A Poem: Set

I offer this in deep respect and gratitude to Carrie Mae Weems and her journey to completing this piece. Her conviction to bear witness to the Black experience inspired these words. I was drawn to it because of the way text was used to over the image; and began to explore the way words have and continue to shape the narrative of oppressed people.

Set

Set.
Decided.
Grounded as a stone’s belly.

I have been named!
Designated with steel resolve
And bloody whip

Before a crowd.
In a book.
On a slab.
In a laboratory of cruel strangers.
Before my mother’s mother was a babe

I am the supply bred for demand
For beck and call
For sport and feast.
For pontification and jest
For leverage of the least.

You constructed me
From an economy of lust
Stripped me of agency
Assigned me the sole task
Of function
Work horse. Harvester. Pacifier.
Scapegoat. Wet nurse.
On call companion. On call mistress.
Carpenter. Blacksmith.
I was a fucking footrest!

Because of the labels.
Murder cloaked in science
A taxonomy to support the sickness,
A cancer turned birth defect.

You selected me for submission
to interrogation

Front. Side.
Laid out. Bent over.
Split open.
Spread eagle.
Restrained. Infected.
Observed. Probed.

To identify, classify, specify
The root of my inferiority;
To rationalize a brutality
So utterly shameful
Your offspring refuse to claim it.

You found my predisposition
to endure,
an orientation towards servitude,
without considering it was God’s gift
And not yours.
Jettisoned my humanity to feed
Your allure for dissection,
Rationalizing depravity
In the interest of public good.

It’s them labels.
Designations free from spirit but
Fueled by White power plays
That still slice this earth
Like I once sliced sugar cane
Baby sleep on my back.

I conceded. We conceded.
My feet remain soaked

in the labels
I step softly in and out of

the boxes you’ve created
To spare myself pain,
Spare myself lashes
Stay out the hot box
Keep breathing.
Keep awake
Stay woke.

So persistent and acute is
The pathology of your qualifiers
My great great great grandchildren will
Own the compass through this land
They too will walk through the minefield
of your labels
Dodging implications and hate
As best they can.

Those god damned labels!
They are born to yearning;
The bastard child of desperation.

You put a word behind the wheel
Declared it law
Drove my legacy into a homespun
Springboard for separatism.

The labels have taught your children
Entitlement to me
and to mine

my thoughts, my body, my prayer
my hope, my dance, my hair

as if my pilgrimage from
Mali to Maputo
to Middle Passage to Mississippi to Mobile
to Missouri to Minneapolis to Miami
Is a story woven for your consumption
You, always at the center,
Feeding on me.
Just feeding on me.

This is not behind you or I
This is still us
This addiction to labels
for the good of
the pale and favored.

We have settled

Into the grooves

Of this dimension

 

We live in deference

to the labels.

 

the seduction of security

restricts and relents

able hearts from disrupting

 

from choosing

to know me outside of the labels

Freedom can’t ring

In a house of lies

You can’t taste my truth

In a big

Bowl of conditions

 

We will roar and ring around this clock again

and again, and again and again

because the love doesn’t really matter when

what you say ain’t what you mean.

And what you speak

ain’t really who you see.

Freedom is choice

That manifests

In self and wealth

I don’t need your privilege

To navigate my own.

 

Freedom is a life

Without labels.

 

 

 

Just Do You: On the Importance of Turning Inward (40 DAY CHALLENGE)

I saw this and it made me pause:


It resonated with me because I believe many of us spend our days working to prove, win, edge out, and convince others of our way, our plan and our worth. But the Navajos nailed it on this one: try as you may, those who do not desire to truly know or value you, won’t. No matter what you do.

NO MATTER WHAT.

They have their own shit, my loves, so don’t even waste your energy trying to drag them into the light of you, if they resist your sunshine.

If you take a small step off of the hamster wheel of attention seeking behaviors, you may come to the same conclusion that I did: your relentless pursuit of approval, validation, whatever has nothing to do with “them.” It’s really about you.

u

You have misplaced your worth in the hands of others. Take that shit back.  What do YOU think of YOU?

This is sticky and uncomfortable for me to sort through because I have so much practice identifying what I don’t like, what I regret, what I lack. Despite my advice and encouragement of others, I struggle to turn this grace inward.  And it has everything to do with building my self-value.

It’s tough even writing this because it pushes against the myth of the strong black woman; as if I can’t be strong in the face of these internal struggles.

In search of a practice to establish and maintain healthier behaviors, I found some incredible advice from Iyanla Vanzant.  This quote stopped me in my tracks:

“When we think we are unworthy, it means that, for some reason, we believe that we have to prove we have a right to our space on the planet, in life, as we are,” she explains. “That means that we will do all manner of wonderfulness to prove we deserve to be here.”

Ok stop.

Go back and read it again.

Now check out Iyanla breaking down the difference between self-worth and self-value, and why we have to build value to drive better relationships and dynamics with others.

Isn’t she just everything?  She always leaves me in awe, and wanting to treat myself better. So I am taking this 40 day challenge and here’smy first crack at the “I am’s”

I am health I am peace I am success I am beauty
I am joy I am freedom I am capable I am thriving
I am liberation I am hope I am love I am light
I am kindness I am grace I am talent I am original
I am worthy I am special I am woman I am strong
I am victory I am human I am real I am cool
I am truth I am grounded I am glory I am wisdom
I am rising I am beauty I am focus I am wanted

I have to be honest, getting to 40 affirmation was challenging for a couple of reasons.First off, it was painfully clear that I’m not wired to celebrate myself.  I struggled to come up with more good stuff to say.  I also worked to use a noun, rather than a verb or adjective as instructed. So saying I am love rather than I am loving, or hope instead of hopeful, and so on. It was disorienting but powerful to make this distinction.  It made me aware of how much I describe and see myself is a product of my interactions with or as a function of what I do for others (helpful, supportive, friend, mother).

cat-wheel

It was also refreshing to speak from a place of looking and moving forward rather than back. In other words, I recognized my bad habit of running through and talking about the same negative shit; calling my soul’s attention to what I don’t like.

This exercise also made me recall a previous word Rock City Pastor Annie Jones-Barnes on the importance of what we choose to call forth – I am STRONG vs. I am TIRED, and how we call forth our reality by what we speak into the universe.  You can see a snippet here (under Videos, look for “I AM”).

Our words not only mean things they hold power; the power to build our lives or limit them. Let’s choose to look inward for our worth and power.  When we do so others recognize, respect and align with our power.  And if they don’t we can be assured it is a reflection of them not us.

fresh-in-40-1

Think you might be down to do the challenge with me? I need some accountability partners! Please join me as part of the #Freshin40 challenge!

 

 

 

 

I Saw His Junk: Mom Trauma is Real

Soooooo….rather than run this nightmare over again and again in my head, I’m sharing it with y’all.

hello-trauma

I’ve shared other moments of mom trauma and why should I stop now? My partner, God love her, said about month ago, that it was time to I have a chat with Zion around the realities of puberty: body changes, sex, etc. While I agreed that it made sense, I was in no rush to navigate yet another awkward ass conversation with a middle schooler. I had planned to have the chat during a ride home but he was on an anime rant and I just let it go.

But this morning was a clear indicator that little man has transitioned into another developmental phase; one I am wholly unfamiliar with. I had no brothers or male cousins I was close to. I recognize I’m imposing gender bias on this shit, but it is what it is. The awkward conversations of my youth involved tampons versus maxi-pads . So although I am a lover of words and deeply committed to disrupt the gender binary that is traditional parenting, I withered like an old raisin thinking about what I need to do. I mean, l shudder at the conversations my mom had with me about feminine hygiene. Hell, I hated even watching sex scenes on TV with her.

Well, I didn’t have to wonder long because God remains all knowing and painfully witty. In my typical morning air of annoyance, I ascended the stairs ready to breathe fire.  Zion is late yet again.  I’ve forced him to take a shower yet again.  And although I hear fumbles in the bathroom, I hear no water. Not a damn drop.  So I’m going up to tell this fool to get the led out.  As I bust into the bathroom, Zion is pantsless and turns around in terror.  Like most adolescents, Zion demands privacy when it comes to his person.Whatever, dude. I mean, I wiped your butt. Repeatedly. Anyway, back to my trauma. As he swings around to get tot he door and close me out, I see it: His junk. My son’s junk!  It’s not a ding a ling or a wee wee anymore. It’s like a real penis…a dick, even. Shit!

funny-gif-black-kid-scared-crying_zpse60a3570

I worked to play it off…like saying,

“Oh my bad dude.  Just telling you to hurry up.”

and

“Uhhh, I’ll just get started on your lunch.”

And as I assembled his delicious turkey wrap (minus tomato), my brain begins to sweat as the “ill equipped parent” alarm rings in my head.  I got major Googling to do! The nerd in me immediately wants to get to researching culturally appropriate strategies for talking about puberty, the list of stuff that goes down in boys’ bodies as they develop, and indicators of emotionally healthy black boys.  I was spinning, y’all.

Then Zion comes down, seemingly unbothered, making his way over to his favorite shoes, and smelling much better than before (thank you Dove for Men!). I frantically get my favorite coffee going to better help my neurotransmitters not only process the young man missile burned into my brain, but hopefully come to settle the hell down and realize he’s ok, and I’m ok despite dragging myself out of another bowl of mom trauma.

My googling delivered some decent results.  I appreciated the Mocha Dad is working through the struggle too. Sadly though, when I just Googled “black boys puberty,” all I saw was a list of articles on how Black boys are entering puberty earlier than White ones, and the negative implications (obesity, even higher suicide rates!).  Um, gee fucking thanks.  SO not helpful. Not to mention it is yet another way the media perpetuates negative difference,dehumanization, and sexualization of Black boys and men. This one was particularly tough:

“It may be largely genetic, as it is well known that different races have different timing in puberty, other factors being equal. But the variation also may be influenced by environmental factors,” Herman-Giddens said. “One thing that concerns me about our overall findings is the expanding gap between the onset of physical development in boys and the maturity of the brain.” –Dr. Marcia Herman-Giddens,  lead investigator at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health

While I recognize there is some empirical data backing up the message, the internet is reckless as hell in not caring that these messages are linked to already prevalent fear and preconceptions of my son

aka they mature faster aka they want sex earlier aka they are a threat aka they must be monitored aka lock them up aka shoot to kill

DO BETTER MEDIA.

So what’s a clueless chick like me to do? Day drink? Well, of course. Second guess every move I make? Done!  But neither actually helps me talk to my son. Just as I’m about to binge watch 90’s Black family sitcoms for guidance, here comes Brown Mamas for the win!

relieved

Y’all, I got a book recommendation, some empathy and most of all some redemption in the fight against mom trauma. Essential lessons:

  • He’ll continue to stink; I’ll continue to be in his ass about it
  • His junk grew; and he’s gonna wanna touch it
  • In all of his awkwardness and mood swings, he is looking for 2 fundamental things: place and purpose

And the angels weeped. My butt cheeks released. I knew what I needed to do:

I will keep loving my son.  I will keep holding him accountable. I will hold him close, show him affection, and teach him to be affectionate. I will celebrate his assets and push him to develop them (even when I don’t understand them…anime, anyone?). I will make sure I don’t own all of this, making sure he engages with his dad and granddad. Whether I like it or not, they can teach him stuff I just can’t. And lastly, I will keep checking his sheets to have the masturbation talk when necessary. This shit never ends, y’all.

Have you experienced mom trauma? What happened and more importantly, what did you do?

Thank God It’s Tuesday

Heavenly Father,

I have a particular affinity for Tuesday morning.  They are a bright spot lying just outside of the chaos and taunting of Monday.  I think that if I were to write, strictly stream of consciousness, for just 30 minutes on a Tuesday morning (kind of like now), I’d write a symphony of words and phrases that would lighten the heat of even the most indignant curmudgeon.  Tuesday morning magic would fill my fingers and then my pen and then the eager eyes/minds of uninspired, faceless Facebook’ers. My Tuesday morning words would be clever and charming (because Tuesday mornings are clever and charming). 

Tuesday morning coffee is much better than Monday’s coffee because I’ve finished mourning the weekend and there is a notable progress towards Wednesday which everyone knows means you are halfway to the weekend.

My Tuesday morning begins with only me to address, nurture, and admire. Thank you for this gift. This gift of me through Your eyes. Me without a coat of other’s paint and pretense. 

  
This feels good and fiercely right. 

Because I learned a long time ago that self-love is a daily practice, not a promise or reward tendered 20 years from now, for time served. 
Monday night I look forward to the mirror on Tuesday morning. It confirms my persistence to keep chasing my purpose. Or catch up to it, rather. 

Thanks for Tuesday, Lord. Amen.

I Love That Shit

It was on my heart to send, spread, cultivate and generate some love. For no other reason than to remind us that love does exists despite all the evidence to the contrary.  

Despite my orientation toward silence, solidarity and the safety of hiding under the yellow duvet that covers my bed, I love the gift of life. I love the complexities of the human spirit and the brazen magic of the will to live.

You are a miracle. Because of (not despite) your broken, wretched flaws and your tattered conscience. 

Your miraculous life reminds me that I too can make miracles. Because you move mountains with broken arms, I know that my heart can bear another break. The twisted humor we share gives me the love I need to remain foolish and brave.

Love y’all. Thanks for sticking with me. Thanks for staying in the struggle. For getting up again and again despite the failures and invitations to live quiet and paralyzed.

Love is a verb. It gives life to you just as you are, without condition or pretense. I just want you to know that your existence, no matter how many regrets you have, enriches mine. 

Keep living and doing and trying and giving yourself to this world. Despite the outcome.

I love that shit.