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 "

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