Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Decide (Gratitude Poem #16)

Tema Okun is the angry white woman the founding fathers were scared would come to life, even as they did everything to create the critical, cynical, hopeful, teacher that she is. Present to the contradiction of the moment and choosing like an artist to keep every piece of the contradiction unresolved. As it should be.

Tema's work as a white anti-racist educator and organizer and an anti-Zionist Jewish activist and an erstwhile member of the UBUNTU writing group has been a resource in my life for conversations about Palestine and June Jordan, the structural possibilities of autonomous educational space, the dynamics of fear, classroom exercises, university teaching evaluations, the value of time in the day or night for art, the sound of a new year and more. Together, with their chosen family member artist Ellen O'Grady, Tema and her partner Tom have been providing free, abundant meeting and organizing space in Durham for years...making a home for many Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind and Mobile Homecoming Events including Queer Black Sunday School, James Baldwin's 86th Birthday Party, the Lucille Clifton ShapeShifter Survival Rebirth Summer, the MotherOurselves Bootcamp parts of Indigo Days and so many that I can't even list them all.

Tom and Tema also journey to Palestine yearly as part of their solidarity work towards a free Palestine and the just world that would require such freedom. I have learned from watching Tema and Tom in action that space is a crucial resource with infinite possibilities and place is a deep catalyst for accountability. I'm thrilled and grateful to share space and community with Tema and Tom and so excited that they are part of my journey across water to the US colony where Audre Lorde wrote so passionately about imperialism, disaster economics and the teachings of the wind.

If you want to join that journey home check out:




For Tema and Tom

After Audre Lorde’s “Domino”

List the names



Wounded Knee


line them up

sages in skylight

carry water

past horizon

carry blood

past identification

carry bone

past bleach and sun

worship backbone

intend neighbors

travel past home

to here

cats know

the full moon means

stay up all night

waiting for something

to be different

and then realize it is you

imagine it is you

wanting to weep

upon reflection


it is you.

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