Where Do We Go From Here?

Breathe.

Take a deep breath in. Let the air fill your stomach. Hold for a count of 4.  Exhale.

Shit is real. Donald Trump was just elected President of the United States. You are currently feeling all the feels. Allow yourself to feel it. Ask yourself, where does it hurt? Even if you are only experiencing anger right now, ask yourself what lies under the anger. Is it possible you are only feeling anger so that don’t feel deeper, more vulnerable emotions?

What are you afraid to let yourself feel?

Sit with that.

Ask yourself where it hurts.

What do you need? A nap, food, water, comfort, intimacy?

Go and get that. Take a drink. Cuddle with a friend. Call your mother to process. Take a twerk break. Eat food and come back to this. Take care of your needs.

Now that you are little more centered, let’s talk about what happens next. The election last night didn’t change everything. Nothing that exists today wasn’t around, in some form, last week or last month. America did not lose its mind. Racism did not “win.” Social forces of insecurity, deprivation, separation, anger, fear, resentment, disinvestment and hurt coalesced into a 30 minute up or down vote.

This is not to say that you are overreaching. This is only to say that we are not in the beginning, or end, of anything. We are in the middle of a long process of American politics which has always been fraught with anger, racism, sexism, violence and hurt [not to mention genocide and slavery]. Yet this development is serious and there are changes coming ahead that unless we intervene will be scary, dangerous, violent and hurtful.

Moving forward we know that we will have to hold each other. Regardless of what Trump does during his administration we know there will likely be some crisis in the coming months and years. Climate change, mass migration, infrastructure failure, and rising inequality were already potential humanitarian crises we were ill prepared for. America is already involved in 5 wars abroad. Unions are under attack and labor has been the red-headed step child of the Democratic Party since Nixon’s “Southern Strategy.”

Trump and his white nationalist supporters will make all of these things worse unless we come together and stop them. Our communities will be further divested from. Our water is already poisoned and our infrastructure will only get worse. Perhaps the most often unspoken part of the Presidential election is the narrative shift that occurs. Obama’s hope and change narrative was fundamentally different than Bush’s. Obama’s America was lauded as a post-racial society in which America was an “unfinished pyramid,” not perfect but getting closer every year. He re-defined what it meant to be American and what American values were. Some of this was window dressing, but some of it was substantial.

Reagan similarly changed our vision for American life.  His invention of myths like the welfare queen and the need to escalate the war on drugs retooled Lyndon Johnson’s view of government as a social worker to that of a part time cop – part time venture capitalist. Instead of building towards a great society by addressing inequity, we needed to attack those that were “living off the system” [as if anyone wasn’t in some way]. This is not to suggest Johnson’s great society was not fraught with issues. Rather it goes to show you that the bully pulpit extends into our view for the role of government and vision for America. Ultimately, it bleeds into what we expect from each other and ourselves.

I think Alexis Pauline Gumbs states it best in the book she co-edited Revolutionary Mothering.

“I was born in 1982 in the middle of the first term of a president who won by demonizing “welfare queens,” in the global context of “population control,” a story that says poor women and women of color should not give birth. A story with a happy ending for capitalism: we do not exist. The queer thing is that we were born; our young and/or deviant and /or brown and/or broke and/or single mamas did the wrong thing. Therefore we exist: a population out of control, a story interrupted.”

The economic conditions of de-industrialization made Black and poor working families disposable and would have under any president. Yet, Reagan weaponized white supremacy to infuse neo-liberalism into the American ideology. Reagan used the myth of the welfare queen to dismantle systems that mostly benefited poor white people. His narrative made their hurt invisible, in some cases even to themselves, or turned that hurt to anger and misdirected it to inner-city drug users. This is a real danger of Trump. We’ve seen inklings of this with Reagan’s and Clinton’s welfare reform but nothing of Trump’s vitriol and violence.

The point here is that some of us have been here before. Some of our communities have known that America hated us for generations. Some of us are just now realizing what America has already been. What happens next will be a cycle of crises, weaponization of hate and furthering of the crises. Marginalized people will be scape-goated in schemes to dismantle what is left of the safety net. Middle class white families will face the same sort of economic insecurity that has been a fact of life for Black and brown communities for generations. Those marginalized communities will face new levels of disinvestment that resemble the crack infused Reagan years.

So what do we do? Where do we go from here?

We need to ask ourselves where it hurts and support each other. There will be no bailout or reinvestment plan for our communities in the next four years. There will be no politicians willing and empowered to halt the mass deportations. There will be no fireside chats and WPA programs to deal with the Trump recession. Like the great depression, Black communities who have been under attack are more psychologically equipped to deal with this lack of stability and persecution.Not because we’re superhuman, we’ve just been here before and some of us have developed certain skills and practices to survive.

One of the reasons why Black people seem to be less distraught by Trump is because to us he is clearly our comb-over chicken coming home to roost. Many white people aren’t ready to acknowledge the truths that Black people have been long prepared for. Yet psychological preparation doesn’t obscure the fact that Black people and other marginalized groups will face the brunt of this crises. Not being so surprised doesn’t mean that as Black people we also don’t need to ask each other where it hurts and ask what are we afraid to feel.

It will be a rough couple of months. The communities Trump decides to target will be devastated and that devastation will be felt by all of us. We need to build autonomous communities that can provide the stability and safety to counter the insecurity Trump will engender and try to use for his own purposes. We need networks of support where we can ask ourselves where it hurts and communally manifest political, economic, spiritual and emotional balms. As the Zapitista’s say, we need a movement from “below and to the left.” Building these autonomous communities will take time and hard work, but they will be how we survive this.

This is not to say that we don’t also need to build alternative political parties and social movements. Yet, as leftist Latin American movements or Greece’s Syriza show us, without communal autonomy we will be ill equipped to survive austerity whether it is imposed by the IMF or a result of Trump’s terrible policies. We have to invest in our communities in order to build the resiliency they will need to survive the next four years. The main political aspects of what I think we should do to move forward are outlined in my essay series Differential Autonomous Transformation: Building Engines of [R]evolution.

There will be a time for serious organizing in the next few weeks. Yet many of us are shocked and that shock needs to wear off before we organize. We need to begin to support each other and give ourselves time to feel the magnitude of the moment. We need to allow ourselves to feel that which we are afraid to feel. We need to ask each other where it hurts.

Here are things you can do today to begin moving forward:

  1. Don’t shame people for how they voted or for choosing not to vote.  Voter shaming has no place in transformative politics. No matter how bad some behavior might be, the internalization of shame never leads to sustained positive change. Shame can make someone change tactics but it rarely changes hearts and minds for sustained action. Shamed people either become reactionary or internalize the shame to become apathetic or feel powerless over time. No one demographic group caused this outcome. White supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, the limits of liberal democracy and a culture of lovelessness are the problem. People who voted for Trump, Clinton or Stein still are complicit in those systems regardless of their vote. This outcome is not a reflection of who we fundamentally are as individuals but rather our system of government and our social relationships. It’s not us, but it is our shit to clean up.
  2. Take care of yourself. Like truth telling, organizing is serious business, and only truth telling and organizing will allow us to combat Trump’s agenda. We need to engage in a communal marathon, not a series of individual sprints. Self-care has to be the center of any organizing strategy. Tired, hangry, unhealed people make for reactionary, short sighted and unstrategic organizers. Create a list of things you do to destress, decompress and cultivate joy. Create a list of “Signs That I Am Not Taking Good Care Of Myself” and use it as a reminder that self care is a practice, not a one off thing.  Put that list somewhere you will see it often. Use it as a reminder to check in with yourself. Remember to love up on yourself.
  3. Reach out to your network. Create a list of all the people you love, all the people whom you are afraid for, all the people you turn to in times of deep pain. Reach out to the people on the list. Tell them you love them, ask them where it hurts, asks what support they need and tell them how they can support you. Be explicit about being willing to support your network and specific about the support you need. These personal networks will be crucial in the coming years. They will be the central hub in our autonomous networks.
  4. Don’t let Trump create a new normal. Carve out space in your home, or room, to create an “Altar To The World I Want.” Place symbols of what you are determined to keep under a Trump presidency on the altar. This is not a place to continually mourn, rather it’s a living visual reminder of why we fight. As the weeks go by, add things to it that symbolize things that come under threat or that disappear (proof of what we had). It’s important that we don’t buy into all the people telling us it will be okay, especially since they are the same people who said this would never happen. It’s also important to have a north star, to remember the world we want as we build it.
  5. Support the organizations that are already building community autonomy. Many of these organizations planned for Trump winning. Most of their plans would be the same under a Clinton Presidency, and many of them will be developing plans to tell folks what is coming. All of them will need more resources, members and volunteers. You can donate to Black Lives Matter DC here.
  6. When you are ready, centered and have a strategy get to organizing!

New Meditation for #BlackJoySundays

Shaloin

Black Joy is a transformative force. It is a visceral, deeply embodied reminder of the precious euphoria of our humanity. It is the source of Black resilience which is itself the wellspring of Black Liberation.

‪#‎BlackJoySundays‬ are a supportive place we can be affirmed in our Blackness, fellowship with other gorgeous Black people and discuss some of the racial stress we experience. Yet above all, it is space where we cultivate a shared sense of Black joy.

This is a space for Black people, which means ALL Black people.

So make sure to bring your love for Black Women, Black People facing homelessness, Black Trans* Folk, Black Youth, Black Muslims, Black Queer Folk, Black Jews, Black Men, Black Gender Non-Conforming Folk, Black Elders, Black people thriving with disabilities [seen and unseen], and All Black Everythang!

We are a diverse diaspora and all our loves are unique. All that love will be put to good use this afternoon!!

Please closes your eyes, sit up straight and reflect on these words.

Honor all of your emotions in this space. And let your thoughts flow to warmer, more supportive waters.

My soul is an endless stream. Deep, dark waters of power and understanding flow through me. The flow of my soul is a powerful torrent of emotion and knowledge. It is flexible, malleable but head strong, cruising ever southward, home.

When I meditate, I ride this well of feelings and information towards my greater, more authentic self. Through action and community I have learned that my stream is a mere tributary, flowing and twisting and turning in tandem with others. Through action and community I can draw on the streams of understanding and emotional power of those I am in community with.

Through a cycle of action, communion and reflection my community is developing a revolutionary praxis that allows our streams to coalesce into rivers of transformative change. We carve canyons in the sides of mountains of oppression. We leave beyond gorgeous sandstones paintings of transformations on the walls of the mountains that used to keep us in a spiritual valley.

Breathe in deeply, exhale slowly and reflect on these words:

You are a being on the path to liberation.

Your community marches for liberation alongside you.

You are resilient. You are powerful. You are bold.

You are loved because you deserve to be loved.

You love because you know your love can transform the world.

You must set yourself and your people on a path towards the light,
Do not merely set yourself against the darkness.

Seek out a joy that radiates from your bones and lights up the whole world.

As a Black feminist freedom fighter you must work to reclaim the erotic.

Let yourself enjoy the sacred pleasures of boundless joy and communal optimism.

Find, accept and foster that part of you that seeks Black excellence.

Temper your sorrow with the sound of the laughter, the feeling of a warm embrace, the taste of cornbread, the smell of shea butter and the sight of melanin.

Know that you are beautiful, you are not alone and collectively we are powerful beyond measure.

Black women are beautiful, they are not alone, and collectively we are powerful beyond measure.

Black trans women are beautiful, they are not alone and collectively we are powerful beyond measure.

Black people facing homelessness are beautiful, they are not alone and collectively we are powerful beyond measure.

Black youth are beautiful, they are not alone, and collectively we are powerful beyond measure.

Black elders are beautiful, they are not alone, and collectively we are powerful beyond measure.

Black men are beautiful, they are not alone, and collectively we are powerful beyond measure.

Black returning citizens are beautiful, they are not alone, and collectively we are powerful beyond measure.

Black queer folk are beautiful, they are not alone and collectively we are powerful beyond measure.

As Black feminist freedom fighter you know that self care is a revolutionary act.

It is your duty to fight for freedom by any gorgeous, elated, joyfull, double-dutching, dozens playing, singing or otherwise melanin infused means necessarily.

Liberation is a type of collective emergence.

As you breathe in all the joy of the universe, imagine yourself liberated.

As you breathe out a little bit of the stress and pain, feel yourself getting lighter

As you breather in all the love of the universe, imagine the gorgeous revolutionary this movement is making you

As you breathe out a little bit of the trauma and the hesitancy, feel yourself getting stronger

As you breathe in all the happiness of the universe, feel liberation growing inside you

As you breathe out more of the hesitancy, imagine yourself releasing your own sense of liberation with this community

As you breathe in more of the Black Joy of this space, repeat the phrase:

I am beautiful, I am not alone, and collectively we are powerful beyond measure

until you are centered.

Meditation for the Living

*If you were triggered by my piece please read through this taking deep breaths. Pausing after each stanza to reflect. Focus on your breathing to center yourself*

 

You are not alone in this struggle, collectively we are powerful beyond measure.

You are loved even as we struggle, collectively we are powerful beyond measure.

Your emotions are real and valid. You can feel the depth and strength and complexity of your emotions rise and fall with your breath.

You are valuable and collectively we are powerful beyond measure.

The fact that you feel this pain, this sorrow, this anger means that despite all the hate and despair your remain in touch with your humanity, you remain empathetic. Our empathy makes us beautiful.

You are beautiful and collectively we are powerful beyond measure.

This empathy may allow you to feel pain in this moment but remember that empathy is your heart seeing itself in another. It is the same empathy that allows you to feel love.

As you continue to take deep breaths, remember again that you are loved; that you are not alone.

You feel because you are human and you refuse to give up your capacity to love.

Know that bearing witness to pain of others is part of the responsibility of all humans.

Know that the first step to processing our own pain is recognizing that it is there, that it is valid and we deserve to process it.

If you are reading this you are loved and together we are powerful beyond measure.

As you continue to take deep breaths, focus of each breath.

Focus on the rise and fall of your chest.

Imagine the tension leaving your body slowly with each breath.

Imagine each intake of breath brings in all the love of universe and each exhale dispels a little bit of fear.

You are beautiful and together we are powerful beyond measure.

Imagine each intake of breath brings in all the love of universe and each exhale dispels a little bit of fear.

Repeat the phrase: I am beautiful, I am not alone and together we are powerful beyond measure. Until you feel centered.

 

 

 

I recognize that my art may be triggering to some people, some of the time. The purpose of this piece, like most of my pieces was three fold: to express and process my own emotions and to bring the issue home to people, both in an attempt to get some to recognize that they on still on the fence and to let those who have been thinking similar thoughts know that they are not alone. If you know me and are still upset by this piece, please feel free to reach out. I am open to talking this through with people.