Thursday, October 18, 2012
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Amidst the crowd your voice sounds the call for freedom
Shackles that bind us to our demons must be released
Humans must recognize all humans as potential
Lovers, friends, siblings, parents, allies
in this struggle to regain ourselves
This is the public statement decreed
With a stern face and unwavering eye
Not a bump in the voice to be found
You are clear
Yet I know you all too well
‘Cause you can’t even look at me straight
Without cutting your eyes in disdain
Sneering a foul remark
Like I’m wasting space here
The practice of love renders a hole in our hearts
Cruelty is used on the nearest reflection of our shortcomings
Giving each other the leftovers
The Second hand things
The hand me downs
The throw aways
The forgetful parts of ourselves
Any possible bond we could have
Your sideways comments
Has taught those gazing with an oppressor’s eye
That there’s nothing wrong with
Humiliating and cajoling
When asserting one’s position
And we find ourselves back to square one again
Sounding the call for collectivities
And if you can’t look me in the eye
Without wincing in pain
Then who would you rather see sitting
At the table of our liberation?
Saturday, January 7, 2012
My reasoning for wanting more of these conversations have been propelled by the painful experiences I went through trying to organize from the past couple of years, and finally 2010-2011 was the year that broke my heart and made me look at things as I had never done before. I had found that somewhere along the line, I allowed myself to become everything I did not want to become. When advising me on this situation, one of my close friends said, “You have to be there. And whatever you do. Don’t let them win.” By my actions, I had…let them win. I became profoundly silent and debilitated. I had internalized many of the harsh criticisms, cutting eyes, controlling gazes and all the denials, silence and betrayals that accompanied it, all of that had been stored inside myself. Finally, something deep, that thing that somehow held me together, broke. In the end, I spent most of my time in tears and confusion.
I began to believe that I did not deserve genuine relationships, honest answers and even so much as a civil conversation. More insidiously, especially in White radical spaces, I began to feel that I only existed to help others with their own liberation and that it was my job to take those risks for them. Any destructive habits or actions was “just a part of their process” and needed not to be taken so personally. If I dare uttered that I was tired, then it was a selfish gesture and I better be careful because clearly I did not have enough love for the people. In the end, I truly believed that I was a problem that needed to be fixed and perhaps the contempt was well deserved.
Therefore, any type of humiliation, bullying or downright ignorance experienced must have been warranted somehow, because after all, don’t people who often experience the worst of what humans have to offer deserve this anyway? Isn’t this the way the world is? After all, we’re not so bad, the world is much worse! And besides, White people are trying! They’re getting it, they’re moving…at their own pace, I mean so what if they talk too much! You should talk more. So really, there should be no support, no structures, no anything because this is the world anyway. Nasty. And I’m sure not gonna do anything to make it better. Better yet, I’ll watch. And besides the way I treat you isn’t really the big issue here, the issue is actually about this, so the way you are feeling is simply just that, a feeling that has no merit here. The list of the ways we annihilate one another goes on.
Never mind the sarcasm (and the speaking of bitterness), but please hear this. You can tell the type of inner work and reflection one does by the way they regard you the next morning. That’s the part of decolonization I’d like to talk more about. How far we’re willing to go in the action (or inaction) that is soon to come afterward, because when it comes time for us to really fight the more “relevant” issues, I simply want to know that you’re going to have my back and take that risk for us, rather than just try to save yourself. That’s a principled decision, and even indecision becomes a principle. The issue of how we regard one another is not mutually exclusive from the “real” issue.
I feel like so many of us have been saying this in so many ways and it still doesn’t get through. If issues of power, privilege and dominance are not addressed, or remain compartmentalized isms simply to be addressed at one’s convenience, there is a way these missing links begin to reflect the organization, its principles, its problem solving skills and analysis. Often, when particular links are carefully left in exchange for immediate comfort, the complexity of the conversations that need to be had are swiftly flattened, and entire histories and knowledges of many different people are left out only to be further forgotten as we move forward on the “real” issue. But who’s left picking up the slack later? And exactly who do we often find ourselves picking slack up for? …After all, doesn’t this economic system rely on such supreme tendencies and relations to strengthen itself? Class is fundamental, but it does not exist within a vacuum.
And this was the greatest contradiction I experienced in 2010-2011, that need. That conditioned need that has been essential to saving this system. It’s that need to hoard and save oneself, and rely on carefully guarded supremacies and secrets to do it. And let’s not play around, we often know who is allowed to get by with this type of behavior unscathed. And not to say I didn’t try many times to bury myself in silence, often because I was tired, painfully uncomfortable, afraid and at times downright cowardly. But even despite all those things, I never had the luxury to escape. I had to learn real quick how things were. The system was not built on us escaping or as Audre Lorde puts it, us even surviving. But, we’re still here to tell the tale. For 2012-2013, I want us to continue to be brave enough to tell the tale and strengthen ourselves. I want us to speak out and just say it, because we know the lies that are there to explain reality, and we also know that for some reason not enough people are being honest.
So I’ll end the story here, because many of us have lived through these stories in many ways, and hurt in many ways because of them. So this is for us who cannot simply get up and walk away, escape, and remain willfully ignorant. This blog space is for us who have made mistakes and are doing the work necessary to undo the lies the master taught us. This space is for those who are willing to risk in solidarity, risk for unity and think beyond immediate comfort. Time and energy is of prime importance, and it is often something stolen from us as we fight daily for our humanity, bread and full development. I have been weighing how I want to spend my time and energy, and have decided that there are certain things I am no longer willing to negotiate for the New Year.
- I am worthy of a loving community that wants to work for the full development of all human beings, and yes, this also includes some level of “emotional” support
- No more compartmentalizing! No more escapes! No more selective listening and speaking! We need an analysis that includes us all।
- No more disrespect, nastiness and violence towards people we claim we love and/or support। Yes the world is nasty, but we certainly don’t make it any more sustaining or accountable by letting things go on as they are and remaining silent when we see someone we love hurting. We should try to lessen the suffering, not exacerbate it. Since when is it okay to begin looking at each other through the same eyes our greatest exploiters and beneficiaries on this earth do? We already know all too well what it is to hurt, however, it is clear we need to do more work on what it means to love and truly make a world where all our basic needs are met. We do not deserve the worst of everything!
In 2012-2013, I will be tender towards myself and those I love, I will not espouse words and phrases without practicing them to the fullest extent of what they mean, I will be honest and forthright, disciplined and resilient। I am not a problem to be fixed, this system and the ways in which we regard one another needs fixing and it has to be a people effort. By no means, is this a fluffy, kumbaya type of sentiment, or something that can be simply theorized into abstraction for the comfort of not truly practicing it in reality. This is quite material and concrete. This means, that the power has to be laid down, the hoarding has to be laid down, the lies have to be laid down, put on the table and directly talked about. The ability to imagine everyone there as equals also has to be put on the table so we can say it is a true possibility for us.
Happy New Year! Happy Blog Space! And Happy many spaces we are creating to do the work that needs to be done!
The beautiful artwork featured here is from fellow warrior and activist Catalina Nieto. Her work has been featured here in previous posts. I am happy to say that many people have taken notice of her amazing work!
Thursday, June 30, 2011
I went down to the river,
I set down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn't,
So I jumped in and sank.
I came up once and hollered!
I came up twice and cried!
If that water hadn't a-been so cold
I might've sunk and died.
But it was Cold in that water! It was cold!
I took the elevator
Sixteen floors above the ground.
I thought about my baby
And thought I would jump down.
I stood there and I hollered!
I stood there and I cried!
If it hadn't a-been so high
I might've jumped and died.
But it was High up there! It was high!
So since I'm still here livin',
I guess I will live on.
I could've died for love--
But for livin' I was born
Though you may hear me holler,
And you may see me cry--
I'll be dogged, sweet baby,
If you gonna see me die.
Life is fine! Fine as wine! Life is fine!
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Mama whispers secrets to Niahra in the dark, 'cause Mama knew what would happen when she uttered those words. Mama thought, Maybe I shouldn't have said it that way...but what other way to say it? When she finally said those words,
"Look baby, it ain't easy being Black, and it's not gonna get any better। If you thought so then you've been fooled by the lies they tell you. Don't be fooled. Because they would rather have your eyes and ears blurred with smokes and screens instead of watching their world shatter. But you know what you're experiencing...so never forget. Use what you know. Use what you learn."
Mama knew this would be a lot for her daughter to stew on. And she's right। There is no other way to say it। There is no other way to tell your child that this will be life and there's no large green mountain to escape too।
And she thought...she thought...that maybe, just maybe, she wouldn't have to tell her little one anything. That she could pass the way the store clerk cut their eyes at them as happenstance. Or Niahra's noticing of the creeking cracking five levels of steps they walked up everyday to reach their cramped apartment as a, "Well, it just so happens" type of explanation. But her constant questions kept jabbing the surface, "Mama why don't these steps ever get fixed?" or, "Mama why's the rent so high?" or, "Mama, why isn't our place as nice as the houses over there?" or even, "Mama, why do those White people look at us all funny like that?"
Now her questions have become even more clear, even more spot on. Mama can't just pass it off as, "Well baby, it's just this..." or, "Niahra it's just that...it's a bad day, it's a bad attitude, it's a bad time of month, they just forgot, it's nothing to do with us, it's nothing to do with you..." Niahra sees the patterns and she's been counting them all along.
Can't blame her. I raised her to think. Mama thought.
But we've made it through. We've made it through, a long line little one, you come from a long line of fighting women, the darkest of the dark, the blackest of the black. They worked and toiled. They'd wake up 4 in the morning and walk 4 miles to the river with their empty buckets and then walk four miles back home with those empty buckets filled to the brim with water effortlessly balanced on their heads. I should know, I did it. I did it.
But Mama was worried. Worried about this young one. You see, Niahra usually talks. Just talks, all the time. Especially during dinner. You know, little conversations like, "Mama I don't like this...mama why'd you make the rice this way...mama Chinese food rather than fu-fu." You see, Niahra would talk and Mama could always figure her out. You know what I mean? Respond! Say, "Well what do you mean Chinese food rather than fu-fu, I only got fufu and this is what you'll eat..."
But Niahra. She didn't speak this time during dinner, and Mama couldn't respond to figure her little one out. Then after that, Mama usually asked Niahra to wash the dishes. Now in the normal scenario Niahra will usually fuss, suck her teeth, twist her mouth, roll those big eyes of hers...none of that, none of that this time. Just lips tightly pursed together that barely eeked out a, "yes Mama." And big brown eyes that seemed devoid of any expression. Mama didn't even know if Niahra had really heard her so she asked, "Child did you hear me?" And Mama watched this little one's head move up and down in a nodding fashion and go about washing the dishes.
No voice, just a nod. Just a nod? "Niahra! Have you lost your words?!" Mama asked. Then Niahra with the faintest of voice said, "...Nope. Just don't feel like talking much." Well why's her voice so thin, it's usually fuller than that? It can stretch for miles. For miles! Uh oh. Mama thought. Niahra doesn't know. But this is the testing ground, if her voice is caught in her throat then it'll rot her insides. Then, she'll take this to work, she'll take this to school, she'll take this to her life and she'll boil inside. Mhhmmm.
Mama stayed up with her daughter, just watching her rest inside herself. She rubbed Niahra's head and just watched. "You come from a line of fighters, survivors. With their mouth's wide open to make sense of the world around them daughter. To act. You gotta open yours. You've got to." Niahra didn't know, but for the next month Mama would watch her in her sleep. Talking to her during the day, not promising her a life of easy, but pushing her to be fearless. Pushing her for a life of survival. In the night, she would whisper other words, whisper hush-hushed things of building strength.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:
For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive
- Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn