Toi

Toi
the philosophactivist

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Note on my perceived anger and bitterness. Silence, Release, Conviction and Standing in my Power



After a note from a friend, I decided to respond to a woman who sent me an email through my website. At first I wasn't going to write back because of the tone and level of assumption, but then after reflection and a chat with my friend about comunity to write back. Usually I wouldn't think it necessary to address a person's assumptions about me, but I felt it a good exercise for my future as a writer who writes about issues that may make me seem "angry" and "bitter" to many folks. I feel many of us bloggers, journalists, writers and artists who use our work as a form of expression come into contact with folks who might misunderstand our work or who may write us off because of their perceptions of us. 


There are a lot of assumptions made about writers based on the tone of articles. I'd like to challenge folks to be mindful of your assumptions and expectations. A few articles and your perceptions on who that person must be does not allow for the reality of who that person actually is. We shouldn't be so quick to write someone off or assume that they are "just angry". I am glad that she wrote me though because in writing her back, I felt self-affirmation of who I am and what I'm here to do and how I'm here to do it.


M's email:

" Hey Doll, I think you are so cute but why are you so angry.I really think living in Texas would make anyone bitter.I am a Certified Herbalist,have been since 2011.I am also a Certfied Personal Trainer and soon to be Raw Chef.Adopting this lifestyle has made me a lot calmer.As a black woman I know of the pain and suffering my people had to go through.It's time to let go.It's HISTORTY not our FUTURE.Let's heal ourselves mentally...Be safe and Take care...I would love to make a donation to your site... M"


My Note back:


"Hi M...,


Thanks for taking the time to reach out. At first I was hurt by words I'd never expect to see from a person in our community...words that confirmed the stereotype of being an "angry black person." But then, I sat in reflection and thought about the fact that you may not have read many of my other writings where I talk about healing, community, and empowerment. I also thought about the fact that you may not have read about my own personal healing journey and the fact that you don't know about my committment to a plant-based diet.

I have spent much time working on ancestral healing and understanding my history and my place as an organizer within marginalized communities. There is much trauma in our communities and I believe that the mere act of letting go is not enough. Though it is key, there is much to work through spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and physically. There are patterns deep in our DNA that we must work through and release, as you've expressed. We also need to understand systems of oppression and the ways they affect us physiologically, emotionally and psychologically and what we must do to heal internally from external oppression and childhood and ancestral trauma.

Writing is a form of healing for me and I write with conviction. Some of my writing is fiery and some is soothing. I've reflected on some folks' reaction to my writing, and I believe that a lot of it is rooted in how we have been socialized to speak (or not speak) about our oppression. If we do decide to speak about it, we must sugar coat it- so as to attract bees with honey. Dr. King didn't do this. Malcolm X and the Panthers didn't do this. Gandhi and Mandela didn't do this. We have to be real and speak our Truth, regardless of what others may think of us. Many white folks and even our own people thought that the leaders I mentioned were angry and bitter and disturbing the peace. Maybe even rocking the boat.

Despite what some may think or assume, I am not a person brimming with anger. I am a person who sits in meditation and goes to annual silent retreats. I am a person who sits with plants and trees and spends time cultivating inner peace. I am a mediator, I believe in non-violence and peace activism (and understand the need for other tactics). I am a child of Obbatala and Oshun. I'm also a person who was voiceless for many years, like many other female-bodied people of color. Part of this letting go that you speak of, for me, is the healing inherent in writing the Truth and speaking out, which culminates in taking action against injustice. There is no liberation in suffering in silence. Audre Lorde speaks about that. Sometimes the "letting go" folks speak about really has to do with not holding space for the expression of our anger or sadness caused by violence committed against us. And this is disempowering and damaging. Lorde said that this silence will not protect us. This idea of not acknowledging what systems are externally causing us pain and being expected to just release emotions tied to our oppression seems anti-liberatory.

I believe there is a place for anger (and sadness). Thich Nhat Hanh talks about this. Many spiritual leaders have. Anger can move us to action, as long as we don't remain in this state for prolonged periods. It can consume and destroy us if we do so. But we can't remain in a state of bliss either. As with anything, there must be balance. We can choose how to channel our emotions toward liberation.

Thank you for your email which has caused me to really reflect on others perceptions, and in doing so, remain firm in my convictions about the work I'm here to do and the ways I do it: with compassion, conviction, and unapologetically- all the while hoping for, and taking action to co-create the healing of our communities.


Healing and Wisdom,



Toi "


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Building with Boricuas at the D'el Otro La'o colloquium in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico was such an amazing experience that it almost hurts to be back. As I left the island for the third time I felt a sadness come over me. I met so many beautiful spirits at the Del Otro La'o conference who are doing phenomenal work in their communities. The experience was healing for me after all I had been going through here in Austin. I'd really been doubting the way I've been walking on this path. I was ready to change the perspective I was writing from and be more "objective" and possibly write about things that I wasn't as passionate about to pay the bills. I was ready to compromise who I've become because I thought it was necessary to my survival. How many of us have to do that on the daily?

When I got to San Juan, a good friend cooked delicious meals and showed me around Old San Juan and gave me new perspective on the city I'd always tried to avoid (because of tourists and the neo-colonial aesthetic). I also got a tour of Rio Piedras and visited a really inspiring coop called, La Chiwinha.

 The town of Lares symbolizes the struggle for Puerto Rican liberty and national identity. On September 23 of 1868, after loosing hopes of acquiring a change in the political situation of the island through peaceful means, a group of Patriots, acting under the leadership of Don Ramón Emeterio Betances, took up arms against the Spanish colonial government. Their goal was to rescue our national sovereignty and to proclaim the independence of Puerto Rico. In the mountains of the towns of Lares and San Sebastian, the cry of "Patria y Libertad" was heard. This glorious historical event is known as "El Grito de Lares", for it was in that town that the Republic of Puerto Rico was declared after the up-rising.   Sometime at the end of May or the beginning of June of 1868, Don Manuel Rojas presented to the Revolutionary Committee Centro Bravo in Lares the original design of a flag conceived by Betances himself. This flag was formed by a white Latin cross in the center, two bleu squares situated above the arms of the cross, two red squares situated below, and a white five-pointed star situated in the upper left square. This design served as the model for the first Puerto Rican flag, sewn by Doña Mariana Braceti. The cry of "¡Viva Puerto Rico Libre!" and this flag became the symbols of the revolution and of the first _expression of national identity in Puerto Rico. During the Grito de Lares, two other flags were used, a red flag, and a white flag with the inscription "Libertad o Muerte, Año de 1868" (Liberty or Death, Year 1868).   It was the flag with the white cross (the Lares flag) the one which became the symbol of the Puerto Rican revolutionary movement until the end of the 19th century. This flag was an adaptation of the flag of the Dominican Republic, the first Spanish speaking country in the Antilles to gain its independence from Spain. Dr. Ramón Emeterio Betances’ family on his father’s side was of Dominican descent. The flag symbolizes the bond of the Puerto Rican revolutionary movement with the Dominican struggle for independence.
To Lares, Holy Land, we must enter on our knees.  - Don Pedro Albizu Campos


The town of Lares symbolizes the struggle for Puerto Rican liberty and national identity. On September 23 of 1868, after loosing hopes of acquiring a change in the political situation of the island through peaceful means, a group of Patriots, acting under the leadership of Don Ramón Emeterio Betances, took up arms against the Spanish colonial government. Their goal was to rescue our national sovereignty and to proclaim the independence of Puerto Rico. In the mountains of the towns of Lares and San Sebastian, the cry of "Patria y Libertad" was heard. This glorious historical event is known as "El Grito de Lares", for it was in that town that the Republic of Puerto Rico was declared after the up-rising.

Sometime at the end of May or the beginning of June of 1868, Don Manuel Rojas presented to the Revolutionary Committee Centro Bravo in Lares the original design of a flag conceived by Betances himself. This flag was formed by a white Latin cross in the center, two bleu squares situated above the arms of the cross, two red squares situated below, and a white five-pointed star situated in the upper left square. This design served as the model for the first Puerto Rican flag, sewn by Doña Mariana Braceti. The cry of "¡Viva Puerto Rico Libre!" and this flag became the symbols of the revolution and of the first _expression of national identity in Puerto Rico. During the Grito de Lares, two other flags were used, a red flag, and a white flag with the inscription "Libertad o Muerte, Año de 1868" (Liberty or Death, Year 1868).

It was the flag with the white cross (the Lares flag) the one which became the symbol of the Puerto Rican revolutionary movement until the end of the 19th century. This flag was an adaptation of the flag of the Dominican Republic, the first Spanish speaking country in the Antilles to gain its independence from Spain. Dr. Ramón Emeterio Betances’ family on his father’s side was of Dominican descent. The flag symbolizes the bond of the Puerto Rican revolutionary movement with the Dominican struggle for independence.



Back in August I got to know Santurce (a gentrifying neighborhood in San Juan)  a bit better and I got to hang out with some folks who were all about food and environmental justice, anti-authoritarianism, and economic justice and sovereignty. I also visited Mayaguez and couchsurfed with an agroecologist who had a business helping coffee growers in Central and South America improve the quality of their coffee and business and sell internationally.

This time I visited Mayaguez in a different capacity. I was there as a presenter and panelist at an LGBT colloquium/conference that's been happing for 5 years at the university. I had no idea how life changing and affirming this gathering would be for me. That second day while sitting on the race, racialization, and queer sexualities panel with the awesome and aspiring Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro (poet,author,educator,activist), out gay boxer Oscar "Fenomeno" Cruz, and activist and journalist Dania Lebron- I began to see that this trip had greater significance than I could have ever imagined. Here I was in Puerto Rico with Afro-Boricuas talking about our experiences with blackness and its intersection with our queerness. This doesn't happen a lot folks. There is much silence about racism and anti-blackness and colorism on the island though it is entrenched in every day interactions and in the makeup of certain areas of the island. Loiza is where a lot of black boricuas live on the island and it is one of the most impoverished towns.
Race, Racialization and Queer Sexualities Panelists



Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro y yo


During the coloquio there were  plays and music performances, films, workshops on queer writing, presentations on transwomen in latin america, a panel on sexuality and polyamory and many, many more. Our "Austin contingent" presented on different projects and activism they've been a part of for reproductive justice here in Texas. They gave a much broader definition of reproductive justice (yes, more than abortions) and talked about the importance of expanding it from the white, hetero-, cis-female, middle class narrative  and centering experiences of transmen and women, folks with disabilities, and queer and POC communities. You can check out some of the presentation here.

What was so moving and powerful was the committment that each of the presenters,panelists, and attendees had to the LGBTQI/queer movement and to the expansion of our organizing and activism beyond just the right to marry. The folks at UPR were really committed to using their positionality in the university and/or as artists and activists to further the movement and be involved with intersecting movements happening not just on the island but internationally.

I met Rashidi Williams from Nigeria who is doing incredible work within the LGBT movement there with the organization Queer Alliance Nigeria which also partners with the Queer African Youth Network, the first lesbian‐led LGBTQ regional organization in West Africa, with the aim to become the hub for LGBTQ youth activists and youth-led movement building. It  was humbling to share dialog with him about how to incite people to join the movement and organize across issues. I can't wait to learn and share more with him. Building internationally is necessary for the revolution we seek to create.

And speaking of resistance and revolution- (when am I ever not?) I've decided to make my presentation on Putting Down the Master's Tools into a zine, so be looking out for that in the next few weeks. Prezi just isn't my thing but an e-zine I can do. Sharing about the origins of my activism, my coming into my various identities, and the ways that I've chosen to walk this path as an artivist and a visionary organizer felt so fulfilling and healing during my talk. To see people truly moved after sharing my sometimes painful stories and the work I've been honored to be a part of makes me feel that I must continue with this work. Even when I want to walk away because I feel that it's not financially sustaining me. Even when I feel wounded, misunderstood or alone. It's not really completely my decision to make. This work is bigger than me. That's what I continue to find out as I present, do workshops, or go on tours. And traveling and meeting so many beautiful spirits helps me to see that I'm not alone after all. And I know my place now- my place is showing our people a sense of their power by helping our communities reclaim their suppressed histories and knowledge. My place is helping our people find ways to heal, envision, and create  our own autonomy and, if not a world  free of oppression and marginalization based on our identities, at least communities that are free.

I hope that you'll find ways to heal yourself, your family, your communities. Remember thatt liberation starts with something as seemingly small as feeding yourself healthy food and taking care of your mind, body and spirit. If we aren't whole, neither are our communities.

Healing and Solidarity,
AGQ

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Putting Down the Master's Tools

It's been a minute since I've had time to actually put together the number of blog entries floating around in my head. I've been traveling off and on since October. I've kept one foot in Austin and the other in the southwest and west. It's been a tough winter in more ways than one but I feel like I've weathered the storm and have come out the other side if not unscathed, at least with a new found determination. Thanks to all the folks who have supported me in a myriad of ways these past few months and through 2013. Time to take 2014 by the horns.

In other news, your friendly, neighborhood afro-genderqueer has the honor of presenting/facilitating a workshop/skillshare at an LGBT confernce in Puerto Rico in March! It's titled, "Putting down the Master's Tools: Using your words,stories and Art to Queer Social Justice." I'll also be sitting on a panel on race, racialization and sexuality. 
*See more about University of Puerto Rico- Mayaguez's ¿Del otro la'o? Coloquio de sexualidades queerhere.

I actually just facilitated a workshop last weekend on Healing Ourselves from Internalized Oppression at allgo's annual retreat for QPOC organizers after going to a two week permaculture design training in Cali. 

What a year and we're only two months in.

I'm reaching out to folks since there's little to no funding for us presenters since it's a free conference.  I've got some writings and an online presentation to give you in exchange for your love offerings. 

The work I'm presenting is very important as it is designed to not only create dialogue but also to incite us to action toward ways that we can use our art and skills to heal ourselves and each other from both internal and external oppression (racism, homophobia,etc.)

Find out more about what I'm doing for the workshop on my gofundme page. I'm raising $500 to get to Puerto Rico here:
http://www.gofundme.com/Masterstools


If you can't contribute, please spread the word! 
New posts coming soon.


Toi
AGQ



Sunday, December 15, 2013

Genderqueer Files: La Qolectiv@ Part 2


Guess what...

Genderqueer Files: La Qolectiv@ Part 2:
The Group Journey

is available now!






Know some awesome folks who may want to bring in the New Year with a story about some rad, brown queers reclaiming and resisting? Not only will you be providing them with some awesome entertainment, but you'll also be helping in funding the making of this into a full-length book and helping to sustain the author.

*You can get a $5.00 discount off the combined amount of Part 1 and 2 by using this code: JOURNEY2014.
*If you've already bought Part 1, you can message me for a separate discount code!

You can buy Part 1 and 2 at my online store:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/afrogenderqueer


They will only be available for a limited time before I go back to the lab to make edits and emerge with the novella!

Read more about Part 1 and 2 here:
http://www.afrogenderqueer.com/#!genderqueerfiles/c160u


Please don't hesitate to message me about sliding scale discounts if you are experiencing economic hardship.

Thanks everyone! And as you think of holiday gifts please keep supporting art written by and centering the experience of queer and trans folks of color! It's just one way to confront the growing disparities that we face.




Healing and Solidarity,

Toi

AGQ
Philosophactivist

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Some Things You Oughtta Know


I'm going to be honest right now about my situation. 
This week...I am selling my services/writings for survival. Perhaps honesty is the best policy because 1266 people on facebook saw my post about the Genderqueer Files episodes and I have yet to sell a single download on etsy. (By the way- it's a .pdf file...you don't need a kindle or any kind of fancy reader besides adobe.) 


It's been really difficult and I'm really dealing with a lot of emotions around self-worth as I find it harder and harder to find a job and people look at me as if I'm not pulling my own weight in life because I am an organizer and an artivist. I spend about 20-30 hours a week organizing in various connected movements. Salary=$0. People say..." Well stop organizing and go get whatever job you can get to sustain yourself". And I think to myself...'Geez I never thought of that'. 

Of course I've thought of that.
Of course I have. 

I've applied to grocery stores, retailers, custodial jobs. I know it's a tough market but there's something else complicating my search. It's the fact that I'm brown and genderqueer in a racist, homo/transphobic pseudo-liberal pseudo-progressive town (called Austin). People like to act like something is wrong with me because I have this experience and these qualifications and can't get a job. And though deep down I know that systemic oppression has seriously limited the jobs I can have in life (or is it just in these pseudo-liberal towns?), I just keep internalizing the rejection experience and white people's judgments (because my experience is not their experience, so it must not be true or valid) and my family's judgments until I start to ask myself “What is wrong with me?” It's really psychologically, emotionally and spiritually damaging.

I try to pull myself up by the bootstraps I was never given and instead of complaining about this racist, transphobic, pseudo-liberal, pseudo-progressive town that will not hire me no matter my qualifications because of my marginalized identities, try even harder to sell my writings and pull my weight if you will. But all the while I continue to internalize that many people don't think that artist's work is valuable and believe that it comes easy to us and that it should be free. 

I struggle constantly with wondering if my work has value and it's the people I meet in person at book fairs and on tour that remind me that it does resonate with some people. I get affirmation that my work does matter, even if it's not sustaining me the way I would like it to.

It's damaging when our communities seem to want organizers, activists, artivists, etc. to do all this work x3 for free.99. That also goes for submissions  to publications and workshops and donations to archives and projects. We know that funding is scarce but we've got to try to work harder to find ways to pay people or make even exchanges. Also, organizers who are parents need support. People who are sacrificing a ton of time for their community and who are getting burnt out, need emotional, psychological, and spiritual support. Community members who can't eat or pay their bills yet work 2-3 jobs need financial support!

I have to say that it is really disheartening feeling like when I actually try to “earn my keep” by selling my services/my writings/art, etc. to survive- that people are turning up their noses and thinking I should just get a “real job”. I know I don't work at an office or a restaurant or whatever institution, corporation or non-profit but it is mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausting work to organize across issues/movements, write, continue my education as a healer, provide resources to multiple communities, support my friends and created family's emotionally and spiritually, AND manage my lupus symptoms and take good care of my own self. 

If this strife sounds normal to you and you are thinking what my mom always says when I tell her about being overwhelmed with pain or stress- “And?What else is new?” - there's a serious problem. We should not be running ourselves into the ground, folks. We should be supported in using our gifts, skills and abilities. If we have the time to step up and organize within our communities, we should not be left in the cold when we need emotional, psychological, spiritual or financial support ourselves. We need to hold each other accountable for this. No one should be left unsupported.

It makes me extremely sad and upset when I think about my financial situation and my inability to sustain myself despite how hard I work to support myself and others. I think about how just 2 weeks ago, my health “insurance” (it's really from a charity/foundation) was taken away and when I went to pay for my meds- I had to tell them to recount them and only give me a months worth because now I couldn't afford it. Or...I think about how I've had this infected tooth for months now...and 2 dentists that help lower income folks said they don't do root canals, but that they'll pull the tooth (which I've had happen waaay too many times over the last few years due to my economic situation)- and another charitable organization that does sliding scale fees said the minimum amount I could pay is $400-500. Yea- I can't afford that. I can't afford my rent this month. I can't afford to apply for residencies that might help me to be able to focus on my art and organizing. 

I can't focus on my writing and all these ideas I have for sharing knowledge and co-creating vibrant communities because I feel so broken spirited over finances and am constantly having these negative, circular thoughts about my worth and am trying to strategize about how to hustle and make rent and feed myself- and from that dark place.

I broke down in tears just yesterday because a friend reminded me of my steady commitment to providing resources for my communities: workshops, skillshares, constant, tireless organizing across issues in different movements, healing work and the emotional support and overall investment I've made and yet...I am still here struggling and barely surviving and finding it hard to pay for my life-sustaining medication and rent. All the while trying to keep resources accessible to those in my situation...those of you who look/are like me or who are in similar situations to my own.

The point my friend was making is that our communities need to do better in supporting each other physically, emotionally, spiritually and yes, even financially. I see many of my artivist and activist friends struggling to survive, just like me. You may see them everywhere online or in person but that does not translate to economic stability. It actually more than likely means they are hustling and on the grind and probably struggling and trying to survive.

Writing/making art is a full-time job (on top of other jobs) for many of us...and not just a hobby. It is extremely hard work. It is mentally, emotionally and spiritually taxing, especially when we're writing about difficult themes like oppression and liberation or calling out colonialism and systems of oppression and oppressors. Some of us even get threatened and run out of town.


It took me over a year to write Genderqueer Files: La Qolectiv@ and I was working full and part-time jobs on and off. Part 3/Act 3 is still not completely to my liking and I still have so much work to do on making it a community workshop and a novella so people can engage with it's themes and not have to be reading through stage directions. I am also working on a number of other resource guides like Queering Herbalism 2, zines about decolonizing food justice and white supremacy in pseudo-liberal towns, wellness fairs, herbal freedom school workshops...and much more.

True, some folks might just not be into reading a story about brown queers or reading about q/poc and holistic health or zines on anti-oppression. I'm challenging our Q/POC community and allies to be more supportive of art that centers the experience of queer and trans people of color. There's not a whole lot of it out there...there's more than there ever was...but it's still not enough.

I know that some aren't financially able right now. But those of you who are, please see and respect that this work is valuable and that we artists/artivists/activists need to survive and can't write or give all our writing/art/services for free. Many will attest that I do at just about every event but this isn't sustainable.  Printing costs money. And I've spent many hours writing, researching, and organizing non-stop and it deserves to be compensated just like anyone else who is working a 9-5 or over a 40 hour work week.

It is hard for some of us to reach out to our communities for support because we're afraid we'll be judged or rejected. I know this is true for me. I am writing this because I have no choice but to reveal my vulnerability and to let you know that I struggle just like you no matter how many hundreds of people around the world read my writings. I am the embodiment of many of those statistics about brown, queer people who can't get health care or who are unemployed due to discrimination. I am the embodiment of those statistics about transfolks of color that you read about online or in class or talk about with your rad buddies over dinner. Even if I am sitting with a bunch of middle class, educated organizers and activists who make assumptions that we are all thriving, that is not my story. That is not my reality. I am barely surviving and fighting to exist. Fighting to not be erased every day.

Thanks for listening. Reaching out like this has been really healing.




Here's more information about the Genderqueer Files episodes:
http://www.afrogenderqueer.com/#!genderqueerfiles/c160u

You can purchase Part 1 episode 1-3 HERE until 12/15. Part 2 episodes will be up 12-15 til 12/22.

My other writings can also be found on the Etsy website. And you can get printed versions of my writings (*everything except Genderqueer Files and Queering Herbalism) through the shop&cart page on the afrogenderqueer website HERE.

And if you have found value in my writings or in the free resources I've compiled (on queerherbalism.blogspot.com)but you aren't interested in buying anything but still want to support, there is a donation button on the afrogenderqueer webpage HERE.


Email me for other purchase options/methods of payment.

Thank you again for reading/listening.

Toi
AGQ
Philosophactivist

Friday, December 6, 2013

Queer. Brown. Stories.


So...


Remember that play Genderqueer Files: La Qolectiv@ that had a dope reading this year in Austin at the historic Victory Grill with amazing community members?

Just to refresh your memories-

Genderqueer Files: La Qolectiv@ is a brown, genderqueer story of Rebellion, Resistance, Reclamation, Revolution, and espíritu/Spirit. A collective of brown, radical gender/queers find that to continue to protect and heal their community that they must discover their innate super powers tied to their indigenous spirituality and the wisdom of their ancestors.







And now you can buy Part 1 in downloadable "E-episodes" (a total of 3) for $9.99 (yep, 3 episodes in all for the Part 1) here.

I am selling these episodes to raise funds so that I can complete the Genderqueer Files: Qolectiv@ "novella".

(A novella is not as short as a short story but not as long as a novel). I will essentially be converting the play to novel format, for your viewing pleasure and I want to have it completed by February 1st.



The goal is that it will be available a few episodes at a time at indy bookstores, zine distros, college libraries and community centers, online, and hopefully...your home library! Eventually you will be able to purchase the whole sha-bang.


Here are some details:
  • There are a limited number (*51) of Part 1 available for a limited time. 
     *Sales for part 1 end 12/14. Episodes from Part 2 will be available 12/14. 
  • Email me at gqstreetpoet at gmail dot com for prices on printed versions. Shipping and handling will be added.


If you know of any bookstores, libraries, schools, gender studies departments, community centers or groups, etc who'd be interested in purchasing this work or having a workshop on it's major themes of race, gender, sexuality and spirituality please let a brown, genderqueer know!

It's difficult getting stories that are relevant to our experiences out there. Publishers are not trying to publish stories about resistance or revolution with all brown, queer characters so it's up to us to support each other in challenging the literary status quo and getting our stories heard.


                                                 


You may now return to your regularly scheduled program♥

Monday, October 28, 2013

Words from the Pacific Northwest

Portland...

"So...I woke up this morning and made an agreement with myself to no longer engage with white supremacy in any of its forms. No more benefits of the doubt, no more ally training, no more internalizing racist bullsh or second guessing microaggressions. No more just dealing with it because 'that's the way things are'.

This illness that I carry in my body is a direct affect of all the silencing, all the repression, the smoldering of embers lit when Mami Wata begrudgingly saw her children abducted and carried to foreign shores.

I now pray for the wrecklessness of Olokun...the unharnessed strength of Oya....the unapologetic destruction of the warriors...I pray for the might of Chango. I pray to climb the bark of this ancestral tree up to the branches of the spirit world. Orun. And stare down, vision unobstructed, with the eyes of Olodumare to see the Ase connecting, surging through us all.

And then to climb back down to this realm never to again be affected by illusion/delusion again. All I'd see is Osun's golden honey-harmony. Wrap myself in Yemaya's sweet, sweet 7 skirts of liquid, cerulean peace. And walk in whites with Obatala seeking crystalline clarity. Unbridled understanding. Observing with Orunmila the constellations of coco and cowrie from beyond telling me that...it is time. We are strong. They are listening. Are we? The shells whisper: Now. now. now."

                                     ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Prologue...

Dear Portland, I.just.can't. The microaggressions and "black presence" and "south asian presence" at stores were egregious. From the mascotization* of blacks to the vintage book cover about a nazi cult adjacent to the book cover of a book about a brothel in Tokyo to the snake skin shirt (surrounded by other asian artifacts)with the explanation that 2013 is the year of the snake...I am truly speechless. You hipsters have truly lost your everloving mind. I was agitated after 2 hours and I almost ran out of the co-op screaming. Almost every interaction was a microaggression. So thanks for that. We are making a zine of the microaggressions we've experienced throughout the tour and probably half of them so far have come from Portland.

Here are just a few gems:

  • Hip Hop music playing (Snoop- Drop it like it's hot) in (white) artist collective house/crafty arty nic nac store
  • Strip of profile shots of black men with different haircuts on two walls in a very white bar/cafe
*and random pictures of black or indigenous people (just because they miss us so much after gentrifying)


  • white woman in "vintage" store talks to us about how in Portland it is "easier" than New Orleans because their's less racial tension and you can get to everything by foot.
      -bonus gems: the nazi cult novel book cover and the book cover of the     novel about a brothel in Tokyo side by side (but that's not racist..it's campy!)
  • A painting of a native american chief standing by someone from his tribe pointing out to a steamboat of colonizers like..'oh yay! we're saved' but I would have liked to spray paint a thought bubble saying 'there goes the neighborhood!'
  • Racist store names, menu items, party/show fliers<<which we found throughout the tour
  • Bill Cosby as some kind of a mascot for this hipster store...??
So yea, folks. The whiteness is so stifling in some of the areas we spent time in. I joked that it's probably what the Virginia settlements were like...the perfect white male paradise. (Except when those damn savages would want their land back!) 

Seattle tomorrow and it honestly can't come any faster. No really it can't. You have no idea!




(ps- we may or may not have had the show at this very store...but the event was actually pretty chill)


Hilarious photo montage entitled 'brown people not amused with uberwhitehipster town'

Want to know more about Portland and Racism? Here are some links a friend forwarded me:


Yet Another Racist Derailment at Portland Q Center
More Racist Derailment at Portland Q Center
Racist White Supremacist Terrorism in Portland
Brown in PDX

And here's info about a rad zine by women of color in Portland:http://wocpdxzines.com/2013/01/27/women-of-color-zine-collective-4/


Seattle


"Seattle was a true surprise. The coffee shop (Black Coffee Co-op) was paaaacked (standing room only) and folks gave so much in donations and really supported by buying our zines and books. I read my piece 'Frankly Not about Food Forests' since everyone in the nation is taking their cues from the Beacon Food Forest there and I read what I wrote about my past job's current ideas on food sovereignty and my divestment from engaging with white supremacy and my prayer to the orishas. 
People really appreciated my candidness and (white folks) didn't ask me to educate them on any of the points. They didn't try to convince me about food forests and were happy to sit with being uncomfortable with my directness and Truth. They even told me they were fine with not getting half my references to Ifá 
 and the orishas because it WASN'T FOR/ABOUT THEM. So take heed white do-gooder/liberal/progressive/radical Austinites!!
So many folks came up to us to thank us for being there and reading. This was a great end to the tour for me. POC Zine Project will push on through the midwest, east and back down south but I will be back home this weekend to process all that I've seen and incorporate it into all that I'm becoming."

 Above Photo: Daniela Capistrano, Nyky Gomez, Anna Vo, Toi Scott, Nia King, Cristy Road