Monday, December 26, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
with Audre Lorde in transition
after Gwendolyn Brooks
“You have enabled yourself to prove of incalculable aid to many, many women—not just today’s women, but women down the ages...I am have been and always will be proud of you.”
Gwendolyn Brooks to Audre Lorde
“This is the urgency: Live!
and have your blooming in the noise of the whirlwind.”
-Gwendolyn Brooks “Second Sermon on the Warpland”
brook open stream woke
this is how we conduct our blooming
brash and gentle at kitchen tables
on living room floors
noise and whip and head turned around
did you just say…
something scattered here
(our several dreams)
played into particles
stepped and stepped over it
trip and trip over
something flew apart
arrival is in the instant of yes
glitter your hands with the grace of grief
knot your hair with knowing
never meant to hold money
never meant to braid it into noose
never knew another way was
warrior healer be we
how to go there
warrior healer be we
who wont be who we are
until we are
warrior healer be
we who don’t know what
until we say
when voice shake
warrior healer be
warrior healer be
for Bessie and we
warrior poet be watching
warrior mother poet be
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Access to the moon.
The power to heal.
Daily visits with the spirits."
-Ntozake Shange on little sister Indigo in her first novel Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo
We are in my car with the top down dodging the falling leaves when Assata drops knowledge on the subject of grades, a new clarity gained during this first term of 6th grade: "Grades are bullying the alphabet." The girls find out that their hands can bend in ways they never knew. They read outloud parts of the books they are reading. They punch each other very lightly at the sight of a volkswagen bug. And this is just the car ride.
The Indigo Afterschool Program was an idea that 11 year old Alex Lockhart shared with her mother, using the words: "I want to go to an afterschool program at Alexis's house." Inspired by Ntozake Shange's character "Indigo" from her first novel Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo, the Indigo Afterschool TeaParty is a place to share dreams, make art, blow bubbles and investigate Indigo's practices of healing, self-love, dream interpretation, doll-making, compassion and full self-expression! Girls from 3 Durham middle schools participate!
We check in over tea and snacks letting a deep breath out at the end of our check-ins by blowing a real or imaginary bubble. We make dolls that listen, healing remedies for emotional emergencies, books for our dreams, collages for our visions, love notes for each other in the name of Indigo who used all these things to create the world she needed when she was right in the arena of the menstrual transformation.
It is an honor to participate in the building of community and sisterhood among these brilliant young women, and as the Crunk Feminist Collective reminded us with their development of a women's studies 101 workshop for high school students (http://crunkfeministcollective.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/feminism-101-or-why-womens-studies-cant-wait-a-workshop-for-girls/)
the intentional support and nourishment of the love, transformation and brilliance that is already living and growing and possible in young people can never start to early.
Indigo Afterschool uses the model of Indigo...just one of many audacious, inventive, complex, community accountable and wise young Black characters created by Black feminist writers to give young folks a chance to love each other and explore their own magical skills, a space to critique the norms they are noticing at school, and a validation of the practices of breathing, creating and listening.
As people around the country reclaim space in their communities to activate their visions I am proud that the space that these 11 year olds (who have just proposed an expansion of the program to bi-weekly sessions) have decided to takeover my living room with their dreams.
(Here is what Alex left on the chalkboard)
Indigo Style Remedies:
Yesterday we read some of Indigo's remedies that she creates after difficult experience and share with her community of dolls so that her growth can also benefit them. Oh Indigo!!!
Rock in the manner of a quiet sea. Hum softly from your heart. Repeat the victim’s name with love. Offer a brew of red sunflower to cleanse the victims blood and spirit. Fasting & silence for a time refurbish the victim’s awareness of her capacity to nourish & heal herself.
The Indigo After School crew also wrote their own remedies yesterday (they also wrote a healing recipe for popcorn, getting past writers block and "boredness").
Here is some of their advice...that I recommend keeping on hand or enacting right now for your own healing:
Emergency Care for the "the funk"
(i.e. like on Glee, when they were in a funk because they were afraid their singing group wasn't good enough)
Surround oneself with loved ones, then go on top of a tall object and scream to hearts content all of ones deepest feelings. If this does not work, go in private room and listen to songs that mention only of happy things, then write down all of ones problems and think of a way to turn them around.
Emergency for Sadness
1. go to the bathroom and turn on hot water. let it steam.
2. get your favorite incense and burn it
3. get a robe and put it on
4. put the incense in the bathroom
5. put a stool in the bathroom
6. write all the things you are sad about on a piece of paper
7. write on the steamed mirror all the things that are peaceful
8. sit in the bathroom and be peaceful with the steaming and the incense
Forged by Fire (for hard experiences that change you forever):
Bathe in a tub of warm water without bubbles. Slowly lie down and let all the bad energy out. When you get out, don't dry off, instead go to a silent room and let the peaceful air dry you off. Next rub your skin with soothing lavender oil. Now go outside and let the sun wrap its loving rays around you.
Amazing! Priceless and here is how you can support this space!
1. Of course donating to the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind one time
or becoming a monthly sustainer helps infinitely to sustain this free program for superhero youth.
2. This community of readers is the best thing ever. Want to send as a winter break gift 1 or 3 copies of your favorite young adult book from when you were around 11? The Indigo afterschoolers are self-identified "cool nerds" and will need a lot of reading material when school lets out next month to keep their brains engaged! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for the address.
3. Or contribute to the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind Library that surrounds and uplifts the participants and their parents and grandparents and younger siblings and friends by donating a book from the Eternal Summer amazon wishlist!
Keeping it quirky, eternal and off the hook!
Monday, November 14, 2011
Lunch Plenary on Coming Out in the South as Queer and Undocumented
Dedicated to Ms. Vera Martin
To get to Ms. Vera we faced our greatest fear. We drove through Arizona. Scarier even than the Mississippi police who separated us for questioning when we told them we were driving across the country interviewing visionary Black LGBTQ feminist elders, was that drive through Arizona in the middle of the night. The closest my partner Julia and I, raised in North Carolina and Georgia, have ever come to the segregation stories we've heard all our lives about travellers scared to stop for gas, to pee, to talk to a stranger, especially after sundown. When we finally did stop, because hail and fog and the presence of elk made it impossible to keep driving through Tonto national park, we put signs on every side of our purple and turquoise RV explaining that we didn't want to stop and we weren't trying to tresspass, but we just couldn't keep going.
We knew where we were: Arizona in the era of the state bill that is a hate bill, where it is illegal to be a person of color, standing still, on land, asking for help. That night was the closest we have come to the stories that make our parents and grandparents shake at the words "police," "highway," "bathroom," "night." The reason my mother tracks our queer black deviant adventurous behinds on Google latitude every step of the way. Probably the reason that Ms. Vera, living in Apache Junction Arizona in a retirement RV park full of white lesbians doesn't get many visitors and in fact laughed out loud at the concept of us, two queer black young people willing to drive through Arizona just to see her, to sit and talk with her in person.
For us, the scary thing about Arizona was that we knew that conservative copy-cat laws would pop up in our region, taking us back to the good old days that give our relatives nightmares, that still turn my father into a completely different person if he gets pulled over by a white Georgia cop. Our folks that know that no amount of hard-boiled eggs and fried chicken packed lunches can save us from that knowledge in the pit of your stomach that for us there is no such thing as home that cannot be taken away, that for us, for generations it has been about trying to move through undetected our queer selves our colored selves in a land where it is illegal to be us and to be loved and to be here all the way, where anyone might notice us and be transformed.
That cop that stopped our purple and turquoise love-mobile in Mississippi was flabbergasted. Queer, feminist, black and intergenerational? What do you mean your "elders"? He squinted. And then he called for back-up.
To love who we love, to claim who and were we come from is dangerous and possibly contagious. We are counting on the contagion of queer Black intergenerational love which is why we would go through Mississippi and Arizona and hail and hell to get to Ms. Vera. Who knew better than anyone why we cannot allow the laws that would pre-emptively and comprehensively invalidate our families. Including anti-immigration laws and includes narrow marriage amendments and includes anti-choice legislation and suggestions to legally say there is no such thing as rape. Ms. Vera knows best of all why we cannot believe for one second the lies those laws would tell about us and must in every moment recognize those attacks as the desperation they are against our brilliance, our unstoppable power against how radiant we are that we inspire even those who try so hard to hate us. We are love and we know it and we are contagious.
And so it makes complete sense that when Ms. Vera told us about her trip to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Creating Change conference, the first thing she spoke of was her love for the young undocumented activists speaking out. "Because I know what that is," she said. Ms. Vera was born in Louisiana in 1924. "I know what that is," she said. Where there is no law that will protect you, only laws to hurt you. Where there are people who so can't deal with you that they want to be able to get away with raping you or killing you and throwing you in a ditch. Where there are people who can see that you are human and don't want to know it, so they try to make you illegal. "I know what that is," Ms. Vera said. "And I love those young people because they're not gonna take it."
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Friday, November 04, 2011
Making Majority: Majority Consciouness and Black Feminist Protest Poems (For the Raleigh Reclaimers)
Friday, October 28, 2011
In this the second part in the "Survival Series: Black Feminism for the Future" this lecture draws on author June Jordan's essay “The Creative Spirit in Children’s Literature” which explains that “love is lifeforce” and describes the intergenerational work of nurturing the spirits of children as the most sacred work that adults can do. In a time when the education budgets for Durham schools are under attack and the Wake County schools are actively resegregating, Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs will present a multi-faceted vision for educational justice in our times.
Monday, October 24, 2011
“We are working towards profound social change, knowing that there are no disposable people or communities. We all need to be here.”– Brown Boi Health Manifesto by Prentis Hemphill (119)
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Thursday, October 06, 2011
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
Tuesday, October 04, 2011
Ms. Helga Emde is a healer and counselor who works with children who are survivors of abuse at the Women's Coalition of St. Croix. The Women's Coalition of St. Croix has existed for more than 30 years and was founded by women who after an inspiring talk by Audre Lorde at the University of St. Croix (at the time the College of St. Croix) began to share their experiences of domestic violence and sexual assault. According to Dr. Gloria Joseph, one member of the community stood and said, what should we do with all of this energy and all of these stories? And Audre Lorde responded Get a pencil and a piece of paper and write your names and information down so you can meet again. The women did meet again and ultimately founded this organization which has had a long lasting impact on St. Croix and which also provided an amazingly aligned workplace for Ms. Helga, who actually organized Audre Lorde's first poetry reading in Frankfurt Germany in 1987, when she moved to St. Croix from Frankfurt 10 years ago.
Ms. Helga claims not to know many young lesbians. "You are the future my dear!" she exclaimed the first day I met her. I know that it was no small thing for Ms. Helga who had never met me before to open up the home she and Dr. Joseph share to a strange young visitor with early morning yoga, dance and ocean rituals for 2 weeks. I am so grateful for Ms. Helga's hospitality. I learned so much from watching her gather her crystals to be energized by the full moon, helping to put up storm shutters in anticipation of tropical storm Maria at meeting her enthusiastic colleagues at the Women's Coalition in the midst of their transition out of a burned down building. It is an honor to affirm Ms. Helga and her healing.
P.S. You can read more about Ms. Helga in her own (translated) words in the anthology Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out.
Monday, October 03, 2011
Julia Roxanne Wallace. You are the gift that keeps on giving. I am so grateful to you for insisting that I follow my spirit and take this trip to St. Croix even when I felt like I didn't have the time to spare and wouldn't be able to raise the money. I am grateful to you for saying that spending our first-date anniversary with Audre in St. Croix was an affirmation to our love and for reminding me that we'll have many many many more first-date anniversaries to spend together. Thank you for being abundant in your love for me and teaching me to live abundantly guided by love. By the time I've posted this poem I'll already have another love poem for you. Thank you for assuring that I will always have that central motivation for poetry: a love that transcends words.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Was I 14 or 15 years old when my friend Elizabeth Anderson took that picture of me, hiding in straightened hair, sunglasses and a laugh covered by my two large hands for the "Seen and Heard" youth poetry competition sponsored by Charis Books and More and the Atlanta Journal Constitution?
It was such a big deal to me to have my words on a wall and in the newspaper. And that was how I met you Linda. That was how I learned about the High School Women's Writing Group at Charis. That is what led to many after-school and weekend afternoons, writing and talking about writing, and talking about things that I might otherwise have been afraid to write about. It was a space where I could be myself and explore how to describe myself in the transformation of growing. It was a space you dedicated your life to creating and nurturing. It was a space where you introduced me to other Black feminist geniuses like Pearl Cleage, Doria Roberts, Shay Youngblood, Fiona Zedde.
Which means now for 15 years you have been there, as an example, as an adviser, as a fairy godmother reminding me to stay grounded as everything changes. Affirming my choices even as they defy convention. Showing me by your life and reminding me in your words that it will all work out as long as I am present to magic, as long as live as true as I can and listen to my heart and when I can, write down what it is saying.
I learned over and over again that well-behaved women and well-behaved bookstores rarely make history. Thank you for lovingly tending that rare bravery that makes everything possible!
I love you Linda!!!!
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
So from watching Al Sharpton's Politics Nation to debating the impact of metaphysics on US Open Tennis results on the beach, surviving loss of all phone lines, and WAPA power outages, to sifting through letters, articles, unpublished interviews and decades old master's theses and dissertations about Lorde's work I feel privileged to have been invited as family into the life of a black feminist elder living in the present with the power of memory. If Black Feminism is a religion, this was a pilgrimage, and Doc Joseph is the guru, oracle, riddle-bearer in the wilderness.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Walking Arawak Road
After Audre Lorde’s Hugo I
once i was coral
living breathing speaking
who would listen
layered days ago
storm was affirmation
once you were the you I prayed for
once rain was blessing living breathing once
we built our days
because where air
people without winter
who could float
sometime we knew
we would always exist
that our bodies
deep of water
would shout our names
some hurricane later
we were here
we were not afraid
to blow away
Saturday, September 10, 2011
For Justin Smith
After Audre Lorde’s “East Berlin”
now the danger is statistical
to be black brilliant bold
bound to black brave bold
boys bending backwards brave
to be beside yourself
is a statistical danger
blood calls blatant
brash back to books
beyond the secondary function
of your heartbeat
on someone else’s clock
brain the name
for black boy purgatory
blink the blessings
be the truth
where beam basquiat hemphill
wash their veins
wring their wrath
ring their hair
around your finger
waking up is a commitment ceremony
because you remember
so remember this too:
when you sit there in class
wishing you were back
or over my house
or somewhere else
categorically more cool
remember your own meaning
your own clamoring correlations
you are not a problem set
you are blame game tournament upset
day of reckoning longed for
freedom song refrain
in every fold of your brain
black brilliant bold
unstoppable and blue
you are a statistical danger
I am here in St. Croix on this dream trip that you helped me achieve and thinking about you. I thought I wonder where Justin is right now...and thought probably in Statistics class, damn. But then I thought about how grateful I am and how grateful all our chosen and given queer black ancestors are that you are doing the work that you are doing, getting your PhD, spreading the healing word and bringing much needed resources to the communities we love and I thought that I am really glad that you exist. And I am glad that you are in whatever meeting, class, study group, cycle of TA grading that you are in. You are an affirmation of our ancestors and our brilliant communal future at all times, in all things and in all places. You are a miracle. I am so happy to witness you.
Sometimes at school (especially prestigious predominately white institutions like where we've been educated) people seem to think that it is so unlikely that we would be there. We are some small percentage point unplanned for and exploited by the institution. And the institution shows it so many ways, from forgetting our funding to placing us in unasked for spotlights and using us as excuses not to address structural inequities and on and on right?
Well I say fuck it. They think they know, but they have no idea. You were destined to be exactly where you are doing exactly what you are doing. It is not unlikely. It is 100% on purpose on time within your plan and within the destiny of our community. I know it. All our ancestors know it. Our whole community feels it in the pulse you are affirming whether they know your name yet or not! Stat!
Love you always and grateful for you always,