The Medicine of Tears

crying can be a miracle when the world is too much. it’s interesting then, how many people are taught to be afraid of their own and other’s tears. Most people recognize tears as a problem, rather than the recognition of a need for a cleansing, for a healing, for a balancing.

We have the power to baptize ourselves. Today I was supposed to go to child support court, to fight once again for a few dollars that is supposed to help me give my children the things that they need. I couldn’t do it. As soon as I sat up in the bed, I started to cry again as I had been doing for the past 4 days. Bae told me, “just don’t go,” and laid his hand around my waist, and I laid back down.

Over the past 4 days, I cried because of the wound of unworthiness that I have carried with me for the bulk of my life. For the deep loneliness I feel, for the pain of my mother– I cry like my mother used to when she had flashbacks, and I struggled with hating that until the tears over took my resistance. I am like my mother in some ways, and that is ok.

My tears can be scary because I know how to wail like the wind at a graveyard, and I had to recognize the powerful medicine in those tears. It’s the type of power that you ignore at your own risk of shutting down, and the type of power that sweeps out all of the lies you’ve been holding onto desperately trying to make shit work and trying to make shit fit while knowing all the while you’re on a futile mission of ego.

Over the past 4 days, I was held gently in the arms of my Mothers, who did not force me to see the bright side of things, to see myself and my circumstances in a different light, did not force me to get up and fight. They didn’t even hold me to my promise of making sweet potato pie for them on Saturday.  Rather, they acknowledged and witnessed the deep trauma that needed the storm as big as an ocean to let go of some of its stubborn strongholds around my mind, body and spirit.  The Mothers held me as both the boat (vessel) and the storm (spirit) as I made this sacred journey to a new understanding of myself and to a new peace that does not have to fight to be loved, to be cared for, to be valuable, to be respected.

So, today, I was supposed to go to child support court and I cried instead. I cried for the last few years of trying to make this man, force this man, to do more than he was willing, show up more than he desired, to bring more than he wanted to. I cried because this, ultimately, is never what I wanted for my children. I cried because I was tired of fighting to make something else happen, to hold someone else responsible, to force things to change. I cried, and I let go. I let go. I let go.

Crying is our first language, and it is a vulnerable one. To be Black in a world that seems  to want us dead is a very scary thing. To be Black and woman crying, well, this is where we get into the ancestry and history of grieving.

Science has caught up- kind of- to what we already have known for a long time. We carry the trauma of our ancestors within us. Any unshed tear of your mother’s is also yours. Tears, especially emotional tears, have specific physical health benefits. Culturally we have adapted a way of being that eschews crying as a weakness we cannot afford. It is a survival mechanism meant to keep us safe from the harsh realities of the world. Another black child gunned down in the street? Why yes, it’s sad, but we still have to go to work or hustle and pay bills. A Black woman  killed for saying no or for being trans? Why, it’s despicable but we still gotta keep going. About to get evicted and don’t know where your kids’ next meal is coming from? Why, that’s scary as shit, but if you succumb to the sadness of it all then you won’t be able to figure out your next moves.  You gotta be strong, breakdowns are for white women with too much time on their hands. (I don’t believe anybody in this society actually really truly cries enough).

We can’t forget the other side of this equation though, that the sort of numbing that happens to us as Black people is the result of a program of dehumanization that cosigns our oppression. “They can’t feel pain, they were bred to endure, they’re closer to animals.” It’s encoded into the fabric of white supremacy to the point that black people are much less likely to receive adequate pain relief when going to the hospital. Of course, white supremacy looks for any reason to declare us less than and that is not our shit to unpack.

However, the mechanisms of internalized oppression enshrine these ideas of toughness and numbness in a way that is detrimental to ourselves on a molecular, cellular and spiritual level. We believe the lie that- and it is a very believable one, look at the evidence that supports it- if we- black women & femmes-  were to break down and cry that our worlds would fall apart, because we are the ones holding it together and we are doing it by ourselves. There is no safety net, we believe. Our minds are too fragile to deal with the repercussions of  letting ourselves grieve trauma, we would lose it completely. And if we were to cry in front of others, we would be in a vulnerable position in a world that doesn’t love us. And last but certainly not least, NOBODY GIVES A DAMN.

What to do about these lies? I believe that it is time to come together, in secret and in the dark, and wail. I believe that it is time to be held physically by one another and spiritually by our ancestors. I know that our ancestors rejoice when we release a lineage of trauma through the baptism of tears, and that they are here to guide us through a death of what we have been taught we are and back into right relationship with the radiant beingness that is our birthright.

I believe that we will find together, in the sacred womb of darkness, the medicine of our tears. I believe that we will come to understand that our woundedness is not a monster trying to kill us but the tenderest parts of ourselves deserving love. I believe that we will find that it is not our tears that hold us back, it is our denial of our own pain that keeps us stuck.

 

*********************

The leaves are starting to change, and our ancestors are calling us. In the words of Radiant Ancestor Lucille Clifton,

“the leaves believe
such letting go is love
such love is faith
such faith is grace
such grace is god
i agree with the leaves”

Are you ready to let go? I encourage you to form a grieving circle with those you trust to hold you, and those you can hold, and let go. I encourage you to connect with your ancestors and let go. I encourage you to follow the rhythm of the fall equinox and let go. I encourage you to make a sacred space in your house and let go.

If you are searching for a sacred space to hold you, please know that we have prepared a space for you, beloved, to hold you in the most tenderest of ways, to unlock the grief you’ve been holding in your cells, and to reconnect with the divine and radiant ancestors in your blood. details here.

 

american mythology

thinking deeply on my maroon ancestors today.

 

the conditional citizenship that black people who are descended from enslaved Africans in the united states have is dependent upon the objectification of black people as producing but non-sentient beings. this social death is a necessary foundation of the mythology of the united states and the american dream. thus it becomes that a statement as simple as “black lives matter” becomes a controversial subject and a litmus test for one’s allegiance to the construct that is the united states. The appropriate response to such a sentiment would be “yes they do,” not “all lives matter”.

it is not because the united states, socially speaking, recognizes the inherent value in black lives, but because to interrogate the extent to which black lives are not seen as human lives is to give voice to that which must be seen- ever suffering, punished, feared and exoticized- but never heard as having a dissimilar experience from white americans that one is sentient enough to articulate and therefore matter.  The hypervisibility of black death is built into the very fabric of this society and to radically interrogate that death and suffering disassembles american rhetoric of progress and the underlying assumption of equality for all. interrogating black death from a radical black lens strips it of american mysticism that attributes black death to the inherent flaw and criminality of black people and reorients black death in a way repudiates the assertion that progress is linear, all-encompassing and will ultimately bring equality for all that wish to have it and work hard enough for it. it positions black death in a timeline that is not one of american mythology- you know the one where slaves were brought to america, taught how to be good christians, liberated by a beneficent father figure and then were free to pursue american dreams and assimilate into american society. the timeline of american blackness is one of revolving history merging with present technologies and an ever-innovating racism that simultaneously intersects and diverges from the timeline of american mythology. thus we can have a black president and also experience a surge in public lynchings, both by police and the old-fashioned noose around the neck.

As producers but not owners of our labor, all of who we are as black people is presumed to belong to the american public, and thus the world through the consumption and the consumerism of blackness as a commodity (even liberals do it under the idea of diversity and inclusivity). It is important to note here that it is not simply our cultural products but our body parts that are up for sale for anybody that wishes and has the means to purchase it. As an example, kylie jenner’s transformation into a psuedo black girl as a part of her rites of passage into adulthood is meant to signal her sexual desirability to the general public.

For any black person in america to reach success as is defined by the “american dream” it is assumed that that person owes a debt to american mythology and is not free to critique it. if that person is in the public eye, then that person becomes a de facto missionary of american mythology, the mythology that denies the existence of black dehumanization and rhetorically screams “all lives matter”. the condition of their acceptance into the american imaginary with praise and accolade is that the person is not to transgress by realizing that they are black and thus remain suspended through the remainder of their lives as colorless individuals. these people ‘transcend’ blackness and lose the hyphen and are simply american.

but as america is terrified of recognizing its own reprobation from egalitarianism. something as simple as not standing for an archaic song (that most people don’t even know all the lyrics or stanzas to) is seen as treason and reason to revoke citizenship. This is demonstrated in the backlash to Kaepernick’s refusal to stand. by his own testimony, he received many messages telling him to take a ship back to Africa. This is also demonstrated by the backlash to Beyonce’s Lemonade (other critiques notwithstanding) in which she was refused security and reprimanded for asserting her blackness.

This is not an essay which hopes to redeem the united states or offer a plan for redemption, simply because america is an idea which collapses under close scrutiny. instead, this essay seeks to highlight the conditional citizenship of black people into the idea of america (which is in and of itself a fallacy, albeit one that holds enormous sway in the lives of millions of people). it is pessimistic in that the author does not believe there is a full humanity for black people in a structure of lies about what humanity is and what one must be in order to be considered fully human or in this case, fully american.

to explore why america is a fallacy, one must contrast the hyper-visibility of black death with the relative invisibility of contemporary native genocide and suffering. It is universally accepted by most americans that native people were robbed of their land in order for america to be founded. but unlike black death, which is hypervisible and must be the backdrop against which civilization springs (black degeneracy being the thing which retroactively corrects the sin of enslavement) native people must be relegated to a pre-united states history that denies their contemporary existence as actors on and rightful stewards of this land. for native people to be seen is to remind america that it is built entirely on- euphemistically- ignoble principles. Hence, native people are folded into american mythology as noble but anachronistic people, (when ‘real americans’ are not in close proximity to native people, that’s a whole other story) while completely ignoring the conditions under which many native people live today. In order to claim native land as theirs, many non-native people actively claim mythic native ancestry.

The presence of contemporary native people shatters the mythic claim to the land and thus the rights to ownership and stewardship of what is now known as america. As an example, compare the visibility of (but relatively small gains of) Black Lives Matter and the obsession with capturing and publicizing the actual deaths of black people to #IdleNoMore #MMIW and #NoDAPL which at the moment is enduring an american media black out. The statistics for native populations are more dismal than any other population in terms of poverty, access, police brutality and many other statistics, yet there is no national outcry or attention on these things. To bring attention to the conditions under which native people live as compared to native peoples’ pre-america existence is to completely undermine the idea of america as the birthplace of democracy and the light of salvation for the world. It is to acknowledge a demand which would crumble america. To acknowledge black people as fully human is to acknowledge a terrorism without which america would not exist. (as a person who is non-native,  i encourage you to seek out the many native voices who are speaking in more in-depth and nuanced ways to their own experiences.)

it is a given that america is hypocritical, it could not stand otherwise. we must see america in its totality for what it is, not simply argue against the rhetoric. It is only then that we can form strategy that leads to liberation and not simply a piece of a poison apple pie.

 

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…And promptly stopped writing

So I woke up this morning to an anonymous post on my blog that questioned my lack of updating on my blog since my trip as suspect. To be clear, there are people that I still owe artwork for supporting my trip, and that’s still coming (I ain’t forgot about y’all) . But- I don’t owe anybody a damn thing when it comes to me writing. I don’t owe anybody my emotional labor. I don’t owe anybody my creative labor beyond terms which were mutually agreed upon.

The fact is that I am still writing, but I needed to take a pause to explore exactly what I’m writing about. If it seems suspect to you that, after I took a life-changing trip,  I would take a pause to assess what I am saying in the world, take a pause to really get intimate again with my inner world and what I’m putting in the outer world, then you taking this 24 hour instant internet gratification thing too seriously bruh. What I’m writing you may never see on these blogs.

I’m also seriously questioning whether y’all interrogate white writers the way you demand labor from black writers. Whether you demand access from white writers the way you demand access from black writers. The need to consume our analysis of the latest blip in pop culture within 3 hours of whatever it is that happens to start trending is not something I’m interested in any longer. I’m not an entertainment writer. I am always investigating and interrogating the nature of the soul in my writing. And that sometimes means taking time and listening.

So, respectfully, fall the fuck back. If your support is conditional on me churning out writing for your consumption, then respectfully, don’t fucking support me. I’m raising children, doing healing work- on myself and others. I’ve stayed active in sj work through Roots Pride and other shit. My daughter had major surgery this summer and a bunch of other shit happens that you don’t even need to know. I raise 5 children every single day. If that’s not enough for you I honestly don’t give a fuck. Be honored that I blessed your unworthy ass with an entire damn blog post. I’m a black woman in America and I don’t owe anybody shit but staying black and staying alive.

I’m taking this trip, you see

TW Most things

 

 

I’m taking this trip. I’m taking this trip for the little girl who did not think she would live past 21. Whose father was angry and left the hospital when she was born because she was a girl. whose childhood sentences were punctuated by bullets; who is haunted by the sound of her own feet leaving her foster sister on the sidewalk and running back to her mother when they drove down the street shooting that one time. I’m taking this trip for the little girl who sucked her babysitter’s dick so her brother wouldn’t have to. I’m taking this trip for the little girl who skipped other classes to go to english class so she could learn how words worked. I’m  taking this trip for the little girl who lost herself a long time ago. I’m taking this trip for the little girl whose “uncle” put his fingers inside of her. I’m taking this trip for the little girl who doesn’t share anything with her mother anymore. I’m taking this trip for a little girl who devoured an entire library once. I’m taking this trip for a little girl on a swiftly tilting planet. I’m taking this trip for the little girl who only had enough space for her dreams at dusk outside in the summer with the fireflies. I’m taking this trip for the little girl who sucked in her stomach and sat on the edge of her seat so her thighs wouldn’t spread. I’m taking this trip for the girl who got raped in high school and then used sex to numb herself. I’m taking this trip for the girl who thought she was so unlovable that she married someone that didn’t know how. the girl who got pregnant at 19 and married at 20. the girl whose high school best friend was shot in the head when she was pregnant with her first.  the girl with no formal education and is by all accounts a perfect storm of statistics. I’m taking this trip for the woman who tried really really hard to kill herself two years ago and thinks about killing herself the way one thinks about calling an ex-lover. I’m taking this trip for the woman with 5 kids and bunch of failed relationships and extraordinary fuck ups. I’m taking this trip for the woman who is learning how to own her body and her voice. I’m taking this trip for the woman on food stamps who worries about how to pay the rent. I’m taking this trip for the woman who eats smokes and drink so she don’t have to feel shit. I’m taking this trip for the woman who is swimming against the riptides of her own past and ghosts. I’m taking this trip for the woman with the broken heart. I’m taking this trip for the woman who always feels like she is not enough for what life demands of her. I’m taking this trip for the woman who likes to have colored weave and short tight shit on her body. I’m taking this trip for the woman whose baby fatha always tell the kids that she don’t love them. I’m taking this trip for the woman who is an orphan with living parents. I’m taking this trip for the crazy woman. I’m taking this trip for the woman who was never asked about her future when she was a little girl. I’m taking this trip for the woman who still doesn’t know how to answer that question for herself. I’m taking this trip for a woman who the dandelions and wild things call by name. I’m taking this trip for a woman who straddles the storms and makes love to the lightening. I’m taking this trip for a woman who doulas life and death. I’m taking this trip for a woman who was murdered and resurrected 9 times. I’m taking this trip for a woman who is a scholar of the spirit. I’m taking this trip for an Atlantic Ocean Crossing Black Woman, but also a Verdant woman. I’m taking this trip for a woman with many praise names. I’m taking this trip for a woman who prays. I’m taking this trip for a woman that is loved. I’m taking this trip for a woman that is wealthy and abundant. I’m taking this trip for a woman with daughters and suns to raise. I’m taking this trip for a woman who conjurs. I’m taking this trip for a woman that heals.I’m taking this trip for a woman who refuses to be ashamed.  I’m taking this trip for a woman that loves.   I’m taking this trip for a brilliant woman. I’m taking this trip for a kind woman. I’m taking this trip for a fierce woman. I’m taking this trip for a woman drenched in light. I’m taking this trip for a woman saturated in darkness.  I’m taking this trip for all of me. for me. for me.

 

Thank You.

 

 

 

 

Historical Amnesia, 20 $$ bills & the land of the free

” I have been particularly struck by the many comments and reactions from children for whom Harriet Tubman is not just a historical figure, but a role model for leadership and participation in our democracy. …” Treasury Secretary Jason Lew

Black people must not allow our struggle to be subsumed into the American political imaginary. Laboring under the myth of progress, it is assumed that Black labor, particularly the labor of Black liberation, is a function of the quest to make America “Great”.

It is assumed that dissenting voices are available to be encompassed in the myth of American democracy and the American imaginary as a part of what makes America unique in its value system and extraordinary in its ideals. It is assumed that this dissent is a part of American dissent and does not own itself. This assimilation of Black Liberation struggle into the discourse of the American imaginary is part of what allows America to export its special brand of imperialism and violence around the world and market it as freedom and democracy.

Black fungibility allows for the black body to be consumed in any way desired by the American imagination. Harriet Tubman, whose life was a threat to the perceived order of American governance, can now be consumed and traded, bought and sold hundreds and thousands and millions and trilllions of times. Now in death, she is to be the literal currency that symbolizes American prosperity, but not just prosperity, progress. Harriet Tubman’s life is enslaved again for the American imaginary, all under the guise of a progress that makes America an expert in freedom and liberation in its own mind.

We must make the incredible leap then, that Harriet Tubman’s liberation labor was retroactively to legitimize the colonialist/imperialist nation of the United States, that she labored to be the beneficiary of a system that amassed its wealth on the bodies of Black people, on the bodies and the land of Native people. We must make the leap, if her face on the 20 dollar bill is acceptable, that her liberation labor was indeed in service to the American “ideal” and not to the liberation of her people. We must make the leap that the dividends still being received by the descendants of slave owners is co-signed by the spirit of Harriet Tubman herself.

Let us be clear, American wealth was amassed by the genocide of Native people, and the MAAFA of people of African descent. This is a travesty that is sustained by the continued erasure of Native people and their sovereignty of this land, by the continued MAAFA of black people and by the blood of millions around the world.

Black people must not allow our liberation to legitimize the myth of America and to distort the labor and life of Harriet Tubman. This is not new for America. just as gynecology was built on the torture of Black women and Henrietta Lacks’ cells were stolen for American innovation, the liberation work of Harriet Tubman is being co-opted under the myth of progress that works to retroactively enslave black women by stealing their bodies and their labor for the benefit of the “greater good”.

If America was being sincere about honoring Harriet Tubman’s legacy, then Assata Shakur would not still be a fugitive. If America was being sincere about honoring Harriet Tubman’s legacy, then we would have an honest discourse about reparations. If America was being sincere about honoring Harriet Tubman’s legacy, America itself would cease to exist, because it would recognize that the foundation of America was illegitimate for the aforementioned reasons.

But America is not sincere in its desire to honor or even remember the legacy of Black Liberation struggle. America has amnesia about the foundation of this country, and therefore renders invisible the struggles of Native people- who must be invisible in order for America to be legitimate- and conveniently victim-blames Black people for their position of subjugation that is necessary to retroactively absolve America from its actions in the MAAFA by insisting that our position is a result of moral inferiority. It must purify itself and create a historical amnesia in order to justify its continued existence.

To buy into the myth of progress that is symbolized by Harriet on the money is the legitimization of a system that has never acknowledged our humanity let alone our work to dismantle the channels of our dehumanization.

 

This Is Not a Small Voice

make me wanna holler

ah, here come the women. There will be a whole week of love poems to celebrate Valentine’s Day. But I couldn’t wait one more day before pulling out Sonia Sanchez’s Shake Loose My Skin (published by Beacon Press, UUs!)

This is not a small voice
you hear          this is a large
voice coming out of these cities.
This is the voice of LaTanya.
Kadesha. Shaniqua. This
is the voice of Antoine.
Darryl. Shaquille.
Running over waters
navigating the hallways
of our schools spilling out
on the corners of our cities and
no epitaphs spill out of their river mouths.

This is not a small love
you hear          this is a large
love, a passion for kissing learning
on its face.
This is a love that crowns the feet with hands
that nourishes, conceives, feels the water sails
mends the children,
folds them inside our history where they
toast more than…

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This is not a Beyonce Diss or Black Girl Magic Pt. 2

I want us all to remember who is actually making the magic here.  Who among us are the ghetto mermaids shopping at corner stores for lunches made of honey buns and cheese curls through thick ass bullet proof glass. I want us all to remember that the magic Beyonce just made isn’t possible without the girl who’s trying to figure out if she has enough money to make it to her job on time or is on probation for shoplifting kids clothes from Burlington.

I want us to remember the girls wearing the cheap bamboo earrings from the beauty supply store turning their earlobes grey and rough. The dark skinned girl getting laughed at because she’s wearing sunshine-colored lipstick from the same store, because she’s got on tights from Rainbow, and because she’s walking these streets until she scrounges enough money for her bus pass. This isn’t a Beyonce diss; I just want us to remember how vital the black girls who get dissed and laughed at, called sluts, thots and hoodrats are to this thing we call #blackgirlmagic.

These are the same black girls that go missing and nobody gives a damn. Turn up dead covered with bleach and get blamed for it. Get murdered by her baby daddy over diaper money and nobody even holds a vigil that ain’t from the same block as her. I loved #formation. I want us to love us more. I want us to love poor black girls and women so much that we don’t even bat an eye when a celebrity-black or not- claims their love for us because our love for us is evident at every turn. I want black girls and women to be valued even when they don’t know the latest social justice language, can’t read above a 6th grade level,  or that their lives are even #intersectional.

I want us to know the names of murdered black girls and women like we know the names of black men shot down by police. I want us to care about the messy black girls with 7 kids and 5 baby daddies who can’t get housing because she did a three month bid two years back. I want us to care about the black mothers being forced to have sex with their landlords in exchange for housing because nobody is really out here taking section 8. I want us to care about us before it gets hot on the radio. I want us to remember who is helping to make the magic that gave all of black america a visceral reaction.

I want us to remember what the cost of that magic, that ephemeral beauty is. The magic that really made the #worldstop. And I want formation to just be a tiny example of us paying attention to us and loving us fiercely, not only when it’s commodified and cool. I want us to remember where that intellectual labor, that emotional and psychic labor comes from. #Blackgirlmagic is more than an anthem to sing to, it’s how we survive in a world that don’t love us or give a fuck about us everyday.