Archive | January, 2010

untitled.

26 Jan

where will you go now?
after the soldiers have retreated,
and the white flag has been lifted,
who will wrap your wounds?
and kiss your scars,
and touch your face,
dig inside your eyes
and stare love back into your heart?
where will you go?

after the rain has blessed our feet
and the clouds have parted,
and the gray turns white, fading blue,
who will dry your hair?
and warm your body,
and listen to your heart stretch,
sing to the stillness
and make music with your fear?

where will you go?
for peace that does not feel
like disaster?

(artwork by paul goodnight)

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i have a confession…

20 Jan

last night i was reading an essay by audre lorde in sister outsider, called “eye to eye: black women, hatred, and anger.”  this must have been the 3rd time i read this essay, but for some reason i was reading it with different eyes last night (and who knows, i was in so much pain and it may have been the prescribed codeine).  what follows is everything i wrote after finishing.  i wrote it all in one breath. and when i finished, it made enough sense to me (and it means enough to me ) to post.  i wrote it to my fellow black women…

“i was never meant to be alone without you who understand.”

i have been harboring emotions i still do not fully understand yet.  and i have a confession.  i am scared to be myself.  the self who is me as a black woman.  i was young when i figured out that in order to be tolerable as a human, i had to contain (read: silence) whatever (or whoever) i am as a black person and as a black female.  this was  true as a friend to mostly white children of white parents, and as a student of schools where my “blackness” and my “black femaleness” was not particularly valued, but more often admonished and “corrected.”   discipline, you might call it.  but it has always felt more like suppression.  i believe that i was trained by hate to want to be something other than black and female.  and i grew up fearing that if i identified with my black femaleness, i would be claiming everything the world despises about black women.  i would be reduced to the least of what i was.  i did not want to be loathed, or to feel inferior.  as audre lorde writes in “eye to eye,” in most spaces black women are only allowed to be our skin color and our hair, our non-white female features, “and those things were clearly not acceptable as human.”  and if black women had any human quality, she appeared as an asexual feminist or mammy.  or she was a gold-digging, hypersexual video girl.  and i didn’t want to be her.  or only her.

this is what it means to ingest hate.  and when you metabolize hatred, your relations with the rest of the world carry the burden of the “negative passion and intensity of its by-products.”  for me the most salient by-product has been silence.  and isolation.  before recently, i rarely spoke as a black female.  it has always been easier to hardly acknowledge her existence – unless offended.  as an adolescent, instead of befriending little black girls who were never crazy about the idea of being a friend to me, and who used the language of hate to describe me (too white) and themselves (too black), i chose to withdraw myself.  and instead of building meaningful relationships with those who might best understand my black femaleness, i nurtured superficial friendships and associations with white girls, and a few non-threatening black faces.  but each relationship has been tainted with a necessary, vigilant distance.  i do believe that i have had the opportunity to foster meaningful relationships with people from diverse backgrounds.  yet a part of me feels that few could ever realize the true potential of what it means for me to build with another black woman.  (i feel uncomfortable saying that, but i think it might be true.)

finally, at 25, as i am acquiring the language to describe my experiences, i am beginning to own my black womanhood.  but the damage has already been done.  i still have not fully accepted myself.  and i fear that my efforts to help young people build consciousness and esteem as it concerns their identities is limited by my own shortcomings.  at times, in certain places, i still feel like i can only be part of me.  i walk on egg shells, because if i slip i will get cut.  if i slip, i risk being named some distorted moniker for my black female existence.  i feel comfortable only being a particular type of black female, or i risk a perverted name for my black femininity.  i have been doing everything in my power not to be who they say we are.  i have been doing everything in my power not to be you, because you remind me of myself.  something is seriously wrong here.  for in deconstructing stereotypes, and racism and sexism, instead of resisting you, i should be resisting them.  i should be naming myself.

my assault against hate and the uncomfortable place it has reserved for me has been my rejection of you – of us.  i have been running from you.  and in doing so i hoped to escape not only your violence and our association, but myself.  turns out, the injury is the same and i got hurt anyway.   in “eye to eye,” lorde writes to us, “all your faults become magnified reflections of my own threatening inadequacies.  i must attack you first, before our enemies confuse us with each other.”  but, as lorde explains, these defense tactics are misguided.  i targeted the wrong enemy.  and i not only need to redirect my struggle against something else, i need new weapons.  clearly silence is killing me more than it is solving any problem.

i have been hurt way too much, and all i ever desired was your acceptance.  your friendship, your support.  your validation.  because i have always known that while others can offer me their kindness and understanding, conversation and friendship, even their solidarity, they live on the “better” side of a system that privileges some over others, in a world where hate is still profoundly present.  that is an uncomfortable truth.   still, everyone has been reared in this hate.  we haven’t “survived” untouched.  this is also uncomfortable.  we all have work to do.  i know that in order to love you, i must love myself first.  the ironic part about this is that in order to love myself, i must learn to you love as well.  i must acknowledge those parts of me the world has tried to annihilate and distort.  treat them tenderly, so i may treat you that way.  lorde writes, “if we can learn to give ourselves the recognition and acceptance that we have come to expect only form our mommas, black women will be able to see each other much more clearly and deal with each other much more directly.”

distance has allowed me to paint an illusion of you and me that “makes me less you, and you less me.”  but i no longer want to hold onto that portrait.  it is not only mythical, it is useless, and destructive.  i no longer want to pretend that you don’t hurt me.  and that i don’t need you.  i have another confession:  one of my deepest desires is to be connected with/to you.  silence and separation are killing me.  i have been carrying the weight of hate on my own.  and i hear anger in my voice when i speak sometimes (some people confuse it with fervor and “passion,” but i know what it is).  i have been suffering this black female “thing” in tortuous solitude.  and there is a certain love i need, which only you can offer me.  “i was never meant to be alone without you who understand.”  i need you.

(artwork by michael anthony brown)

on deception…

12 Jan

(there may be a stigma attached to suicide, but there are some everyday sleepwalkers among us who take ourselves out of the game everyday.  we become our own enemies.  we use our weaknesses to explain unattained goals.  or the impossibility of perfection to justify mediocrity.  we never let go of mistakes.  we stop trying, and give up prematurely.  i see this as a different sort of death…  have you checked out?)

this is “for colored girls who have considered suicide…” and everyone else, too.

Deception convinces us that we’re alone. It teaches us that mental illnesses and diseases are shameful realities that should be held in secret. Deception bullies you into believing that you deserve being hurt, or abused, or talked about. It seduces you into settling, and accepting that your life is as good as you can have it, even though you want more. It is never forgiving yourself. Or any of them. Deception reminds you everyday that you’re not worth it. And it accepts death and failure while your heart is still beating, and your dreams are still alive.

Deception is dangerous, because it is convincing. It uses your vocabulary, plays into your fears. It remembers your past and knows each of your weaknesses – this is how it holds your life hostage. And it is far easier to believe Deception than it is to re-imagine possibilities. It is easier to believe Deception than it is to face the challenge of resisting it – a risk you fear might prove Deception was right all along. But that is cowardice, another deception. And while cowards may survive, they never truly live. In order to free yourself from your deception, you must constantly reaffirm your aspirations and commitments. You must live according to the reach of your desire, and not according to the limits inscribed by your fears. You have to be deliberate, refuse that deception and tell yourself instead of death, “I want to live.”

(artwork by frank morrison)

title from ntozake shange’s choreopoem, “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf”…it is a must-read.

if i knew i couldn’t fail…

6 Jan

inspired by Rashid’s question, “what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” (follow him on Twitter, @RashidZakat, and catch his blog http://rashidzakat.com)

if i knew i couldn’t fail
i would live deep inside myself
where the people chant in dances
and in wails,
loud with bass and drum.
where tears scream though scats
and the people speak in tongues.
where love pours through guitar scales
and loss becomes flat notes
in the perfect pitch.
my heart would be
a legitimate instrument
and i would skip notes and miss beats
and not care.
my arched-back would
move with hip circles and
flailed arms
and wouldn’t care how they looked.
i would move sideways,
and every other way,
forget balance,
and realize that i am rhythm
my body would own itself.
i would live deep inside myself
so close to God
my voice would sound like His.
if i knew i couldn’t fail
i would lose “myself,”
rediscover her,
and claim a new name.
maybe something like,
“free.”

(artwork by monica stewart)

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