Monday, November 26, 2012

Black Gold/We are Dandelions


 "Black Gold" (lyircs) was released in 2012, a collaboration between Esperanza Spalding and Algebra.

There is a video, but I suggest that you just listen to the song first here, and then watch the video:

Kai's Thoughts:

"You are Black Gold/We are Dandelions"

I remember the first book I learned to read, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See?” I remember this book and learning how to read because it was such a difficult and frustrating process. My mom tried to assist me, but my frustration got the best of me and at one moment I picked the book up and threw it across the room and yelled “I’ll never learn how to read!” From that moment on my mom took a step back and let me figure out certain things on my own. Even if I had to struggle she knew that I would eventually get it because I always did well in school.

I never felt comfortable talking to my mother or anyone else about was how difficult reading was for me. I couldn’t quite understand it because I knew that I was smart. So why was it so difficult to pay attention to the words? Why did some sentences get transposed in my head? I only ever felt shame about this. I did my best to hide my challenge because I didn’t want anyone to think I was weak or even worse stupid. How could someone who loved language so much hate the act of reading? It was/is painful.

I have a hard time talking about my learning disability because I, like a lot folks with challenges, have been taught to feel shame and embarrassment about my difference. Writing this is my first step in challenging my own internalized ableism which has prevented me from asking for help when I needed it. Why? Because I have been afraid that people will tell me I don’t belong here—funny thing is that I have already been told that many times, but I’m still here. Why? Because I’m a PhD candidate and someday soon I’ll be a professor and those things have always been in conflict with learning disability even though I know that isn’t the truth (Remember Theo from the Cosby Show?).
I am doing a lot these days to rebuild and heal—part of that work means embracing and loving all parts of myself, parts that I have kept hidden for fear that they would make me seem weak. I write this knowing that vulnerability does not equal weakness—it just seems that we don’t always have a lot of safe space to be vulnerable without judgment. I am working to create safer spaces for my people—Black, Queer, poor, disabled—and in order to really do that work I must be honest about the person I am.

I opened this piece with two quotations that have been shared with me over the past couple of weeks.
You are Black Gold: My brother played this song for me over the weekend (We communicate via music) and I am so grateful to have really heard this song. The lyric, “There'll be folks hell-bent on putting you down/ Don't get burned/ Not necessarily everyone will know your worth/ Think of all the strength you have in you/ From the blood you carry within you.”

Some people won’t know your worth and your job is not to prove yourself to those people. Your job is to instead gain strength and courage from the folks who do know how valuable you are—those people will help you grow. Spend your time on people who value you, people who love you unconditionally, because you deserve that and you need that so that you can focus on the work of changing the world that we live in.

We are Dandelions: My dear friend, Patrisse, has been reminding me of this all week. When I asked her what she meant she said, “ Dandelions are weeds, but have so much nutrient value. It’s the flower of the hood. We are all Dandelions. We are seen as weeds, and folks are determined to pluck us and discard us, but WE are medicine. We are medicine!”

We have been sent here to change the world—to heal it. I believe that. But some people don’t want things to change and they will fight us. They will tell us that we are wrong. They will tell us that we are not supposed to be here and there is no room for us. We must continue to survive to prove these folks wrong. But more importantly, we must continue to check in with ourselves and remind ourselves/each other that we are here and we are lovely just as we are (don’t internalize someone else’s hate). We should not be ashamed or embarrassed because of our differences. Outside forces will tell us that we need to change, that we need to medicate ourselves so that we can be happy, but we are medicine! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Let the Wind Blow


"Let the Wind Blow" is a track from Fertile Ground's 1999 "Spiritual War" album. (Lyrics)

Take the time out to listen to this track--it's really great:-)


Kai's Thoughts:  

Truth: This past month has been one of the most difficult for me emotionally, spiritually, and physically. My relationship with my partner for the past three years officially ended. I moved to a new place by myself—I have never lived alone. I got the flu and strep throat which I haven’t had since I was 10. All of these happenings occurred during one of my busiest traveling schedules--In the past month I’ve been in WI, MA, NY, and numerous trips to the Bay Area. The traveling along with the major life changes were exhausting, which is one of the reasons why I decided to take a break from the Weekly Jam Post for almost a month—But I’m Back! 
Truth: The movement, all of the traveling, the engaging with people in different spaces has been essential for my healing in this moment. I am a person who values stability, and while I know that change is inevitable and necessary I have a tendency to choose stability over change in my personal relations because of fear—fear that I will fall and not be able to get back up again.

Truth: Though this has been one of the most destabilizing moments in my life, it has taught me some important lessons 1) I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was 2) My community goes so deep that there is no reason for me to ever feel afraid. I am always held—we are always held.

Truth: Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end, but only if you are willing to let go (end.), take risks, and fly.

Truth: Flying can feel like falling until you recognize that you haven’t hit the ground yet, and you won’t. You are okay.

Truth: In the past month I have experienced so much love—all kinds of love from all kinds of people and in all different spaces. I appreciate you. I give more love in return to my elders, more love to California, more love to my people in LA and in Oakland, more love to my East Coast family, more love to my Brown Boi family, more love to my Black feminist family—more love... You have all held me and helped me to recognize this moment not simply as a breaking-down, but instead it is an opportunity to rebuild—there is so much possibility in the remake/remix. Magic. Black.

Truth: I find myself smiling more than ever—genuine big cheesy smiles.

Truth: We are Dandelions (Thank you, Trisse<3).

Truth: The wind blows, but you remain—strong, more beautiful. Black—resiliency.

Truth: It’s time for revival.

A Litany for Revival[1]

Litany: a prayer consisting of a series of invocations and supplications

Revival: an act or instance of reviving: the state of being revived: renewed attention to or interest in something: a new presentation or publication of something old: restoration of force, validity, or effect. 

“Poetry is Not a Luxury.” Audre Lorde Reminds us. “There are no new ideas. Only New ways of making them felt.”

I find you, Black queer histories, Black queer geographies, mapping the terrain of the unnamed and the unknown, but we know you, we feel you. I find you in folders and boxes stored away. In cold dark rooms, on shelves, you, like boiling water somehow keep your fire while overflowing, and I receive the overflow. I am ready now.

Were you waiting for me? Because I have been dreaming of you and your stories. Were you dreaming about me and my friends back then? Were you thinking of us when you asked for Black and Gay, race, class, gender and sexuality? Intersectionality—Intergenerationally. see your souls reached out to me and I have been touched. Anointed because you were unafraid to tell it like it is. Your visions have shaped future generations of Black queer freedom dreamers, Black weirdos, Black nerds who just want to be—we must get free.

Were you thinking of yourselves and just how badd you really were and still are? They told me you didn’t exist like this. But I have seen you now. And I come to you with questions. How did we get here? I know I can’t go back, but perhaps you can give me some ideas as to how to move forward. I come to you humbly and with gratitude. I thank you for the doing and the writing. I thank you for documenting your lives as you lived and loved so fiercely. And I know the record is incomplete. I know there are things I will never truly come to understand. But please teach me what I need to know now—for this moment and for these people, my people, you have certainly help to make possible our radical imaginations—yes a new world is not only possible, it is desirable. We want it. We are hungry for revival and restoration. I talk to you in the past and bring you to the future and back again—see there is no death for us Black queers only resurrection, reincarnation Because I will never quit you and I know that you will never leave me. Past, present, and future all collide to make a beautiful Black feminist elsewhere. And we don’t have time, only love, revolutionary in its call—it comes to heal us as it came to heal you. Your arms, poetry, music, embrace us and we love back, touch back. And they said we didn’t, they say we couldn’t exist—and maybe they can’t see, but I know they feel us now, Audre  Lorde, Toni Cade Bambara, Sojurner Truth, Gloria Hull, Anne Allen Shockley, Cheryl Clarke, June Jordan, Pat Parker, Frances Beal, Jewel Gomez, Angela Davis, Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, Ida B. Wells, Flo Kennedy, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Julia Wallace, Treva Ellison, Patrisse Marie Cullors-Brignac, Prentis Hemphill, Jewel Thais-Williams, and YOU, you reading this and helping to make manifest this freedom dream.

There are no new ideas. Only new ways of making them felt. Reach out to your ancestors and to the people around you and just watch how they reach back. We were never meant to survive, but we are here and we will never die because our lives are not bound by earth’s time, this landscape. No, we know spaceships that go beyond space. We carry our maps on our backs, in our blood, with our dreams of freedom we continue to make the world anew.

Welcome to the revival.  

[1] These are the comments I offered at the Black Queer Geographies Roundtable @ the SF State Queer Yo’ Mind Conference 2012. (Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Julia Roxanne Wallace, and Treva Ellison were also part of this roundtable).