Tag Archive for 'transformation'

lesson from snow

sometimes contemplating the incomprehensible helps me continue. there is a foot of snow covering every surface outside and still dropping from the sky, not just here but all over the region. and each individual snowflake of the gazillions covering the city is unique. i can’t really, fully grasp this.

and yet this is us – millions asserting a future that doesn’t seem possible now. winter is a concept, manifested by multitudes. liberation is a concept. we can transform the landscape with our multitudes too. by being different, yes, and moving in the same direction.

trust your actions now, not to be right or wrong, but to be passionate and honest. be utterly unique. be exacting. be uncompromising about your right to exist, right here.

sign everything.
make the phone calls.
engage in harder conversations.
be ungovernable.
make action and safety plans.
secure your communications.

and.

cultivate joy and generosity.
resist oppression, but keep your attention on each other.
love abundantly.

as octavia taught us:

Respect God (amb note: God is Change)
Pray working.
Pray learning,
planning,
doing.
Pray creating,
teaching,
reaching.
Pray working.
Pray to focus your thoughts,
still your fears,
strengthen your purpose.
Respect God.
Shape God.
Pray working.

one week of poems on love and terror

i was supposed to be working on a novel this month but it will keep. instead i have written thousands of other kinds of words – blog words, journal words, and with my clarion writers group, a daily poem. here is some of the poetry, which feels very much like the journal stuff, my terror/despair/love, clarified.

….

1. survival

the brittle tissue was layered and piled up
rung dry
stretched on a repurposed loom
until diaphanous
torn strips for the days to come

she rolled the flesh up
suffocating the thru line
doubling it, fat grease
thick in her fingerprint
placing gray life on her tongue

it was salt and steel
it was cold and still
it was the fat end of the day
and she was the only one hungry
the open mouth

in this way
she ate her own heart
before they came
to break it

….

2. moving forward

i wake up into clouds
and all day i reach in my hands
feel my way forward
i think forward
its hard to tell
sweeping the nothingness away
i gather the mist with my palms
ready, not ready
for the sharp tomorrow
to slice my fingers

….

3. reducing myself

i am accumulating crust and feathers
pinching and piercing my skin
and threading through me
and making a bloody mess

it gathers at the edge of eyes
too fast to wipe away
the salt-ring
soon i will decide: open? closed.

i used to love all the colors
i used to love all the titles i could gather
but i can let my skin cake up with dust
be a no one from here to there

at first i was so brave
and i had a framework, an answer, a flow
now, i just choose life over death, today,
today,
today

4. becoming brightness

im far away from myself
a distance between heart and skin grows
fills with brush fire
until inside i wheeze and my eyes tear up in public
am i a stray spark
am i of danger

if i keep an open mind it means maybe there are multiple interpretations of “lynch that nigger”
a humorous way to grab a stranger’s pussy
and logic by which descendants of immigrants can tell anyone ever to go home;
that my love is less than sacred

but i am the infinite accumulation
of millions of small sparks in the night
saying:
i am not your dream, i am my own

now i feel smoke in my mouth
now i begin to burn through those i touch
i begin to feel a hunger for anything that stands still
i begin to slip out of system

….

5. every time i choose

on one side of me is the terror
a shoreline with a violent water
sucking back teeth
lifting up to swallow
me and all of us
making all my distinctions silly
drowning my horses and
dashing my obsession with living

on the other side of me
she is holding my hand
she has already lost several nations
and all faith in men and politics
she loves me without ever saying it
watches me until i become goddess
saying its ok to grieve, to be terrified
let us feel as much as we can while we are living

every time i choose her
i feel the miracle of touching skin that isn’t mine
her life comes from a desert
and she laughs at how i am american
grandiose and self important
then she shows me something smaller
and more precise
than i ever dreamed

this time it is a tiny elephant named earl
she wants me to travel with him
before that, a soap from aleppo
to remind me that nothing is forever
and once it was a book of male genitalia
to help us laugh at those who care for power
now, with my sea of terror behind me
all i can gift her in return

is my life

….

6. my heart can break but not in two

i am not half of myself
my mother’s cells do not inhale in me
pulling themselves away
from the skin that terrifies
her neighbors

my mother grew up around
men on horses with rifles
told a lie about their hearts
(irrelevant)
and a lie about their destinies
(supreme)

my heart can break on a story
about a poor white person
who lost something beloved
person, place, thing
but show them my picture
ask if i can lead them…

so, my heart can break

i am not half of myself
my father’s cells do not terrify
the tender world in me
which whiteness inhales in infinite lines
feasting on its neighbors

my father grew up around
women who held kitchen courts
lost their teeth early
(truthful tongues are sharp)
lived almost forever
(raising everyone in sight)

my heart can break on a story
about a poor black person
who nurtured the deepest sweet
but stepped onto the pavement
and was swallowed up, whole

so, my heart can break

7. your safety and your pins

there is nothing wrong with safety pins
i imagine that where you are
it is brave
the world around you
held together by a gleaming oil-ish bubble
chartreuse and bulbous
inside like a snow globe
small and white and seeming to fall down
earth flat, that sort of thing
and you want a real life
you want to stop being shaken
and responding to a false chaos
where the only thing that changes is the
position of the sky
you want to feel dirt and
to find a heartbeat in your chest
so you prick inward and out
and with the sharp and rounded pin
you shout:
i will change

and there is nothing wrong with this
it is a morning action
and you still have sleep in your eyes

an emissary from the night might tell you
there is nothing wrong with safety pins
but you may find you need a sword
a shield, a baton, fireworks,
a megaphone and a rested voice
and to feel the ocean inside you
before you can step onto this line
between me and hatred

for the line is long and fatal
and the war so quiet
it could break you in two
like a confession

for the line is sharp
and the war so deep
it could swallow you whole
before you can say stop

election exhale

i spent the past weekend at a gathering called with/out ¿borders? hosted by the arcus center for social justice at kalamazoo college.

it was a well structured gathering, four plenary conversations over two days, each one with a set of related breakout sessions afterwards. there was an ‘unconference’ as well, emergent sessions and film screenings that bubbled up from a brilliant participant body.

i got to speak on the first plenary and the election came up. as i was speaking i realized that i have been feeling unexpectedly calm about this election lately.

but how is this possible!

i was returning from a hot springs off-grid moment after a six day facilitation extravaganza, so i’m not sure how coherent i was.

but here is some exploration of the feeling, and the context.

to begin with, i feel like all the people i most respect and admire are playing their positions well – in movement, in life, and in relation to history.

the vision for black lives platform is brilliant, complex and clear. it really helps as a guideline to any and all who would hope to lead in or shape the future of this country.

in each place/movement i get to facilitate, i see people moving towards complexity and alignment with each other in ways that support being able to advance the leadership of grassroots and directly impacted communities.

these organizers i look up to are aware of the election, and doing work around it that makes sense. none of them are dropping everything and doing reactionary electoral organizing – their work is much longer term. most are not endorsing any candidate, because our standards are high.

and! we are not ignoring the election, primarily because many of the people we care about are looking through the election lens right now, and we dance between the attentions of the people and our visions for justice.

rosa clemente and others are reminding us that in spite of all the fear drums, there are other legitimate and politically aligned options, especially in blue states, and no individual has to bear the brunt of a broken system – everyone should have the right to vote their values.

the conversations i’ve been in are nuanced, and this, more than any particular individual or formation, gives me hope.

mostly we recognize that candidate pump as a hilarious and offensive attention-suck is not himself the problem, it is the ideologies he is playing with, the animus he is stoking to get attention – that’s the problem. still, he is doing us the favor of showing how vast and solid white supremacy and economic fear are in the u.s. right now. mapping the opposition. and white house or not, white supremacists are turnt way up right now.

and…that is what we expected, and should expect, in response to this moment of nonlinear black political, economic, athletic and entertainment flexing.

the death throes of white supremacy are vile to witness. it never stops shocking or hurting us to witness and be prey to white supremacist vitriol. but i am focusing on how many white people are standing up, stepping back from the table, and finding ways to learn self-love that don’t require dominance, looting, destroying.

i am also impressed with the radical compassion of leaders who can see through the fragile surface of white supremacy, see through to the pain, all the way to economic alignment, and are reaching through to speak about shared oppressions and shared possibilities.

regarding clinton, mostly we recognize that while having a woman president will be a move forward, we won’t be tricked into ecstacy over symbolic gains again. constructs such as race and gender expose themselves most when they are fully indulged. the mind and values of each woman are different, are not to be assumed. yes she is a woman, and familiar, and ridiculously competent, and a survivor, and a human being. and a hawk, and a zionist, and so on.

clinton is not the first woman to run for president, but she does seem to be the most experienced human to ever run for this office. still, she doesn’t align with or advance many of our values (“Who do you trust to be the president? The Republican, or Donald Trump?“), particularly in the ways she has used the tool of war.

we have under our belts two or three shared experiences (at minimum) of overattending to the office of the president. one is the panic of george w bush’s presidency, the terror that was drummed up, the heartache of watching critical funds move away from what we cared about and towards war and destruction. the stolen elections upheld by the supreme court, which shaped eight years of history, left us cynical, and in a mounting racial and climate catastrophe.

two is the thrill of obama’s election to the presidency, followed by years of seeing the limitations and compromises that defined his position, guaranteed his second term, constricted his legacy.

he is perhaps the best president we will experience, the most feminist and facilitative. but in a capitalist imperialist nation it’s hard to measure or celebrate such a thing.

an example of the contradictions needed to consider the obama presidency: i pray for him and michelle’s black love and safety daily, but i don’t trust him to free mumia and peltier.

i trust the savvy organizers who are using this election frenzy to move important stuff down ticket – sheriffs and school boards and policies matter so much more than presidents in our daily lives.

in detroit we are organizing people to vote on prop A, which will allow communities to hold corporations accountable for what they do in our city.

and during this time the exciting news is not happening in the media-election frenzy, but on the front lines of the Standing Rock struggle to stop pipelines that were prophecied to destroy the land and water from being built across North Dakota, as black people continue to live and die at state whim and to learn to love and protect each other in real time. and Flint and Detroit fight for basic water rights, and learn to love and protect each other in real time.

what i am saying is, our priorities are in order, we are aware of the paths of fear and limitation, and we are choosing to organize, collaborate and grow what we long for.

so no matter what happens? we gon be aight.

the weight i carry

the weight i carry
(shame in the blood, grief fragments)
is feathered with love
.
the shame i carry
(weight as a mask, living guilt)
is never lonely
.
the grief i carry
(guilt like a knife, my love tithe)
is worth my whole heart

#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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black band

i am going to begin wearing a black armband on my left arm, closest to my heart, to indicate that i am a warrior in mourning.
that #blacklivesmatter to me.
that i recognize i am of a targeted nation inside a violence-addicted nation.

i am so moved by and so grateful for the work of #blacklivesmatter, the blackout collective, BYP100, black organizing for leadership and dignity (BOLD) and so many others working to generate actions for our liberation. (give money to each of those groups if you are at a loss of what to do. redistribute a portion of your salary to their work. for serious.)

and…we can’t hope that these currently under resourced formations will just do all the work for everyone. we all need to act. we need a tipping point of brave people willing to move out of complicit silence into action. (yes, i am saying that the resistance in your head or even in righteous conversation between you and a few friends is not enough – honey i wish it were. no one wants to feel all of this and do all of this. but we are in a moment of genocide and anthropocene and we must take ourselves seriously.)

we need all kinds of action – direct action, organizing, healing, strategizing, redistribution. grieving is an action. feeling is an action.

and solidarity. not “ally” solidarity, but solidarity and action by non-black people who recognize we are in one struggle for humanity.

one action is actually being public and open about our resistance, to say we see what is happening and we say no more, not today, never again, stop. we see beyond what is happening and we know love must win.

so. i want to wear what i need – a black circle, a wholeness.

as i cut up a pair of black leggings to make my armband i felt all the things i am longing for. this isn’t what everyone who wears the armband may mean, but i wanted to share.

mervyn marcano posted #blaxit the other night and i thought – ‘yes!!’ and then, ‘but seriously how do we divest from this system of genocide?’

i want to stop paying the percentage of taxes that goes to police, ICE and military forces – to defund this perversion of justice and invest in community models, mediation and healing spaces.
i want to pull all the babies out of schools that teach them they are more than or less than anyone else – either with sloppy histories or preferential treatment and funding of education.
i want a landless workers movement to secure farmland. i want my hands in some dirt – i want octavia butler’s acorn and earthseed.
i want all my money to go to people who love me, love us.
i want the precious earth to be a shared precedent that unifies our decision making.

i want all white people to catch up to the white people i hold close to me, who show me what is possible – those who never make me wonder about our equality, who never say all lives matter, who never ask me to carry the weight of their learning and unlearning.
i want to banish any white people who don’t get it, and who aren’t working on unlearning racism, from my life and the lives of everyone i love (you don’t have the range).

i want significant work stoppage across the country every time our lives are stolen because someone imagined we were dangerous to them. our money matters, our labor matters.

i want people to know when they see me that i am to be treated like a griever and like a warrior and like a healer and nothing less. i want us to come out in our grief and radical commitment to liberation.

this is bigger than police killing of black people – this band is my public declaration of war on white supremacy in all it’s manifestations, including racialized capitalism, colonialism, difference-phobia, gun fetishes, violence as a way of resolving conflict – all of it.

it is also my public vulnerability – i grieve every time i see humanity turned against itself, i feel it. and i believe it is part of my life’s work to feel it and turn others towards feeling it, to un-numb us so that we realize we are on fire. i am not going to keep adjusting and maintaining the social status quo. i am angry and numb and overwhelmed and terrified. i am mourning and trying to step into the shoes of all my newborn ancestors. i need it to be known. i need the world to interact with me with more awareness.

in studying public signs of mourning this one seems most appropriate and accessible. it has also been a sign of protest and political affiliation at times. i think we need it to be both for grief and for resistance. i also know i would feel safer in a world where those who stood against the genocide of my people were visible to me.

i recognize i may be wearing this armband for the rest of my life. i keep thinking of the length of slavery, how not being the property of a white person seemed equal parts necessary and impossible for generations and generations. not being the target of police, ending white supremacy and racialized capitalism feels impossible to me now…but it feels absolutely necessary.

all the love i walk with only lets me move in one direction, towards our liberation.

join me.

#blacklivesmatter #blackband #blaxit

blackband

(and yes, join in all my non-black and international beloveds, especially those being targeted too – this week i have cried for so many people and places all over and i feel our togetherness in our resistance even if we start from different locations. i wear this band with love for palestine, syria, bangladesh, turkey, brazil, iraq – and that’s just this week. together we are the future.)

dancing with hopelessness

lately i have found myself to be a combatant behind enemy lines wherever i am in the world. the sounds of death are constant – either the current blasting or the sound of news anchors telling me numbers. sometimes the numbers are more overtly related to me – black people, people from the u.s., queer people, women and girls. other times they are less overtly mine – parents, people of a specific faith, people who speak one of the million languages or dialects i couldn’t comprehend. still human, children.

since i was young i have been blessed and afflicted with empathy, when i hear or read or see suffering i feel within me some response.

a restlessness – something must be done.
numbness – nothing i can do.
rage – why are you so evil, why are you not better than this?
shame – this is how humans spend our time, taking from each other and plotting each other’s death?

when i was in my twenties this set of feelings, sparked by what was happening in the world and fed by traumas in my body, pushed me over an edge of not wanting to be alive.

i know so many people who know what that feels like, to have suicidal memories. when i think of that time it is very gray, and, honestly, calming: if i can go, then i don’t have to keep feeling all of this. i don’t have to keep wondering if anything i am doing matters. i, i, i – who is i, what do i do/mean/need/take responsibility for?

i don’t feel suicidal now, since i walked out of that world of shadowed edges and paranoia and self-obsession i have never returned.

but our shared reality (if we are even slightly awake) is depressing. violence coming in from every direction all the time, with those in power committed to maintaining and growing power instead of learning to thrive on our miraculous spaceship. if people aren’t at least somewhat depressed and disappointed by humanity it’s hard for me to trust them.

and yet i am oriented towards solution and joy. i can feel myself fighting to lift up and move forward somehow. i am pressed to generate new strategies for moving through emotions that are larger than i know what to do with, larger than any community i am a part of knows how to hold. i love sugar and alcohol and weed as much as anyone, but my spirit has been needing more – more clarity and space to feel, more life.

my days are full of new rituals and ancient ones that have me feeling both closer to and further away from humanity at large.

here are some of the small and personal rituals that allow me to be in relationship with my growing hopelessness, to dance in real time with all that is happening.

i imagine myself a dragonfly. or an owl. an orca. a spotted cow. i let myself wander into the experience – flying, chewing, living out in the world, being wild, solitary, communal. we think reason makes us superior to everything, but when i let myself wander the experiences of other species i see there are so many ways to live without a focus on death, which seems to be the primary thing we use our reasoning to generate or avoid.

i light candles and speak into the flames the names of people and places that need light, concepts that need air, the things i need to let go of before the next in-breath, the things i can’t let go of but are too heavy today.

i also tell water what i cannot carry and then pour it into bigger water. if i am outside i find a river. a creek, a lake. lately i use my shower in this way too, i imagine it moving over me like a mother soothing a child. i imagine the cloudy heft of sadness moving through the pipes and systems, droplets to waterfalls, wetlands and deltas, into the gulf of mexico, into the ocean.

i burn sage, frankincense, cedar, palo santo, dhoop sticks, incense. i feel the smoke moving through me, cleansing, inviting a relaxation of everything in me that holds on to life too tightly, knowing i am more powerful when i am relaxed and flexible and soft.

i give time – quiet, meditative time – to tragedy and grief. i let my mind encounter the river of souls floating up out of our comprehension. when i hear something new and violent has happened, i pause. maybe it’s a prayer i whisper, an incantation, a spell – something less than words and more than breath goes up with those souls. if i know a number i set a timer and give a minute to each stranger, each possible beloved. i meditate on those who are precious to me.

i do my practices – tarot, somatics, yoga, words.

time, smoke, water, breath, practice, shapeshifting.

and healing circles. bringing myself into a circle with others, circles of two, circles of hundreds, to remind ourselves that we are also always with each other, cultivating something better than this horror, making more room to grieve, to be numb together, to be stricken and clueless together, to hold on to each other.

with several of the circles we have gathered our pain and heartache and hopelessness and actually pushed it down into the earth together. she is so big, with so much capacity to transform the toxic into the fertile. sometimes she is the only living thing i fully trust.

my indigenous story is one of physical and cultural colonization – i am cut off from direct knowledge of what my ancestors learned to use in this way, how they listened to earth and learned to care for each other, to move grief and hopelessness through the body, to live beyond overwhelming emotions. because no matter how awful this world can be, i cannot be more than i am. i face a broken world, i think my most healing offer is wholeness. i must be whole in myself, in the community i am accumulating each day.

i notice what produces a sense of release, space and good energy in my system, i listen to healers, i ask permission. i have learned from everywhere, i hope i will keep learning. i am weaving together my lineage and experience into a song that i can move to.

i am learning to dance with my hopelessness.

this will be america

my friend jodie reminded me of this piece i wrote a few years ago about being an american revolutionary, particularly section 6. she has reposted that section in the past, calling it ‘america, i must love her':

you cannot shirk responsibility for this country
you cannot shake off these atrocities
its a bloody birthright
all children are born into blood
you have to grow up by growing down into the soil
past the burnt bodies and broken buildings
built on broken bodies and broken promises
built up, bloody borders
borders you live in whether you want to or not

you are the ones we’ve been waiting for

it was hard to revisit the poem in the shock and grief of orlando. and it feels important to remember my own responsibility in this place. i sit in the spirit of grace lee boggs and octavia butler, knowing i, a post-nationalist american-born revolutionary, need to do the hard work of taking on america, and shaping the future that can grow from this place. so.

    this will be america

we are strewn across the street
or the sticky sweet floor
where we called ourselves home
where we got ourselves free
now slick with our blood
this
is america

we are heads bent knees bruised
guilty in hushed prayer
god’s words telephoned across time
to tell us: everything you need
is made of fire
this
is america

we are children, somebody’s children
we are innocent children
we are wayward children
we are violent children
and we fight and we grieve like children
this
is america

we are warriors brought home in whale bellies
to fight, to die on this soil
in an unnamed civil war spilling all our borders
on one side is humanity
and we cannot see the other side
this
is america

we are bruised broke-open fruit
a piled mess under ancient trees
which will only grow with us
we permeate the roots, seething, seeding
we will never go anywhere else
this
is america

we are born with our dignity
we look beautiful weeping, waging love
when scared we sashay the tar streets
press together in the steaming darkness
sweating out freedom songs, love songs
this
is america

we are growing and falling apart
and we are absolutely terrifying
we are stunning funghi, transforming this toxic soil
we are swallowing our dead
becoming worthy of our miracles
this
is america

we cannot separate now
there is nowhere else, no escaping ourselves
millions whisper rituals into dirt and flesh
millions, millions hold each other, raging, changing
fecund with our sacrifices
and this
this will be america

and our future will inhale together
to sing out a bright axe ooh
and remember the names of our martyrs
as we offer each other abundance
as we finally, finally learn we are love
and this
this will be america

thank you to dani, jodie and autumn for holding this with me

lighting candles for orlando, and for all of us

lighting candles of liberation and nirvana for the 50 souls in transition from the pulse nightclub in orlando. i hope they are holding each other in the journey.

lighting candles of inner and outer healing for the injured, may they recover and be supported from the trauma of what they survived.

lighting candles of grief for the queer, trans, latinx and black communities of orlando for this massive loss – we are family, i mourn with you. what a massive loss.

lighting candles of protection and solidarity for my muslim and arab beloveds as this country does its favorite thing – using one phobia to feed another, deflecting blame after creating the conditions for nothing but hate. grateful for those who reached out to me today in love, and who received my love in return.

and lighting candles of fierce love for all of my friends and family who participate in major religions that espouse homophobic beliefs. however you call god, the weight of hate crimes against QUILTBAG people is partially yours, the struggle falls on your frontline. i extend my warrior energy behind you as you fight the ignorance and hate mongering within your sacred houses.

lighting candles under the asses of anyone who still can’t grasp the need for deconstructing the gun/violence-worshipping culture of this nation. you sound unworthy of the miracle of life you have been given.

lighting a candle at the intersections, that we may all see that we are not separate, we cannot separate. last night i gave a speech on abortion at an undisclosed location, kept hidden for security reasons that root into the same violence that was wrought in orlando. i am abstaining from sugar in solidarity with jasmine abdullah richards, who is behind bars for standing up against the violent policing of this country which disproportionately devastates the same communities that were targeted in orlando. i am grieving comrades who have been killed in the line of their work to push back against hate. all of this is connected, us – black, queer, trans, differently abled, immigrant, woman, arab, indigenous, asian, fat, nonbinary, nonmainstream in any way – wanting to live and love as we are – and those we are up against seemingly dissatisfied with disagreeing and leaving us alone. they must take everything, have everything, and kill what they cannot understand. we must hold tight to each other and grow, become indivisible.

lighting a candle for myself, that in this moment of rage and grief i can stay in touch with the truth and beauty of my precious, sacred and very queer life. i choose to live my life guided and motivated by love rather than hate. i know i am free. i know love is what sets and keeps me free.

i found this helpful – some practical tips from suzy steffan via my sci fi sister lisa bolekaja:

A few things straight cis or trans and non-straight cis people could do today and every day to support LGBTQIA people:

1. Listen to queer people.

2. Listen to queer people of color. This hate crime happened in diverse Orlando at Latinx night at the Pulse. That very much matters.

3. Text us, snapchat us, tweet us that you love us (do not include “no matter whom you love”) and you’re thinking about us today.

4. Don’t deny that this was a hate crime.

5. Don’t make this about Islam. It’s not. It’s about transphobia and homophobia. Oh, and access to AR-15s.

6. Ask local LGBTQIA groups how you can help.

7. Don’t accept one nanosecond, not ONE, of victim blaming from friends, relatives, or religious representatives.

8. If you go to church and your pastor doesn’t mention Orlando or does it in a hateful way, speak up right then or walk out at that moment, and find a new church. Same for any religious organization. You can help your religious organizations be better.

9. Donate blood *AND* tell the FDA to lift the ban on “men who have had sex with men” donating blood RIGHT NOW, as in RIGHT. NOW.

10. Trans and L/G/B cis people of color get killed at disgustingly high rates. You, yes, you, straight/cis people, *have to* speak out against HB 2 and all the other transphobic “bathroom bills” out there.

11. If you have money, you could send it to Orlando (if you don’t live there), or you could help fund your local QUILTBAG organizations. Some links in the comments.

12. If you don’t have money, which I *certainly* understand right now, get books by authors who identify as LGBTQIA out of the library, and recommend them to others.

13. You might, as I have this ugly awful morning, try to get your local politicians to support a vigil for the LGBTQIA communities.

13a. But when that vigil happens, listen to the community to see if we need you there. We might need you as a buffer zone. We’ll be holding each other and crying and singing. You be our security.

13b. Be sure to ask those politicians to get the buy-in of local grassroots and “official” queer/trans rights groups. It’s important for cities and states and the country to support us, but not without our organizations as well.

14. Read up on LGBTQIA herstory and history. (Some suggex in the comments, eventually.)

15. Post about Orlando. You don’t have to share the news stories, you don’t have to share the details, but show us that you see us and that you care about us. We see you when you don’t.

16. If you have QUILTBAG employees – and you do if you have employees! – check in with them today and in the next few days. Have their backs. Be prepared to help them out, to fill in (without asking them to give up paychecks).

17. If you have QUILTBAG students – and you do if you teach! – give them extra love and space to process. Not by singling them out, of course, but by publicly mentioning your horror at the hate crime and privately letting them know that they can take more time as they process.

90 days

jasmine abdullah richards was sentenced today to 90 days in jail.

for lynching.

she is the first black person ever convicted of felony lynching. it is an outrageous charge. i keep seeking other words for this convergence of feelings, but only outrage comes close to accuracy.

this is a moment every black person, particularly those participating in visionary organizing and protest to assert that our lives matter, need to internalize. this is our 90 days.

it is more than an individual punishment, it is a test of our interconnectedness, our alertness, our attention.

we must practice sustaining this story and our connection to jasmine beyond the life span of a meme or trend.

tonight i rocked the babies to sleep and somewhere in there i too drifted – it was a long day and i was not really awake or asleep, suspended between tired and responsible, listening and dreaming.

it is so much we are expected to hold, it is easy to drift away from what we most care about, most long for.

today there was an unaccountable young rapist in my face, electoral extremes as part of my social media feed celebrated a woman presidential nominee and part complained of shady election mishaps. i wore purple all day for Prince’s first birthday as an ancestor. there’s so much all at once. so we drift.

but jasmine is one of our freedom fighters. her captivity is tied to our liberation.

when the news came this afternoon i felt relief that it wasn’t four years, and anger that it was even one day.

the nibblings, who were my reaponsibility today, noticed my emotions and asked me what i could do. and i thought about it.

of course continue my work, we always continue to fight our local-global fight in so many ways. but i kept coming back to the words jasmine shouted in the courtroom, echoing assata across time: it is also our work now to “love each other and protect each other”. what can i do to love and protect jasmine?

i mapped out 90 days on the calendar. it ends on my birthday in september. it’s three months. this amount of time has already flown by twice this year. for jasmine’s sake I hope it flies by now.

what leapt to mind was a spiritual commitment to keep my attention on her every day until she is free. to not let her fall away from my heart as the changes keep coming. to think of her, to feel these 90 days with her.

so i reached out to some friends – i have been in a practice of shifting my relationship to sugar with a group of other social justice beloveds. five of us (so far) have committed to being in collective practice over the next 90 days, in jasmine’s name. we will practice with our bodies (mostly abstaining from added sugars, one person is cutting out caffeine, one is also doing a 12 sun salutation yoga practice, another is doing a practice of free dance) to stay mindful of jasmine’s revolutionary work during this time, and to ensure that we feel these next 90 days.

i am sharing this here as an invitation. how will you #standwithjasmine?

update:

– lena gardner offered the tag #solidaritywithjasmine

– we’re up to 91 people now!

– Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism joined!

– Malcolm X Grassroots Movement joined!

– there’s a facebook group for those who want to join, just let me know if you want the invite! <3