Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mo(u)rning Sickness: On Rebirth

My corrupt concern will not replace
what you once needed
but I am locked into my own addictions
and offer you my help, one eye
for my own station.

(from "To My Daughter The Junkie on a Train" by Audre Lorde)

Some women wait for something
to change and nothing
does chance
so they change

(from "Stations" by Audre Lorde)

From a train, to a bus, to a dusty corner of LaGuardia airport. I am standing above a dusty trashcan in a half-way roped off corner heaving up my guts and the half pint of wellness tea I drank at my sister's house. An off duty TSA working woman of color sits far enough away not to say anything, probably deciding that I am secretly pregnant and troubled and too needy for this time of the morning.

How did I get here?

This is a story about stations. About buses and changes. About sickness and mourning. This is an embodied parable of what it means to love black women. This is an acidic pathway to interdependence, sample towards an antidote to scarcity and selfishness. This is an elegy for the bubble I lost along the way.

I got off the train just in time to run for the bus. And as I stepped on the bus I saw her face, this black woman, maybe in her late 40's and I was struck. So much negative energy this early in the morning. What settles in our faces? What do we give back to the world? What torture made this woman's face a gargoyle, fearsome monument to her own pain, her survival in process.

I walked passed her and sat several rows away.

I heard this same woman shouting into her cell phone and I was struck. What is it about the loud black woman in us that is frightening, that is brazen, that wants to destroy decorum, that wants you to mind our business.

I tried to make my own quieter phone call, but my battery was low. I tried to make an energy bubble around myself like the reiki master taught me. But it didn't work. She was shouting and cursing, ostensibly to the person on the phone, but in reality to everyone in range. The children, the old folks, the gentrifying hipster couples. I could not not hear her. What is it about black women that is undeniable?

She was in pain and someone needed to know it. Everyone needed to know it. She was through. She was on her way to her sister's house. She was going to take the last of her money and buy her grandbaby a bike. Because she was through with this man who was using her. Who was taking all of her money. Who was disrepecting her. Who made her feel disgusted as soon as she arrived on her own block. Who dared to to put his hands on her. Who was never going to understand. She was done. She had seen her mother abused. She had survived abuse her self. She was done. Her mother told her to never expect anything from men and she was tired. She was tired of having her heart stomped and taken and broken and spat on and shoved back in her face like it wasn't her's she was tired. I'm tired. I'm tired. I'm tired. She repeated it. And the tears came. She wasn't the only person repeating this refrain. This moment was terrible not because it was new, but because it was recurring, intergenerational, traumatic, shared among far to many black women, far too many people in the world.

And the damn reiki bubble couldn't deny that. This woman was a vessel where all the toxic terror that uses and abuses black women on this planet found a leak. Her eyes, her throat making itself hoarse was a release point of pain. Her broken heart radioactive, unbearable, uncontainable, leaking all over the bus. The little boy with the braids across from her didn't know her, and probably couldn't understand her words but he just started crying and crying and his mom, black young and exasperating could not make him stop either, could not enforce the rule that the bus is not a place for crying out loud. The bus is a place to be quiet and sit still on your way through your life.

So I was quiet and sat still. The woman got off the bus in Astoria, walking away from us towards her sister's house. And I was struck. Where is our sister's house? Is our sister's house the slight space in our hearing where we believe each other? Where we validate the truth for each other, that we are priceless and powerful. That the pain we experience at the hands of those who abuse us is unacceptable, brutal and undeserved? Walking towards her sister's house. Where was I going. And my body tried to hold it. All the putrid evidence of black women being treated like trash in this world that we make work every day. And I couldn't do it. I got off the bus, walked into the airport and walked to a trash can and heaved stomach acid and wellness tea and whatever else was so horrifying and toxic about being a black woman and loving black women and not being able to pretend we are not going through it so hard in this life that my body could not hold it.

Because the truth of the oppression of black women is unacceptable. Undeniable. Intolerable even to our bodies. My body could not hold the trauma of my unchosen sister. What do our bodies to our own trauma unreleased? Build walls around it that become ulcers, tumors, cysts?
The truth is that years ago, when I actually lived in New York and road the bus routinely I might have been able to ignore that woman, keep her a separate person and keep my body inside itself. When I lived in New York I walked and rode as a survivor. I automatically let my spirit leave my body quickly, closed my self off from the energy of other people. This is the city where I was sexually assaulted. Where I learned that my own voice could leave me and that a person who I trusted could almost destroy me. This was a place where I carried my own pain. Quietly lost more weight than I could afford to lose and never made a scene on the bus, and never got taken over by someone elses story on stops between my own excuses for silence.

Since, I have moved to a quieter, more intimate, less random place. The place of my healing and my growth into a person brave enough to put away my weapons of non-presence. I have grown into a person who senses the energy of the people around me and finds a place to transform or embrace it in my own heart. I have reclaimed my loving, open, body, my spirit of passionate presence on this planet. But my loving body, back in the space of random pain did not have a neat place to put the trauma of black women battered, threatened and demeaned. It it did not have a gentle way to transform the energy. So I stood there heaving until I could breathe again with the clarity: loving black women, at this time, in this world, is a messy thing. Is a difficult thing. Impossible for me to swallow now. Impossible to deny.

And I didn't have anything to offer that sister other than my presence. And I don't think she could even see me past her pain. But she was going to her sister's house. Deep into the place where black women are loved unconditionally, and believed and honored. I had no way to pretend her pain wasn't the most important thing happening, wasn't real, wasn't horrific.

So the assumption of the quiet TSA officer, a sister, who saw me heaving and said nothing, was correct. Mo(u)rning sickness. A signal of something growing, some hard truth of the body reshaping itself and clarifying what it takes for life to start here, with a love for black women that cannot be turned off like a light switched or swallowed like a secret. Clarity that the world is reborn with us and our messy love for each other happening everyday. A checkpoint on my journey from "mean-faced black women make me sick" to "sister I love you and I can't pretend that anything else is as true as us." Mo(u)rning sickness. A signal that rebirth is happening and it might not be cute, but it is on its way. A reminder that our rebirth is where community happens. Our bodies are where community happens. And our truth is undeniable.

So on the eve of Indigo Days, the week long immersion in black warrior healer brilliance that I've instigated to midwife me into my own rebirth as community I send all of you love that can't be held down and truth that won't be denied, and my love, all the time, no matter what.


P.S. About Indigo Days:

Black warrior healers unite and be reborn! The world will never be the same.

Non-financial and financial contributions welcome!


Thursday June 9th

10am BREAKFAST (the Eleanor at Rigsbee)

10:30-1pm The P-Word and Other Fragile Promises: Movement and Poetics with Aya Hope (the Eleanor at Risgbee)


3-5pm Open Healing Sessions and Stations (Eleanor at Rigsbee)

5:30pm DINNER

6pm Bright: On Clarity and Power Lucille Clifton ShapeShifter Survivor Writing Workshop (the Eleanor at Rigsbee)

(more info about the ShapeShifter Survivor series here:


Friday June 10th


8am Waking Up-Cultivating breath, awareness, and embodiment -Yoga with Michelle Johnson (Inspiration Station)

10am Assata graduates from Elementary School!!! (Chorus of praise at E.K. Powe Elementary School Graduation)

LUNCH (discussion topic: rituals and rites of passage)

1pm -3pm Energy Healing Workshop with CC (Inspiration Station)

3pm Journal Making with designer Mariel Eaves (the Eleanor at Rigsbee)

5pm-7pm graduation celebration for our young Indigos Assata and Naeemah!!!!!


8pm The Power of Saying No!: A Playlist and Dance Party of Release: Afterparty curated by Moya Bailey (location TBA)


Saturday June 11th

BREAKFAST (discussion topic: birth and rebirth: beyond control)

10am Black Women Birthing Resistance Workshop on Indigo and Cotton Root Contraceptive Legacies with Tamika Middleton (Inspiration Station)

LUNCH (discussion topic: fight and flight: re-envisioning survival)

1pm "Embodying Sanctuary: Creating, Holding and Facilitating Sacred Space" with L'erin Asantewa

3pm Wata' Rituals Body Ecology Performance and Workshop (Grace Garden at Durham Central Park)

DINNER (discussion topic: Do You Really Want to Be Well?)

7pm Afro-Surrealist Dark Delicious Divinatory Writing Workshop with Almah Lavon Rice

9pm Optional field trip to Greensboro for Laila Nur's EP release party!!!


Sunday June 12th

BREAKFAST (discussion prompt: audre lorde and dream journals)

10: 30 am Activate Your Dreams: Creative Movement/Dance Session with Binahkaye Joy aka Joyism! (Inspiration Station)

12pm -I Know I’ve Been Changed: Queer Black Sunday School with Julia Wallace (Inspiration Station)


2pm Blues Porch Concert with Laila Nur and Kim Arrington (Inspiration Station)

DINNER (Sunday Dinner...Lex's B-day community potluck!) (Inspiration Station)

7pm Blues Bible Study: Sacred and Secular Healing Podcast with Leah Burke (Inspiration Station)


Monday June 13th

10 am Yoga with Michele Berger


1pm “Feeling-up Your Emotional Body”- Learning the Sounds and Organs of Emotion with Valencia Wombone

4pm Marvelous Menstruating Moments Workshop with Mya Hunter-SpiritHouse Youth Coordinator (for kids and young people getting ready to menstruate) (Inspiration Station)

DINNER at the Summit Farm!!!!

6pm Collaging as a Healing Practice with Rashida James-Saadiya (location TBA)


Tuesday June 14th


River Walk at Eno River Park

5-8pm Lavender Legacies Workshop: Remembering Herbal Remedies (with Kifu Faruq and Afiya Carter)


Wednesday June 15th


(full moon) 1pm Butterflies and Bliss with Racheal Derello (North Carolina Museum of Life and Science)

6pm Natural Hair Playdate with Chanel Laguna (Lex's Awesome New Neighbor!!!!) (at the Inspiration Station)

DINNER in Hillsborough and Indigo Seed Starting!


Thursday June 16th



Trip to North Carolina Botanical Gardens (Wild Spiked Indigo is their wildflower of the year!!!!)


6pm Gentle: On Cultivating Self Love: Lucille Clifton ShapeShifter Survivor Session

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