Friday, August 22, 2008

out of babyland

in the past couple of months, i have begun to make some major changes in my life. i started to really think about who i am and who i am becoming deeply as i weaned my 1 year old daughter. for the past two years i have spent my life in baby-land: pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. babyland in many ways is like an altered state of consciousness. my body housed and fed another living being. it is a beautiful exhausting heartbreaking space to live in.

weaning my daughter, re-viewing and re-formulating life is happening in conjunction with my first saturn return. when the old and unnecessary structures of my life fall away and i determine what is useful to who i am. it is a bit scary.

i have been thinking about the rebecca/alice walker sadness. it paralyzes me. i have loved both of their writings. and i am an unconventional black mom raising a biracial kid. her father's family have so much more resources than i do. and i struggle for time to write to read to think. i would love to drive a 100 miles away for a few days and write. *sigh* i also struggled with a mother who seemed to put her work and her reputation before my best interests. i would have loved to have a mother who could be involved in my life without making it 'about her'.

i wonder what my daughter will say about me? will she rail against the way i raised her? ahhh...i can hear her now: you took me to dangerous war zones, locked yourself away so you could 'create', never let me develop traditional bonds with my extended family, wrote openly about how you resented being a mother, referred to me as a 'parasite' when i was still in utero, refused to take me to a medical doctor even when i had a high fever for 2 days, fed me unhealthy food, never had a stable home and bribed me with a lollipop so that you could write an insignificant blogpost (that was 10 minutes ago). all of that before she was 2 years old...

so part of these changes i have decided to make are more writing time, healthier eating, studying more, more long walks, more bodywork, being a practicing member of an online spiritual practice community (still looking), and a more concerted effort to get my work 'out there'...which in another sense means i am committed to being an even worse mom.

right now my daughter has abandoned the lollipop and is throwing books into a box. no, now she is trying to crawl into the box. the lollipop is stuck to my leg.

i hope that when she is older she will not feel that i abandoned her to travel and write and love. but i am sure that she will...sometimes...because i refuse to be a martyr for my child. if i were then she would learn to be a martyr and i owe her more than that...

right now she is standing on the box, yelling no over and over again. when i smile at her she stops for a moment and then starts proclaiming no again.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Love Letter to a Bus Rider

(X-Posted at Waiting 2 Speak)

This post is partially inspired by readings completed for Session II: Mothering Ourselves of Summer of Our Lorde.

The third myth of black women's self-perfection according to Audre Lorde:
"That perfection is possible, a correct expectation from ourselves and each other, and the only terms of acceptance, humanness. (Not how very useful that makes us to the external institutions!) If you are like me, then you will have to be a lot better than I am in order to even be good enough. And you can't be because no matter how good you are you're still a Black woman, just like me. (Who does she think she is?) So any act or idea that I could accept or at least examine from anyone else is not even tolerable if it comes from you, my mirror image. If you are not THEIR image of perfection, and you can't ever be because you are a Black woman, then you are a reflection upon me. We are never good enough for each other. All your faults become magnified reflections of my own threatening inadequacies. I must attack you first before our enemies confuse us with each other. But they will anyway."
I am processing being yelled at by a young black woman on the bus today because her nephew was hitting the back of my seat, because her nephew was hitting my back, because I looked up from my book and back at him with a pointed glance meant to condemn her maternal misbehavior, because who-did-I-think-I-was to look at her nephew any kind of way, because "she act like somebody wanna touch her anyway!"

Who was wrong?

Me? For the quiet glance I sent backwards that was meant to let her know I did not appreciate having my personal space violated any more than it already was on a crowded metro bus? Was I vibrating my class/color privilege from what I thought was a neutral posture of preoccupied scholarship?

Her? For giving a five year old boy liberties with my body and distancing herself from me in the same breath as someone too good, who thinks she's too good, who thinks someone wants to touch her, who thinks that book, or that backpack, or that aloof stance is going to protect her from the reality of black poverty in the air around me?
"I must attack you first before our enemies confuse us."
But if "they will anyway" why this anger? Why this vitrolic self-hatred that spirals outwards from her to me and back again?

Why did I look down my nose so easily at her nephew, before I knew he was her nephew, when I thought he was her son, when I thought she was just another young, black mother with an out of control child?
"One Black woman sits and silently judges another, how she looks, how she acts, how she impresses others. The first woman's scales are weighted against herself."
Black Girl with a Nephew, I am writing this to you. We both made mistakes earlier today. And I hold you accountable for your anger. But I don't hold you responsible for it. How can I? I love you as I love myself. Which may not be saying much--not yet. But perhaps we can work on this together.
"How often have I demanded from another Black woman what I have not dared to give myself--acceptance, faith, enough space to consider change? How often have I asked her to leap across differences, suspicion, distrust, old pain? How many times have I expected her to jump the hideous gaps of our learned despisals alone, like an animal trained through blindness to ignore the precipice? How many times have I forgotten to ask this question?"
After all, I can't heal as a woman of color until I begin to see my image more fully in the image of you, my sister. At the end of the day, I'm more in love with womankind than I am with my own individual self.
"I am hungry for Black women who will not turn from me in anger and contempt even before they know me or hear what I have to say. I am hungry for Black women who will not turn away from me even if they do not agree with what I say. We are, after all, talking about different combination of the same borrowed sounds."
I am starving for it, actually. Wasting away to my bones for a taste of it. Lusting in every cell of my body with desire for it.

That includes you, Black Girl with a Nephew. Like it or not. Disdain it or not. Reject it or not. Love is love. And I am a jealous, brazen, warrior lover, and I won't be taking no for an answer. My love doesn't need your permission or acknowledgment. It just is. As my anger just is. As I just am. As the feminine Spirit just is.

And, meanwhile, I "reach, advancing with the best of what I have to offer held out at arms length before me--myself."

I hope we grapple again in person, Black Girl with a Nephew. But I will grapple with you in spirit for the rest of my life.

Have a blessed day,


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Magazine article submissions are now being accepted for the new QBG (Quirky Black Girls) Magazine. Created "for Black Girls who refuse boxes," QBG Magazine aims to provide a forum in which progressive Black women can share their perspectives on politics, culture, and visions of a perfect world. For a more detailed description of the magazine's mission check out the QBG Manifesta!

We are accepting submissions for and by "Black Girls who refuse boxes." Features will range from 1,000 to 4,000 words, and consist of critiques, essays, news articles, reviews, activist profiles, and personal narratives. We will also except poetry and artwork.

As QBG Magazine is a new ezine, we are unable to provide honoraria for submissions. There is currently no limit on the number of articles submitted .

Submit all entries and questions to

September issue deadline: August 29, 2008.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

i've recently started trying to find a language to talk about patriarchy outside of my scholar/activist/qbg circles. it's easy to forget that catcalls, half-naked women in every rap video, the need to "keep our legs closed" and other forms of heterosexism are "normal" for the majority of people we interact with on a daily basis... below is an entry from one of my blogs that i posted last week:

earlier this week i was riding on the bus through harlem, sitting next to these two beautiful children and their grandmother. the girl reminded me a lot of myself when i was about four or five: wide-eyed, talkative, and extremely inquisitive. she asked questions about everything from why certain people wore certain kinds of hats to whether or not she'd be able to eat her favorite food for dinner. i smiled and couldn't help but watch her in action. her brother was equally active and loud, but (slightly) less talkative. the grandmother seemed agitated... and, though it took me a minute to recognize why, i felt that something about the dynamic was problematic. the grandmother kept fussing at the brother and sister, but most of her frustration seemed to be directed toward the little girl. she kept telling her not to be so loud, yet the little boy was talking at the exact same level. then she told the little girl, "you're a girl. you shouldn't talk so loud." and, of course, the little girl ignored her, yet i couldn't help but wonder how such words will shape her as she becomes a teen and grows into a woman.

i want to propose that patriarchy be considered a form of abuse... that conditioning little girls to behave in a way different from their male counterparts and against their instincts is a conscious way of teaching both boys and girls that girls are inferior, and that their only hope for "positive" social recognition is to distort themselves.... becoming a person who often feels insincere, unrecognizable, incomplete, and/or lost. it is the process through which we come to sacrifice our dreams, urges, and desires to accommodate other people. even more amazing - it is the process through which we learn come to see this unhealthy state of thinking and being as normal, and then police other people who challenge our ascribed roles.

patriarchal abuse is cyclical, passed down with each generation. it is why similar types of unhealthy relationships reappear over and over again. it is done to us by our family and friends, and we do it to each other.

patriarchal abuse is why black men who don't fit the ascribed model of masculinity walk around in pain because they are often unable to feel comfortable around men who seem more adept. why men who seem to fit the model feel it appropriate to become violent with their energy, words, thoughts, and even hands when made uncomfortable by men who don't.

patriarchal abuse teaches boys and girls to measure their social value by the number of people they have slept with, allowing men to achieve their "manhood" through sexual conquests while women are made to feel guilty for each partner. it permits a healthy dialogue around sex, female empowerment/entitlement, and sexual health. it demands one model for relationships: monogamous, heterosexual unions leading to marriage.

patriarchal abuse occurs not just when a girl is physically violated and verbally accosted, but also every time that a girl is told to be quiet, keep her legs closed, not speak her mind, be friendly, change her appearance to be more acceptable, etc., etc.

patriarchal abuse it stifles our creative potential for imagining and creating an alternative world, one that promotes true self love and love of others. one that would liberate us from materialism (i'm far from making the break).

i want to find a way to raise my children differently, but i'm not sure that it's possible...

Monday, August 4, 2008

black woman's behind = avocados?

and the obsession with black women's asses continues... check out my friend's july 31st blog entry: