#blackband: how to, a reflection

#blackband: how to, a reflection

i am just over a week into the practice of wearing a black band on my left arm as a statement of grief, and as a statement against white supremacy in all it’s manifestations.

it’s been a beautiful, simple practice so far. people either already know why i am doing it or, when they hear my reason, vigorously agree with my rationale.

i have had people ask me questions about how to participate in #blackband, so here are some answers (with the caveat that i am learning the practice as i go):

1. where do i get a #blackband?

i made mine from old leggings. other friends have made bands from t-shirts and bandanas, or taken black ribbon or hair bands or bracelets and created their bands. my friend sabrina, a detroit artist, drew hers on with permanent marker. my friend adela showed me the black band of one of her sacred tattoos that inspired me to consider that for my next step.

i love the DIY nature of this so far. it was a deeply personal commitment for me to don a black band, and making/finding my band, imbuing it with intention, feels like part of the strength and magic in it.

2. where do i wear it?

left side of body, closest to your heart. i have been wearing mine around my left arm just above or just below my elbow.

you can wear it right on skin or over clothes – visibility is important.

if you don’t have a left arm or wearing it on your arm isn’t possible, wear it on your left leg. if you don’t have a left leg or wearing it on your leg isn’t possible, pin a black circle to your left side, near the heart.

wear it to all of your life, in transit, at work, in sacred spaces. let your resistance be constant.

3. i have my band on. now what?

once i had my band on, i invited conversation around it. i let my friends, family and y’all know what i was doing and why. now i answer strangers who ask about it, pointing them to resources for more information based on their entry point – black folks i point towards ongoing movement for black lives work, non-black people I point towards amazing solidarity work. i invite them to join me if they are tired/devastated by white supremacy and constant grief.

it’s been interesting to hear the responses – a few black folks have said their skin is their black band, and others have said it feels important as a black person in a professional environment to wear the black band to counter the way white supremacy wants to normalize the trauma.

some of my friends indulge me in what they see as my practice, others take it on. i am not pushing it on people, i am inviting us to make visible our resistance in a world that wants to silence us with fear.

i do notice that each time i see someone take it on i feel a bit safer. audre lorde taught us “your silence will not protect you.” the black band feels like a vocalization and harmony.

3. so…can non-black people wear a blackband? can white people wear it?

absolutely!

i wasn’t really thinking about this part when i committed to wearing the black band, but lots of non-black people have been asking me about it and rocking the black band and it feels really important and comforting to see non-black people visibly making a statement against white supremacy and anti-blackness.

it’s an emergent win.

for non-black #blackband-ers i would ask a few things:

– that you pair the wearing of the band with a monthly/sustainer donation to BOLD, blacklivesmatter, byp100, or other groups affiliated with the movement for black lives. support local work led by black people. (donations of any size count – $5 a month from a million nonblack people would really increase what our movements can do and i believe there are more than a million nonblack people who are against white supremacy in this country)

– for white people especially: be ready to be transformed. look to the thorough analytical work of catalyst or the action network of surj for other practices to be in to unlearn white supremacy.

– and if you haven’t yet, bring it up to friends and family explicitly. have the conversations i can’t have with your parents and grandparents, with your kids.

4. how long are you wearing the black band?

i don’t know yet. it may be the rest of my life. i need to see explicit and significant advances of justice and liberation for my people. a lot of people have to wake all the way up to make those advances real. i see the black band as a small daily direct action that helps to turn up the volume on that ‘white supremacy is over’ alarm. i suspect when it is no longer needed, we will all know.

below are images of three people wearing the band – taylor renee aldridge, aurora levins morales, erin ní chonaill, paury flowers, chelsea cleveland, and leah lakshmi piepzna-samarasinha (in black lace!!):

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Caring for Ourselves as Political Warfare

protests and actions can give us the highest highs and the most gut wrenching terrors or deepest disappointments. in the midst of wildly inspiring actions and protests happening worldwide, there is increasing racialized violence and the urgency of trying to grab this moment, the feeling of pressing up against our edges.

i invited adaku utah, leah lakshmi piepzna-samarasinha and susan raffo to generate an offering of practices to restore us to ourselves, to recenter us on why we are here and doing this work. autumn brown and maryse mitchell-brody are developing a guide with many others for how to create a healing justice practice space.

remember, audre lorde teaches us: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

we need all of us:

    PRE-PROTEST SELF CARE TIPS

adaku

Cast a Heart Spell

HEART SPELL
Return to yourself
Light a candle
Inhale the air that surrounds you, from the soles of the Earth to the crown of the galaxies
Open your heart with breath, with life force
Feel your heart expand with the rhythms moving through you
Exhale
Inhale
See light fill all empty spaces
Awaken the tree within
Breathe your limbs tall
Your roots deep
Exhale
Inhale
Expand heart muscle even wider
Push past boundaries
Break through chains
Reach for your power
Digest its dimensions
Fill through cracks
Pulse with life
Exhale
Inhale
Deep
Deeper
Anchor yourself to the love that is you
to the love that is your ancestors
to the love that is life
to the love that can never be stolen
Radiate this truth
Strong enough to break restrictions
Exhale
Inhale
Increase the flow of love
Let each breath be a magic spell you cast upon yourself

If you will be protesting using #BlackLivesMatter, take some time to remind and align yourself with the inspiring herstory of this movement led by the brilliance of Black Queer women Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza. www.blacklivesmatter.com

Create a poster or chant that is an affirmation and embodiment of the resistance and resilience of Black People. Last week I came up with this chant/mantra I kept repeating to myself during the march:: White supremacy you tryna fuckin rule.. NO.. Black love will rise over you!

If you do not have capacity to hold up a sign during the protest, write the affirmation somewhere you can see. I often write on my palms or glove, a sticker I can place on my water bottle, a cloth patch I can safety pin on my jacket or write something on a piece of my clothing.

Pack a wellness bag for you and comrades. Ask what will sustain and take care of you and your team while you are protesting. Here are some things that I’ve learned to put in mine as I am supporting wellness for myself and community members during protests (Giving thanks to Black Cross Health collective, fellow wise comrades and my intuition for these resources!):

the National lawyers Guild number
Lots of water in a water bottle to drink and to wash of your skin or eyes if needed
healthy snacks and fruits
warm, comfortable protective shoes you can move and run in
extra warm layers if its fall or winter (gloves, scarves, hand and toe warmers)
zip-lock with bandana soaked with cider vinegar (water if nothing else). It can aid in breathing during chemical exposure
shatter-resistant eye protection
fresh clothes in plastic bag (in case yours gets contaminated by chemical weapons)
inhaler, epi-pen, insulin or other meds/healing herbs if applicable
several days of prescription medication and doctor’s note in case of arrest
protective herbs and crystals ie sage, cedar, osho root, onyx, amethyst
Nervous system tinctures: oatstraw, motherwort, lemon balm
Rescue remedy flower essence
Throat lozenges
tampons and pads
first aid kit

Check out these amazing action additional tips from the Audre Lorde Project.

Learn the language of your body and spirit. Notice how your body chooses to respond in the midst of certain people/certain places/certain types of actions/certain types of inactions/certain times of the day/certain times of the month/certain types of noise/certain types of movement. What do you notice? Does what arises bring you ease or tension? Being numb or not knowing is totally fine too and is also information about how your body is choosing to show up at that given moment. Write down, draw or remember what you discover. Affirm what is happening. Your body, spirit and intuition are such incredible guides that can support how we live. Without judgement, recognize that your body has unique ways of responding to what is happening inside and outside of you. Many of these responses have been powerful protection tools that continue to keep you alive.

Create safety and/or support plans in advance. Ask yourself and community that you trust, what will I/we do if ____________ happen? How would I/we like to be supported? Icarus Project has a great tool.

Figure out what your capacity is. Can you protest for 1 hour or 7? Are you currently recovering from illness and need to shift your form of resistance outside of the streets? Are you someone who is arrestable? If it is cold out, how long can your body tolerate the weather?

Make a TURN UP revolutionary mix tape

    SELF CARE TIPS DURING PROTESTS

adaku
Continue to remind yourself why you are there. Recite mantras, meditations or chants when you need.

Tilt your eyes up softly to meet the sun, moon or stars. Let them wash over you with their power and embrace. Feel your connection with other forms of life. Allow your breath to move in and out as slowly as a cloud morphing through the sky. Imagine your breath is pulling in the vast expansiveness of the sky, the radiance of the moon, the majesty of the sun or the consistency of the night. Let each inhale awaken the vast possibilities that exist inside and outside of you. Allow each exhale to blanket where you are with a commitment to a world you desire to live in.

Continue to listen to how your body is responding. What sensations are arising? Where do you feel them? Are these sensations telling you to slow down, eat, keep going, call your support buddy, catch up with the crew you are marching with, warm up your body, breathe deeper, walk with a different contingent, head home?

Remind yourself of a moment when you could feel your own power. Allow yourself to feel that energy all over again. Invite the presence of that power to be with you now. Feel it expand. Breathe in the textures of your truth. Send this power wherever you need it. Let each inhale carry this power as far back to your ancestors and each exhale carry it forward through you and into future generations.

If you are near a tree, with permission, sit under or place your spine on the tree. Let the dignity of the tree encourage yours to rise with every breath.

susan
Vibration vibration vibration…hum low in your throat, as low as you can go, and bring that hum down into your lungs and your chest…feel the vibration, taking a breath in when you need to breathe, and then back to vibration. Let the vibration be a small chosen shake, a rattling of what is held inside, the vibration expanding in circles from your throat out through the rest of your body

Movement. It doesn’t matter what kind, just move as you are able. Move from the inside of yourself, inviting your hands, your arms, your face, your heart, your brain to lead the movement. The movement can be small and energetic or it can be big and take up a lot of space. From inside your self, start the movement like a shooting star, sensing when it shifts direction or wants to stop.

Notice what is happening around you right now. The colors of life around you, the texture, the edges between things, the edge of a building against the street, the edge of a car wheels on the ground, a tree against the sky. Notice where there is an edge, a boundary between two things, sense into that. Let your skin feel texture around you in whatever way your skin notices texture: rough bark or cement, hot flat metal of a car, cold slickness of a window. While you are noticing, tell yourself what you are witnessing. There is a red brick building in front of me and the bricks closest to the street are crumbled. My hands can feel the bits of dust and red brick, their sharp and crumbly edges. Put yourself into whatever part of the space around you is safe enough to touch and sense. The color of it. The sound if there is sound. The taste if you can imagine taste.

    POST PROTEST SELF CARE TIPS

adrienne

with one minute or less:

breathe. take three breaths that are a little deeper. imagine the breath filling you up from the heart, more each time, till your whole body has breath.

speak a mantra or commitment that brings you back to your purpose. here are some examples:

black lives matter. (alicia garza, opal tameti, patrisse cullors)
my people are free. (harriet tubman)
all is full of love. (bjork)
love’s in need of love today. (stevie wonder)
i am enough.
black love. (BOLD and many others)
i am a practice ground for abundance/love/fearlessness/ transformation/magic
i do it! (my niece mairead)
i’ma have none of that (my niece siobhan)
i just want to talk about dragons (my nephew finn)
all that you touch you change (octavia)
I am my ancestors’ answered prayer (Leah)
I am significant (Adaku)
I am the love that I have been waiting for (Adaku)
Tell your child self: You are alive. I am alive (Adaku)
when Black people get free, everybody gets free (Black Lives Matter)
who is worth my love, my strength and my rage? (Leah saw it on tumblr on a lot of qTPOC sites)
act in a way your past, present and future self will appreciate (kyisha williams)
no one said this road would be easy/ I don’t think she brought me this far to leave me (Mango Tribe)

think of someone who you love, who you do this work for, alive or ancestor or dream. hold that thought like a rock.

keep a tincture or flower essence with you to use at these moments. i am currently loving one called ‘boundaries in a bottle‘ (from Dori Midnight) which helps immensely in my work. rescue remedy is a go to for lots of people. a few drops under the tongue can help you breathe. good fight herb co has a lovely self-love potion that is also really helpful after the battleground.

leah
I use motherwort tincture as a reliable anti anxiety aid, that also scoops me up in her arms when I’m grieving, mourning or cried out. Hawthorne and rose are great for heart hurts too.

adrienne
light a candle so the fire can transform your focus and energy. wach it for a while, or let it sit in a sacred space to release what you can’t carry.

with ten minutes

that loved one i mentioned above? spend some time thinking of them at your side, or at your back. lean on them. let them hold you. breathe into it.

meditate. with each in-breath, invite spaciousness and rest into your body and spirit. with each out-breath, release that which is not yours to carry. (some examples: ‘breathing in space, breathing out drama’. ‘breathing in sleep, breathing out white guilt’. ‘breathing in comrades, breathing out fear’. or this one from naima penniman: ‘breathe in beyonce, breathe out condalezza rice’.)

lay down flat on your back, pull your knees up to your chest, hug your knees, and rock back and forth. this gives your body a quick break, your vertebrae more space, a little massage to your hips.

pour yourself a glass of water. drink the whole thing, inviting your body to be like water, transforming to move forward.

write about what you learned at the action/protest. write it for yourself, write it to share with others.

leah
pranayamic breath, or ‘the great yogic breath’ (shout outs to nisha ahuja for teaching me) take a deep breath into your heart, and then into your belly. hold it. feel how full you are. exhale from your belly, then from your heart. repeat.

containment breath (shout outs to vanissar tarakali for teaching me): inhale into your belly. when you exhale, do it in three stages- exhale from your belly, pause, exhale from your middle chest, pause, then exhale from the top of your chest. this breath helps give a sense of containment when I am feeling overwhelmed and EMERGENCY MUST GO EVERYTHING IS AN EMERGENCY.

I also squeeze my arms and thighs and feel the bones underneath when I am overwhelmed and dissassociated- it helps me feel like there is something holding me up all the time, that I don’t have to do anything to get, and it brings me back to my body more than other anti dissassociation exercises.

Train yourself to go outside and take a short walk every couple of hours, if you are locked up by a computer. I was always telling myself “yeah, I know I should but….” and remaining glued to the computer. A recent work gig that told us all to go on quick breaks every hour showed me how much this helped my focus, for real.

with an hour

adrienne

take a nap. a timed nap so you won’t miss anything, or an untimed nap…whichever one is more relaxing for you.

exchange shoulder and neck massages with someone you feel physically safe around. use your thumbs to move up and out, imagine that stress and oppression are small knots at the top of the spine and that you can smooth them out and drop them off the edges of the shoulders.

cook yourself a meal, alone or with loved ones.

write a note of appreciation (on paper, on email, through social media) to someone (in the movement or in your circle) who you deeply appreciate right now. you don’t have to send it, but you do have to feel it.

put yourself in water – a shower, a bath. let the water remind you who and what you are. anything that feels too big, send it to the ocean.

take care of something alive and revel in the impact of that action. water a plant, change a diaper, play a game, hold an elder’s hand. small miracles grow big ones.

engage in a spiritual practice that brings you into yourself. that may be prayer, meditation, movement, song, art. ask someone to hold this space with you. others from your actions, or those who aren’t/can’t protest but are in alignment.

with two hours or more

leah
What feels good? Figure out how to do the work in ways that feel as good as possible. When Healing Justice for Black Lives Matter blew up and all of a sudden I was getting 48 FB notifications an hour- including from a million white healers I didn’t know personally, who were all eager to join in, without maybe noticing how their presence shifted what had been a majority BIPOC action- what had felt like a juicy, generative, wild freedom song action started to feel like a stress ball in my shoulders. But this time, I actually stopped and said, how do I want to do this? How do I want it to feel? I asked for help. I gave myself permission to turn off the computer for breaks. I breathed. I reminded myself, and got reminded, that it’s ok to check people and set limits! Boundaries are beautiful.

Take time for sex and cute outfits and the gender things that make your body strong and shining. My sephora lipstain and eyeliner are on purpose, they are not sidenotes, they are femme armour and blessing and allow me to teach, organize and show up. So is texting my dates and masturbation as self care.

adrienne

yes to pleasure activism. remember your body can release a lot through pleasure. be grateful for your skin, softness, hardness, nerves, mysteries, releases.

community acupuncture. let the acupuncturist know you are engaging in protests and actions, what you want to release, what you want to embody.

see another kind of bodyworker or healer. i ride for somatic bodywork and limpias, but there are so many practices that can help – craniosacral, tarot, reiki, coaching. on december 18 a lot of us are offering our healing services at a reduced rate, and/or donating all of our income to ferguson movement work. we are also offering up healing for black activist/organizers involved in these protests worldwide, not just that date, but in general. find more about both efforts here.

go to a sauna or spa or hot springs. i have a list here, they range in affordability. a lot of places have options to sit in the hot tub even if you don’t get a massage or treatment.

adaku
Continue to listen to how your body is responding. What sensations are arising? Where do you feel them? Are these sensations telling you to slow down, eat, mastrubate, call your support buddy, catch up with the crew you are marching with, warm up your body, breathe deeper, sleep?

Sit, stand or lay down in silence. Breathe in silence. In the deep quiet, find a word or phrase that needs to be spoken. On your next exhale, scream it at the top of your lungs.

Put your arm around yourself. Take a deep breath. Give yourself a squeeze. On your next inhale repeat an affirmation to your core.

Offer up gratitude to yourself, your ancestors and/or your team for protecting you and supporting your capacity to engage in this action.

Do this with someone your body trusts and feels comfortable being vulnerable and close with:: Embrace each other in a hug (Hugging stimulates an incredibly deep nervous system relaxation response). Mirror each other with each next step. Breathe in through the nose slowly and evenly until you fill your lungs to capacity. Hold the breathe for five slow counts. Breathe out through the nose, releasing the air slowly. Repeat 3 times. If you have capacity, whisper an affirmation into each other’s ear at your very last exhale.

Allow yourself to be heard by someone you trust. Call, visit or welcome someone who has capacity to hold space with you to join you where you are. As much as feels comfortable, share how you are doing and what you might need in the coming moments, days or weeks.

Make a dream pillow to support insomnia, anxiety and panic attacks. (Great recipe from mountain rose herbs).

Give yourself permission to come undone. To cry unabashedly, to laugh wildly, to whip your hair back and forth, to dance ferociously, to summon up the fiercest scream. Tap into the primal nature of your emotions. Let it stir what needs to be heard.

Suck on some honey! my favorite. If you can, mix a tablespoon of honey with a tiny tiny pinch of lavender. Both are incredible relievers of stress and anxiety and fortify the immune system. Suck slow and intentionally. Let the sweetness caress every part of your mouth.

leah

because self care is collective care is disability justice:

Lift up disabled and chronically ill folks for how much we have invented the art of collective care (because we have to live interdependently, because we know the medical industrial complex is not our friend.). Ask the crips in your life for tips first! We know how to make access and share resources on no money, we’ve been doing this for forever!

A place I always go to for disabled wisdom about collective care is this blog, which has all the thinking and all the real talk practice (access audits, how to make a spaces that’s accessible except for the bathroom accessible, and more.) Yashna’s article about collective care also never gets old. To see how we organized Creating Collective Access, a group of disabled and sick folks collectively caring for each other, at the Allied Media Conference, go here.

This blog post – about how sick and disabled and mad folks offer support to each other all the time, and how we don’t have to wait to be “healed” to offer care to each other- is really speaking to me right now.

At the same time, it’s not like sick and disabled and mad people all are a monolith or have this issh figured out either! Years ago, I was part of a group of sick and disabled qtpoc who were trying to figure out how to care for each other. My Virgo moon was all about “let’s just get the google doc going!” but another person was like, wait a second- most of us have experienced people trying to care for us in messed up ways- paternalistic, controlling, disrespecting our autonomy, all the ways people try to “help the handicapped” all the time. We need to figure out first what would even allow us to accept help. She made us journal about a time when someone offered help to us in a way that felt good and was about solidarity, not charity.

A lot of the time, I see folks go “I know I should ask for help,but it’s hard…” And that is totally real. And it’s because of ableism. Ableism, inside the white supremacist capitalist colonialist ableist patriarchy (the WSCAP), tells us that if we ask for help, we are weak, and that’s a bad thing. Most of us have lived in the world in ways where there have for real been nobody we could trust to take care of ourselves well but ourselves (on a good day.) This is embedded in everything from abuse in nursing homes to welfare cuts to jail to our families. I’ve heard politicized QPOC comrades blithely call folks who ask for help, “energy vampires” or say, “Oh her, she has issues, she’s so *neeedy.*”

So sometimes the first step you have to do in order to even feel comfortable asking for and receiving help is to unpack all that. And to start small. Make your list of the shit you could really, really use help with, and another list of the people you think would be safe to ask, and ask for the least risky thing first. See how it feels. See how it goes. Experiment.

Do an access check in before you plan an action and before you start. Ask people what they need to be in the space. Often, people have never been asked before and go “uhhhhh…” That’s fine. Start where you are. Let the needs and their brilliance shape the action. That’s actually stronger than trying to force people into a mold that doesn’t fit them.

If you’re already caring for people, but you are wrestling with feeling depleted, giving more than you can, feeling resentful- unpack that stuff too, because it’s not good for anyone.

If you are nondisabled, don’t be texting your disabled friends all the time going “See you at the barricades! Oh wait you can’t do a five mile march in the cold… oh well, take care!” That’s ableism and it’s shitty and we’re all really sick of it. Figure out ways you can do actions where you can all take part. Roll with the krip/sicko crew when we make it to the march. Ask us how and if we want your support. Re read “Wherever you are is where I want to be” by Mia Mingus

Ask your sick and disabled friends what we need to participate, in what actions, and let us steer the boat of what we want/need instead of doing what you think is good for us- we’re the experts on our own bodies and lives, trust me ;). Bring water and snacks. Offer to push a manual chair ( you can often rent them for cheap from a medical supply place or drugstore) for someone who is a cane user or someone who walks but has chronic pain who wants to be able to be on a longer march. Ask your powerchair using friend if her battery needs a charge, and help people get out of the way of her rolling, if that’s what she wants.

Hold that leaving the protest at any time someone’s bodymind is about to give out is just as radical as staying.

This is a good guide by and for disabled folks doing direct action.

Also, recognize that for some of us with disabilities and chronic illness/pain and/or madness, we may make the choice to push our bodies extra hard to be in the streets- but that we may need extra time to recover afterwards. When we shut down the port of Oakland during Occupy/Decolonize, I had to be there at 4 AM and walk 3 miles each way because the accessible busses were badly promoted and left before I got there. I’m glad I did it, but I totally went into a flare, hurt like hell and needed to sleep 12 hours afterwards. Don’t judge us for our choices or tell us what to do or that we are being irresponsible for being in the streets. Understand that we negotiate many kinds of risk in these bodies everyday, that our relationship to pain is different because we dance with her all the time, and we negotiate stretching our limits all the time. Ask us what you can to do support- if you can bring food after, or do childcare so we can rest.

adrienne
and if all else fails, read this again, because…

susan
This is power. This is power humming on this page. Reading it settles me in places where I wasn’t aware of the need for settling. Reading this makes me want to show up quietly and fiercely, to rest quietly and fiercely, and to show up again. This is power humming on this page.

adrienne
please add on more resources you know of, and please take care of yourself. we know you are precious.

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

allied media conference 2014 share out (octavia’s brood, storytelling black women, emergent strategy handbook!)

this year’s allied media conference felt like one miracle after another and i wanted to share out with you all (especially those not there or unable to get into certain workshops) a few stories, agendas, occurrences and the link to the emergent strategy handbook which is now available for viewing online or downloading.

storytelling black women’s lives

this friday morning workshop was proposed as a five person panel of storytellers, featuring some of my favorite scholars of black women ancestors. the panel shifted a few times, and by the time the session rolled around we had two panelists in person and one on a google hangout. but it appears that certain ancestors were so pleased to be told on that they made it not just work, but become a time for praise, healing and magic.

we realized the night before that what we were really engaging was the fine art of being oracles, imparting wisdom as presented through the lives of these ancestors. the oracles were sister doctors alexis pauline gumbs, moya bailey and ayana jamieson.

alexis made an alphabetical list of ancestors and we filled it up as far as we could, trusting that the workshop would be able to keep growing it.

the first part of our workshop was the oracles channeling. a participant would ask a question, and the oracles would let the right story come to them, about octavia butler, or toni cade bambara, or harriet tubman, or another black woman ancestor.

the questions included how to we honor our ancestors as we transition into our own power, how do raise multi level genius babies if we don’t see ourselves as geniuses, how do we tell our mother’s stories in a culture of shaming?

the second part of the workshop gave everyone present a chance to give and receive guidance. i have heard lots of feedback of how accurate the guidance was.

we closed by sending love to sister warrior charity hicks as she sat between here and there in an ICU unit. we conjured up a shared sense of her aliveness and power, and let the universe know we want to learn the next chapters of her life, whether it was to stay or to go.

octavia’s brood

the brood had two fantastic experiences at the AMC.

first, we got to present four brooders as part of the opening ceremony. alexis, gabriel teodros, dani mcclain and leah lakshmi piepzna-samarasinha (whose name is a joy to my tongue). they hadn’t heard each other’s stories, and it was exciting for us as editors to hear these stories in their voices.

my co-editor, walidah imarisha, was delayed in portland and arrived literally five minutes before we took the stage. we threw on our heels, had a mindmeld and walked out there.

the next morning we got to offer our first behind-the-scenes session. the brooders, including the editors, shared where our stories came from, engaged with the participants about the art of writing visionary science fiction, and offered lessons from the overall process.

walidah and i have learned so much about ourselves and each other in the effort to do this project in line with our principles. we have learned to laugh at each other, keep it real, and offer each other support as our personal lives have unfolded in parallel to this life’s work.

it was beautiful to share that with folks who cannot wait for the book to be out, the transformation is not the end product, it’s the entire journey.

emergent strategy train the trainers

this workshop felt like it’s been building for a while. i created a handbook for it, which you can download now.

i want to decentralize emergent strategy, share it in a way that others can deeply engage and take ownership over and keep learning and shaping.

our room was much much too small. we had 80 people inside and somewhere between 40-50 outside and upset. next time i will request the auditorium, i want so many people to be in practice around this approach and these tools.

i started by reviewing the handbook (shout out to eli feghali for getting it printed the morning of!), which includes three different pieces i have written about emergent strategy, in chronological order, as well as a clear illustrated articulation of the elements of emergent strategy thus far.

the elements were up around the room, and we used emergent strategy methods of flocking and adaptation for the group to engage these elements. while they were flocking about we found a larger room and reconvened the group there.

people were then partnered up with one other person to make emergent strategy commitments. the idea behind this is that you ‘transform yourself to transform the world’. the best way to implement emergent strategies is to become emergent in how you process information and show up in the world. it was beautiful to watch the energy with which people claimed their commitments.

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we then came together to reflect back learning and lessons. here are the lessons i offered as a way of deconstructing what we had done:

– collaborative ideation. at the root of generating our ideas, we want to learn to be collaborative, to see the best ideas as growing through conversation and sharing (rather than competing, isolated moves forward).

– begin by listening. this AMC principle is the key practice of emergent strategy. we are tuning into each other, listening not just with our ears but our awareness, understanding, bodies.

– deepening one-on-one connections builds the strength of the whole. to change what is possible in a room, let people connect with each other directly.

– people are more passionate about the things they articulate themselves. don’t over-structure an agenda, let people articulate what they most want to work on together.

– passion over obligation. understand the motivation for people being in the room.

– lao tzu on trust: if you don’t trust the people, you make them untrustworthy.

– make room for the conversation that wants to be had in the room.

– reach for the horizon but realize that it is only a limit of your sight, keep checking for new horizon info as it changes.