power, it is a trauma.
to need lies and corruption to protect your power shrinks the soul.
to be the most inhumane and racist among us and be unable to receive the balm of justice, the release of a genuine apology, the embrace of other people who feel safe in your presence – it must be unbearable. i would not wish that on any human being.

for these people, mostly white men, who are pulling these triggers…for their humanity, and for our species to move beyond this fatal sickness, i want them to feel the righteous hand of justice that comes with real love. i want them to feel the kind of justice i watch the best parents in my life offer the children i live for…’because i love you, i must stop everything right now and give you my attention, to correct you, i cannot let you behave this way, hurt yourself and me and others this way. you must apologize…do you understand what you did and why?’

this kind of love stops everything, so that the violence, the misbehavior, cannot be normalized.

this kind of love yields transformative justice, it reaches all the way down to the root, the part of the wound that is tender and swollen and full of pus and smells like the end of everything. this kind of love is not saintly, it is pragmatic. it is the nurse, midwife, doula, doctor, healer, shaman, witch, magician, neighbor, sister, friend willing to touch, clean, soothe, amputate, say spells, exorcise, journey, listen and find the possibility for healing.

and in this season, this last love feels like winter. when a loved one has to turn away from the violence and leave the violator to contemplate himself, or reach like an icy wind under the collar and through the ribs, or to shut down all the systems that allow the violator to normalize his behavior, it is a cold time.

we must freeze racism and white supremacy – armed and unarmed – out of our system, give it no place to grow. the love we offer here cannot be meted out in half measures. everywhere, winter.

we are the anomaly. our actions must be as unyielding and show stopping as that wall of snow in buffalo.

and of course we know, in the cyclical intelligence of our cells, that winter is a season of abundant nourishing for the land, water piled on top of water just waiting to be swallowed. love made visible.

when you see our rage piling up, snowballing, know that it IS our love.

we have been learning to practice love in actions of collective rage, collective redistribution of resources, and collective healing. our actions stop traffic, stop business as usual, close the schools, interrupt the speeches and the holidays – we love in ways that localize our brilliance.

we divest from the system that refuses to provide justice. we love each other by investing in each other.

join the efforts in any way you can – let’s each be clear about the things we are best at, the things which give us the particular joy that comes from being in our purpose – don’t worry, it can be multiple things. do these things as part of the larger effort for black lives.

if you are a creator, create in ways that ‘wage love’, as charity hicks taught us, that challenge small thinking and uplift black lives.

if you are an organizer or an activist, fill yourself up with righteous vision, take leadership from those most directly effected, stay hydrated, and disrupt the system at every turn. ‘turn your rage into love’, as keith cylar taught us.

if you are a parent, model and speak the message ‘black lives matter’ to your children all day, and make sure to be a presence for black lives mattering in their schools, day care, everywhere.

if you are a healer, donate a day of your work’s earnings to the efforts in ferguson (december 18 is a first day that healers will be doing this, sparked by leah lakshmi piepzna-samarasinha), or answer adaku utah’s call to offer healing to those putting their bodies on the front lines.

invest your time, money and energy into black organizing, black wholeness, black arts, black lives. this battle requires every kind of action.

and yes, some of the most direct actions may seem violent, disrupting business as usual, destroying property. think of it as survival. when someone is choking, drowning, dying, the body becomes very intelligent and willing to do anything to continue. individually and collectively, we are trying everything, and we are being brilliant, so that we, and our children, survive.

because our root cause, our root purpose, is love.

this is not the beginning, this is not the end. but this moment is ours, to ‘bend the arc towards justice’. this battle is a devastating and crucial place to be intentional about how we are showing up, what we are embodying. the superpower we need to be cultivating now is love. radical, unapologetic love.

hands up, pull it down.

#nojusticenochristmas #cancelchristmas #buyblack #blacklivesmatter #blacklove