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! 

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