Tuesday, July 28, 2015

That Bitch, Acceptance (Dream Drafts)

SCENE 1 - Coffee Shop

FRIEND: Acceptance is a bitch.
ME: Upon casual acquaintance, Acceptance seems like a real bitch. Let me tell you about the first time I met her. It all started like this. 
[Flashback. Cross fade]

SCENE 2 - Bedroom

[Close Up: Mens clothing in a heap on the floor. Pan up to ME’s face.]
ME: Oh my God/dess, he makes me so angry! I just can’t with him. I just won’t with him.
ACCEPTANCE: Can’t change him. Can only change you. So, you change if you staying in this.  Do what you need to do with you to change yourself.  Accept it.  
ME: But, is it so hard to get him to pick up his damn pants off the floor? Is it? No. It's a deeply symbolic act of aggression!
ACCEPTANCE: Or not. {gestures to floor.} He does not see pants on the floor. You see pants on the floor. You care about pants on the floor. So, you gotta pick up the pants if they bother you. You gotta accept it.
ME: No.
ACCEPTANCE: {postures} Whatever, I'm not even going to talk about all that with you. 
ME: You don't even care that his pants on the floor are a declaration of war he is waging against me. 
{Acceptance shrugs and laughs.}
ME: Oh, shoot, what?!? You're like a callous, unfeeling, cold thing aren't you? 
{Acceptance is all sly smiles and saucy shrugs. Turns her back.}
ACCEPTANCE: I'm me. When you're ready, we can have a really good time together.
ME: Go the f*ck to hell! 
{Acceptance turns on her heel, shimmers away and doesn't even look back.}

[Cross fade]

SCENE 3 - Coffee Shop

FRIEND: Right? What a bitch!
ME: But, she's persistent.  She always turning up when you’re in the thick of it. Way deep down in the pity party. Everyone is there.
FRIEND: I know. Rage, Despair & Revenge are kicking back Whisky.  Sadness is alone on the balcony sipping Pinot Grigio and smoking cigarettes.  And Acceptance is hanging out with Serenity. And you know they talkin' 'bout you.
ME: Naw. Serenity don’t have time to talk smack on people. She always smiles like that. Until you get to know her, you project all your insecurities on her and start making up stories in your head about what her real motivations are. But, Acceptance?  The more you get to know her...

[Flashback. Cross fade]

SCENE 4 - River Bank
ME: I just want...
ACCEPTANCE:  I'm not even going there with you. {gentle, coy smile}

CUT TO: Animation sequence.  

My whole heart just peels open. 

ME stands on the river back as the center of her chest begins to part in the shape of a woman’s vulva.  The lips of the vulva are adorned with pearls and sparkly gems as if the vaginal secretions have turned to precious stones. A stylized heart ~ something between an anatomically correct heart and a Victorian Valentine ~ emerges through the vaginal opening. It floats out of ME chest and pulses with a radiant pink glowing light. Me raises her hand. The heart settles in the palm of her hand. She raises it to her lips. Kisses it and places it back inside of her chest.

Cut To: Me and Acceptance on the river bank

ME: Okay. Fine. I'm down with putting all the fighting down. What do you want to talk about?
ACCEPTANCE: Cool. This one time? I was sitting on God's lap and he...." 

Acceptance and Me sit down on the river bank. Slow pull out, as ambient, rhythmic music swells punctuated by snippets conversation and laughter.
ME: Your fingernail? Really? He what? 
ACCEPTANCE: on the back of a Palomino pony..
Me:  you mean inside of the rainbow?
Acceptance: Yeah, girl, inside of the rainbow.
{Acceptance and Me lay on the river bank laughing and snuggling and laughing. }

[Cross Fade]
Scene 4:
ME: And because I want more and more of those heart birthing smiles, I have to embrace Acceptance.  Because then, we are free to dish dirt on everything from Gods to molecules like teenage girls talking nonsense.
FRIEND: Damn. 
ME: Give her a chance, you’ll see.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Gratitude Is The Soft, Deep, Rhythmic Breath Of A Child

The picture to the right is Zenobia. 
She visits with us at bed time, on big, heavy thought days, I lay down with my twelve year old son to narrate his journey to his special inner safety place. Every child navigating a body of shifting of hormones experiences some amount of anxiety and trepidation.  This is a territory between two vastly different realms, no longer a child and not quite a teenager this person is balancing who they are becoming while knowing who they were and where they fit in the world.  
Add being Black & twelve & American & conscious to life as a Tween and there are times when a parent needs to expend extra effort to make sure your child stays conscious - literally and figuratively - and has the tools necessary not to accept, succumb and self censure.  
Imagine being a young boy about the same age as Tamir Rice.  You ask your mother what she is typing about so furiously on her keyboard.  
"Police in Cleveland," she says. 
"The usual thing?" You say.  
"Yes," she says. 
"Oh. Where were they?" You say. 
"Playing in the park." she says. 
"Playing in the park?" You ask.  Because you are confused. Why would the police kill someone playing in the park? and she tells you about a little boy about your age...

Not giving in to the perpetual state of terror our state sanctioned agents relentlessly practice against us everyday is revolutionary. It calls for efforts mythic proportions.  To be a carefree, happy, Black boy is a daily action of bravery, creative resourcefulness and dedication. To be young, Black, self-loving, optimistic and centered takes a kind of heroic level of personal mind control. It takes a parent who is willing to take time.
Imagine being a young boy about the same age as Let's Call Her Angie. It's time to go out, but,  your mother is typing about so furiously on her keyboard.  
"Oh. Right. We gotta go!" She says.
"What were you doing?" You say.
"Police in New York," she says.
"The usual thing?" You say.  
"Stop & Frisk" she says. 
"Who was it? Did they live?" You say. 
"Yes." she says. "An 11 year old girl."
"Oh. But, phew!" You say.
"Okay, let's go," she says.
"I'm not feeling up to it today," you say.
"We can not let them turn us into prisoners in our home. Mama's got this," She says. 
"Okay," you say.  But, it's not okay. You don't want to go out. You spend the entire time in the car noticing and informing your mother of every police car. 
"I've got this. I'm obeying all the laws," she says.
"Sometimes, that doesn't matter," you say. "But...
"Not on my watch," you both say together and laugh.
You're not sure you believe her.

When the extra heavy, hard reality of being young and Black days happen, I need to lay down with him at bed time.  I need to train him to remember that he has the power to shift his reality to his own liking.  That he can find within himThe places he can use in his waking times to stay centered.  These places often have a magical forest, a beach, a dryad, or mermaids.  I invite him to sit in these quiet places in his imagination.  I invite him to relax. Listen to the waterfall splashing or the waves swooshing.  See the colors of the sky.  Bounce in the clouds as if they are a trampoline. 
self magical places which are safe and wonderful.

One days, like the day 14 year old, Dajerria Becton experienced "the usual things police officers do."  On extra weighty thought days, the mermaids are usually busy elsewhere. You've got to be careful about mermaids when the world puts strange ideas in your head. & sleepy makes those ideas more creepy than they actually are.
Those days are when we need Zenobia. She comes and bats at his dreadlocks, romps & purrs when she settles quietly in his lap as he sits in his quiet inner soul place.

As he relaxes, right before his breathing slows down, sometimes, I use my fingertips along his back as if Zenobia is mincing about seeking a good place to sleep also. He smiles. Maybe chuckles and then the weight of my hand slows his breath. The Coltrane Station on Pandora always seems to know what song to play to take him into good dreams.
When I slip quietly out of his bed I am so grateful To have a son. To have a boy-becoming-man who still likes to hear his Mama's voice; feel his Mama's arms; and imagine invisible rainbow butterfly unicorn kittens keep watch over him in the night.
I leave the dark, warm room of steady rhythmic breath, the stark kitchen light startles me. It is late. I remember ‪#‎TamirRice‬ wasn't put to bed for six months. Nobody lay him down to sleep because he was
not a boy when racism turned him into evidence that something is very broken.

If I Die In Police Custody

let the activists speak my private sorrow.
let the radicals burn the city to the ground.
let the pundits unravel White Supremacy's mantle

even as my family calls for peace, know
they are insuring the survival my genetic code.
understand the louder you rage, the more they get paid.

& blood money is not Brawny. it can not wipe up injustice.
know my ancestor's teeth went into Ben Franklin's head
& these same teeth will grind down systemic racism.

know my Gods have a terrible just imagination
& are qualified by my family's forgiveness
to deliver immediate and swift retribution.

know God works in mysterious ways,
the tragic accident, the lost marriage
the stillborn children withering in the womb,

the tweet which fires a thousand racists,
my God sees these murderers times
seven generations. my God, seven generations

my family be lifted up in public out cry
be poeted, be sung, be painted and digitized,
be quiet & let a nation of Black voices

tell all the truth.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Pride is a living metaphysical political Being

Joy Kmt, an artist/activist frequently in collaboration with the Svaha Paradox Salon has been gathering international attention by drawing attention to why the Delta Foundation’s booking of artist Iggy Azalea is problematic for an inclusive Pride which creates safe space for all members of the LGBTQ community.  You can read about that here on MTv's website.  She is the co-founder of #RootsPridePgh which initiated a call to artists to make a video about what their pride looked like and tag it #MyPride.  In addition, you can make financial contributions here. I responded with “Pride is a living metaphysical political Being.” What does your Pride look like?


Pride is a living metaphysical political Being

when I look you in the eye
I invite you inside.
I have so much roots to show ya.

my pride sweeps,
stitches, feathers 
its technicolor nest. 

breathes water. 
dances amniotic.
sings a trans-Atlantic song.
swimming against the school.
stings beautifully
in unnatural habitats. 

would you come be by my side
I have so much love to show ya.
would you love me show ya, huh?

I look you in the eye
I invite you inside.
my pride has so much light.
walk a mile with me in harmony.

my pride is magic 
palm fronds, goats teeth, 
hip bones, wandering dread 
woven with seashells,
microchips, weaves 
& dodges, dances 
feints, faints & ain’t
your pride mine?

my pride keeps you alive.
are you on my side?
because I’d love to have you.

my pride is arrow & archer,
knife, the frowning 
watermelon & spoon. 
the bacon grease and beans,
a chipped heirloom plate,
the meal I serve myself
when no others will serve me.
& that’s okay.

will you come be by my side?
I have so much love to show ya.
would you love me show ya?
I’m still alive. I’m still alive.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mirror Mirror On the Wall | #TellMeABlackPowerStory

I’ve got to smile when it is insinuated that I am a sell out; not Black enough; not down for the struggle because I do not advocate yet another cycle of destruction that White Supremacy will allow to fester and further infect us.  I say, 

I have the nerve to say I do not advocate violence. I have the nerve to say this because I have witnessed the spiral back to the same conditions for Black America as the year I was born, 1964.  I have personally witnessed and participated in the illusion of Post-Racial Renaissance and Feudal System Reaffirmation. I have the good fortune to have shared breath and continue to share breath with people who have witnessed over three cycles of the same old pattern.  

I understand the place of violence. Nothing ever happens until we start burning things down.  Because I understand the way in which violence has always been necessary in the short term.  I have to keep asking what are we going to do different this time?

My friend Mistinguette says it better:
Remember when black folks got tired of police violence in the face of peaceful protest, and started rioting in the late 1960s? And remember the comeback of heroin in the early 1970s, flowing openly into inner cities where there had been uprisings? Remember how the AIDS epidemic killed black men by the hundreds with "junkie pneumonia" in the 1980s before anybody bothered to name it as a disease? If you don't remember the last time this happened, ask somebody who does. Then, connect the dots today.

My friend Eddie Griffin says it better:
Nixon appointed Donald Rumsfeld over the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1969 to run his Economic Stabilization Program, and elevated the Office to Cabinet level. It operated like a CIA program to supplant the Panthers’ Free Breakfast and Free Medical programs. They started a free breakfast program in school, and started giving welfare checks on the 1st and 15th to single mothers. We could not get the people to resist. Instead, they got hooked.

We must stop being White People’s mirror.  In the fairytale of Coal Black, the Mirror started telling the truth.  She told the evil queen that she was not beautiful, Coal Black was beautiful.  The evil queen’s response to that was to go out there and try to destroy Coal Black. The mirror said, “Here is where she is, go get someone who doesn't have any real power to take her out if you want to stay beautiful.”

A twerking example.

What are saying when we twerk. 
This is good music. I will dance. My spirit is still rich enough to connect with the natural rhythms of the universe. I am stardust embodied. I am beautiful.  This my body is strong and powerful This my body holds generations and the power to be eternal.

When enraptured, they gaze into the rhythms of our twerking asses, they say to us:
You are animals. You are a lustful sinner. You are the evil voracious sexuality unchecked. You are out of control. 

What they are really saying:
My people are animals. We are a lustful sinners. We are the evil voracious sexuality unchecked. We are out of control. 

When they appropriate our twerking they say:
My spirit is not rich enough to connect with the natural rhythms of the universe, so I will steal yours. I am not stardust embodied. I am not beautiful.  My body is not strong and powerful.  My body does not hold generations and the power to be eternal. But, I will pretend it is because I must always believe I am better than you are.

And because we are powerful and eternal and connected to a vast universe, we say, Have that. You have not killed our souls. We are not so impoverished that we must steal and loot.  There is always a better idea.  But, we want that White gaze.  We want that White affirmation. We want the benefits of all the Whiteness. So, we let them continue to rampage and pillage every corner of our deepest cellular ancestral connection because we do not ourselves understand how precious it is.

Black Love. It takes discipline, sacrifice, and the head to the grindstone actions to move firmly and without apology into into a Black love space. But, we are to afraid to love ourselves. We have internalized the mirror White people have turned us into.  "You are beautiful," we say,"You are powerful. You are so powerful we will step outside of our highest, most authentic selves."

I do my best to live ethically. I do my best to live consciously. I fail. I correct myself. I do and then I do some more.  

The only purpose of rage in my life is as fuel to refine my excellence.  The only purpose anger has is to burn away the inner barriers which distract me from focusing on my own success.  The despair I experience is useful only in that it forces me to make a plan. A plan to not be in this hellish racism spiral of reaction, reaction, reaction.  

That's what I want to talk about.  Giving priority to the energy, time and commitment to loving ourselves uncompromisingly. 

We need to stop chasing after what White people have and remember that what White people want right now, they stole from our grandmothers.  Home birth? We couldn’t afford a hospital and if we could, they weren’t going to treat us.  Natural remedies? We couldn’t afford any pharmacy.  We had to know how to harvest and make those tinctures ourselves.  

When integration happened, we got so happy they let us up in their stores that we forgot they didn't love us. We acted like we had won something big to be able to hand our money over to people who despise us and use it to continue to injure us. We forgot how healthy we were when we had to pack a basket because people didn't think we deserved to eat. 

That means opting out of the corporate system to the best of our ability.  That means no more take out coffee, no more quick bag of chips snacks, that means not eating at chain restaurants. It means looking for Black vendors. Except in instances of professional development, we must become largely unconcerned with what people think of us. If my shoes tell you about the quality of my character, chances are I really don't need to know you. It means becoming self sufficient. Self-sufficiency takes a lot of time.  

We just need to stop with the begging and pleading and asking. We must start doing for ourselves.  Seed packets are $1.00. I've seen yards with so many weeds that could be growing greens.  I wish every call for a march was a community garden fair where we went yard by yard installing home gardens.  I wish every call for demonstrating against police brutality was a Hood Watch & Patrol training session.  I wish every call for a community garden fair had a childcare exchange program. I wish every call for a march was a planning meeting to create programs for youth to go volunteer to sit willingly and listen to their elders. 

Why aren’t we harvesting the knowledge of our elders to teach us to sew, to repair, to build? And when we do these programs, why are we always looking at White people for money?

I rage. I despair. I fury. I tempest. I work myself into a frenzy.

For exactly five minutes. Then, I get busy thriving. Because every success. Every positive, joyful moment in my life. Every ounce of energy poured into Black Love is worse than a gun, a burning trash can or a broken window. 

Black love is machete. Black love is a fatal blow. Black love chops off White Supremacy's head, legs, and arms, coats them in tar, sets them ablaze with gasoline and buries all the different pieces in unmarked graves across Europe. Black love saves the hair for cloth to look beautiful and the teeth as a warning to others. 

I want my energy to count. If I let them take my Black Peace, they get both my peace and more weapons to continue waging war against me. If I let them steal my Black Health, I die. If I surrender my Black joy, they have my joy and continue to paralyze me with despair.

I do not have any time for burning or talking and boo hooing. There is a garden to tend. There is bread to bake. There are clothes which need to be sewn.  I am too busy building an independent Black life. I have an exit strategy. I work on it daily. I am aware of how very dangerous this is. We have tried many time in the past. These eight Black communities are an example of how powerful Black love is.

The mirror is broken. I no longer want to reflect back anything to anyone in power.   I am not here to for anyone's beauty, I am here for my people.  All of my people. I do not disclose Coal Black's location because I am Coal Black.  The kingdom I am building is mine and always has been. 

Yes. I have the nerve and the gas to say I do not advocate violence.  I understand violence.  And I want more than what it will give us. 

NOTE: This is not the disclaimer note to my White friends and allies to reassure them. If you are really my White friend and ally, you are cheering and saying, "let me know if & when you are ready to connect with me from a position of power in which we can systematically attack all of the roots of oppression."  This is the note where I acknowledge that my revolution is intersectional.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Free Range Or Target Practice.

I don't really want to talk about Black Motherhood and our child rearing practices under a White gaze. I simultaneously appreciate and am left a tiny bit underwhelmed by the commentary of the childless. I am tired of the Black Mother Shaming. I am tired of the exaltation of tired love, exhausted grit, and under-educated make-do in an effort to subvert the discussion of systemic root causes. I am weary ~ to the seizing up of my entire nervous and cardiovascular system ~ of a dehumanized characterization of Black motherhood designed to portray us as nothing but animals acting on instinct.

I am numb from squashing anger about the way in which Black mother's decisions are scrutinized, evaluated and politicized for the purpose of continuing to enshrine White women's purity and perfection. I am ready ~ to the point of profanity ~ to rage about the advancement of sanctified White motherhood while the public at large gets to define, debate, ruminate, celebrate or denigrate every action a Black mother takes in public and then spread it like a shovel of shit across all of Black personhood.

I am fed up with the way in which our parenting revolves around camouflage and not character. Life or death. Clean Or Cranked. Street sweeper or barrister. Free Range or Target Practice. I am tired of people treating our children like products instead of people in process. I am tired of talking about women raising boys, women raising girls, women raising people.

Where are the men? Are Black women somehow naturally inclined towards parthenogenesis?

I am tired of the 
Tragic Single Mother, Tragic Battered Woman Mama, 
Tragic Out-Of-Touch-Wanna-Be-White Black Mama, 
Tragic Her-Husband-Righteous, Rich, Educated-But-Fucking-Every-White-Female-Behind-Her Back Mama, 
Tragic But-There-Are-Two-Mamas-So-That-Kid-Gonna-Be-Confused Mamas, 
Tragic Ghetto Mama, Tragic Crack Mama, Tragic Alcoholic Mama, 
Tragic Hoodoo-Killed-Some-Chickens-Made-The-Vegans-Mad Mama, 
Tragic That-Much-Jesus-Ain't-Good-For-Anyone Mama,
Tragic How-Many-Is-Too-Many Mama,
Tragic Inter-Racial Mama, Tragic InterRacial-Lesbian Single Mama, 
Tragic Oh-Shit-What-We-Gonna-Do-Wit-Two-Black-Mamas Mama, 
Tragic Poor-But-Got-Her-Kid-To-College Mama, 
Tragic Middle-Class-Move-Up-To-The-Next & Leave-Her-People-Behind Mama

I just want to be a Mama afforded the same right to invisibility and privacy every White woman assumes she has.

Girl, if I could get the childcare, I have a lot to write about Black parenting...beginning with a show on Nat Geo where they took a White family and dumped them among the Maasai and in two weeks the Elder Males had that child's ADHD cured. But, all that community, village raising children culture was systematically beaten out of us and belongs now to White families who sign up for National Geographic Reality Television shows.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

We Are Not Animals Or Robots, We Are Mothers

I am here to invite contemplation on mother shaming. I don’t want to talk about that video of the mother who snatched her child up out of the street.  I don’t want to serve White Supremacy’s platter of Assorted Black Debates. That video was circulated to shame us.  That video was circulated to distract us. 

I want to talk about Freddie Gray’s mother.  I am here to bear witness for her.  I want to talk about the fact that she had to bury her son in one moment and be trotted out as a peace keeper for the deathbringers.  

As if she had the power to control the way her soul detonated the fuse in every conscious Black person.  As if she could contain the flaming of particles in her spirit which beg God to do it, just do it, just burn every fucking thing to the ground.  As if she should apologize.

There is a part of every Black mother of every dead child who wants to snatch the hearts out of their child’s murderer and feed it to their families.  There is a part of every Black mother of every dead child who would send assassins in the night to peel the skin off of her child’s murderers; make lampshades out of it and use their teeth as beaded trim.  There is a part of every Black mother of every dead child who knows the oblivious can only be abused out of their ignorance.  This is the truth.  In Baltimore, her weeping soul screeching has been heard.  Prayers are always answered, even after they have been deleted or recalled by common sense and survival.

I want to you bear witness to the violence done to the mothers of dead Black sons and daughters.  I want you to know that the mothers of Black children live in a constant state of gathering up the ocean.  I want you to think about how stoic we seem, how pulled together, how grim and determined. I want you to think about how busy you make us with your demands for respectability.  How unnatural you make us.

But, more than that, think about how Black mothers are forced to apologize. How we are always asked to apologize for allowing our children to wake up in the morning inside of our home.  We apologize for allowing them to go to sleep in our homes.  We apologize for allowing them to put food in their bodies. We apologize for buying them clothing. And every 28 hours we are asked to apologize for allowing them to leave the house.  And we apologize for yelling at God when they don’t come home because they made eye contact with the wrong White person. We apologize for reproducing.

We shame mothers for having a biological directive to insure our genetic material is passed on.  We shame mothers for having instincts. We are not animals or robots.  No more apologies.  

It is time for society to begin apologizing to us. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

#TellMeABlackPowerStory Everyday

Simple stories. Big stories. Mundane stories. 
Helped My Son With A Project Stories.
Cooked a Healthful Meal Stories. 
Planted Some Vegetables Stories.
Smiled At A Random Black Child At The Store Stories.
Won An Award Stories.
Gave Back To Community Stories.
Woke Up And Went To Work Even Though I Didn't Feel Like It Stories.

Found & Patronized a Black Business Story.
We need more Black Power Stories. Black Power Stories are Black Love Stories, Black Kindness Stories, Black Helping Stories, Black Honor Stories, Black Generosity Stories.

Brilliant Poet, Activist, & Educator Mistinguette Smith responded to the call and amplified it.  Below is an excerpt from her post which you can read here.
"The other side of anger is power. And I am one of many who needs to hear some stories of the power that’s awaiting all of us on the other side of this seemingly endless rage. Right now,  the act of staying awake has me longing for a black power story. The news is so bad that this moment actually requires  ten thousand black power stories, each one repeated a hundred times over.  So I have come here to ask you to help me put them out into the world."

We have Black Power stories around us everyday.

Responses are trickling in.
Amie: My nephew just received certificates for perfect attendance and the honor roll at his school.

+  +  +  

Ledean: Well as you know my father passed when I was fairly young. He had a son somewhat older than my self and siblings. He asked us one Christmas what we wanted and my baby sister told him she wanted a barbie doll. He looks at her and said what about a black doll? Well she being so young had no ideal that there was such a thing. Christmas came and my brother got my sister a doll. It was the first black doll baby she had ever seen! Dark skin, curly kinky afro and she talked! Her name was Tamu and it turned out to be my sister's favorite doll for years to come. It opened her eyes to the world that there was more out there than little thin white barbie dolls.

+  +  +  

Robin: My beautiful black girl who was 11, now 12 years old stood out from among the crowd and boldly audition for her high school marching band and was awarded an opportunity to be a contributor! She has excelled, exceeding the expectations of her band director and came to the attention and was honored by the Ohio State University for her efforts.

At her lowest point band camp was kicking her behind. But through perseverance and hard work, she woke up, put 1 foot in front of the other and worked through her fears and made the effort look flawless.

+  +  + 

Ebele: I thank my mother for wearing a pair of figure-hugging jeans and walking, no, sashaying down Nwabueze Road.

In those Nigerian days, it was an abomination for a woman to wear trousers. (You were an ashawo if you did.)

But my mum, she put on her shades and walked down that road.

And my father, my father walked beside her in his jeans and shades.

They dealt with it, together.

Plus they looked fucking cool too.

Let us fill each other up with Black Power Stories.  Black Love is Black Power! Leave a comment.  Tweet it to me @cmspringer. Tumblr it! Shout out loud, I live a Black & Powerful life.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tell Me A Black Power Story

Yesterday, For Harriet, posted an excellent piece, I read Is My Living In Vain?: On The Visibility Of Black Trauma In Social Media.   I was so grateful.  I had also seen the image of the 148 students killed in Garissa, Kenya.  I was unable to put into words what I was thinking.  But, part of me thought back to what bothered me so much about the #BlackLivesMatter die-ins.

This is what I saw. 
A shopping mall in America

A university in Kenya
Only one group is pretending.  

I talk to my Facebook friends a lot about #BlackLove is #BlackPower.  I do this because sometimes I feel people are confused about what Black Power is.  The first image I am sure that comes to mind is the image on the left.  The image that comes to mind for me, is the one on the right.

It made me think.  I want to hear Black Power Stories.  So, I'll start with just a silly moment from my life.
+    +   +
One morning, I took The Win breakfast in bed. He enjoyed that a great deal.
when I do something for someone, and they express deep appreciation for it, it inspires me to continue wanting to do that.

The next time, I did it, I said, "Your breakfast, My Little lordling."
He said, "Why thank you, My Lady Mother."

It's become a game now.  Some mornings when I want to get a few things done, I take him breakfast in bed and we have our gentile exchange. This morning was different.

Me: Your breakfast, my little lordling.
The Win: Why thank you, My Lady Mother.
Me: But, of course."
Windafire wearing
"Woodland King,"
a laser cut headband
he designed
The Win: (looks at me strangely) Uh, Mom, why do you do this?
Me: Because sometimes, you have to take actions which reflect the higher self you see in a person.
The Win: Hmmm. I don't understand.
Me: You are a prince among men.
The Win: what does that mean?
Me: You are a generous, thoughtful, wise person. you are everything that is positive about the word nobility. I am acting on a truth of you.  You are receiving a truth about you. Because everyday, you show me the truth about me.
The Win: How?
Me: By being you. By doing your work without being told. By helping me around the house. By doing what needs to be done without being told, you show me that you have accepted what I have taught you.
The Win: I love you, Mom.
Me: I love you, My Little Lordling.

I realized in that moment that some Black folks like to talk a lot about being Kings and Queens. And if we are Kings and Queens, our children must be princes and princesses.  But, we don't have any staff. So, we have to be of and in service with each other everyday.  Taking some small actions which speak to our own inner truths. We have to create an environment of respectful reciprocity.

+   +   +

I don't know how many people will do this.  I'm doing this for me.  I don't want to start a "big thing." I just want to see more Black Love out there.  I want to celebrate Black Power. I want to read about it.  I want to hear about it.

  • How to you live it? 
  • How do you nurture it? 
  • How do you uplift each other?  
  • What are the very tiny things upon which movements are built?
I hope you'll share with me. Just one moment of #BlackLove is #BlackPower. #TellMeABlackPowerStory @Cmpringer

Friday, April 10, 2015

What I Did Instead Of Falling Apart | The Coma Chronicles

For those of you who wept, thank you. That needed to be done. 
For those of you who prayed, thank you. That needed to be done. 
For those of you who had a good strong drink, thank you. 
Someone was going to do that and it wasn’t me. 

I notice many of my friends are navigating health crisis with loved ones lately. For this reason, I must share a few technical details which have made an impact on Imani’s journey.  Primarily, helping the health professionals know there is something at stake and people care.

1. Keep a detailed log. Write down the name, date and time of any person who has spoken with you about your loved one’s condition.  Write down what they said. Seriously, everything.

Example:  At 4:00 PM, on Day 1, they say, “no real change, withstood breathing trial for 30 minutes, undirected movement.” Write it down, because on Day 2 at 8:00 AM you may get a report from a different person, who says, “she’s doing so much better, the breathing trial lasted an hour, and she’s moving her hands and we think we are going to do ______ radical departure in treatment.  

You can ask, “Specifically, what changed in the seven hours between shift change which warrants ______ radical departure in treatment?”

2. Be the editor of everyone’s experience.  Every nurse, aide, doctor, social worker on you loved ones’ case has a bias.  Some are skilled at staying neutral; some are skilled at giving hope; some are skilled at conservative, cautious prognosis.  I viewed my job as my daughter’s advocate. That meant I needed to stay with the facts.  Stay with the science.  

3. Learn the routine.  What is the shift change protocol? When are assessments made? When are tests given? When is the patient turned? Then call to gather data in the “downtime” when the nurses aren’t busy caring for your loved one. 

Time table for when to call:
8:30 - one hour after shift change.
10:00 - immediately following assessments, tests, doctor evaluation.
1:00 - after lunch.
5:45 - 15 minutes before shift change as they are starting to gather their notes.
8:30  - one hour after shift change
10:00 - before bed.

4. Demand continuity of care. Doctors and nurses rotate. All they have are notes on a chart.  They don’t get the back story.  They don’t know your loved one. They have no ability to know your loved one.  The only constant in your loved one’s care is you.  You are the one who fills in the gaps in the chart. 

5. Make the doctors do their job.  If allowed, doctors will breeze through; make an exam; and decide treatment as if their word is law. Their word is not law.  You have a right to an informed decision. They have an obligation to provide you with information.  Repeat. You have the right to give informed consent.

Example: One doctor tried to use baby talk with me.  I informed him that I have the same level of education as he does. My specialty is simply different and that he would kindly speak to me like an intelligent, capable human being. 

Example: One doctor was obstinate about his aggressive treatment plan. His treatment plan differed drastically from the previous doctor’s. I pulled up my notes, told him verbatim what the other doctor said. Told him that I concur with the first treatment plan, and that I was now calling for a second opinion. If he was unable to collaborate with his colleague and provide continuity of care, I would do it for him.

6. Send cold, logical, detailed, factual feedback. Learn the chain of command and speak with the decision makers.  
Example:  There were two doctors.  One was very busy one afternoon speaking with someone at home about something on his kitchen counter.  Another doctor was simply too busy to talk to me and would not wait the five minutes I needed to get out of the car, into the house and get to my computer.  On both occasions, I wrote the Chief Of Staff an email about proper communication, listed the date and time, the incident and reminded him about the legal importance of informed consent. 

The outcome was that rather than me chasing down the doctors and pinning them to the wall, both doctors called me everyday as soon as they dealt with my daughter.  They took the time to discuss her treatment plan. They allowed me to review my notes to see whether they were in accord with what other doctors said. And gave me time to clarify every single step of the treatment plan. 

7. Do not let doctors exploit your trust.  We place a lot of trust in doctors. Their very training and the fraternity-like levels of hazing they undergo to get their medical license reinforces a notion of superiority.  Many think of themselves as smarter and more important than we are.  They are experts in a very specific skill set. Yes, you may give that to them.  

But, you, another family member, and the nurses are the ones who are actually doing all the observing of symptoms, changes and responses to treatment. You have as much data as they do. Make them work with all of you. The Lone Ranger was problematic for reasons more than race and colonialism. He wasn’t anything without Tonto. The nurses know what is up.  They are the people with whom you’ll be spending time. They see the hour by hour changes.  They are the most important data in your log.  

Example: One doctor talked about a cloud on the MRI. Another doctor said there was too much movement to determine anything.  A third doctor said nothing was there.  My question was: "On this date, Dr. 1 said ____ and on this same date Dr 2 said ______, and on this date Dr 3 _______.  I'm going to need a second opinion or you're going to have to give me a unified understanding of this result. Which will it be?" Well, we got a definitive answer. 

8. Know and plan for all potential outcome{s}. Today's American medical industry is exactly that ~ a profit driven industry. Ultimately, your loved one is a number on a bottom line.  As soon as they can insure that the patient will not be a liability (lawsuit,) they will hand them off to the next caregiver. They need to clear the bed to get paid.  This can happen in moments.

Make sure you know every detail of every potential outcome... even the worst.  Then ask for a long term picture. Make them take you through it step by step...pending each medical outcome.  If there is a short cut, the insurance companies will make them take it. Bet on it.

Example: The doctor said my daughter could experience a complete and full recovery.  When there was talk of an Assisted Nursing Living Facility, I asked "How does this fit in with the full and complete stated by Dr. X?"  Well, they had to change that didn't they?

Now, that she is in a Physical Rehabilitation Facility, "the insurance has authorized seven days of therapy."  But, they were counting her intake and discharge days.  I asked them to "read me back the language and tell me how this fits with Dr. X's recommendation to achieve a full and complete recovery?"  Asking them to read back the language got my daughter an extra day of therapy.  If the insurance is covering days of therapy, not days in the facility, the patient should not be denied that which they are entitled. 

This was no time to go pieces.  In these moments, I viewed myself as a knife, cold, impartial, logical, and clean. I am the piece maker. I could harm or I could heal.  I am still ready.   Imani Nia’s Recovery Fund helps me stay ready. 

Monday, April 06, 2015

The Problem With Miracles | The Coma Chronicles

Imani Nia
My 28 year old daughter was found in a coma on March 13, 2015. 
She woke up April 3, 2015. These are some of the thoughts between then and now.

What people forget is that miracles take a lot of hard work by mortals. When illness or tragedy surprises us, the first thing many people do is deny it by calling for some nebulous, ill defined miracle. In the miracle, the loved one reverts back to exactly the way they were before the illness or tragedy struck and lives happily ever after.

My mantra has always been the universe loves me and wants me to be happy.  In every fiber of my being, I believe this to be true. So, the thought of 300 people all praying for their version of a miracle filled me with foreboding. 

Thought is energy. Imagine yourself as a laser beam casting your intention onto a target. If 300 other people are all simultaneously casting their energy at the same place on the target, the target yields more easily. Our solitary energy, while powerful, is magnified by harmony with other energies. In solidarity, our singular energy gains strength and power. 

A massive welling of undirected energy disrupts the ability to obtain critical mass. Scattered energy has no other purpose but to create cosmic confusion.  Imagine 300 people in a confined area all shooting semi-automatic weapons into the air. 

In reality, miracles are sweaty arduous journeys through the unforgiving shapeless desert of dogged perseverance. You will pass through several mirages of hope where you sip nectar from a golden goblet only to wake up and discover that in your delirium all you’ve done was bite the head off of a lizard and suck out it’s blood and ichor. As disgusting as it sounds, in that awakening ~ in that slapping back to reality after being parched unto the brink of death ~  the lizard is, in reality, a nectar-filled golden goblet. It is what you have been given to survive. It isn’t pretty. It is what is. More often than not, miracles unfold in this way.

Me, Ricardo, & Imani Nia
I was in my early 20’s when I experienced the first death-by-illness of a close friend.  I remember Ricardo’s family had buttons made which read miracle in progress. I believed in the faith of this family. I knew that the disease would reverse itself. I prayed so hard for a full recovery.  I was devastated when he died. I was dismantled down the cells. It took me years to understand that the miracle we had been praying for was not the miracle he needed. He got his miracle. We received an invitation to grow and learn more about what miracles really are.  

The Universe really does love me and want me to be happy.  The more I have stayed on this mantra the truer it has become for me.  Unfortunately, there is a societal over ride which insists that it is “too good to be true.”  The more anchored I became in choosing a joy reality, the more I discovered human nature. 

our family
From the outside in, it’s very lovely life.  My family spends our days doing what we love to do and managing to have everything we need and most of what we want.  Still, we find ourselves feeling blue, restless, uneasy. In choosing a joy reality, we find ourselves having to stop; smile at each other; and remind ourselves that human beings thrive on challenges. Human beings become bored with utopia and seek drama.

Nothing demonstrates this as easily as Facebook. We flock to the tragedy, the argument, the train wreck of the week. Sometimes, this is a good thing. It spreads awareness. All too often, the aftermath of tragedy floats away. The tsunami hits; devastates; all the interesting bits are over and we move on to 200 Nigerian Girls, the next dead Black man; eventually orange is the new black; Scandal Kanye opens his mouth; Empire gay people marry climate change the homeless gentrification. There never is a happily ever after. There is only next.

There is never boring.  There is never mundane.  We post pictures of crackers or luscious restaurant meals.  But, if instead we spent paragraphs (or stanzas) describing the details of chewing that cracker, you would find it tedious and dry. The reality of the cracker is boring.  So it is with miracles and their aftermath.  

On my more sullen, angry and unaccepting days, I had some uncharitable thoughts.  Those were days when I had to channel my grandmother, Maida Springer Kemp who used to say, “I wake up every morning and give myself precisely five minutes to feel deeply and profoundly sorry for myself. Then, I get on with it.” 

Each morning during my five minutes, I allowed myself to imagine people in my Facebook feed pulling up with a great bowl of popcorn to observe the turmoil.  Some people didn’t even need Facebook. They made sure they got firsthand, blow by blow narrations of this dramatic coma. 

A daughter was basically dead on arrival at the hospital and revived.  Laying in a coma on life support, slipping away.  The great extubation plot twist where she woke up only to twist and slip away again, just within reach and so far gone. The story could go so many ways. It could have ended in a tragedy with the difficult decisions to make about quality of life in a persistent vegetative state. The plot could have become rife with conflict about her quality of life if she awoke cognitively or physically impaired. What would her choices be? What would our choices be? Duh, duh, duh, minor chord.

I acknowledged the anger, the resentment, and then I got on with my day. I stood up and claimed serenity as my right. From there, I was able to move myself into a place of acceptance and gratitude.  Human beings need challenges in order to feel a sense of purpose.  And this awful thing happening in my life was a growth opportunity for me and everyone touched by my life.  We don’t get to pick our miracles. They choose us. 

This is the nature of a miracle. It is ever expanding. This is how how miracles work. Recognizing with gratitude the importance of small things until suddenly every small thing gathers together and become a large blessing.

It is early morning.  I am having my five minutes. I am looking at all of the uneasy questions that are the aftermath of this miracle.  My daughter was in transition at the onset of this coma. She was unemployed and making big life changes. She was switching careers and having that late 20-something OMG I have to be a grown up moment.  

27 years ago, Imani Nia & me
Now, I have the responsibility of putting her life back together.  Like when she was an infant beginning to walk. Like when she was a child.  Firing up those neurons and exercising her brain back into shape. Like when she was a teenager helping her make decisions about moving on with the rest of her life. I get to be the primary facilitator for her life all over again. Only this time, she is a grown woman with her own opinions. 

It feels like a backyard fireworks show. You set up all the little cartons.  Then for 10 minutes you light them and shoot them all off. Everyone is laughing and clapping. The darkness is exploded by stars. We ooo and awww and exclaim this one is even better!  The last big shooting rocket is set off.  Everyone shrieks with joy.  Some friends go home thankful for the good time.  A few linger and dance in the yard with sparklers trying to recapture those big bursts of energy.  When everyone goes home, there you are sweeping up ash and fuses and charred cardboard. If you are lucky, one friend will stay behind and help clean up the party. If you are lucky. It was a good time. You might not choose to do it again, no matter how much your friends assure you that it is worth it.  Miracles work like this. 

Do not pray for yourself and the miracle that you want. It never ends with happily ever after. The miracle is what you get and all the tidying up afterwards.  The miracle really begins with the tidying up part and who sticks around after the show. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Radiate Your Righteousness | TSA Performance

Your serenity is in the hands of the next fool who makes you angry.
` Eric W. Springer, Esq.
Eric W. Springer, Esq.

My center of calm carries me along the eddies of my life.  I try to stay with remembering that what is mine remains mine until I give it away. It has been almost two weeks since I received an early morning phone call saying my daughter was in a coma about seven hours from where I live.  I drove down for the first few days. I stayed until I realized, there was not much more to do other than pray and wait.  Her Godmother too my place at her bedside. She woke up. Next thing I knew, I was flying back down to my daughter’s bedside. 

As a performance artist, I sometimes view life as an opportunity to perform conceptual pieces in front of unintentional artists.  Today’s airports are the largest theatrical venues on the planet. The TSA have brought conceptual abstract theatrical performance happenings to whole new level. Every time I fly, it comes with a sense of anticipation and excitement to participate in the longest nationwide run of a massively successful show entitled “Security Checkpoint.” 

My character is somewhat autobiographical and draws upon the best character traits of  my elders and ancestors. My grandmother’s imitable grace and strong softness.  My mother’s regal command and stance.  My father’s unflinching and persistent belief in the  rule of law and those promises made with the framing of America that have yet to be achieved.  

Because I often travel with my young son, I have not been fortunate enough to do my big solo performance during “Security Checkpoint.”  The solo I have been promised is a scene called “Opt Out” wherein my character refuses to enter the AIT machine, otherwise known as, The Irradiation Station, The Nudie Scanner or Backscatter.  I have had a chance to perform “Touch My Hair, Change Your Gloves”  and “Modest Clothing Is Suspicious.” However, thanks to Malaika Singleton, Novella Coleman, an attorney with the ACLU, the TSA has agreed to stop profiling Black women's hair.  Therefore, I am unlikely to act as a supporting role in this aspect of the production.

However, these have only been minor roles which only ever receive curious ~ often White Supremacy Fear Reinforcement glances ~ from our unintentional audiences.  
I view the opportunity to perform this scene as a perfect intersection of my career as a performer and arts educator. This section of the show is about the affirmation of our civil liberties and is intended to do community outreach, education and inspire nation building based upon our Constitution.

Opportunities present themselves when it is time.  Not at the time of our choosing.  But, this trip it was Oh Lucky Me. It seemed not one passenger was avoiding the Backscatter this trip. And since I was flying solo, the long anticipated showtime had arrived.

I shuffled docilely down the line.  One by one, I removed all dangerous and suspicious items from my person.  Shuffle. Take off jacket.  Shuffle.  Remove sweater. Shuffle. Remove shoes.  By the time I reached the scanner belt,  I placed all my items in their appropriate bins.  Removed my laptop. Placed it in its separate bin.  Then, I whipped off my glorious head wrap to let my long dreadlocks tumble down my back. 

Me: (calmly. imperiously. graciously. loudly.) It is against my deeply held religious beliefs to go through that machine. I will require alternative screening.
TSA agent looks at me strangely. 

Me: Alternative screening. I require it. Thank you. (lookity look to let her know I am thankful and that she is dismissed.)

TSA AGENT; OPT OUT! We have an Opt Out.

Me: (smiles and nods to the person behind me. loudly.) All that nasty unnecessary radiation is not for our greater good.  We’re Americans. We’re lucky. We have choices.

Passenger: Oh.  (fearful furtive eyes glance at the scanner.)

TSA Agent: Please come over here and stand on the mat. My mark is a rubber mat with to yellow footprints outlined. 

Me: (to Passenger) Have an awesome trip! Be safe. (to Agent) Yes, Ma’am.

Dance Sequence ~  I glide regally towards the mark. Smile. Pivot. Left foot back to left footprint. Right foot back to right footprint. Look Agent in the eye. Smile. Float arms gently to sides to confirm my placement. Tip of the chin in the minimal affirmative acknowledgement. Place arms behind my back. Smile, concerned, loving, victorious at passengers going through The Irradiation Station. 

A young, slender, beautiful, AsianTSA agent bustles over to me. 

Beautiful Agent: Ma’am, this way. 

Me: (raise eyebrows)

Beautiful Agent: This way, please.

Me: Oh! Yes!  Thank you. 

(More Gliding) We stop at the X Ray machine to collect my belongings.

Beautiful Agent: Which are yours?

Me: (leisurely, commanding gesture as if to a hotel porter) The laptop. The purse and jumpers. The rucksack. 

Beautiful Agent: Can I put the laptop in this bin? 

Me: (loudly, kindly, matronly) Well, as I understand the rules and regulations, the laptop is supposed to be in its own bin.

Beautiful Agent: (as if eager to please) Oh. Yes. It is. But, I have have to carry it over there. Can I put it in this bin?

Me: Whatever makes all of this easier for you dear.

Beautiful Agent: Okay. Then, I’ll put it in here.

Me: As you wish. 

Beautiful Agent: (gathers my things.) This way. 

Me: (smiling nodding at other passengers trying to scramble their things back together.  The Random Passengers look on with curiosity.  They glance at the Backscatter.  They furrow their brows.  I am not being treated like a criminal. It seems very confusing to them.)

Beautiful Agent: This way, please.

Me: Right.

(more gliding this time to another mat. )

Beautiful Agent: (places my things on a counter.) Would you like to do this in a private room?

Me: Well, of course not. (chuckle) There should be nothing private about this. 

Beautiful: Uh. Right. Using the backs of my hands, I’m going to pat you down.... in some sensitive areas .... 

Me: (chuckles) My only sensitive area anymore is my old leg.

Beautiful Agent: (shocked and surprised) Oh! Is there an area I should avoid? 

(Gently, I raise the hem of my skirt. and show her a long scar down my shin.)

Beautiful Agent: (flustery) Oh, okay. Using only the backs of my hands I pat you down. I’ll ask you to put one foot forward and then the other. 

(I nod and smile in the manner of one who loves children and the way they do go on and on sometimes. Precious.)

Me: Very well, then. (direct eye contact)

Beautiful Agent: Please raise your... Oh! Let me change my gloves.

Me: Excellent idea. Well done.

Startled, she changes her gloves.

Beautiful Agent: Oh. Thanks. Ummm.  Okay. Please, raise your arms out to the sides.  
(I give her ballet arms.) 
Oh, sorry. Palms up. 
(lovely slow rotation to a position which feels as if I am opening to receive the balm of the heavens. She begins patting me down.)
Place your right foot forward. (Gentle Pat, pat, pat.)

Me: Oh! This like Yoga-Massage! 

Her hands freeze. 

I smile and wink at passengers glancing at me. I can tell they are having a hard time understanding what they see. I am receiving attention criminals typically get, yet, the agent is the one who appears deferential and servile.

Gentle pat, pat, pat. I have a sudden realization that if I were still in my 20’s, this whole experience would have made me a little wet.  Quite suddenly, she stops. She doesn’t want to do this. It’s her job. 

Beautiful Agent: Okay. You’re all done. 

Me: You have an awesome day.

Beautiful Agent: Uh. Okay. You too. Where are you going?

Me: My daughter is in a coma. I am going to her. 

Beautiful Age: (stricken look) Oh! I’m so sorry.

Everything can change so quickly. Everything. 
Stay now. Stay serene. Stay right. It's all you can really do.

Even with my daughter laying in a coma hours away, I have to choose the promise that our Constitution makes to us. Nothing. Nothing should be so important as safeguarding that which is rightfully ours. 

When you radiate your righteousness, those who do wrong shame themselves. If they are good people, they may express remorse. If they are not, they will show you anger.  But, it is up to you to give them a choice about who they want to be in that moment of time.  Opting Out of the AIT is my right. I do not have to shout my rights from the rooftops with anger and fury.  I simply have to claim them as my own. 

And hopefully, the unintentional audience benefitted in some way from this performance.

this coping mechanism moment brought to you through the sponsorship of  NDN Jr. & the INS Miracle Circle.