Thursday, June 21, 2007

Home is a Trip: Out of this World

The Keys: The Official Organ of the League of Colored People (edited by Una Marson), 1933
Spare Rib, 1979-1984
For Ourselves: From Women's Point of View: Our Bodies and Sexuality, Anja Muelenbelt, 1981.
Conditions ("Feminist Literary Journal with an Emphasis on Writing by Lesbians") 1982-1988
Girls are Powerful: Young Women's Writings from Spare Rib, 1982
FAN (Feminist Art News) 1983-1985
Gen: An Anti-Racist, Anti-Sexist Education Journal, 1983-1988
I Is a Long Memoried Woman, Grace Nichols, 1983
A Dangerous Knowing: Four Black Women Poets Barbara Buford, Gabriela Pearse, Grace Nichols, Jackie Kay, 1984.
Echo: Works by Women Artists 1850-1940, Maud Sulter, 1991.
Syrcas, Maud Sulter, 1994.
Jeanne Duval, A Melodrama, Maud Sulter, 2003.
The Known World, Edward P. Jones, 2003.
Sing, Whisper, Shout, Pray: Feminist Visions for A Just World, M. Jacqui Alexander, Lisa Albrecht, Sharon Day and Mab Segrest (eds), 2003.
Soul Power: Culture, Radicalism and the Making of A U.S. Third World Left, Cynthia A. Young, 2006.
The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World, Vijay Prashad, 2007.
The Allied Media Conference in Detroit Michigan
and the United States Social Forum in Atlanta Georgia (as supplemental and inassimilable texts)

What I really learned this week was never to return from a powerful, overwhelming and sleep depriving event in Detroit with only a few hours before you need to drive to a powerful, overwhelming and sleep depriving event in Atlanta. Especially if (thanks to a rare mistake by your loving and usually perfect partner) you are actually accidentally homeless...during those not even 20 hours at "home". (My girlfriend locked all of our keys in the house...our landlord was out of town...the locksmith was closed...where was Una Marson when I needed her so!)

Luckily, (in addition to the surplus inspiration I received from the badass women of color bloggers and young hip hop activists I met in the big D) I had a good reason to stay awake during the drive to Atlanta (lengthened by rain, rubbernecking and rush hour): Mama Nayo. I had the honor of driving from present home to former home with native ATLien, black arts south heroine, and loving elder friend Nayo Watkins. Our conversation which ranged from the meaning of "community research" to the difference between growing up in Atlanta during periods of racial and class-based segregation framed my entire trip home (oh that word again).

For updates on the poems and polemics I shared at the Allied Media Conference and the United States Social Forum click the appropriate links on the BrokenBeautiful Press mainpage, and let me know what you think. This is the place where I start (again) figuring out my relationship to the texts above in terms of my life here (below).

My question, subliminally pre-invoked by these readings and reiterated by my overdose on conference attendance is this: How many world are there? Especially in regards to the work that Young and Prashad do (often in contradiction...and certainly with different scopes) to define the 3rd World, I wonder how many worlds exist at once.

Many worlds are small ones. This past week I have travelled through one small world that is the US based people of color led movement for radical social change. We all know each other. I hope that makes us a movement. I hope that makes us accountable. I hope that helps us succeed. And I have visited another small world where black lesbians in their fifties talk about how they used to go dancing with Marlon Riggs, and how Pat Parker helped them move, and how Audre Lorde noticed they were the only ones nodding in agreement at her public speeches and how I should know their daughters since we all went to school together and never ever spoke. And there is the smaller and marginalized world of our healing, holding it's space as its relevance moves towards need. And there is the small network of radical women of color bloggers who directed more people to my website than I even imagined. And there is the small world of my community of survivors in healing, making smaller worlds still as we embrace each other. And then there is the you that might be reading this blog. Small, small, world in which to dance.

And if these are just some of the small worlds where my soul has stretched by, then how many worlds must there be. And what do these worlds have to do with mapping (after the official launchings of activist networks MyBloc ( and Future 5000 ( and that other map launched by sistersong and of course google maps making it easy for someone to be looking at my roof right now. What do all of the small worlds that matter to me have to do with the earth or the planet and with knowing and with fear. At the Building a Queer Left meeting that Southerners on New Ground and Queers for Economic Justice put on someone suggested that it would be great to make an accessible map of all the progressive or radical queer organizations or people (or cells?) in the United States. And everyone agreed it would be wonderful to have that kind of GPS and no one said that was scary. No one reminded the group that lots of people still want to kill us, and that many of us, especially immigrants right now need to remain unfound. No one mentioned the TV series heroes and the tragedies caused when the map of the supernaturally gifted got into the wrong kindred hands. No one said that. And that no one was supposed to have been me.

The contradiction is: I want to know. I benefit from knowing people working on radical projects all over the world, and I don't begrudge anyone the luxury of what I have learned through accident and lust, but when the world becomes a globe, infinitely knowable and programmed it's the small one, it is us who can be hurt first, fastest and in the quietest ways. Our small worlds are not by any means safe, if only because they are none of them only, none of them self-contained, none of them disconnected, none of them whole or home completely. So while I find myself making a map through time and space of black feminist publishing, of people who purposely left treasure maps, of people who wanted to be found (by me) even after they suffered deportation, and exile, imprisonment, and death sentences, I think I am also making a small paperlined world, lining it with words and hoping that maybe I can hide here and sleep. Just for now.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Changed Waters Evaporating or Breathing is Believing

“Coalition Politics: Turning the Century”, Bernice Johnson Reagon, West Coast Women’s Music Festival, 1981.
“Mr. Close-friend-of-the-family pays a visit whilst everyone else is out”, charcoal by Sonia Boyce, circa 1983
As A Black Woman, Maud Sulter, 1985 (Akira Press)
Black Women Talk Poetry, BlackWomantalk Collective (Da Chong, Olivette Cole Wilson, Bernadine Evaristo, Gabriela Pearse), 1987,
“Calliope”, (a gilt framed self-portait photograph by and of Maud Sulter shown above), 1991
Shadowboxing: Representations of Black Feminist Politics Joy James, 1999.
Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics Memory and the Sacred, M. Jaqui Alexander, 2005.
“Southerners on New Ground: Our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community”, Mandy Carter in What Lies Beneath: Katrina, Race and the State of the Nation, 2007.
“Political Literacy and Voice” Joy James in What Lies Beneath: Katrina, Race and the State of the Nation, 2007.
“Radical Social Change: Searching for a New Foundation”, Adjoa Florencia Jones de Ameida in The Revolution Will Not be Funded (an INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence Anthology), South End Press, 2007.
“Are the Cops in Our Heads and Hearts?”, Paula X. Rojas, in The Revolution Will Not be Funded (an INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence Anthology), South End Press, 2007.
“Non-Profits and the Autonomous Grassroots”, Eric Tang in The Revolution Will Not be Funded (an INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence Anthology), South End Press, 2007.
“On Our Own Terms: Ten Years of Radical Community Building With Sista II Sista”, Nicole Burrowes, Morgan Cousins, Paula X. Rojas, and Ije Ude in The Revolution Will Not be Funded (an INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence Anthology), South End Press, 2007.

“Welcome”, Loretta Ross at SisterSong 10th Anniversary Celebration “Let’s Talk About Sex” May 31-June 3rd 2007.
“Your Human Rights are My Human Rights: Building a Reproductive Justice Movement Together”, Byllye Avery
“Reproductive Oppression and Reproductive Justice for Women of Color”, Dorothy Roberts
“Self-Help: Speak Truth With Power”, Dazan Dixon Diallo
“Integrating HIV/AIDS and Reproductive Justice Movements Globally”, Dazan Dixon Diallo (SisterLove Inc)
“The Future of Sex and Reproductive Technologies”, Sujatha Jesudason (Center for Genetics and Society)
“Intersex Human Rights Issues”, Emi Koyama
“Myth of Overpopulation and Dangerous Contraceptives”, Cara Page (Deeper Waters Productions and Committee on Women, Population and the Environment)
“Organizing Youth at the Domincan Women’s Development Center, Claudia De la Cruz
“Valuing Young Motherhood”, Benita Miller (Brooklyn Young Mother’s Collective)
“If Another World is Possible, Another U.S. is Necessary—Moving Forward to the U.S. Social Forum”, Jerome Scott (Project South)
“Sex Work and Economic Justice”, Juhu Thukral (Sex Workers Project @ Urban Justice Center), Erika Derkas and Gennifer Hirano (Sex Workers Outreach Project Los Angeles)
“Undivided Rights: Women Of Color and Reproductive Justice”, Jael Silliman, Marelene Gerber Fried, Loretta Ross, Elena Gutierrez
“The Power of Stories: Depo Provera and Women of Color” Committee on Women and Population and Luz Rodriquez
“From the Birth Room to the Bedroom: Decolonizing Women from the Imprint of Violence (The Butterfly Approach)”
“The Erotics of Childbirth”, Luz Lesero
all at SisterSong 10th Anniversary Celebration “Let’s Talk About Sex” May 31-June 3rd 2007.

In Guyana they believe that ancestors move in wind, take us over quick like that, fill us with the power of the universe and more (the multiverse perhaps). And when M. Jacqui Alexander explains that we don't walk alone, that we walk accompanied in a way that makes our bodies sites of memory, talking books, that spoils our souls from ever being bought, that opens our mouth to possession that is already communal, I hear that. We hear that. We know. Last night while I finished reading M. Jaqui Alexander's Pedagogies of Crossing, Oya took me over (took me again?) into sounds of recognition that probably made Jurina (sitting next to me calculating statistics at the time) wonder since when had Duke library been lending out 350 page hardcover erotica. But I mean it. When Alexander shared that her teacher described Oya as being able to "kiss you with a light breeze" I recognized a possession that has had me all along.
Last week I wondered about superpowers and living forever and as if in response (as if being in the presence of almost a thousand brilliant, fierce, committed beautiful women including my very own mother at the SisterSong Conference in Chicago were not enough!) this huge book by Jacqui Alexander that against good advice I lugged along the journey holds a name for this act of transgenerational remembering, of an archive in the body not coded in genomes, of an intellectual act of faith, theorizing as an existential act of (simply put) superpowers and living forever. What a model for sharing, as Cara Page spoke completely habituated by Audre Lorde about how we risk our lives to love to transform the world with the ample erotic us, and how capitalism names that if it were the millions and not the few wasting 80% of the resources. As Luz Lesero spoke rebirth into this same Audre in her workshop on erotic childbirthing. As the midwives of the Tewa Birthing Center spoke of the Butterfly approach that splits open worlds that remain connected into thousand year histories in which we are small and growing. As heroes in the reproductive justice movement are mourned as 14 year old urban butterflies make group poems...the dead are born and born and born.
And we thought coalition in the present was hard. And we thought relating across organizational affiliations, callings and practices was difficult, was humbling, was taking too long! But we are relating across planes, across centuries, across death, across oceans even now. Even right now June, Audre, Claudia, Olive, Ida, and Ella crowd into my fingers, rush forward to fill this next breath when it opens. And we thought resources were scarce! I feel like my face has smacked into the wall of infinity and moved through because it was was air all along. I am learning the meaning of a map without conquest, I am swallowing the depth of what I almost bartered cheap. Revolutions cannot be funded...just as much as Gil Scott Heron cannot die alone. Revolutions cannot be funded and we would sell our souls, chain our freedoms to money made to weigh the flight of our porous bodies down? I cried during many moments of the SisterSong conference, but clarity stung most when I learned that the same funders who pay for this beautiful conference in this bad-ass hotel...who paid for my mother and I to attend towards our futures...were paying for our knowing with residuals that they made off of testing birth control at 20 times the stregnth, of inserting depo provera prototypes without consent, of sterlizing and sterlizing until the elementary schools had to start closing, simply put for raping women in Puerto Rico and Jamaica of all the generations they might have been holding to pass on. Birth control drug sales are big business...big enough to fund the Reproductive Justice movement off the crumbs leftover.

So when I say we are connected that means everything. That means as much as I am open to joy I am open to pain 100 generations worth using me to change the water. That means if we are divine, if we are forever, we are also complicit, we are trading in soul. As the Sista said "Capital is not only all around us in the society we live in. It is also in what we what we believe is possible." Who knew that Oya had been sitting here all along (Maud Sulter knew through the name Calliope)? Who knew that Oya had been circulating through me all this time...hoping I would continue to give her away, to open to faith, hoping I would sell off no more of our power than necessary. Hoping that sacrifice wouldn't scar me passed passing on all that she is pushing through.