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Why I Write

A dear friend of mine read my recent post on anxiety, identity, power and struggle and commented that my work reads as though I am constantly unveiling an authentic self. I asked her what she meant, though I think intuitively, i knew.  Feeling partially naked, partially curious to hear my own thoughts, I responded. That night I shared clearer than ever: when i write, i dive for words, I pull them grudgingly up from chambers inside and glaze them on a page before they run or duck. If this metaphor is true then my writing must be my very own flesh turned out. Another friend reminds me that this analysis of self, this woman self, this black woman self, this young, black, woman self, is all kinds of political. Which, of course, makes sense to me. Primarily because through the years I’ve learned what this craft does for, to, with me and those around me. Sorcery.

I’ve been writing since i was 8. And i now have almost thirty journals filled with stories of birth-day parties, notes from friends, early year poetry, tales from travels, current events and some public news. At a young age i learned quickly to document and archive. Somehow trying to compensate for the absence of pictures from my mothers childhood. In other ways filling a void in little black girl’s narratives. Over the years, these journal pages have safe guarded much, but not everything. There are times when i am afraid of writing. Let me repeat: There are times when i am afraid of writing, because there are times that i am afraid. This year, i am dedicated to understanding this. Remembering that writing is fleshy, vulnerable, inside-out stuff for me, I am mindful to not swallow the blue pill whole while jointly experimenting with the thought that shedding light on fear might make one fear/less.

This commitment comes the day after 12 people are killed in Paris. Where words like barbaric, terrorism, Islam and fundamentalist are splayed across headlines. Images of black men, men in black, black guns, black cars, black. Flashes on repeat.

This commitment comes the day after a NAACP chapter in Colorado is bombed. Coverage spans over 1 single corporate media outlet. Suspect: “Domestic terrorism”.

This commitment comes the day 3 more women bravely forward stories of sexual assault accusing Bill Cosby of drugging and raping them. Total count: 30 women

This commitment comes 6 years after an oil spill in Nigeria. Shell oil company to pay settlement: $84 million – fraction of the costs required to rebuild homes and communities where families have been displaced.
No monetary value: the cost of rebuilding their lives.

This commitment comes the day after the UN confirms Palestine will join the International Criminal Court. The response: Israel halts sending millions of $$ in tax revenues needed to pay Palestinian salaries and Public Services.  USA threatens to revoke $440 million in aid to Palestine. The result: economic terrorism.

This commitment comes the night Washington, USA offers for the 1st time that their guns and bombs may have killed civilians. Number dead: not important.
…according to Pentagon spokesperson:
“We don’t have the ability to — to count every nose that we schwack. Number two, that’s not the goal. That’s not the goal… the goal is to degrade and destroy their capabilities. And we’re not getting into an issue of body counts.”

This commitment comes eight days into the new year.

so when i can’t write…

I must still remember my commitment to do so.

I remember the promise i made my pen never to leave it lying in somebody else’s blood”
-Audre Lorde

On anxiety, identity, power and struggle

December 31, 2014 3:00 am

I am struggling to find my power.

Struggle not in the way that it can be understood as grasping for air or fighting off one of the increasingly acute, invisible oppressions. Struggle as in engaging in a practice of uncovering. Struggle as in engaging in a practice of REcovering. Struggle – as in the process of reading and writing a text that is so true to yourself that it leaves your mother cold. But because it is this, a struggle, it involves something moving against another – an action, we have learned, creating friction. Which for me can feel like anything from frogs in my throat to a blazing fire igniting all around me, leaving my bed and my sheets as the only safe place from which I practice a paralysis. This I have to actively remember: friction creates a release of energy, this release of energy can turn to flames. If this is true, then I have to also remember that in the struggle to find ones power is the release of energy. Id like to imagine an old tired energy being released for a new emblazoned one, one that feeds me, keeps me worm and gives light. And know that maybe exhaustion is okay, because it is the seeking of this heat that tires.

I once walked into a room of a Great Educator/friend and looked at her shelves stacked with books. In the height of my research and desperation to finish my last papers I passed my hands over the shelves and confessed, “I wish for the power to pick up a book and get all the knowledge it possessed”. Sort of like a contemporary-literary version of King Midas’s golden touch. She looked up at me, mildly disgusted and said, “the struggle with the text is the very point of reading the words”.

The struggle is the point.

So then what is power, how do you know when y(our) struggle has brought you to it, how do you know when you have found it, is it an it, or is it a she, a little girl, curled up inside. The one who never had to seek power, she being the essence of power, was sure of hers. Until one day, she was told little girls don’t keep power in their toes, they hold their breath and cross their legs and wear soft things that cuddle and coo- to no end is their little girlness. How can I/we as the crone to that child find this memory of surety? The irony of this question is that it seems to reign like some misguided vital force through the body – all our bodies.

This doesn’t make the pursuit of your own power any less honorable. It makes it fundamental.

In recent conversations with black men and women about mental health, anxiety and our ability to cope ive learned how dangerous this pursuit is. In fact I’m almost hard pressed to speak to a friend who is not on the brink of or in recovery from a mental, emotional or psychological crisis. I need to know that if it feels dangerous for a woman, particularly a black woman to actualize her full potential, it’s because it is. This is teaching me much. I’m learning that this is why its so important for me, now, to insert myself in my story. I’m learning that it is important for me to identify myself, purely for myself. I am learning that I too will die and when I do it is not my life someone else would have lived, its mine. I am learning that who I am, is particularly important to the balance of the entire world, the global ecosystem of communities is dependent on my/y(our) distinct role in it. I am learning that this is too great a responsibility to give in to the fire of friction. But even in saying this I also know what it feels like to burn. And frankly half the time im covered in wounds and I have no idea what it is I’m doing. Are we/I even asking the right questions? I’m not sure, I just know that I’m not interested in a life where I am everything but myself, and the communities around me have everything but themselves and their/our own agency to create the lives we want.

 
Hence the struggle.

Writers Residency in Jamaica

Jamaica, May 21 onwards

We had gathered from all over the Americas to Jamaica for the inaugural Drawing Room Project’s writers residency organized by poets Millicent Graham and Joni Jackson. The adventure began when we turned in to Country Thyme, a magical compound owned by Nanny Pong, unloaded our things, pulled out Jamaica Tourist Board sponsored pens and began to write. I sat outside at a table surrounded by eight other writers, lead to mission by Christine Craig, Caribbean poet and prose composer. I chose to sit where the view in front of me was longest, making sure if ever I found my body was too still, my eyes could stretch and unwind. A perfectly placed tree canopy, almost looking like nature had made this mural just for us, surrounded our little white-tented dome. Continue reading “Writers Residency in Jamaica”

Born at the Edge of an Arrival: A Performance Portfolio

After spending months working on a final performance piece. Im proud to have compiled the inspiration for it in a final portfolio. This work, about family history, womyn migrating, lost and found stories, is very, VERY dear to my heart. See link below. Continue reading “Born at the Edge of an Arrival: A Performance Portfolio”

Photography Fridays: Jamaica in Pictures

March 24, 2014

These are pictures in preparation for the play, If you would like to know more about my work in Jamaica please see here. This link also has pictures from the play.

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Continue reading “Photography Fridays: Jamaica in Pictures”

Writing Letters to the Dead in Jamaica

Jamaica

March 24, 2014

For eight days, the beginning of March 2014, I traveled to Jamaica to help stage a vigil.

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Hannah Town Cultural Group/Revivalist Continue reading “Writing Letters to the Dead in Jamaica”

Photography Fridays: Birthing Birth Days

March 23, 2014

On friday we danced before dawn awoke
collapsing in laugher
creating false labor as our words skipped
together the language of past ages
shed
like melting wax on a flame lit too long
shed
like  footprints tearing away at speechlessness
shed
like armour does when friends embrace
shed
for 3 babies born
On a friday
Continue reading “Photography Fridays: Birthing Birth Days”