shock value & solutions

{trigger warning: video contains mention/images of domestic violence, injury}


i understand and appreciate the sentiment.  and i sincerely agree that black folks--perhaps sistas in particular--will have to pool our resources in order to uplift and empower ourselves.  {something we used to do in big ways, in case you didn't know}.

one of my personal dreams is to have a home large enough to help sistas and babies in just this way.

but i have some serious concerns about the presentation of the solution.   

for one, "blackistan" is horrifically insensitive.  "-stan" is a suffix meaning "land" in many languages (eastern euro/ slavic/ asian), and has positive connotations.  many, many folks have died to be able to rename their ancestral lands on their terms--just as we have.   

where does "-stan" have negative connotations? the western eurocentric/american media.  which i'm sure the makers of this video do not mean to align themselves with. 

the above sentence is the last time you'll see me use that word.  i pray it doesn't catch on.  

the second thing that smacked me was the deep tone of internalized oppression.  who thinks anyone is living like that because they want to?  but more on the economic justice angle later.

even within some of our worst communities, there have been places that were respected and protected: safe houses, homes of community elders, etc.--sometimes by the very "thugs" we demonize.  having the Fruit of Islam provide security within housing projects and at community events worked well for decades.

as i move through baltimore, dc and other urban areas, i still see this kind of oasis around community centers, certain homes and offices.  the key? seeing and serving the community from a base of respect and mutual cooperation.  trust and believe: there have been mechanisms of protection and respect within the 'hood, and there can be again.* 

we also have to be careful of tossing around the "ex-con" label.  these men didn't do what they did because they'd been in jail. they did what they did because they were/are sociopaths.  not all sociopaths are currently or have been imprisoned, and being imprisoned doesn't turn everyone into one.    
which leads me to my next point: we all have healing to do.  the mental health issues that form the backdrop of these individual cases and the state of our people as a whole will not magically disappear.

i rejoiced over the Kenyan women's village when it first came to light.  but i also understood that their cultural and spiritual base allowed for that kind of cohesion and community in a way that ours might not--at least not without a lot of work.  sistas who would be open to this kind of arrangement have probably already done a fair bit of reprogramming to get to that stage.

how do we overcome the pervasiveness of the idea that you can't trust another woman, or that two women can't live amicably in the same home?

how soon would these arrangements fall apart if or when someone accuses the sistas of being queer or lesbian? 

remember i mentioned economic justice?  how many sistas facing these living conditions receive benefits from the state?  how does that restrict their income and general mobility?

i noticed one of the comments mentioned that women should start the process with family members, which many folks do--either by choice or circumstance.  the catch: that still doesn't make it easier (financially) to get outta the 'hood.** 

i'm not saying the folks who made this video are not prepared to face these questions--they may very well be.

but, as i always say: go deeper.  don't stop with the soundbites and the quick, feel-good fixes.  

* i'm aware that this has changed greatly with the emergence of a younger generation that often has no understanding or respect of the "rules"--that's a problem.  you also don't see sistas being offered much protection unless they're the "right" kind of sista.  another problem.  

** remember: statistics lie, and you can't always judge a book by its cover. a woman who's single (on paper) doesn't necessarily lack a loving partner and/or co-parent.  folks are workin it out. eff what ya heard.  it's also important to note that marriage is a problem if you need assistance, and it's been that way for years.


learning to forgive...myself

as i've lived this thing called life, i've learned that i can readily forgive others.  there is very little--especially these days--i take personally.  holding grudges has never been my thing. 

but i am very rough on myself. 

one of my gifts is that i'm able to see many, many angles at any given time.  i enjoy weaving all sorts of tangents into meaningful tapestries

the darker side?  for every mistake i make, for every relationship that doesn't work, any time life goes "wrong", i see those angles, too.

my hindsight is merciless.  it has often reduced me to a mess of tears and (internal) anguish.

rationally, i'm completely aware that although i can see down many roads, i cannot control the actions of another.  no matter what i "see" or "know", i'm not always going to be able to protect myself from someone else's outwardly manifested dysfunction, pain, or heartache.

i also know that acting out of love, concern, friendship, or plain kindness is never wrong in and of itself.  it's how we all should strive to be.

i understand that it's unfair to hurt myself because those actions were either used against me, taken for granted, or ignored.  

on the whole, i make good choices.  i weigh consequences.  i learn well from my mistakes.  i do not repeat myself if i can help it.  i know how to move on and stay gone--and if i reopen the door, it's on my terms.     
even with all that, i can still come to a place where i {unconsciously} think, "damn. i messed up. [doesn't matter what "they" did. i probably forgave them already anyway.] i have to punish myself by depriving myself of [some good thing] until i can do it perfectly and without injury."

after awhile, i'm hurting because i miss the good thing, but can't figure out how to reclaim it.

it's a painful, vicious cycle.

the silver lining? i also hold the gifts of self-awareness and a determination to heal.  no way over but through has become a sort of motto.        

since i've been able to name this, i've realized that this behavior is one of those ego-based patterns that keeps me the worst kind of "safe"--the kind that keeps you from living broadly and deeply.

so...there's work to do.

  • forgiving yourself is just as important as forgiving others, if not more so.* 
  • i refuse to carry what is not mine. 
  • i will not give myself problems i do not have.
  • there are no coincidences. everything happens for a reason.
  • i incarnated to learn lessons.  i cannot always predict how they'll manifest. i am grateful that, with time, i almost always understand the reason and learn the lesson.
  • God/dess controls whatever i cannot. let Divinity work.

*to be clear, there is a difference between accountability (i.e. being aware of what you bring to a situation/space, taking responsibility for actions that may hurt or offend others, etc.) and self-forgiveness.  triflin is triflin--or, ratchet is ratchet as the kids say.  some of the "forgive yourself!" rhetoric out here sounds more like excusing bad behavior than anything else.


cake & Kola

Kola Boof is...complicated. to put it mildly. i followed her on twitter for awhile; she could drip honey or spit fire, and you never quite knew what words would invoke either. still, she was nothing if not true to herself, and i sincerely respect folks that unabashedly speak their minds.  at least you know who you're rollin with.  

that said, i felt the points she made here about the Swedish cake controversy, particularly when she says that the voices of infibulated women have often been silenced.

i do not support "savior complex" solutions that roll all over cultural realities to make their points or save the "poor, defenseless womenfolk" of a particular place.  ideally, it's better to have women and girls come to those realizations, and implement their visions and plans with support from others, if necessary.

even then, we should not assume that any community is a monolith.  there will be a range of opinions and stories, and not everyone will see a "problem" to be solved.

it is, and is always, complicated.

would i want this to ever happen to any girl, anywhere? no. however, i do understand that not undergoing such procedures can have drastic effects--consequences i as an individual am not, at this stage in my life, able to mitigate in any real way, and that many organizations do not plan for.

often, the reality is: no husband means no food and no shelter.  period.  

should it be that way? no.

be wary of issue silos that neglect a holistic picture. given the artist's lack of vision and the lack of sensitivity from the folks consuming it, i'd say they fell victim to exactly that mentality.*

*there is a video of the "performance", but i found it a bit too unnerving to link to. you can easily find it via google. 


a note on clarity

an almost-brief statement about walking the road to clarity, with some assists from the mineral realm.



MLK vigil - DC, 4.4.2012

last night, i attended a vigil at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, marking the 44th year since his assassination on April 4, 1968.

it was a beautiful evening for it: warm with a lovely sunset, soft breezes tossing around the last of the cherry blossom petals.

there was some old school baptist singing from a men's choir. A Phi A was out in force. Dick Gregory walked right by me on his way to the VIP area {he looks great!}. the grandchildren of Gandhiji and Cesar Chavez spoke. everyone focused on renewing calls for peace, holistic nonviolence, and justice. 

i expected folks of all colors and variations to be there, and i wasn't disappointed.  plenty of black folks, too--from bourgie buppies to loc'd elders. i was pleasantly surprised to see quite a few children.  a troop of girl scouts handed out electric candles.

all in all, it was a lovely event.

the only thing missing was heart.

everything moved along in a nice, neatly packaged way.  the choir sang with little input from the crowd.  one speaker got the crowd's energy going, but the momentum didn't seem to last long.

there were jackbooted cops everywhere.  the woman reverend that prayed as the wreath was laid didn't have a mic, so those who were not close to the foot of the statue couldn't hear her.  there was no real closure at the conclusion of the vigil, but there was a lovely tone of softness and congeniality.

i'm not saying i expected full on ch'uch to break out--after all, it was a vigil.  but even at crunchier events, i've gotten used to spontaneous chanting, singing...a more participatory vibe. 

so what's my point?

we all know MLK's fire has been dampened by those who would prefer to forget that he called attention to the systems and powers that kept folks oppressed in this country; that he did not speak of simply turning the other cheek and meekly inheriting the world.

we also know that the civil rights movement began as a people's movement.  national attention came slowly, and even at its height, the majority of america was interested in maintaining the status quo and/or plain ol' survival.

i got here too late to know the 60s and 70s firsthand; i was born nearly a decade after MLK's passing.  i barely remember the 80s.

but i can remember a pre-9/11 world.

it seems that over-organization and police presence override the spirit of just about any gathering outside un-policed cultural events or the occasional drum circle.  these days, anything official feels sanitized and thinned out in the interest of keeping us--or someone--"safe".

even the electric candles--although i understand the implications of using traditional ones in such a maintained space--seemed like cheating. 

i don't have any hopes that that will end soon.  

still, i'll have to start keeping an eye and ear out for "people's gatherings" outside the confines of bureaucratic propriety.

whether solemn or celebratory, that's where the true spirit lies. 

update: text article from the washington post here


where to find me (mostly)

i'm finding that i'm using the tumblr site far more these days, especially for spiritual musings.

i'll still keep posting videos here, and i'll take some time to "backtrack" and link to the tumblr posts.  that way, folks who are used to visiting this site can see what's going on there.

one of these days i'll get all this stuff integrated into one place...that's the dream.

be well.