Sunday, December 7, 2014

C(h)ant. Breathe: Coming Back to Breath in Honor of Eric Garner and Many More

Yesterday I had the honor of bringing Black Feminist Breathing to the BOLD National Gathering which took place on a reclaimed plantation here in North Carolina.  Sister-Comrade Genius Facilitator Adrienne Maree Brown describes BOLD as the current Black Power Movement and beautifully contextualizes yesterday's miracles here:
In preparation for the paradoxical and necessary task of bringing Black Feminist Breathing into a moment where as Black folks we are collectively remembering and struggling with Eric Garner's last words "I can't breathe," I offered myself and the participants this meditation.  Maybe it can be a healing part of your journey back to breath.

C(h)ant.   Breathe.

Dedicated to Eric Garner
*take a deep breath everywhere you see a star 
return to the place
where you learned
how to breathe
where night washed itself
into your dreams
to the place
where you learned
breathing was bigger
than you
or your fears of
dogs bats and sea creatures
and would continue
all night long
without you trying
to keep it going
human freedom is like that
as the ocean at night
sometimes the crashing is just louder
like right now
we are feeling it in our chests
right now
the underwater knowing
of upside down justice
that has to right itself
that hasn’t righted itself
the sinking feeling
that the chokehold of the state
is more persistent than the ocean
it is not
if I could
I would bring all our people
right next to the ocean
to just sit
and breathe with the ancestors
just listen
knowing all this sand
was bone
and the stars
are just us
across the black history
of the universe

i want every last breath
to be a tide going out
so we can imagine
some baby somewhere
gasping into time
with an unbroken custody
of air
i don’t want the choking struggle
the staccato of bullets
shattering the song
of what we know
but sometimes
even as the ocean
slaps the sand
it sounds shocked to me
shoreline shaping impact
this is happening

I imagine
Eric Garner
becoming the ocean
like Margaret Garner’s baby
awakening stream
how all blood flows back
to the salt in this water
how something

Friday, December 5, 2014

It Will Not Always Be This Way: Prophecy Poem or Impermanence After Phillis

"Frontispiece Remastered" Collage by Alexis Pauline Gumbs
Last night after laying our bodies in the street in protest, while advocating and praying for our comrades who had been arrested, while grieving and grieving the loss of black lives, the audacity of state violence, while remembering the police murder of Fred Hampton and honoring the resilience of our beautiful communities, 5 black women gathered in the name of Phillis Wheatley.  230 years ago today Phillis Wheatley/Peters the first Black person to publish a collection of poems in the United States, witness to the American Revolution, acquaintance of a Queen and a President, died free, cold and poor somewhere in Boston.
Our conversation, blessed by the literary and historical expertise of Dr. Tara Bynum, ranged from the possibility of "ordinary" Black life in a context where just being a live and Black is framed as not just extraordinary but abnormal, to speculations of the layered and syncretic spiritual cosmologies present in Wheatley's work and her correspondence with her friend Obour Tanner, to Morissonian (as in Toni) reflections on the normalcy of evil, to raw honesty about slave-funded academic institutions that continue to enslave black scholars, to just wondering where our friends are and if they are okay.
Inspired by Wheatley's invocation of the sacred nine in her poetry, we mused a while and generated resources of laughter, love, epic realness, star-knowledge, movement, history, tragedy, song and hymns to share with each other as a reminder that the institutions that harm us are not our only sources of power, we are resources for each other.   Finally we created this poem together out of our outrage at this moment and our faith that our lives and our world can be different.  This is a prophecy poem offering on the date of Phillis Wheatley's ascension.  May all of our ancestors receive it and join us in transforming life on earth.
Prophecy Poem (impermanence after Phillis)
by the participants in Bright Black Broadcast #3: Phillis Wheatley

black bodies disappearing into death, state-sanctioned choke-holds.
it will not always be this way

the impossibility of breathing.
it will not always be this way.

I listen to my ancestors when they say
it will not always be this way

to steady my steps I have to pray
it will not always be this way

it cannot always be this way
it will not always be this way

it will not always be this way,
i will continue to say

it will not always be this way,
as I smile remembering what's gone is for yesterday

liberation is possible - perhaps not today.
it will not always be this way

hasten the change, no more lives should pay.
it will not always be this way.

y’all must got me f—d up
it will not always be this way

you must not know who taught me to pray
it will not always be this way

trickster teacher chaos clay
it will not always be this way

i’m gonna be here anyway
it will not always be this way

it will not always be this way
there is more than one way

gather the children and tell them
it will not always be this way

remind each other that
it will not always be this way

name your babies
it will not always be this way

the ancestors promise
it will not always be this way

baptize in the name of
it will not always be this way

we make joy
because it will not always be this way

i was born to love and play
It will not always be this way

we will dance into the black light of a brand new day,
it will not always be this way


If you want your own limited edition print of the "Frontispiece Remastered" collage of Phillis Wheatley you can get on with your next $35 donation to Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind.   Be sure to include "Wheatley Print" and your current address with your donation: