Saturday, October 03, 2009

Inspite (dedicated to us)

Upon my first encounter with the windy city around two years ago, I was enveloped in romance, shielded and even blinded by the magic of love that seems to evolve from the kindred spirits in this country town. The native Chicago friends had opened their arms to me attempting to reconcile that "big city" mentality us New Yorkers often exude. Even having hung out in the hood of south side Chicago after hearing all sorts of intimidating type stories and expecting the worse, I was grateful for the real and genuinely hospitable people that I met, the laughter we shared, and the stories we were able to communicate across cities. However, I think what caught some of the Chicagoans off guard and seemingly continues to catch them off guard, is the nature by which I am figuratively blown away from the general beauty of this lakeside Midwestern city. Although most Chicago natives have an incredible sense of hometown pride, in my experience, to be from NYC is an altogether otherly fascination. Now, I can admittedly say I am here for grad school first and foremost and in part made plans to come to this city with the intention of sharing its wonder, but I think it was most easy for me to feel of purpose in NY because I've been able to help many a young people through the non profits and half way home mentor ships with the intent of extending myself to kids from similar backgrounds, and when I speak of similar backgrounds, you can see that in one of two ways--figuratively or literally, that is open to your interpretation. I am a product of similar programs and have made it this far through the mentors I've found there. In coming to Chicago I don't think I was prepared to realize that maybe I was brought here, maybe even called here to be of some use. New York has its fair share of violence and neighborhood issues but it seems to be no where near as visceral as Chicago, nor segregated and isolating in struggle. It seems in New York, neighborhoods spill among each other and with gentrification killing the very spirit of any non-white/european centered neighborhood which so defines the melting pot I once so confidently called home, our hoods vary largely in that they have become "softer" ... In the midst of heartache, parental disillusionment, childhood revelations, financial struggles, and educational transition at some point I've always felt most at home with those most troubled in themselves, have always found myself a poet particularly because of the way I have seen and engaged with the world in spite, have rekindled some deep reservoir within me through the vibrancy that is our young people of color. I am the best of lovers when I seem to be of use, am important, am vital and a deep rooted hand in the soil of our bettering, when I can be an example--a resource. Although much of this can be argued as guarded insecurity, my love for helping people see the light in themselves, has been excuse to find it within me, is also perhaps what first called me to religious affiliation at such a young age because in spite of myself, my "background" so to speak, there has always been some random act of humbling spiritual encounter that has made relationships profound cornerstones in my upbringing. In spite of all the love I've lacked in the place you first learn of love, the home, I've found it in others most beautiful of finding it in me. My existence has been a patchwork quilt of sorts. In most recently confronting the lack of a father in my life and its affect, I have learned of my own anger towards men, the emotional violence I have burdened myself with, and how every man I have ever met has had to be my example, has left an impression of the best and worse qualities I would hope to find and I have met some great great men. Also, that in spite of all my mothers efforts and though I am in part, shaped by her, her efforts could only extend but so far. she has been my undoing and so--to quote Audre Lorde, "Every woman I have ever known has made a lasting impression on my soul." My connection to every woman and their story is particularly important because I find us most mythical, most baffling, most magnificent and yet, we will bow, we will retreat, and often times we will do so willingly, gently, almost effortlessly. And yet we do not know the strength of our power, how vicious we can be until of course we are vicious to ourselves, how our power can be brutal outwardly but inwardly it is a war many of us never return from, it is where we bury casualties daily. We know that we are great but we are afraid no one else will recognize our greatness and that may be an issue of vanity. However, it is horrifying for a woman when because a man does not see her greatness in light of how she'd hope him to understand it, she begins to believe she is not great, to act in ways that defy her greatness. It is most troubling when this man is her father, has left or altogether abandoned her. She forever fears abandonment and misunderstanding. The truth is I pity a man in many ways and admire him just the same if not more and perhaps it is fair to say we simply speak in different languages. And because language is how we arrange the world around us, is how we understand and articulate, and thus how we know--we may always feel different.... A man does not seem to ever truly know his own greatness and because his mother is perhaps the first woman he has ever loved who has ever taught him of it, he will always be scarred and confused, he will love her in ways his father never could. Because a boy is most gentle when young, is most sensitive at his mothers bosom, she will know him in a way most women never will. His mother will have done for him in spite of what he can not do for her, praying against what the world will make hard for him, the ways in which her idea of love will later be impossible for him to give, the way she once gave to him, as sacrifice, with belief--regardless. That is a mothers job. But as for a son, he is not his mother. he will live to be the best, better than his father, in search for a love that may even stumble someday on his doorstep and because he has been taught to hold a rage for so long, this man will slam the door, will one day look out his window and cry when no one is there to see him. we are more similar than different. and maybe this is why i've been most intrigued by working with young men as a mentor and teacher, young black men in particular, the struggle is human, is all relative. and i hope to be an example, a woman that can inspire the best in the men i come across, am terrified if ever i bring out the worse. i am not sure i agree with freud that a boy is subconsciously in love with his mother and a girl with her father, rather i believe a son loves who he was most when he was with his mother as a child and that perhaps a daughter loves most who she was when she was with her father as a child. that maybe we love people for who we can be when we are with them, the ways they inspire us in light of what we have learned through out our existence. that perhaps in our relationships as adults we long to be that way again. to engage with our future partners based off of that initial love relationship....but in our being touched by the world we have adjusted, changed, transformed, been hurt, been troubled, and carry burdens. i have learned this most from young black men i have worked with in NYC who have held bitter grudges against this world and blamed most themselves, turned violent in outrage. then there are those that have forgiven, that have learned a love even i am shy of, am always amazed by...i have met many of these men as well, the ones whom I owe much thanks, who teach me how to expect nothing but the better of a man, to account for their beauty in moments where it hurts most, when pain and heartache is so close, it becomes reflection, identical enough to realize they have the same eyes. Because this is a free write and comes most naturally to me without trying to be concerned for gender theoretical arguments, I will not write with them in mind, I will not even respond to such reactions because in part we have lost ourselves in these discussions, have gotten so wrapped up in the theory of being, that we dont know what it is to simply, be. I am guilty of these discussions, am tempted by how enticing they can be, but am done with them, with arguing for any view because I know nothing of creating a decent argument, rather I know what it means to be a woman and to have loved a man, thats all i need to know for now...

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.


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