the philosophactivist

Friday, November 28, 2014

Shutting it Down Without Shutting Down

So, it's the holidays. You just want to sit down and spend time with the fam/loved ones/ yourself and not have to think of cities burning, police violence...injustice. You turn off Facebook, the TV, and stay offline for self-care because remembering hurts. Seeing so blatantly that black lives don't matter to many with institutional and positional power, the power to make many decisions that affect our day to day lives and well-being, shakes you to the core. And deep down you already knew this, you knew this before you were born. It is part of our DNA.

Those of you who are retraumatized by all that is happening, I hope and pray you find balm for those deep psychic wounds with friends and created family and in community.

Those, like me, with chronic illness perhaps sitting at or being pushed to the margin of these movements because you can't physically be on the frontlines , know that you are enough and you are doing enough. Your healing IS part of these larger movements.

Another way that those of us not having the mental, emotional or physical capacity to be in the streets can take part, besides in taking care of ourselves and our loved ones, is to not shop today. One day. No matter how great the sale, it is not worth the cost.

Help those putting their bodies on the line to shut places down- cities, stores, highways, by simply not purchasing a single thing today.

Help #ShutItDown

It's part of the healing this country needs.

For more on trauma and DNA:

Historical trauma and microaggressions:

Healing collective and multigenerational trauma:
Info on Ferguson:


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Trans* Day of Remembrance/ Resistance/Reclamation

This is a speech I gave at City Hall in Austin, Texas last year. It is printed in the zine Philosophactivism 2 and can be found HERE.

Audio coming soon...

Trans Day Of Remembrance/Reclamation/Resistance
City Hall Austin,TX

November 20,2013


Tired of survivin’/strivin’/ bribi’n …you to see my potential/credentials/my mentals/tired of survivin’/strivin’/to stay alive when/some peeps got this privilege/and all I got’s my soul to give/never thought about sex work til the economy tanked and went bisserk/became comfortable in my gender/inhabiting spaces/places/you wouldn’t wanna be/havin’ brown skin and bein’ queer/you can’t see me/invisible/and divisible/my community -is…

tired of survivin’/strivin’/hard to stay alive when…all you ever hope for is to take another breath/that you don’t catch your death/no time to worry about cultural theft/bereft/of heritage/society’s no longer sparin’ kids/so why me? You buyin’ beamers a schemer with an HDTV and all I wanna do is breathe/some fresh air/eat food with no toxicity/complicity/you blame us for/but this capitalism is pimpin’ you/yep your the whore/and …my people…are…

tired of survivin’/strivin’/to stay alive when you got ends and wealth/but we have to live our lives in stealth and assimilate/to keep food on our plate/fork and knife/we get tired of life/strife/ all these signs/the confines/bein’ on the grind/ and you can’t see the injustice/ of the majority of brown men bein’ in the prison system/ and you pushin’ for the expansion of ‘isms/

DAMN I’m JUST tired of survivin/strivin’/to stay alive when all you can think about is amassin wealth and gettin benefits/when the only benefit I get is grime and grit/and my will to uplift/my people/to awaken sheeple and zombies/but you want to be wearin’ abercrombie/and handin’ us your truth/ while poisonin’ our youth…

Man I’ma survive/stay alive/fight with each breath til the day that I die/for justice/and the end to your privilege/and white-given birthright/til the day we all know we’re descendants of kings and queens/and our spaces reflect this/til poverty and inequality/we wreck this/check this…you got a powerful enemy…but if you wanna work through this you got a friend in me…cuz we will survive! And with each death we cultivate the will to stay alive/your foot won’t be on neck for long/ we’re gonna right all these wrongs/ this isn’t rhetorical/or metaphorical/ this sh* is going to end/the patriarchy, xenophobia, homophobia, racism, will fall…it’s up to us brown folks to pick up the phone …answer the call Get involved, get this sh* solved..we barely survivin’ but without comin’ together we can’t run…but crawl.


Tonight, I want to talk to you from a place of Power.

Perhaps many of us know that surviving….waking up day to day is a miracle in itself. It’s our resistance as folks who are found carefully tucked away or perhaps violently shoved into the margins. Some of us know it’s a revolution when we can still find ways to support others when we ourselves are finding it hard to smile or eat or sleep or make it through another day.

Trans* people of color have disproportionately higher rates of incarceration, unemployment, and homelessness. We receive poorer quality health care (if any) due to multiple levels of discrimination and we are often victims of police brutality, domestic and street violence. Transwomen of color are murdered at a much higher rate.

Victims. The media, grant writers and fund developers always paint us as victims…what about those of us survivors? What about us trans folks of color who are living, ordinary superheroes who sit invisibilized in this movement 364 days of the year? Resisting behind the scenes, at the frontlines of your movements but at the margins of your minds and policies, inching ever so slowly toward our liberation with the few organizations that exist that are willing to make our needs, hopes and dreams a priority- like allgo and the Audre Lorde Project, among a handful of others.

Now, I said I was going to talk to you from a place of power but it’s important to begin by giving the proper context for this state that we’re in now. It’s also imperative to actually name the institutions and systems in place that are constantly trying to render trans folks, and more frequently, trans folks of color, powerless. Such as the legal system, institutions of education, foster care agencies, law enforcement and immigration, health care institutions, etc. And lets be more specific- the people in these institutions, holding up these systems.

It’s important to acknowledge that race further complicates this picture we paint of transphobia. Skin color further limits access to numerous systems we now need for every day survival. And many behaviors and interactions displayed by individuals and groups within the LGBT and queer community further lead to us trans folks of colors’ subjugation, exploitation and dehumanization and make it harder, and many times, impossible for us to survive.

Now that you have that background from the poem and intro…

As a brown, genderqueer I’m going to tell you what I know of my ancestors…your ancestors…our Trans* and queer predecessors because I feel it’s important for us to know who and where we came from if we are going to move from surviving to thriving. It’s important for us to understand our legacy so that we can better understand our power and purpose.

Remembrance is a form of resistance.

So let me tell you a story. Not his story not her story…but OURstory.

First Nations Elders tell of a people who were gifted among all beings because they carried two spirits, that of male and female. Some say that these individuals were looked upon as a third and fourth gender in many cases and in almost all cultures they were honored and revered. Two-spirit people were often the visionaries, the healers, the medicine people, the nannies of orphans, and the care givers. They were respected as fundamental components of our ancient culture and societies not just in the Americas, also in South and East Asia, the Pacific Islands, Africa and many other places around the world.

Many tribes were aware of the existence of two-spirit, gender-variant people and many still have a name in their traditional language for them.

There were rituals that determined if a child was two-spirited. Children of both genders would also spend time with healers, who were often two-spirit people. A Two-spirit child’s childhood was marked by acceptance and understanding by the whole tribe. Two-spirit folks were known to be able to 'see' with the eyes of both biological men and women. They were often called upon to be healers, mediators, interpreters of dreams, and some devoted their lives to the welfare of the group.

Two-spirit, gender non-conforming, and gender variant folks were revered for centuries. We had the gift of prophecy. We were messengers of the Creator. Keepers and teachers of spiritual principles. We were called upon to conduct burials, bless unions and births, and perform many, many other important ceremonies. Prosperity and even existence as a people depended on us and we were considered sacred.

Because we had both maleness and femaleness/masculinity and femininity totally entwined in one body, we were usually presumed to be people of power. Because we embodied both Mother Earth and Father Sky, and held both a masculine and feminine heart within our souls…two spirits…we were perceived as having twice the power.

As beings that transcended gender, we were thought to be better able to be fair. We were thought to be able to see into the hearts of both males and females. We were called on to be mediators. We were seen as bridges. Mediators between two worlds- that of Spirit and the human world, as well as mediators between partners, tribes and nations.

In older world religions the gods and goddesses in-between genders were viewed as whole-gendered and balanced.

Some say that two-spirit people are an affirmation of humanity’s pre-gendered Unity, the representatives of a form of solidarity and wholeness which transcends the division of humans into men and women. A third gender.

When people operate from a dual gender perspective, upholding the gender binary, one can only imitate the behavior of one the given two genders leaving no room for authenticity for those of us who don’t identify with either of these genders.

Transgender and Gender variant folks transcend conformity and in this patriarchal society set on two genders and the dominance of one over the other, we pay the price.

European colonialism has had a harmful effect on many transgender traditions all over the world. Occupation and religion has erased and destroyed a lot of our history and we have been forced to assimilate into a social construction that does not work for us. Will we continue to perpetuate it at the expense of being usurped of our power?

We have to continue to resist being othered. Resist marginalization. Question those boxes that we were not born to fit in.

We have been awakening to our Truth. It is imperative for us to continue reclaiming our cultural and spiritual roots even though our histories and our ways have been suppressed or, in some cases, completely destroyed during colonization and assimilation. We must continue to resist. We must refuse to be erased. We have to assume our rightful place as teachers, healers, and leaders.

Though I am a Trans* person of color, I am not a statistic. Though this day is about remembering those who have not survived, I am alive and already fully aware of the hardships that we face, through my own life experiences. I don’t need to read articles or theorize about what barriers I face. I live this every day.

Allies who are listening. Allies who have been deemed allies by the trans community, if you want to be a better ally…if you want to “help” us…help us to rediscover our legacy. Help us to rediscover our spiritual inheritance. Help us to stand in our power. Programs and services are great but they are not about autonomy. They are not about sovereignty. Help us find ways to develop our own leadership skills and abilities so we can reclaim our place among the leaders and healers of today. Help us to celebrate our cultural roots. Help us to acknowledge our predecessors . Help us to create a more just and equitable world no longer based on the colonizer’s ideas of acceptable gender roles and presentation. Challenge and smash the binary daily with your actions and remember us every day…whether we’ve passed on or if we are alive. Remember us invisiblized survivors that walk amongst you every day.

Queer and Trans* family. Let’s lift each other up and support each other. We need to be in solidarity. We need to take part in community/communal healing as self-care. Not that covertly individualistic happy hippy kind. The kind where we are patient, acknowledge and honor our struggle and pain. We need to work through our internalized transphobia, internalized sexism, internalized racism and other types of oppression. We’ve got to respect our bodies and honor ourselves. Share our stories and histories and nourish each other’s spirit in good company. Audre Lorde once said that self-care was not a self-indulgence but a form of self-preservation which is an act of political warfare.

Self-care is survival. Self-care and community care is resistance. 

And we need to survive. We need to rediscover our power and reclaim our birthright. We are beautiful beings. Powerful beings.

And white queer and trans* folks, acknowledge your privilege in this movement. See that your brown siblings, are suffering and take action to help them take steps toward their own liberation and autonomy.

No one can live with ease while others suffer. There can be no liberation while anyone experiences subjugation or exploitation.

We queer and Trans* folks cannot know our own complete histories without acknowledging those of our siblings. We cannot be whole without realizing we are only a part of the whole. A drop in the sea.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Queer. Brown. Economic Sovereignty.

For years and years the struggle has been all too real when searching for employment due to my genderqueer presentation and, well, being black/brown in the south. Being bilingual has always been a saving grace- or well, it used to be before my gender expression changed. Recently, as I've been trying to sell my books and zines to get into a stable living situation and take better care of my health, I've been thinking about queer and brown communities and our constant struggle to sustain ourselves and not only keep steady employment but actually get more than our foot in the door (and not as a consumer/customer or at a cash register or serving a table). I am loving the move to train our communities to have the skills necessary for green jobs, tech jobs and jobs as holistic healers (such as the few doula and qtpoc birthwork projects that exist). It's a revolution. Though there are some QTPOC entrepreneurs that have been successful, there are a whole lot more of us hustling and on the grind and barely making ends meet. Sometimes it is due to lack of skills and trainings, other times it may be due to lack of education (if we've had to drop out of high school, for instance). And I'd venture to say that a lot more of the time it's due to other people's ignorance and discrimination which can lead to the aforementioned reasons.

So naturally it would make sense for us to take our skillsharing to another level so we can go ahead and start that business or be in a management position or develop that product. A lot of times we're forced to just take what we can get and we are not the charters of our economic destiny. Sometimes sex work provides a bit more independence, oftentimes it doesn't. Selling our art may pay the bills, oftentimes we're still on the grind. So anything that will put us in a better economic position and not cause us to have to take out tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans is something I can get behind.

Sovereignty. Economic autonomy. It feels so good just typing that. I want it for everyone.

Some projects, organizations, and groups committed to economic sovereignty for our communities

I want to just briefly list some projects, organizations, and groups committed to economic sovereignty for our communities. They are providing opportunities for training, education and skillsharing:

We shift the ways trans*, gender non conforming, agender and non binary people live by creating technology that economically empowers, improves access to social services, promotes gender safety and community sustainability, while bringing visibility to trans* tech innovators and entrepreneurs.

Trans Tech is a revolutionary social enterprise seeking to empower the Trans community through education. We recognize the unlimited potential for growth in what we offer, how we offer it, and who we offer it to.  Our trainings are delivered on-site or online.  Our curriculum focuses on empowerment, education, and employment

Lesbians Who Tech  have a summit and they are a community of queer women in or around tech who seek to be more invisible to each other and others, to get more women involved with technology, and connect lesbians who tech to LGBTQ and women's organizations who are doing incredible community work.

The LGBT Technology Institute is a tax-exempt not-for-profit organization conducting cutting edge research at the intersection of LGBT communities and technology and creates resources, tools, and programs to support LGBT communities.

Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project (QWOCMAP) promotes the creation, exhibition and distribution of new films/videos that address the vital social justice issues that concern queer women of color and our communities, authentically reflect our life stories, and build community through art and activism.
We actively invest in, develop and nurture the creativity of emerging media artists who are Asian/Pacific Islander, Black/African American, Chicana/Latina, Native American and Mixed-Race lesbians, bisexual, queer and questioning women in the Bay Area.
QWOCMAP provides training, screening opportunities and resources free of charge to guarantee full access to our traditionally underserved community, particularly low-income and immigrant queer women of color.

Initiatives and Funding:

Transgender Economic Empowerment Initative
L.A. Transgender Economic Empowerment Project

Brown Boi Project works to build leadership, economic self sufficiency, and health of young masculine of center womyn, trans men, and queer/straight men of color--pipelining them into the social justice movement

3rd Space Support - an initiative with the Audre Lorde Project
The 3rd Space Support program seeks to work with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two-Spirit, Trans and Gender Non-Conforming People of Color (LGBTSTGNC POC) who struggle with issues around employment, education, health care and immigration status. It is a place to give and receive sustainable support; where creation, invention and innovation will be practiced.  We will draw from our resilience to support ourselves.

Within this 3rd Space we hold on to the idea that LGBTSTGNC POC communities have always found ways to support each other and survive outside of systems.  The 3rd Space Support program hopes to encourage and create space for these organic methods of community support and community building around employment, education, health care and immigration status to continue.
At the same time, ALP acknowledges that LGBTSTGNC POC community members also engage within systems to find support and get their needs met.  Therefore, ALP will also engage with these systems to provide advocacy, resources and referrals for community members around the issues, employment, education, health care and immigration status.

Trans Justice Funding Project

Sustaining Ourselves Together

I'm certain there are many more informal groups and organizations that are working together to help each other survive. Since the beginning of time, wherever there is struggle, there are people coming together to support each other through it. I know in my darkest times when I've been searching for employment and dealing with discrimination I've felt very isolated in my efforts. Sometimes queer folks of color have access to spaces that have employment initiatives but that lack racial analysis and are racist. And sometimes other places are seriously transphobic or homophobic.   And when we get up the spoons to go to an LGBT resource center, we might still deal with racism or classism. Other economic projects might be underfunded. Or maybe we don't live in a queer mecca and don't have access to LGBT resource centers or the few visible economic empowerment initiatives. Maybe we don't have the desire or the resources to move to these metropolitan cities with these programs and initiatives.

So what can we do on a smaller (but no less impactful) scale within our smaller friendship circles to establish some sense of economic power? I've seen folks who are really innovative and who have night markets where folks who sell art, books, clothing, food, soaps, herbal medicine, etc. come together to sustain themselves.  I've seen folks who independently sell their work and wares- even plates of food from their homes.

What do I mean when I say economic power, anyway? I mean having control over our economic situation in tangible ways like being able to pay for our housing and health care and that of our family members. I mean, not being exploited by companies who give you the minimum pay while they get the maximum profit through your work effort. True, it's capitalism and many of us have no choice to engage with it. But economic power is about having the choice of how to engage with these systems, your work ethic not being exploited, and you feeling as if you can sustain yourself through your work effort. It's not being worked into the ground for peanuts and not being provided health insurance while your well-being suffers. For some of us it means finding ways to create our own positions and small businesses or side gigs and for others of us it means divesting from these systems completely in whatever ways we can.

I'd like to see more spaces created for groups to come together where we can talk about the ways we QT*POC can support each other economically like Audre Lorde Project's 3rd Space Support. Our ancestors undoubtedly had many ways that they came together for mutual aid. Collectives and cooperatives were born out of their struggle though we see less visible POC representation in them these days. We're still there though and POC collectives committed to sovereignty do still exist. Check out Dr. Gordon-Nembhard's book on the history of African-American cooperative economic thought and practice.

Visionary questions:

  • How will we find ways to sustain ourselves economically as individuals and communities? 
  • What's the work we need to do within ourselves and within our communities before we can build a more cohesive economic justice movement centering those who are the most marginalized?
  • How do we bring together organizations and community members dedicated to working on queer and trans* rights, racial justice, economic justice and policy and advocacy in substantial and more impactful ways? Do you already know some examples of this?

and most of all-

what is our vision for what it would look like for us Queer and Trans* folks of color to have economic sovereignty?

I personally want to see the creation of more access to holistic medicine paths for our communities. I want to see more accessible (by this I also mean affordable) trainings for birthworkers, herbalists, naturopaths, traditional chinese medicine and ayurvedic practitioners and even more access to our community members to sit at the feet of elder curander@s and other healers and spiritworkers.

I want us to have more access to training to be in positions to help our communities build worker-owned cooperatives and credit unions.
I want to see us get access to learning liberation permaculture and how to start organic farms and sell sustainable products and build sustainable homes and architecture.
I want to see us running our own free schools and universities.
I want to see us starting our own art programs and valuing art integrated with healing work.
I want to see us learning more about community organizing and training each other.
I want to see more of us doing work in technology and other innovative industries.
I want to see us helping to fund each other's education and businesses
I want to see us knowledge sharing and working together to help each other discover our power and let each other know that we are not alone in our visions of this work. We don't have to deal with racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ableism in the 'workplace'. We can create alternative economies and employment more representative of us, our work ethic and visions for the work we're passionate about and the changes we want to see for our communities.

Here's more info on the current economic situation for QPOC:
The State of Gay and Transgender Communities of Color in 2012
American LGBT Workers of Color Are Part of a Broken Bargain 
Injustice at Every Turn: A look at Black Respondents on the National Transgender Discrimination Survey
Black and Transgender: Still on the Margins
Why Centering Race in Transgender Advocacy is Key To Equality for All
Remember the closing of Queers for Economic Justice?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Puerto Rico: My Home

It's been 4 weeks and here I sit reflecting on the last few years of my life that have brought me to heal on the island of Puerto Rico. For the last few days I've been frequenting the beach- my confidant, my teacher, my altar. There is so much knowledge hidden deep in the warm, fierce waves of the Atlantic off the northeast coast of Puerto Rico where I now reside.

In the first 2 weeks of being here, during my artist residency at Patio Taller, I contracted a (mosquito-born) virus much like the dengue fever, called chikungunya. I was already beginning to feel lonely and having a hard time getting grounded and BOOM! I started getting these immense headaches, then the next day I threw up over and over and over and then the next day was a rash that started on 2 limbs and spread to all 4 and my face. I questioned the ancestors...WHY?! Already I was trying to adjust to being so far from my created family and then I get this disease with no cure. Luckily at Patio Taller there were a number of herbs and fruit trees that had anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. The chikungunya's symptoms are arthritic. So yep! I get a double dose of joint pain with having Lupus and this virus. Luckily (?) I am already taking pills for joint pain so I believe that with my pills and the copious herbs and fruit and coconut milk and mushroom tea,etc. that I've been able to have milder symptoms than some folks that have contracted it.

In reflection, having this illness brought me full circle to my love for herbalism. Well, even before the chikungunya, while being on the grounds of Patio Taller I began connecting with the plants and making teas right away thanks to Michelle (one of co-founders of the space) introducing me to local herbs. Within the first week I met a really awesome group of herbalists and healers and they invited me to table with them at a festival on Calle Loiza. I had a good time speaking with folks about Queering Herbalism and the Herbal Freedom School Zines and even sold a few.

After tabling there I decided that Queering Herbalism 2 will be bilingual. It will have both Spanish and English articles. I am excited about the themes for this one. Stay tuned for either a series or the entire guide.


I hope to meet Maria Benedetti soon! I'd love to be more involved with botanicultura and learn more about the plants here on the island. I've been studying up...TRUST. And I've even been making some of the folks in town remedies for the chikungunya and other ailments.

Other than my artist residency, the chikungunya, medicine making and ideas for a new Queering Herbalism, I have been meeting all types of artists, farmers, travelers, healers, visionaries and all around buena gente. Right now I'm staying in a town that is directly on the coast.

The house I'm living at is about 200 feet from the beach--the Atlantic is my backyard.

And from the front yard, I can see El Yunque Rainforest.

The other day I was torn about this situation. A paradise filled with poverty. So many people are struggling. Especially here. The struggle is so real. In Carolina I saw folks that some days just didn't eat. But I also saw neighbors who came together and shared their resources. Fruit from their fruit trees, fish that they'd caught themselves. It was true community and soooooo different than the so-called 'communities' I've known over the years. Though it is similar in sentiment to those of my created families.

You know...I've been thinking long and hard for months on this whole "community building" and "movement building" rhetoric. We need to reevaluate our definitions of community and get on the same page. If  folks aren't breaking bread together, watching each other's kids, concerned if folks are eating and housed or employed and staying out of detention centers and prisons, then it's not a true community, in my opinion. How can we build together if we aren't helping each other to survive. We need to be invested in our neighborhoods before we try to start movements in other states and countries.True, we can think globally and support our global community, but it shouldn't come at the expense of those suffering on our blocks and in our

I've also been thinking that there can be no movement without community or acknowledgement of those there before us and those working toward justice at the same time as us. I see handfuls of folks trying to create movements and maybe they'll make waves but in order to have a movement we have to realize the waves before and after us. The continuity. Our generation is bad about that. We talk of standing on shoulders when I believe we really should be walking side by side with those who have contributed to our foundation. There is no hierarchy of organizing based on a new decade and younger organizers. We are not further or of higher consciousness a generation  or 2 later with only a handful of knowledge from our elders. We should be advancing together not standing with our feet on elders and ancestor's shoulders, rendering their work static and in the past. A movement moves, changes, is transformed. In Sankofa we look back to move forward but it's never static. The wisdom is in the knowing that all this is not linear. We continue to learn and grow and our past is our future is our present. Nothing is ever done. We are never 'post-' anything and it's really hard to build on a shaky foundation with just a few architects and no true community co-operation.

More on that later...

So here I am in Puerto Rico- piecing together suppressed histories. Healing myself with mango teas, papaya leaves, lemongrass, oregano brujo, and other herbs that some have lost faith in or become disconnected from. I am thankful for herbalists like Maria Benedetti and curandera historians like Aurora Levins Morales. Healing justice is something we've got to step up and own if we ever want true freedom. Western medicine...the medical industrial complex...Big Pharma....the food corporations...the 'greenwashing" of the so-called sustainability movement, they are all exploiting us and at times working in conjunction. There are a handful of companies profiting from our demise. And it's just the truth. We need to own our healing.

                      So...back to the struggle...and the importance of   healing....

I struggled for years and years- economically, with my health, etc. And now here I am, in Puerto Rico meeting such awesome people and slowing my life down so I can heal and do what I'm here to do on this journey. I began to feel a bit of guilt as I stood knee deep in the Atlantic looking at the crystal blue, see- through waves. I wondered why everyone couldn't feel this. Just stop being on the grind...and feel this. And I became even more committed to co-creating a space where that is possible. A space where people can stop hustling and just BE and heal in all the ways they need to. Whether that be growing food, building their own home, learning about herbal medicine or birth work, or anti-oppression or their own internalized oppression. I've been talking to so many friends who want to create this type of community. I don't know how far off it is from now but I'm going to keep working toward it slowly as I heal myself from this virus and this autoimmune disorder.

Please send healing energy and good vibes as I continue to transition and walk this path. I look forward to keeping you posted about my research and writings- though I can't promise the frequency just yet!

Wishing you all healing and a sense of community and belonging,


Friday, July 11, 2014

Community Supported Artivism

Hi folks,

I'm raising funds to move out to Puerto Rico where I will spend the next year or more writing liberatory literature, developing skillshares, and using and sharing my knowledge/gifts/skills and abilities as an art activist, educator, visionary organizer and medicine maker to help our communities re-discover our power.

As a person with limited ability and chronic illness and pain and with multiple marginalized identities, I've realized that I have to navigate in this world a bit differently in order to survive. I have spent the last 5+ years pouring my life into visionary organizing, writing liberatory literature, and bringing knowledge to marginalized communities through dialog and skillshares. It is my vision to sustain myself through doing this important work while supporting the larger vision of economic justice and freedom from internalized oppression for our communities.

You can help with this vision.

Be a co-visionary and contribute to a larger vision of giving readers and the community a sense of their power through stories, skillshares, and workshops.

Please contribute any amount if able and/or spread the word by re-posting. 

 Go here to be a co-visionary.

In healing, freedom, and solidarity,


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Afro-Genderqueer at the Austin African American Book Festival Showcase

Here's the audio and transcript for Saturday's Austin African American Book Festival Showcase. I'm excited and, at least, less nervous than I was about tabling and talking about my books there. This is bigger than me, I have to remind myself. And there will be at least one other QTPOC writer and some 'allies' present. I won't be alone.

Here's the audio:


"Well, hello hello...

I'm Toi Scott, author of Notes from an Afro-Genderqueer 1 and 2 and Philosophactivism volume 1 and 2.

So, a little bit about the Afro-Genderqueer moniker...
Being black and queer are two defining identities that heavily influence my perspective. These identities affect how I move in this world. I struggle for visibility as Trans* and genderqueer or gender non-conforming in communities of color and as black in the LGBT/Queer community and as someone who is deeply spiritual and someone who connects with nature-based spirituality  and the spirituality of my ancestors. Essentially, every identity is the antithesis of who we've been socialized to believe should have value in this society.
I should not exist. People like me are not meant to survive. Using "Afro-Genderqueer" is my way of establishing visibility and asserting what I'm about. Who I am in these spaces and at the intersection of marginalized identities.

Though I write from a black, queer perspective- giving voice to those intersections- I also write across issues. Giving voice to common struggles like economic injustice, environmental injustice and racism, food injustice and apartheid, and the struggle to be heard and to be all of our identities- as Audre Lorde ( a black lesbian poet and author) wrote frequently about.

History is also very important in my work. In all my writings I focus on helping folks to see the history of our many struggles- the historical context. Especially institutional and structural racism and the way it affects many aspects of our lives from employment to access to food to clean air and water, healthcare and even our perceptions of Self and the many manifestations of internalized oppression (such as internalized racism, internalized sexism and internalized homophobia).

Solutions are extremely important. We can find a lot of what's wrong in this world- or with our communities in the media, online and in print. We don't need help determining our oppression or that we're oppressed- or what they call that 'foot on our neck', am I right?

We usually have an idea of who our oppressors are even if we don't understand the history (or have an analysis) behind why we're oppressed. Through my work I try not only to talk about the history of our oppression and why we are where we are now- but also to give people a sense of their power and help people to see that not only are we powerful inherently, but that there are ways to do something about the situation we're in.

Many times it starts with education and even skillsharing before action. Awareness and then organizing with folks who see a common problem. Hopefully, we're organizing toward the eradication of the actual root of that problem. We can pick leaves and branches all day long, but we have to get to the root of our crises. This is why organizing across issues is so important, though we may have different end goals- it's all about civil rights. Rights to access. Equity. The right to have our basic needs met. We all want to be happy and not suffer and struggle to survive. We all want to be heard and acknowledged and not just for our struggle.

Being a philosophactivist is about looking at these issues, this oppression, with deep insight and then strategizing to do something about it- taking action.

The most important thing is this- I'm not the first to say any of this. I stand on the shoulders of many organizers and activists, foremothers, ancestors who didn't have these labels of 'organizer' and 'activist'. Ancestors who saw organizing, spirituality and art as one and the same. It's the same message- but just now embodied in this black, queer, anti-authoritarian...dapper...2014 package, if you will."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Hey, hey folks,

A lot's been going on this year and we're only halfway through. I've traveled almost every month this Spring and last winter. I dealt with a serious 'flare' in my lupus conditions throughout these same months. I doubted...I questioned...I raged...and then I found peace and clarity. A mentor recently told me that the tools are in the struggle. Somewhere in all that darkness is light. And in the past few months I've been finding balance in my perceptions of them both. I've been reflecting about my writing my organizing and my healing and how I choose to write about this trinity springing from the same root.

I said that 2014 would be a year of education for me and it has been. I've gone to the Trans* Leadership Summit, the Black Trans Advocacy Conference, allgo's QTPOC activist/organizer retreat, a permaculture design course, an Undoing Racism Training. Not to mention the hundreds of conversations I've been a part of with friends and created family, and community members- all skillshares in their own right. Realizing how fortunate I've been to be a part of so many conversations and trainings and conferences, I began to ask myself what my responsibility was to our communities and to those who couldn't be present at those tables or on those couches. It's our responsibility as people who are privileged to inhabit/bear witness in those spaces to report back. I do this through my writing. It's what I like to call neo-griot style. It's news, stories, fables, sometimes part workshop or history class but always bent on informing folks and giving people a sense of their power through this information. There's enough out there to keep us feeling disempowered. 

What are the ways that we can continue to awaken our People and provide real ways that we can thrive and get out of survival mode? Where is the pending revolution that the survival programs of the 60s and 70s were to lead to? 

I'm on a journey to heal and to figure out ways to sustain myself that are in line with my values.  Namely, continuing on my Path, being committed to personal and community healing, spiritual growth and inner transformation, respecting and sustaining the land and planet, and honoring our ancestors. 

Writing is a part of this healing. My writing is the journey. I am in the process of writing a number of books and zines. I just finished Philosophactivism 2: The queerbomb edition. You can get it here. I am also working on  Resistencia: Sangre. You might remember me going  to do preliminary research for a couple weeks last fall. Well, I got an artist residency at Patio Taller in Carolina, Puerto Rico and I'm moving to the island indefinitely to do research, full-time writing, and some much needed healing. 

Here's the video I sent Patio Taller about the work I will do:

I actually just purchased my one way ticket to Puerto Rico yesterday and I'm leaving the second week of August. I'm so excited. So, so excited to research suppressed histories of ancestors, revolutionaries, revolts and rebellions. Our legacy.

I have 7 whole weeks to fundraise for the first 6 months that I'm there (housing, food, medication). I've set up a co-visionary page where you can contribute to community supported artivism by:

1.subscribing to the AfroVisionary e- book club

2. contributing as a sustainer

3. coordinating/providing space for one of the workshops.

4. Donating directly through paypal (message me for information)

Every dollar of every sale, subscription and workshop is going to go toward my $5,000 goal.

Please support QPOC-centered art and visionary organizing. Like Audre Lorde said- art is not a luxury. This book I'm writing and the workshops that come out of it are all about healing and liberation for our communities. I will document queerness, healing, the African Diaspora, Taino history, radical organizing of current day activists and their predecessors, and there will be discussion about sustainability in our communities and the eradication of systemic oppression.

Please consider buying a book, subscribing to the AGQ book club, contributing as a sustainer, or coordinating/providing space for one of the workshops.

Find out how to support here:!covisionaries/c1izm

You can also buy from here:

**a note on why I'm moving toward selling only e-books-
1)Shipping can be costly and I want to keep things affordable,
2) Most importantly- some of my books are 100+ pages long and I want to be environmentally conscious, as a person who is trying to live my values.What does it look like for me to be contributing to deforestation while claiming to be all about sustainability in our communities and doing workshops on environmentalism and permaculture?

Thank you so much for all those who have supported and for those who continue to support!


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 happening 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 that 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,

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:

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