#IfIDieInPoliceCustody

#IfIDieInPoliceCustody don’t say I was an organizer. Don’t talk about how I knew what to say when everyone else was too shocked or too scared to say anything. Don’t say I was courageous. Don’t say I was smart. Don’t mention all the work I did for “the community.”

Tell them I was too busy bein’ Black to worry about being good. Describe for them how I danced down the street with my headphones blasting the soulful sounds of Nina Simone into my brain. Tell them that the feeling of her voice bouncing off the cavernous walls of my skull is the closest to feeling liberated I ever get.

Describe to them the subtle shifts in my shoulders, the gentle sway in my hips, the way by feet shuffled softly when I was listening to “Feeling Good.” Tell them how easily I lose my self in song.

Tell them about how animated my face gets when we organize. Tell them how my brain never stopped working. Tell them that I never let it all turn me bitter and jaded [at least not for long]. Tell them how much of me there was to contain in this one beautiful Black body. Tell them about all the Black joy that was just bursting from the seams.

Tell them about the way I would stare off into the distance and cry at the mystery and wonder of it all. Tell them about how much I loved my family. Tell them how proud I was of my niece, how excited I was to see her grow up.

Tell them how I looked just like my father. Tell them how I learned to stand up for others because of how he stood up for me. Tell them how my skeptical face is my mother’s dual eyebrows raised reaching to the sky, head cocked confidently to the side, and the smile, a smirk, turned slightly to the left.

Tell them that I was a lover not a fighter but sometimes I just loved the fight.

Tell them that I secretly loved the struggle. Tell them that for the all blows and lashes it gave me, my Blackness made me stronger than I ever imagined a person could be. Tell them that my oppression gave me the gift of second sight.

Tell them that my Blackness let me envision a world more vivid, more visceral, more real, and more charged with the glorious energies of a life well lived than this one. Tell them that I envisioned a world in which Black lives blossomed; where our greatness, our resilience, our magnificence burst into the world with tears of a joy so full of mirth that our whole body shook in collective ecstasy. Tell them that through the veil I am able to see the glory of that liberation.

I can see a world in which we have all have reclaimed the erotic; where we can feel our power and joy in the marrow of our bones; where the very fibers of our being feel the vibrancy of love coursing through them. I can see a world where we love without reservations; a world where we know we deserved to be loved. I can see a world where Black self-determination is an eternal block party where we sometimes vote on our budget. I can see a world where justice is love and love is a process and a praxis taught in schools.

I believe in a day when the power of own full authentic selves will not scare us.

Tell them I also believe in Sundays spent sipping lemonade on porches; in playing the dozens as our neighbors shoot dice. I believe in rapping Black so hard that time just melts into the asphalt; that the only constant is a gentle cool breeze that wipes the sweat from our brows; that the sun forgets to set but the moon can’t help but rise.

Tell them I believe in dancing each and every time the beat hits my body. Tell them I believe in dancing like the sensual swivel of my hips is the only force capable of keeping the earth spinning. Tell them I believe in experiencing so much joy on the dance floor that our bodies start speaking in tongues, begin jerking, and hyping, and locking in a simultaneously divine and carnal syntax.

When I die, tell them that I loved Black women. Tell them that I was amazed by #BlackGirlMagic. Tell them that I would have followed my sisters to the ends of the earth and back. Tell them not to host any marches or rallies or riots when I die.

Tell them that I wanted you tell your mother you loved her. Tell them that I wanted everyone who knew me to shout #ILoveBlackWomen to the universe. Tell them I want my brothers to pour out 40oz of patriarchy whenever they mention my name. Tell them that my only regret is that I never got to see Black Liberation smash the patriarchy.

When I die, don’t cry for me. I’ll be watching gun smoke with Buddy Boy.

When I die don’t cry for me, cry for yourselves.

Cry for everyone who never got to see my brilliance. Cry for every white person whose racism meant that they will never be able to see how my soul couldn’t be contained. Cry for the police officers who were too afraid of my power to see its unlimited potential for transformative change. Cry for the people who would never get to see the way my face lights up when I sing along to the sound of music.

Cry for the songs I wouldn’t get to write. Cry for the poems you’d never hear recited. Cry for the children I’d never bring into the world. Cry for the world I never got to build. Cry for the gifts of genius that I would never give you. Cry for the all the people who would never be able to be loved by me.

#IfIDieInPoliceCustody: Cry if you must-but don’t cry for me.

#ILoveBlackWomen Day Four: ACT!

#Sayhername national day of action graphic

It’s no coincidence that #ILoveBlackWomen is happening during the same week as the National Day of Action for Black Women and Girls. When I conceived of this project it was important that I could at least point people towards a collective action aimed at supporting Black Girls, Black Trans* Women, and Black Women. I’m really happy that BYP100 is putting on a forum for Black Women and Girls tonight. Here is a description from the Facebook event below. I encourage everyone who can to go. I also urge Non-Black people to respect the space as a Black Space. Likewise, for men to be aware of how much space you take up at this event.

“From Ferguson to Baltimore, and beyond, Black women have been on the front lines of change in our liberation movements. When we discuss the prevalence of state-sanctioned, anti-black violence in our communities, we often neglect to uplift the narratives of black trans, cis, and non-binary women, femmes, and girls, too. If we believe that Black Lives Matter –all of them– then it is urgent that we begin to shift our organizing framework into one that includes black people of ALL genders, particularly, trans and cis women, femmes, girls, and black people who experiences gender-based marginalization. Join us this Thurs. May 21st, as we honor, celebrate, and imagine a world free of violence for black people of all genders . #SayHerName. ” BYP100 For more information visit the Facebook Event.

#ILoveBlackWomen Day Three: LISTEN!

Mom nad April #ILoveBlackWomen

[You can also listen to this podcast on itunes by searching “Well Examined Life” under podcasts]

It’s amazing what you can learn when you listen. I mean really listen and hear, another person. This site was founded on the believe that you can increase your own self awareness through dialogue. That means we can learn more about ourselves through hearing the lived experience of another person. The self referential aspect of this endeavor has always been slightly troubling to me. It’s always seemed problematic. Yet the more I engage in these conversations, the more I grow and the more a realize that there is as much growth in the telling as the hearing.

Similarly, once I embarked on the task of interviewing Black Women, I had to come to terms with the fact that this is my project and anything they express will necessarily be filtered through my lens which is a male lens. It seems inevitable. Unless I ask the interviewees to spend hours editing their own interviews, my editing decisions will shape how their stories are told. This is not ideal, but the alternative was to not hear these stories, to not be able to  work with them and have them challenge and enlighten me and my audience.

So, I will add this disclaimer: Above, you have an interview with my mother, who beyond being my mother and one of the kindest people ever, also has a great deal of wisdom to share. My hope is that her stories and insights will enlighten you and, for those of you not blessed to have Black Women whom you can ask to sit down and hear from, broaden your image of what a Black Women is. Yet, it must be said that no 12 minute interview can encompass the brilliance, the beauty or the complexity of my mother. I would suggest you all check out Chimamanda Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story” to better understand why.

So listen, enjoy and share. Hopefully, when I get a new laptop, I will be able to actually edit podcast and get a series going. It was difficult to edit this without my computer crashing so it’s not my best work. Until then, I encourage you to continue celebrating the Black Women in your life. I encourage you all to listen to their stories. To learn from their strength. To be inspired by their beauty.

Shouting #ILoveBlackWomen to the Universe

#ILoveBlackWomen Graphic

Tomorrow starts the first day of a weeklong celebration of Black Women. The goal of this week isn’t to break down all the systems of oppression that limit the human potential of Black Women. I wish we could do that in a week.

The goal of this week isn’t uproot the hold that transmisogynior has on the Black Liberation Movement. Yet we all desperately need to engage in that work. The goal of this week isn’t even to give the Black Women and Girls in our life a reprieve from the daily flood of negative images and messages that they are bombarded with. Yet I dream of that day.

The goal of this week is much more modest. It is a drop in the bucket of what is needed.

The goal of this week is to be intentional about telling the Black women in our lives that we love them. The goal of this week is to spend some time celebrating the Black women who created meaning, value and joy for our human existence. The goal of this week is to call-in all of us, including myself, who have sat on the sidelines for too long. The purpose of this week is to create a space to love.

I know that there are many things stopping us from doing this on a daily basis. We live in a world which tells us to hold in our love. We are told it is naïve to talk about love. We are told that emotions are a weakness. We are told to keep our love a secret. So we hide it. We are ashamed of it. We have little experience truly allowing ourselves to feel it, let alone express it. Or worse, we begin to believe the constant deluge of fear and hate that say we cannot or should not love Black Women.

This is why shouting #ILoveBlackWomen is so important. That is why it is so radical. In order for capitalism and patriarchy and white supremacy to sustain themselves, they had to convince us to stop loving each other. They had to persuade us to stop supporting each other. They had to make us believe that we were unable to work to together. They had to tell us we were not worthy of each other’s love. They had to divide us to conquer us. They had to convince us that another world was not possible.

So while we all need to commit ourselves to tearing down these systems of oppression, we must also commit ourselves to creating alternative spaces. We need spaces full of love. We need spaces full of unity. We need spaces full of joy. We must raise terraced beds of laughter and harmony and healing in which to plant the seeds of a better tomorrow.

There is no one way to tend the future. There is no optimal procedure for growing tomorrow’s, no obvious starting or end point. Yet I decided to start with creating a space to celebrate Black Women. I am starting there honestly, because that’s where it started for me.

My mother taught me to love the world. My sister’s taught are how to love myself. The Black Women I’ve met in the Black Liberation Movement have taught me how to harness the power of love for social change.

Black Women have given more to me then I can ever repay, but I’ve decided to start trying to pay it back anyways. I hope you will join me in celebrating Black women next week. Your reasons don’t need to be mine. Your celebration doesn’t have to look like mine. Yet hopefully, together, we can plant the seeds of tomorrow that loves, honors, respects, listens to, uplifts and supports Black Women, Black Trans* Women and Black Girls.

How I’m Going to Celebrate Black Women:

Everyday: I will be giving out Laniappe’s or DIY [Do-It-Yourself] gifts to the Black Women in my life and tweeting about it from @wellexamined and posting it on Facebook under the hashtag #ILoveBlackWomen

Monday: Read: I think it important that we get used to centering the narratives of Black Women and Girls in our own lives by consuming media written about and by Black Women. So I’ll publish a list of Black Women writers to read with links to purchase their works. I will be spending some time reading the poetry of Nikki Giovanni and Gwendolyn Brooks.

Tuesday: Donate: Since we live in world that does not trust Black leadership or Women in leadership, I’m going to donate to several organizations and Black Women who empower Black Women, Black Trans Women and Girls in my community. I’ll also publish a list of projects and organizations that you can donate to.

Wednesday: Listen: I encourage everyone to spend time with the Black women in their lives and just listen. Take your mom out to dinner. Take you co-worker out to lunch. Strike up a pleasant conversation with your neighbor. I will also try and release a podcast of some of my favorite Black Women writers, artists and intellectuals talking about their lived experiences.

Thursday: Act: Support the various national actions for Black Women and Girls being coordinated by the Black Youth Project 100 and Black Lives Matter. If there are no actions being planned around you, consider planning one. Or volunteer with an organization that empowers Black Women and Girls. Mow your neighbor’s lawn or clean your friend’s car for them. Do something to show that we know that while Black Women are capable of anything, they don’t have to do it alone.

Friday: Celebrate: Black Out Black Friday with pictures of people holding signs saying #ILoveBlackWomen and posting picture of the Black women in their lives. Post messages on facebook shouting out the Black Women who bring joy to our lives.

Saturday: Heal: Do something to help the Black women in your live heal from some of the trauma that comes with being Black and Female. Host a prayer session at your church. Host a party at your house to talk about some of that pain. If you can’t think of what might be helpful and healing to the Black Women in your life, ask them!

Sunday: Uplift: Twitter Storm lead by @wellexamined under #ILoveBlackWomen hashtag that tries to tie all of this together. Feel free to write posts on your own blogs about what you did you celebrate Black Women this week. Post pictures of you line-sisters going sharing a meal together or your church’s mother’s day celebration.

 

Next Week: Rinse and Repeat! Integrate your love for Black women into your daily praxis!

#ILoveBlackWomen

keep-calm-and-iloveblackwomen-1

Dear Friends, Family, Co-Workers, Neighbors,

As many of you are no doubt aware, I’ve been active in the #BlackLivesMatter Movement in the past few months. It has been stressful and, at times, heart breaking to fight day in and day out for my own humanity to be recognized. It upsets me that I have to work hard to assert publicly that my life should matter. I am terrified as it becomes so clear how often it does not. One of the most sustaining things I have found in this movement has been the support and leadership of Black Women in movement spaces.

This extraordinary moment in history, as America is just beginning to be forced to take a long hard look at state violence against Black people, has been built into a movement for Black Liberation by Black Women! There is no denying it, yet often the erasure of Black women from the narrative of Black Liberation is also an irrefutable fact.

Far too often, Black women’s contributions, leadership, lives and deaths have been erased from the stories we tell about this movement. Far too often Black men take the mic at events Black women plan or simply aren’t around when it is time to talk about the lives of #IslanNettles #RekiaBoyd or #RelishaRudd or the many other women who have been killed or disappeared by state violence and abuse.

It upsets me to hear women I respect, women who have taught me more about the movement than any man, express concerns for their safety in movement spaces, at work, or just waiting for the bus. It upsets me when I see Black female leadership be disrespected by men of all races. It upsets me when I think of the world my niece has been forced to grow up in: a world that can’t bring itself to tell her how beautiful she is.

I am at loss for what I can do to change that on my own. I am not sure what I can do to create a world that celebrates instead of erases Black women. All I can do is celebrate the Black women in my life, support the leadership of Black women and work with them to tear down the structures that oppress them and us all.

I want to tell all the Black women in my life, my mother, sisters, aunts and friends that I love you. You are all phenomenal people who have given me more than I can articulate. Despite what the world may tell you, despite the constant messaging that you are ugly or worthless or less than, you are beautiful and powerful beyond measure.

The more I am blessed with the presence of such intelligent, wise, creative, and wonderful Black Women, the more I realize how right my friend and gifted organizer Omolara Williams was when she said that “Black Women are magic.”

Those of us used to dwelling in the darkness of our own insecurity often cannot admit your beauty because for us your radiance is near blinding.

So I ask all of you to join me in celebrating Black women. Let us overwhelm the negative messaging that our mothers and neighbors and teachers and congresswomen hear every day. Let us tell the world that we love Black Women.

Let us love them so hard that the bullets cannot reach them.

Let us love them so freely that their would-be assailants cannot find them.

Let us love them so honestly that their accomplishments may never be forgotten.

Let us love them so genuinely that we can learn from their strength and grace and wisdom and be confident enough to see them for who they really are: shinning stars in a world too full of darkness.

Tell the world #ILoveBlackWomen and give a lagniappe to the Black women in your life.

A lagniappe (/ˈlænjæp/ lan-yap) is a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase (such as a 13th doughnut when buying a dozen), or more broadly, “something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure.”

Lagniappe is also the word I use for random [often odd or complex] DIY gifts I give people on random non-holidays. It is a gift from the heart that shows the Black women in your life how much they mean to you.

So join me in celebrating the contributions of Black women in our lives by doing the following:

1. Sign up for the event here

2. During the week of May 18th, give random gifts to the Black Women you care about. It can be a hug, a coupon, a smile, a book or diamond ring. You can take a your co-worker out to lunch, buy your manager some flowers, drive your neighbor to church or take your line-sisters out to the movies. Do something to show the Black Women in your life that their lives not only matter but are precious. Make sure that you name not only your love for them but also how you recognize, uplift and cherish their Blackness as well.

3. Share your love of Black Women with the World! Take picture of your delivering your lagniappe or DIY gift to the Black Women in your life, or picture with you holding a sign saying #ILoveBlackWomen and share it on social media with the hashtag #ILoveBlackWomen.

4. Turn your love into Praxis. Praxis is the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realized.
•Listen when Black Women tell you what they need from you and don’t be afraid to ask how you can support the Black Women in your life

•Donate to organization led by and/or serving Black Women, Black Trans* Women and Girls [I will try and compile a list soon].
• Follow these steps.
• Constantly support the Black Women in your lives by telling them how important they are to you on a regular basis.
• Support Black Women in leadership
Consume media by Black Women
• Read about the accomplishments of Black Women