Friday, October 30, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Today was an important day for many reasons. I have waited for a while to release some important images exposing a group of Harlem police officers. October 22nd has been acclaimed as the National Day of Protest against Police Brutality and so I decided that perhaps today would be best. I'm sure not many have heard of this day and that it has not been publicized very much but I have decided to post specific photos I took some months ago. As a poet and citizen, I believe I have license to articulate my frustrations with the current state of the New York City administration but with the advice of good and loyal friends I have had to wait a while before writing this blog. Before moving to Chicago, I lived on one of the most notably beautiful blocks in Harlem better known as Strivers Row. Although I've moved around a bit in the past through out Harlem, this block was particularly special to have lived on because it reminds me most of my high school days, when I used to visit the Sugar Shack on the corner of 139th street and Fredrick Douglas for late night poetry. The Sugar Shack poetry nights were in its prime back then, I remember some nights were so packed we'd be standing out by the door leaning our heads through the bodies so we could get a listen to who ever was on the mic. In those days I was traveling from East NY, Brooklyn and I'd get in so much trouble for staying out past my curfew in Harlem. But I remembered the block as though it were a fixture in my childhood, it is a whimsical tree lined block where brown soul plays like the saxophone that used to hum me to sleep in the humid summer of New York. Harlem was never as intimidating as my mother thought it to be, it became home, like a walking talking picture book I flipped through so often the edges aged with my finger prints. The neighborhood was in the beginning stages of its gentrification so I needed not worry too much, it meant white folk were around, so the police I'm sure wouldn't be too far off. This is my issue. Harlem is losing the very vibrancy of its past and though I am aware of time and its many weathering ways, it seems that it is fighting almost every day for its right to be sanctuary to the stories it holds most sacred and secret. If the streets of Harlem could talk, I'd bet they'd shout, they'd shout like a storefront Baptist preacher on Sunday fighting to keep hope alive. And so this brings me to one late night evening in Harlem this past summer where I witnessed a situation much like a "high tech lynching" in the back of my building. Strivers Row is unique in that they are a few of the only blocks with alleyways in Harlem which arent many. From my apartment window I was able to take photos of an entire abusive police situation with two black brothers drinking liquor together and joking. At the time, I was on the phone with my homegirl from California, sitting on my couch with my back facing the window. In the middle of our conversation because my window was open wide, I heard a bunch of loud men talking outside and as they proceeded to get louder my friend asked me what was going on. That is when I turned around and propped myself up to the window ledge where I saw two black men trying to have a conversation with four police officers. I immediately informed my friend of the situation and she quieted so that we could both hear what was taking place. In listening to the discussion I quickly learned that the men were brothers, one was a bit more drunk and loud than the other, which made the more sober brother assertive and on the defense to try and calmly explain that they were residents of the near building and were simply engaging in a brotherly drinking session in their back alley. The officers asked for the men to show their ID's and this is the moment I believe the situation escalated because one of the brothers, the more loud and drunk one, began to exclaim that he was doing nothing wrong and therefore was not required to give him ID, that as a resident he believed this to be harassment. Though he were loud, I believe his articulation and presence immediately "alarmed" the officers. He simply believed that two brothers in an alley way drinking and enjoying a nice evening was harmless. I thought this man seemed to have forgotten that he was a black man, that he was "a large black man" and this above all things has been known to "threaten" the presence of whiteness. It seems the other more sober brother were more aware of where this scene was heading because he kept yelling for his brother to shut up, insisting to the officers that he just had a little too much to drink. At this point the count of officers quickly increased from four, to six, to nine, turning in to a mob of over fifteen officers surrounding these two men. I described the scene to my friend in a whisper . As I looked around to see if anyone else was looking, I watched as a white woman directly across from my building wearing a silk robe on her balcony looked down on to the scene with me. I was suddenly in awe of her composure, her shoulders were comfortable and relaxed, at ease with the visceral image at hand. She took a cup to her lips and sipped while her other hand rested on her hip. It angered me that she was so complacent. My shoulders tensed especially when the count of officers went from four to nine and while on the phone with my homegirl I picked up my newly given Nikon camera off the coffee table, began taking pictures, and because I had a lens best suited for close ups and portraits unfortunately I wasn't able to zoom in or out. However, the pictures were good enough to point out that there is something entirely wrong with over fifteen cops tackling two unarmed black men. While the men were already down on the ground under fifteen bodies one of the cops sprayed one of the men with mase which was completely unnecessary while what appeared to be the captain, stood aside throwing his fists onto the sides of these men.
Now in order to address my reason for holding these photos I need to articulate what took place in the coming days after. When sharing them with a friend who worked for the city council member, Inez Dickens, he saw incredible wrong being done and informed me of options for action with photos like these. He remained mostly neutral and protective of my safety, after much back and forth he suggested that there may be more use made of them if Dickens handled them and addressed the issue with Mayor Bloomberg. Although it seemed to be a sketchy political move, I figured that perhaps giving them would get the officers of the Precinct reprimanded, thoroughly investigated, and forced to apologize to the men and community. Because I did not want direct or really any involvement in the sharing of these photos I chose to remain anonymous. The photos were shown to Inez Dickens and I was then informed that Dickens immediately scheduled a meeting with Bloomberg and another of his representatives where she showed the pictures to the Mayor and apparently he was to take action in investigating the entire Precinct and the situation of arresting these two black men. Now I am not sure how much investigating Mr. good ol' Bloomberg did into this precinct but all I know is that a few days later, word around the block was that two "agents" (men in jetblack suits) went around knocking on doors, trying to get window view from people's apartments as to assess whose window were the pictures taken from. I assume they wanted my "testimony." Luckily, that no one in the neighborhood seemed to have seen or known anything. Not shortly after I spoke with a friend of mine who works for the Malcolm X Grassroots movement and informed him of the situation, at the time he was concerned with my safety and with also getting the pictures so that the movement could archive them etc. Unfortunately, at times like these you don't really know what to do or who to trust because these are issues of politics nowadays more than injustice etc. It is possible that these photos will not matter to anyone but particularly because I find politicians to be most dangerous to any cause other than themselves, I think its crucial to speak to the fact that we as a people need to create agency for ourselves where we can expose wrong without the fear of disappearing or being silenced. I am terrified of having to watch people in my neighborhood bow to the abuse of power exercised in communities where people of color are struggling to survive and afford their homes. They deserve protection and should not be treated as predators. There is no excuse for a mob of over fifteen police officers to two black men, no matter what they were doing.
It is a privilege in many ways to be deliberate with race expression and representation and though the many instances of police brutality in NYC may not be indicative of the entire police department, it addresses the hampering habit of practicing racial intimidation and the abuse of authority. This is not meant to impose or support an inferiority complex within the black community of Harlem, rather to express the social and political dilemmas that leadership must address. In regards to the two black men who may have been drinking publicly, let me say that our flaws and foolish actions are never a reflection or explanation of an entire race and simply because our physical presence has historically terrified whiteness we have always had to be apologetic. It was disheartening to watch as one of the brothers tried desperately to negotiate a conversation with officers, apologizing profusely for his brother speaking negatively of the police approach in hopes of avoiding a brutal aftermath. What makes this worse is that some of the police officers involved in this arrest were black, if I'm not mistaken so was the Captain. This means that whiteness is not just a physical embodiment but can also be a state of mind. It is a problem that a black person is almost readily even feverishly intimidated by the presence of a police officer more still that we are convinced we have done something wrong even before we have done anything at all. The contemporary black harlemite seems rather all-enduring conflicted by the change this country longs to see and the very real manifestations of white entitlement, to be but also live where they please. It may be in part true that black folk have given Harlem away to move elsewhere, I do not blame the aged of us that choose to leave a community where "safety" didn't become a concern for the police department until a specific type of persons moved into Harlem. Harlem, the cornerstone of Black Arts and movement, the home of where I've fallen in love with poetry and storytelling, has become a different neighborhood altogether. The Sugar Shack that I loved so very much in my high school adolesence is no longer existing and is now an up and running pizza/deli. The Strivers Row block that so confidently speaks of beautiful history is also witness to the horror of discrimination, abuse, and belittlement reminiscent of the early 1900 racism we've only heard of in textbooks and watched on black and white television screens.
This discourse can be applied to any gentrified neighborhood across this country and for those of us in much more remote places, in parts of this world where these cases are rarely spoken of because there aren't as many eyes watching, we should hold ourselves accountable to document these injustices taking place within our community and must voice our issues. I do think it is primarily important to be concerned with our own safety thus why I have been careful up until now with who I've spoken to about this situation. As for these two black men, there is no way to be sure of justice being served but perhaps this is ordinary to their expectations of the police department. I'm not sure as to what step should be taken next, if these men have even bothered with filing for a complaint but this is not okay and policing neighborhoods in this way is not ever called for. With the advancement of technology we are given agency, we have seen what cell phone cameras can capture, cases such as Oscar Grant and Derrion Albert, we must learn to be aware. And we must hold our leaders accountable to addressing these issues. Dear Mayor Bloomberg, what are you doing about the abuse of authority under your administration, about the loss of decency and respect, integrity and honesty? Where is the accountability for these men? These photos are now open to public view. I have so many of them that I wont post them all. I hope above all things that this blog helps to awaken the consciousness of us as a people in light of all that has been happening within our country. "We are the ones we've been waiting for" We must demand positive change and attention to the issues that concern us.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
My face resembles your face
less and less each day. When I was young
no one mistook whose child I was.
Features build coloring
alone among my creamy fine-boned sisters
marked me Byron's daughter.
No sun set when you died, but a door
opened onto my mother. After you left
she grieved her crumpled world aloft
an iron fist sweated with business symbols
a printed blotter dwell in the house of Lord's
your hollow voice changing down a hospital corridor
yea, though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil.
I rummage through the deaths you lived
swaying on a bridge of question.
At seven in Barbados
dropped into your unknown father's life
your courage vault from his tailor's table
back to the sea.
Did the Grenada treeferns sing
your 15th summer as you jumped ship
to seek your mother
finding her too late
surrounded with new sons?
Who did you bury to become the enforcer of the law
the handsome legend
before whose raised arm even trees wept
a man of deep and wordless passion
who wanted sons and got five girls?
You left the first two scratching in a treefern's shade
the youngest is a renegade poet
searching for your answer in my blood.
My mother's Grenville tales
spin through early summer evenings.
But you refused to speak of home
of stepping proud Black and penniless
into this land where only white men
ruled by money. How you labored
in the docks of the Hotel Astor
your bright wife a chambermaid upstairs
welded love and survival to ambition
as the land of promise withered
crashed the hotel closed
and you peddle dawn-bought apples
from a push-cart on Broadway.
Does an image of return
wealthy and triumphant
warm your chilblained fingers
as you count coins in the Manhattan snow
or is it only Linda
who dreams of home?
When my mother's first-born cries for milk
in the brutal city winter
do the faces of your other daughters dim
like the image of the treeferned yard
where a dark girl first cooked for you
and her ash heap still smells of curry?
Did the secret of my sisters steal your tongue
like I stole money from your midnight pockets
stubborn and quaking
as you threaten to shoot me if I am the one?
The naked lightbulbs in our kitchen ceiling
glint off your service revolver
as you load whispering.
Did two little dark girls in Grenada
dart like flying fish
between your averted eyes
and my pajamaless body
our last adolescent summer?
to your shaving mirror
our most intense conversations
were you practicing how to tell me
of my twin sisters abandoned
as you had been abandoned
by another Black woman seeking
her fortune Grenada Barbados
New York City.
You bought old books at auctions
for my unlanguaged world
gave me your idols Marcus Garvey Citizen Kane
and morsels from your dinner plate
when I was seven.
I owe you my Dahomeyan jaw
the free high school for gifted girls
no one else thought I should attend
and the darkness that we share.
Our deepest bonds remain
the mirror and the gun.
An elderly Black judge
known for his way with women
visits this island where I live
shakes my hand, smiling.
"I knew your father," he says
"quite a man!" Smiles again.
I flinch at his raised eyebrow.
A long-gone woman's voice
lashes out at me in parting
"You will never be satisfied
until you have the whole world
in your bed!"
Now I am older than you were when you died
overwork and silence exploding your brain.
You are gradually receding from my face.
Who were you outside the 23rd Psalm?
Knowing so little
how did I become so much
Your hunger for rectitude
blossoms into rage
the hot tears of mourning
never shed for you before
your twisted measurements
the agony of denial
the power of unshared secrets.
Friday, October 16, 2009
by Ntozake Shange
one thing i dont need
is any more apologies
i got sorry greetin me at my front door
you can keep yrs
i dont know what to do wit em
they dont open doors
or bring the sun back
they dont make me happy
or get a mornin paper
didnt nobody stop usin my tears to wash cars
cuz a sorry
i am simply tired
i didnt know
i was so important toyou’
i’m gonna haveta throw some away
i cant get to the clothes in my closet
for alla sorries
i’m gonna tack a sign to my door
leave a message by the phone
‘if you called
to say yr sorry
i dont use em anymore’
i let sorry/didnt meanta/& how cd i know abt that
take a walk down a dark & musty street in brooklyn
i’m gonna do exactly what i want to
& i wont be sorry for none of it
letta sorry soothe yr soul/i’m gonna soothe mine
you were always inconsistent
doin somethin & then bein sorry
beatin my heart to death
talkin bout you sorry
i will not call
i’m not goin to be nice
i will raise my voice
& scream & holler
& break things & race the engine
& tell all yr secrets bout yrself to yr face
& i will list in detail everyone of my wonderful lovers
& their ways
i will play oliver lake
& i wont be sorry for none of it
i loved you on purpose
i was open on purpose
i still crave vulnerability & close talk
& i’m not even sorry bout you bein sorry
you can carry all the guilt & grime ya wanna
just dont give it to me
i cant use another sorry
you should admit
you’re mean/low-down/triflin/& no count straight out
steada bein sorry alla the time
enjoy bein yrself
One of my favorite pieces of literature is this choreopoem play by Ntozake Shange. If you havent read this or seen this production already you MUST. This choreopoem play has meant a lot to me from the moment i was introduced to it in high school. It has ultimately taken a whole new meaning in my life recently. As you experience this life as a woman of color, you learn... I heard that Tyler Perry recently bought the rights to this and I'm a little anxious to see what he plans to do with the play, after much criticism, it seems Perry is hoping to make a move towards developing a bit more range in his productions. I do appreciate his efforts in ALL of his films to in reveal some truth of a black woman's hardship, however we are much more than our pathos and are transformed daily in our colors...
somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff
not my poems or a dance i gave up in the street
but somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff
like a kleptomaniac workin hard & forgettin while stealin
this is mine/this aint yr stuff/
now why don't you put me back & let me hang out in my own self
somebody almost walked off wit alla my stuff
& didn't care enuf to send a note home sayin
i was late for my solo conversation
or two sizes to small for my own tacky skirts
what can anybody do wit somethin of no value on
a open market/ did you getta dime for my things/
hey man/ where are you goin wid alla my stuff/
to ohh & ahh abt/ daddy/ i gotta mainline number
from my own shit/ now wontcha put me back/ & let
me play this duet/ wit silver ring in my nose/
honest to god/ somebody almost run off wit alla my stuff/
& i didnt bring anythin but the kick & sway of it
the perfect ass for my man & none of it is theirs
this is mine/ ntozake 'her own things'/ that's my name
now give me my stuff/ i see ya hidin my laugh/ & how i
sit wif my legs open sometimes/ to give my crotch
some sunlight/ & there goes my love my toes my chewed
up finger nails/ niggah/ wif the curls in yr hair/
mr. louisiana hot link/ i want my stuff back/
my rhytums & my voice/ open my mouth/ & let me talk ya
outta/ throwin my shit in the sewar/ this is some delicate
leg & whimsical kiss/ i gotta have to give to my choice/
without you runnin off wit alla my shit/
now you cant have me less i give me away/ & i waz
doin all that/ til ya run off on a good thing/
who is this you left me wit/ some simple bitch
widda bad attitude/ i wants my things/
i want my arm wit the hot iron scar/ & my leg wit the
flea bite/ i want my calloused feet & quik language back
in my mouth/ fried plantains/ pineapple pear juice/
sun-ra & joseph & jules/ i want my own things/ how i lived them/
& give me my memories/ how i waz when i waz there/
you cant have them or do nothin wit them/
stealin my shit from me/ dont make it yrs/ makes it stolen/
somebody almost run off wit alla my stuff/ & i waz standin
there/ lookin at myself/ the whole time
& it waznt a spirit took my stuff/ waz a man whose
ego walked round like Rodan's shadow/ waz a man faster
n my innocence/ waz a lover/ i made too much
room for/ almost run off wit alla my stuff/
& i didnt know i'd give it up so quik/ & the one runnin wit it/
don't know he got it/ & i'm shoutin this is mine/ & he dont
know he got it/ my stuff is the anonymous rip[ped off treasure
of the year/ did you know somebody almost got away wit me/
me in a plastic bag under their arm/ me
danglin on a string of personal carelessness/ i'm spattered wit
mud & city rain/ & no i didnt get a chance to take a douche/
hey man/ this is not your perogative/ i gotta have me in my
pocket/ to get round like a good woman shd/ & make the poem
in the pot or the chicken in the dance/ what i got to do/
i gotta get my stuff to do it to/
why dont ya find yr own things/ & leave this package
of me for my destiny/ what ya got to get from me/
i'll give it to ya/ yeh/ i'll give it to ya/
round 5:00 in the winter/ when the sky is blue-red/
& Dew City is gettin pressed/ if it's really my stuff/
ya gotta give it to me/ if ya really want it/ i'm
the only one/ can handle it
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Poetry serves as a voice for this spiritual need within me, through performance, I can share "feelings" that often transcend my words through the sound of my voice and movement of my body, in the passion of my expression. Even in my most "aggressive" of performances when I am competing with the presence of a screaming male body, there is an emotional intelligence that carries through. I must learn to be angry, gracefully. The suspense comes in the fact that as a woman, performing, my presence defies the societal projections of how one can and should be "lady like," seen and not heard. My presence in those moments, when I'm on stage and even when I am not, is an anomaly. It is discomforting and is often seen as a threat to male dominance but in this there is the "erotic" attraction that Audre Lorde speaks of. Men are stimulated by this presence, are even envious of its nature, but mostly critical and judgmental. Often, even when people do not understand what it is that I am saying in my poems, they can "feel" the internal truth of my spiritual self. Something speaks to an audience that can see truth, it is perhaps the happiest moment, when there is the most authentic and shared experience. But also in me, people, particularly men, have had to confront some of their own horrifying truths. After performances, after the allure of me has settled down, men seem to expect me to retreat into some form that fits their romantic idea of whoever it is they imagined of me in relation to societal expectations, often sexualized and objectified, when I am verbal and articulate it angers, even provokes them or worse it seems to surprise and amaze them. My emotional and spiritual intelligence is all beautiful and exotic until of course it challenges their complacent maleness. I am done with suffering, with feeling inadequate because of what others fail to do for themselves and am also done with having my feelings used and abused. I have made it my job, it is my passion, I am driven to understand this expression, to create and find the words. I have been writing a lot about this because if and when I do pursue my PHD, it will perhaps speak to these ideas. I have been reading a great deal and experiencing a whole lot in regards to these "feelings" and "thoughts" I've been having and have begun to find the words for. I hope to help my male audience as well as my female audience to recognize these issues within themselves, the intimidation of "feeling" and its expression, to be better in my own efforts, so that we may get in touch with the erotic, "The need for sharing deep feeling is a human need.".... Audre Lorde is often misquoted, misspoken for, and it is a dangerous thing. A very dangerous thing. May this essay speak to something recognizable within you, may you be moved, a new life evoked. More importantly may you not miss her message. And women-- dare to be empowered, to be terrifying in that effort, please.
ps. thank you, Tamara.
The Uses of the Erotic
There are many kinds of power, used and unused, acknowledged or otherwise. The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling. In order to perpetuate itself, every oppression must corrupt or distort those various sources of power within the culture of the oppressed that can provide energy for change. For women, this has meant a suppression of the erotic as a considered source of power and information within our lives.
We have been taught to suspect this resource, vilified, abused, and devalued within western society. On the one hand, the superficially erotic has been encouraged as a sign of female inferiority; on the other hand, women have been made to suffer and to feel both contemptible and suspect by virtue of its existence.
It is a short step from there to the false belief that only by the suppression of the erotic within our lives and consciousness can women be truly strong. But that strength is illusory, for it is fashioned within the context of male models of power.
As women, we have come to distrust that power which rises from our deepest and nonrational knowledge. We have been warned against it all our lives by the male world, which values this depth of feeling enough to keep women around in order to exercise it in the service of men, but which fears this same depth too much to examine the possibilities of it within themselves. So women are maintained at a distant/inferior position to be psychically milked, much the same way ants maintain colonies of aphids to provide a life-giving substance for their masters.
But the erotic offers a well of replenishing and provocative force to the woman who does not fear its revelation, nor succumb to the belief that sensation is enough.
The erotic has often been misnamed by men and used against women. It has been made into the confused, the trivial, the psychotic, and plasticized sensation. For this reason, we have turned away from the exploration and consideration of the erotic as a source of power and information, confusing it with the pornographic. But pornography is a direct denial of the power of the erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling.
The erotic is a measure between our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.
It is never easy to demand the most from ourselves, from our lives, from our work. To encourage excellence is to go beyond the encouraged mediocrity of our society is to encourage excellence. But giving in to the fear of feeling and working to capacity is a luxury only the unintentional can afford, and the unintentional are those who do not wish to guide their own destinies.
This internal requirement toward excellence which we learn from the erotic must not be misconstrued as demanding the impossible from ourselves nor from others. Such a demand incapacitates everyone in the process. For the erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing. Once we know the extent to which we are capable of feeling that sense of satisfaction and completion, we can then observe which of our various life endeavors bring us closest to that fullness.
The aim of each thing which we do is to make our lives and the lives of our children richer and more possible. Within the celebration of the erotic in all our endeavors, my work becomes a conscious decision - a longed-for bed which I enter gratefully and from which I rise up empowered.
The principal horror of any system which defines the good in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need, or which defines human need to the exclusion of the psychic and emotional components of that need - the principal horror of such a system is that it robs our work of its erotic value, its erotic power and life appeal and fulfillment. Such a system reduces work to a travesty of necessities, a duty by which we earn bread or oblivion for ourselves and those we love. But this is tantamount to blinding a painter and then telling her to improve her work, and to enjoy the act of painting. It is not only next to impossible, it is also profoundly cruel.
As women, we need to examine the ways in which our world can be truly different. I am speaking here of the necessity for reassessing the quality of all the aspects of our lives and of our work, and of how we move toward and through them.
The very word erotic comes from the Greek word eros, the personification of love in all its aspects - born of Chaos, and personifying creative power and harmony. When I speak of the erotic, then, I speak of it as an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives.
There are frequent attempts to equate pornography and eroticism, two diametrically opposed uses of the sexual. Because of these attempts, it has become fashionable to separate the spiritual (psychic and emotional) from the political, to see them as contradictory or antithetical. "What do you mean, a poetic revolutionary, a meditating gunrunner?" In the same way, we have attempted to separate the spiritual and the political is also false, resulting from an incomplete attention to our erotic knowledge. For the bridge which connects them is formed by the erotic - the sensual - those physical, emotional, and psychic expressions of what is deepest and strongest and richest within each of us, being shared: the passions of love, in its deepest meanings.
Beyond the superficial, the considered phrase, "It feels right to me," acknowledges the strength of the erotic into a true knowledge, for what that means is the first and most powerful guiding light toward any understanding. And understanding is a handmaiden which can only wait upon, or clarify, that knowledge, deeply born. The erotic is the nurturer or nursemaid of all our deepest knowledge.
The erotic functions for me in several ways, and the first is in providing the power which comes from sharing deeply any pursuit with another person. The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic, or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference.
Another important way in which the erotic connection functions is the open and fearless underlining of my capacity for joy, in the way my body stretches to music and opens into response, harkening to its deepest rhythms so every level upon which I sense also opens to the erotically satisfying experience whether it is dancing, building a bookcase, writing a poem, or examining an idea.
That self-connection shared is a measure of the joy which I know myself to be capable of feeling, a reminder of my capacity for feeling. And that deep and irreplaceable knowledge of my capacity for joy comes to demand from all of my life that it be lived within the knowledge that such satisfaction is possible, and does not have to be called marriage, nor god, nor an afterlife.
This is one reason why the erotic is so feared, and so often relegated to the bedroom alone, when it is recognized at all. For once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives. And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe.
During World War II, we bought sealed plastic packets of white, uncolored margarine, with a tiny, intense pellet of yellow coloring perched like a topaz just inside the clear skin of the bag. We would leave the margarine out for a while to soften, and then we would pinch the little pellet to break it inside the bag, releasing the rich yellowness into the soft pale mass of margarine. Then taking it carefully between our fingers, we would knead it gently back and forth, over and over, until the color had spread throughout the whole pound bag of margarine, thoroughly coloring it.
I find the erotic such a kernel within myself. When released from its intense and constrained pellet, it flows through and colors my life with a kind of energy that heightens and sensitizes and strengthens all my experience.
We have been raised to fear the yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings. But, once recognized, those which do not enhance our future lose their power and can be altered. The fear of our deepest cravings keeps them suspect and indiscriminately powerful, for to suppress any truth is to give it strength beyond endurance. The fear that we cannot grow beyond whatever distortions we may find within ourselves keeps us docile and loyal and obedient, externally defined, and leads us to accept many facets of our own oppression as women.
When we live outside ourselves, and by that I mean on external directives only rather than from our internal knowledge and needs, when we live away from those erotic guides from within ourselves, then our lives are limited by external and alien forms, and we conform to the needs of a structure that is not based on human need, let alone an individual's. But when we begin to live from within outward, in touch with the power of the erotic within ourselves, and allowing that power to inform and illuminate our actions upon the world around us, then we begin to be responsible to ourselves in the deepest sense. For as we begin to recognize our deepest feelings, we begin to give up, of necessity, being satisfied with suffering, and self-negation, and with the numbness which so often seems like the only alternative in our society. Our acts against oppression become integral with self, motivated and empowered from within.
In touch with the erotic, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.
And yes, there is a hierarchy. There is a difference between painting a black fence and writing a poem, but only one of quantity. And there is, for me, no difference between writing a good poem and moving into sunlight against the body of a woman I love.
This brings me to the last consideration of the erotic. To share the power of each other's feelings is different from using another's feelings as we would use a Kleenex. When we look the other way from our experience, erotic or otherwise, we use rather than share the feelings of those others who participate in the experience with us. And use without consent of the used is abuse.
In order to be utilized, our erotic feelings must be recognized. The need for sharing deep feeling is a human need. But within the european-american tradition, this need is satisfied by certain proscribed erotic comings-together. These occasions are almost always characterized by a simultaneous looking away, a pretense of calling them something else, whether a religion, a fit, mob violence, or even playing doctor. And this misnaming of the need and the deed give rise to that distortion which results in pornography and obscenity - the abuse of feeling.
When we look away from the importance of the erotic in the development and sustenance of our power, or when we look away from ourselves as we satisfy our erotic needs in concert with others, we use each other as objects of satisfaction rather than share our joy in the satisfying, rather than make connection with our similarities and our differences. To refuse to be able that might seem, is to deny a large part of the experience, and to allow ourselves to be reduced to the pornographic, the abused, and the absurd.
The erotic cannot be felt secondhand. As a Black lesbian feminist, I have a particular feeling, knowledge, and understanding for those sisters with whom I have danced hard, played, or even fought. This deep participation has often been the forerunner for joint concerted actions not possible before.
But this erotic charge is not easily shared by women who continue to operate under an exclusively european-american male tradition. I know it was not available to me when I was trying to adapt my consciousness to this mode of living and sensation.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
A Poet in Harlem
by Willie Perdomo
That night he went looking for
he left his electric typewriter humming
on the kitchen table
and ran out to the wide
sidewalks of Lenox Avenue
Aunties sat on their stoop box seats
mixing cheers and gossip
beers on the down low
With arms thrown to the sky
I celebrate a touchdown
A poet must look at the whole picture
One man’s victory is stalked by another man’s loss
The voice inside my head began to whisper:
One of them youngbloods might grow to
be a poet in Harlem
Or the little brother who caught the
game-winning touchdown might have to
sleep in the street one day
That night he went looking for
he found two colors of love
A teenage couple embrace
by a bus-stop
I read his lips as they whisper
a sweet something into her smile
and that voice that never goes for a walk
comes to visit again:
In one ear and it stood
as the poet turned the corner
He bumped into an ancient argument
Two fallen angels with scratched throats
pull and push each other
Ain’t enough for both of them to
get high tonight
Use to be
he would serenade her
under a clear moonlight
and that voice meets
him in front of the liquor store:
Ain’t no room for kissin’ and huggin’
In the middle of the night
When luck is hard to find
The poet came back to his
kitchen table with the last
voice that sounded like the blues
so he turned the electric hum into
Show me a woman
who is strung out on love
I want to support
Monday, October 05, 2009
Sunday, October 04, 2009
Saturday, October 03, 2009
In fact, I started this blog with the intention of addressing something seemingly separate of a gender discussion---young black male violence in light of Derrion Albert whose funeral proceedings took place this morning in Chicago. I planned to write this blog in light of discussions I've had with young black men from this city and women, particularly regarding violence within young black men whether it be domestic or domestic. And because I feel as though I am here trying to help in any way I can whether that be through a poetry workshop or a conversation, I am troubled by our inability to empathize with these men. I wanted to respond to the idea that we should react to the case of Derrion Albert and many others like it, with violence. Because firstly, I find that to be a ridiculous idea. And secondly, I think policing to be an even more ridiculous idea. I came to writing this blog with the idea that the violence we are seeing particularly in young black men right now, should be no surprise, that it is not some random mode of being. And though, this does not excuse the violent cases setting afire across the country.Violence isn't "our" issue only it should be "everyone's" issue. However, I am hoping that people will see some type of correlation between the first black man being put into office and the outbursts of violence taking place within black communities internally. Maybe this is a discussion better left to the theorists, to the psychologists, the sociologists etc but I am a poet and though I may not have license to theorize on these things, though I have not been trained in the literature of these politics, I can very well articulate a suffering when I see one. I can recognize myself in that, not only as a woman, as a person "of color," or one in struggle etc but simply as a human being. I can recognize the conflict within a people that sees the best of themselves in light of the worse of themselves. I wonder, does anyone think to question what it must mean to be a black man on the south side of chicago struggling in all sense of the word and still being told you should be better because of the potential of one man. And we thought a black man in office was the answer, was perhaps a solution but we forgot that he was also part of the issue. That people hope to forget racism and not deal with racism, to address the horror. Obama may be the answer for some, may even inspire the best of us, but he is still intangible for many and especially for the poorest of Chicago. This city is extremely segregated and in light of that it is troubling to see how different Barack Obama lived(s) in Hyde Park verses not so many blocks south where there are boarded up buildings and gross poverty. This is not a blog to insult Obama but to simply articulate that I am frustrated with wanting to hold him accountable as a black man but also understanding that there is only but so much he can do. That is of course until both Michelle and Barack Obama decided to make it a point to advocate and support the Olympic sports chicago bid verbally and aggressively as of late all the while shying away from acknowledging and advocating for dealing with the youth violence in chicago. I know Obama had a spokes person comment but this is his "hometown." How impersonal it seems to me that he has now made an issue of speaking on this. In light of Derrion, I will say it is very disheartening. This "young black male violence" issue within the Chicago community has gone on for a very long time, continues to go on, here, nyc, and across the country. There needs to be more examples here, still here. We need to stop with the band-aid solutions to black male violence and must account for how complex the issue is, I've read and seen youtube blogs with black people who are quick to disown the men that beat Derrion to death and yet, they are a part of us. We are quick to embrace the best of us and neglect the very fact that the "worse" of us is still a part of us and we are accountable to each other. I know this blog may not be coherent in thought but it is raw in its expression and by making this public I assume my thoughts will therein be open to criticism. Okay. One can see holes in any "argument" but consider this a brain fart, rather a cry for help, for connection, for a love maybe, a love that reminds of us who we can be in spite of who we aren't... hopefully no one reads this.
for your information:
Thursday, October 01, 2009
The Art of Transformation (Vol. 1)
by Saul Willams
I am in a process of transformation, despite myself. Even with a clear understanding of God as Change, I sometimes fight and resist the changes that are essential to my being and growth. I fixate upon the challenges of accepting greater and greater responsibilities. I begin to desire results without maintaining the discipline that is required to manifest the necessary changes of heart and of mind, of balance, and inner harmony. I lose patience. I acquire doubt and debt.
The silent b
in doubt and debt
mutates our right
They crave control
of how we think
of how we feel
is the power
of the will.
needs a sanctuary
what mothers tell
I am in the process of creating a masterpiece. I am not referring to any album, book, film or creative endeavor, rather, I am referring to the process of self-realization that aligns one with their highest and innermost ideals and values and renders them fully alive. It is a process of overcoming the obstacles imposed upon self, by self, perhaps society, and a fearful mind that refuses to accept the upward spiral of being. What I have chosen to embrace within myself are the very values I caught glimpses of as a kid when I questioned how a world so beautifully diverse in it’s simplicity could be made violently complex by the check-points and regulations of man in his quest to control and manipulate the forces of love and nature for the sake of individual gain and power. My decision to live my growth outwardly as an expression of my artistic being, and to earn my living as such, has forced me to engage with a reality that I might have otherwise evaded and has put me up against a cultural perception of entertainment as escapism, which has only enhanced a once non-existent desire to escape. There is no escape. Even my most recent move to Paris has simply shifted something deep within me as I wander through the ancient artifices of ambition, the dome-like cathedrals of clarity, and walled in worlds of art, I feel startlingly closer to my truth and a greater urgency for disciplined transformation. I am growing and have chosen to do so consciously and creatively while remaining engaged with both my inner and outer audience.
I am a reality show, tuning into myself on a daily basis simply to see which emotion tattled on which unchecked ambition. My mind gossips about the actions of my heart. My fears attempt to seduce the cameras for airtime. My soul would vote them off the show. I am checking my habits, re-acquainting myself with age-old disciplines. I am meditating and staying focused (which is a bore for that overactive mind which wishes no more than to follow a trail, any trail to more thoughts, pretty pictures, and inevitably inaction). I am starring in a spin-off of myself where I sing and dance and dress in pomp and costume. I am evolving while simply playing my part. I am staring myself in the eye without flinching or blinking, standing still while moving beyond what holds me in my place. But mostly, I am dancing, everyday, and sleeping perched above the skyline. And I awaken to a new day, a new season, the latest episode….