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.

lemonade. masterpiece.

‘beyoncé is fully in her power and is inviting you to be in yours.’ celeste faison, sitting on couch of the house im staying in in oakland where we are watching lemonade.

with love. this is not a review and this is not for folks who ain’t see it yet.

this is my third time watching and i am looking for a flaw but all i see is

warsan shire poetry
kahlil joseph’s eye
blackness behind and ahead

beyoncé’s heart and brilliance and collaborative spirit
lemonade

mervyn marcano said ‘lemonade on HBO was a visual masterpiece. beyonce’s curation is on another level. some of our best living artists collaborating to make magic. streaming the music now, but that visual piece stands on it’s own.’

y’all. y’all.
it’s black love
the next chapter of Her visual album, with direct responses
to partition and jealous and drunk in love and blue and to herself
just then
across both the visuals and the lyrics

‘grief sedated by orgasm
orgasm heightened by grief
god was in the room

sometimes when her nipple was in his mouth
she’d whisper oh my god
that too was a form of worship’

black womanhood and our pain and our irresistability and our grief
from serena’s perfection
to the mothers of the slain

the adoration of the natural world
water everywhere
moon to flood
reflection to truth

nina and malcolm
zora neal and toni

the journey all over black america
the love of black girls and griots
the use of witchcraft, magic, dreams and spells to heal the heartbreak

jay-z’s eyes

transformation, transformative justice
the power of love, vulnerability, walking away until you can be seen in your wholeness –
truth and reconciliation
‘there is a curse that will be broken’

daniel jose older said ‘beyoncé wrote the great american novel and made it into a music video.’

celeste said, ‘thank you Bey- from this black women. this is surely a part of our story. the relationship, the dad, the slain boys. this conjuring, setting prayer, this is the prose of a spell and the breaking of curses. yes. y’all – this is a prayer. a testimony and a fierce warrior call.’

to reiterate this is not a review, its a godbless and thank you after three days of tears, knowing how important it is to give artists the glory and gratitude they earn while they live.

idrissa louise said, ‘Prince had a premonition and said “they gone be alright”‘. she is not speaking in hyperbole.

i know beyoncé had to consider delaying this because we just lost Prince and to go thru with this she had to know she was offering something that would be good, now.

beyoncé took us inside. herself and ourselves and all the women before us. through love and politics and spells and fashion and mirrors. and babies, here and lost.

orgasm and grief.
miscarriage and release. resurrection and life.

‘so we’re gonna heal’

how to have a creation retreat (advance) any time, any place

i am on a reading/writing retreat/advance in mexico, and it is so precious and delicious. i have been reflecting on what makes it so good, and realizing that the majority of elements are ones i conjure up to advance my creative work any time, any place.

the word retreat is familiar, but really it’s an advance – taking the time to move forward intentionally in my life’s work.

so, partially to remind myself, partially to spark creative time for you, here goes.

1) time.

set aside time to get lost in the work. this might be an hour, a day, three weeks, a couple of months. obviously more time is better, though some people thrive in the small window. you know what you need. but don’t postpone until you get the biggest chunk of time. think of every moment as time you are intentionally feeding your creativity. when you are hungry, you don’t say, ‘well this meal isn’t big enough, better wait for the feast’. you nourish yourself (on local grassfed organic gluten free sugar free foods, but if that’s not there, pizza or goat curry also works, feel me?). small also opens the door to large. when you use an hour well, your system starts rearranging your circumstances, wanting more.

creating with others may work well for you, again, know thyself. be wary of work dates, be honest about who you can actually create next to or with. don’t cocrastinate, it will only grow resentment in all directions.

say no during this time, to plans, lunch dates, phone calls. scheduled things with others can disrupt the flow. tell beloveds you will see them on the other side. let people root for your creator self by giving you time.

the exception to this is if toni morrison, or toshi reagon, or kiese laymon, or beyonce, or bjork calls you to go out and talk about creating things. otherwise, it can wait.

time is the first way to nourish your creativity.

2) disconnect.

the whole internet with it’s crises and food porn and subtweets and azealia banks will be there when you’ve finished creating something. the texts and emails are generally not as urgent as they seem – be as responsive to your creativity as you are to the projected world.

airplane mode is a gift from the gods-of-getting-your-life-together. disconnecting will deepen your sleep, sharpen your awareness of the actual place and moment you are in, and give your mind a little room from the words of others to actually hear yourself. turn the outer world back on only after you have completed something.

it’s not even disconnecting really, it’s giving yourself the space to connect to your creative self. prioritize that connection which buzzfeed cannot capture.

3) input.

make a list of all of the artists, writers, musicians and other creators who inspire you, who are better than you, who are part of your field. ask for recommendations from people who are familiar with your work. spend part of your time inhaling, devouring, analysing, being humbled by and filling up on the work of other artists.

i like to juxtapose creative things, listening to jay-z while reading toni cade bambara. but do it how you like. you might need to take things in on their own. but take in the intentional arts of your possible peers.

don’t only take in art that is in your field either. poetry and essays are essential ingredients of great fiction. the natural world can teach you how to describe love. genius teaches in many ways, be open to unexpected inspiration.

4) options. give yourself multiple outlets through which your creations can flow.

i am here primarily to write, but i have a sketchbook, a small notebook for ideas, a journal for personal reflection and clearing, magazines to collage, a recording app if songs come, and the device i am writing on now for actual story writing and editing.

even if you just have a sketchbook and a journal, you’ve widened the options. stories can come as sketches, charts, character drawings, jumbles of many faces, photography, poetry, freedom songs. the main thing is to have a way to grab it when the genius comes.

5) supplies.

i think of prepping for a creation advance like prepping for a sport. i need water! i need food that is quick to prepare and meets the nutritional needs of my body. i love to cook beautiful meals for myself, basic delicious stuff i can prepare on the front end to heat and eat – brown rice stir fry, quinoa and veggies, frittata, etc.

give yourself as few escapes as possible – needing to go get food can be a procrastination move.

i also need all the creation options mentioned in point 4. chargers, pens, paper, ritual items (see 6). have it all ready to go on the front end.

the inputs – a stack of books, real ones and kindle downloads. also amazing playlists that make you want to put out.

and i think we all need what i think of as the valve, or pleasure, supplies – i want my body to feel good throughout the work. wine, whiskey, weed, sex toys – ways to celebrate a good day’s work. bookend the retreat/advance with body treats, have a massage booked, or go to a sauna. the body is the creative tool, treat it well.

6) ritual.

creating is the work of god(s), so set the sacred space. i create an altar for my work, pull tarot cards about what i should be open to, and start my writing days with journaling, yoga, meditation and somatic practices. i brush my teeth, i like to smell good for my creativity.

i also tidy the space where i am going to create – dishes, bed made. basic stuff, as cleaning can become a procrastination too. but clear space leaves more room for the new things.

your ritual might be coffee, a prayer, a long run, a mantra (i think i can, i dream i do, i breathe brilliance) or sitting mindfully in your studio. it can change as you go too, it’s the spirit of ritualizing your creative life that matters. creating a practice ground, where anything can happen.

mind body earth and spirit create, it’s not just your brain and fingers. i am thrilled here to be able to swim in the ocean each day, read in the sun, write in my hammock. i know that i write more under these conditions, so i have started keeping a fund for this purpose, going someplace warm, near the ocean, in the winter. but this is rare, and i don’t want my creating to be rare. at home i put on music, turn the heat up so i can wear tropical attire, light incense, and do the ritual, noticing my outer and inner worlds before i drop in.

7) spark.

everything up until now is setting the conditions. this is the fire pit, the dry ready wood, the abundant kindling, the paper, the air, the longing for warmth. now the spark might come at any time.

i often ritual, journal, read, draw, and then the spark comes, but sometimes it comes as i am drifting to sleep, or first thing when i wake up, or as i am biking past a tree. sometimes one spark will come while i am pursuing another – good problems!

the spark receives the highest honor, everything else is secondary. i stop whatever i am doing – reading, cooking, biking, dreaming – to blow on the spark, cultivate it, welcome it.

that spark is why we are here.

reviews: on the run, long division, fka twigs, and more!

so the world has been really giving us a toxic dose of black suffering and bodies under assault lately. it feels like half the black names i hear in the news belong to people who have just lost their lives to some sort of injustice. i feel it is important in this context to uplift some of the joy, creativity and beauty that black folks are up to around the globe. i picked four things that have lifted my gloom and grief of late.

1. my own life!

i just want to shout out my life right now. my friend patrisse recently told me that my black life matters, and i appreciated the specificity, the demand really to live a life that matters.

i feel like many threads are finally weaving together. i am placing as much of my facilitation work as possible in the container of emergent strategy, and i am taking on clients and mediations left and right – there are so many intimate moments and processes that need gentle hands. i find i have a different attention for it, for the scale of small deep change. it is the level at which i am currently reveling.

also, walidah and i announced this last week but AK Press picked up octavia’s brood!!

i am also on a refresher sugar cleanse, with a growing awareness that i am in a transparent and lifelong mindfulness practice around sugar that is, in both the ancestral and healing games of life, revolutionary. basically, i am (we are) immersed in a world that wants to give me (us) sugar instead of watching me (us) cry or laugh or live.

nah son.

2. fka twigs

this is the sexiest album and artist of 2014 (not counting beyonce, obviously). i started with the video two weeks, which had such a gorgeous afrofuturist effect that i giggled and clapped my hands together with joy and tried to get everyone i know who likes badass women of color and sci fi to watch it.

then i watched the video for pacify and blushed and averted my eyes in erotic overwhelm. and then watched it a few more times. her music, over two EPs and an LP, plays seamlessly, emotionally accurate, steamy, smooth, sensual and complicated.

watch, listen…i am excited to see and hear more from her.

3. long division

this book! i know i am late and he has a whole nother book out but…

kiese laymon managed to write a laugh-out-loud-and-cry-about-the-truth-of-racism narrative about a brilliant chubby black boy in the south. i couldn’t put it down. my sister autumn told me she had a book for me to read about time travel, the 80s, race, the south, spelling bees. i ran towards it.

i don’t want to say too much about it because it is the kind of wild journey that is best experienced in your own hands.

but i will say that i like you, and therefore i want you to read it.

also, i shouted him out on facebook and he totally responded and i am still lit up about the modern world of fandom.

4. on the run tour, hbo

i have no real excuse for not seeing the on the run tour in person. i had logistical challenges, yes, i was traveling and not in the same city as them at the right time. but…beyonce and jay-z together? i should have been there. i wanted to be there.

so when i learned it would be aired on hbo, i added it to my calendar. i made sure that i had the kind of internet that has hbo with it (it’s called internet plus on comcast and it’s all i have wanted forever). when i realized i would be traveling when it aired, i made sure i could get hbo at my sister’s house while i was out there taking care of the babies with my mom. i made sure the babies were asleep on time. i recorded it, while watching it, so i could watch it again. and so my sister could watch it. i then returned to detroit and watched it a few more times.

i have some thoughts.

there was one major problem with it, and it was a big one, so let’s get it out of the way. the way the concert was edited was upsetting. they changed camera angles every 3-5 seconds for most of the first two thirds of the concert. it was exhausting, it was an onslaught…an onslaught of incredible performance!, yes, but an onslaught nonetheless.

i wanted the sports experience, you know? my dad watches sports on tv and he says it is often better to watch it from home. you get to see more details. this was the opposite. i was having to fight way too hard to see bey’s outfits and perfect laughter and diverse dance moves and references. it was like standing behind the tall guy at the concert. a smile would start on her lovely face and then the camera would cut away. or worse, go slow motion. jay-z’s camera work was much more steady and i actually got to really see him emote, perform, work the crowd, be brilliant.

the rumors are that she is pregnant and that is why there was so much camera play. but i saw the dance for you video and she is delectable pregnant, so i don’t quite buy that, i think they were showing off how many cameras they had. and whew, when we got to see her move? it was magnificent.

so, that said.

there were beautiful transitions and exciting blends of their older hits into their modern shared aesthetic, skewed more hip-hop than i expected on the fashion tip. i love watching that woman perform, and i loved watching bey and jay go back and forth.

the whole concert is framed as a bonnie and clyde love affair tragedy, with the disclaimer ‘this is not real life’ popping across the screen. about halfway through the concert the songs start to move from tossing greatest hits back and forth to what played out as an intimate conversation between them, around when bey rages like a blood dragon on ‘ring the alarm’.

at this point, the camera work slowed down a bit.

‘drunk in love’ had several moments of jay looking at beyonce with gleeful disbelief, like he is having the time of his life with his favorite person. i realized watching that look on his face that i adore him. i also realized that the show has a sort of tina and ike turner revue energy in several places. i continue to want to ask them about that song, what it means to them.

there are little movie clips all along, one with her drunk and half dressed trying to reach him on the phone which ends, brilliantly, with the line, ‘nothing open at 3am but legs’. another with her riding a horse, bouncing on a saddle in what appears to be a white thong under a wedding dress. just gifts and gifts.

i must note that i feel so curious about public conversations on jealousy and infidelity and honesty and healing, the real things that happen in relationship which we don’t discuss and thus have a hard time learning around.

that they could argue, as all couples do, and then collaborate at this scale, which almost no couples do, is a testament, although i am not sure if it is to their professionalism or their mutual adoration.

either way, her magnificent hype wifeyoke on holy grail changed the song for me, now i hear it and forget whoever originally sang the hook, i just see her dropping low and it fills me with joy.

i have extensive notes on this concert, but what matters most to me is the flow that begins with the last verse of song cry, where jay speaks of giving and receiving pain in front of video of bey being wounded. that transitions to beyonce singing resentment wearing a wedding veil and white slacks, sitting on stage singing in a way that feels righteous and vindictive and fair and powerful. i was with her every step of the way. this song slays me, it feels like the heart of the matter. it isn’t about what people do, but how we honor the trust that sits at the heart of partnership.

the camera stays right on her face for most of this song, and she is worthy of the singular focus. she looks like catharsis embodied. grown and scarred and tender and fierce and truly deeply beautifully shady in the BEST way. it’s my favorite act of her play, every time i see it.

then she BRUSHES THE DIRT OFF HER SHOULDER. and LAUGHS.

so liberating. and then it cuts to footage with her saying, ‘love is an act of endless forgiveness. forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me. forgiveness is the final act of love.’ and takes us to love, saying ‘after all the pain there’s love’, and she transitions into ‘love on top’, and we realize we want to forgive everyone. because love wins.

i was fully buzzing by this point, camera work woes forgotten.

the last section of the concert is us getting to watch beyonce and jay-z love on and celebrate each other, looking into each other’s eyes, astounded by how awesome it is to be the best things ever. they face each other for ‘part 2’ and just look smitten and beautiful. they hold each other and sing ‘halo’ to blue ivy and it is the kind of black love we need to see: big and bright and loud and over the top, awesome, complex, healing, friendly, respectful, fun, glamorous, fierce and so on.

now i want them to take a year off to just love on each other, on a boat, with no paparazzi or internet. i doubt they will, but i am rooting for them, that all of this vulnerability translates into earned joy.

p.s. i have been listening to jay nonstop since the concert came out, studying and enjoying his genius in a new way, as a lovable, forgivable man. that twinkle in his eye? flawless.