She Said, Hold Me

I just want to be held

safe

in your arms.

Let me know that you’re here.

Limbs entwined as our hearts hover above

waiting

holding the space

in silent trust and understanding

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Untitled (Letting Go)

I’m done mourning.

The ceremonial black

that signals the end of a lost cause.

How long before you exit my brain and give me back the completed soul I was before I met you?

I’m done waiting

to live my life as a phoenix does when it rises from the ashes after

exploding

all insides and lost hopes.

I’m done hoping

that someone will be brave enough to pick up what you left

broken and unwanted.

I slowly take off this cloak of hurt and

wrap it carefully and reverently.

One day

maybe soon

I’ll use it again.

I

step

into a new cloak

Red

for

Passion

and I am

unashamed

Talkin’ Bout Allyship

“Ohhhhhh dontcha know talkin bout a revolution sounds like a WHISPER.” See what I did there? See that? You see it? Mannnnn, I shoulda known I was so gay when I ran around the house pretending to be Meshell Ndegeocello but singing Tracy Chapman. That’s how you know. Also, if I’m in my 20’s and OBSESSED with Be Steadwell, then yea. Just confirming my existence. Y’all. I just finished this documentary called L Word: Mississippi and woa. It was about LGBTQ but mostly lesbian experiences in Mississippi and I actually cried. I don’t cry at films. But the ignorance and hurt projected toward homosexuality in that movie. I was mostly SO hurt at internalized homophobia. I know I possess some real internalized racism but to see both internalized racism and homophobia on a gorgeous woman of color was heartbreaking. I know, that was a less weird intro than the rest but you know I gotta warm it up before I let my weird flag fly. ANNNNDDDDD that leads us right into the topic for today. Allyship with a lil bit of feminism sprinkled in there!

As a black queer woman of color, I find myself really and truly angry with white or white passing women who claim to be allies to any of the struggles lately. Especially straight white female feminists. I know that I mentioned before that I’m all about action. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said “Change never rolls in on wheels of inevitability.” If you are an ally that does not “Act” then you my dear are not an “Act-ivist”. See what I did there? It’s great to have amazing conversations about issues, but at the end of the day if I didn’t DO anything, then what have I accomplished with my day, my life, my existence? But I’m getting SO far ahead of myself here. First, we gotta talk about what an ally to a cause is. Where’s my handy dandy Merriam-Webster courtesy of the googs?

Ally: (verb) to join (yourself) with another person, group, etc, in order to get or give support.

Koo right? Now for shits and giggs, let’s go for Activism.

Activism: (noun) a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue.

Okay. So both of these positions stem from support. Can one be present without the other? Can I be an ally and not practice activism or in order to be an ally, must I practice activism? Yoda says think on this he will, but in the meantime, let’s talk about why I’m concerned, annoyed and in possession of trust issues without a good shrink.

I am a black person with a black parent who not only was a single mom in raising me and my sibling, but was also from the baby boom generation. ‘Trust no white people” was the mantra in my mothers’ house. I don’t blame her, it was just how she grew up. Then, I went to nearly all white schools my entire life and received constant messages of inferiority from white people that most of the time, I was actually smarter, prettier, and worked harder than. Then, I’m queer. Well fuck a duck. right? I’m not a singular special case. Ask a woman of color. We all have our “horror stories” and “war wounds” that white women all look at us teary eyed for and go “Oh, I didn’t know.” (Cue eye roll)

I’m in the process of reading a lot of books written by amazing black women: Pearl Cleage, Angela Davis, Patricia Hill Collins, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Octavia Butler, L.A. Banks, etc. Most recently I picked up a novel by the name of “Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America. For the first time ever, this book tracks stats on both racism and sexism across lines of skin shade and queerness for black women. Basically, ALL TYPES of black women were incorporated into this study done BY black women, FOR black women and the stats are staggering and frightening.  Whiteness is killing us. Blackness is killing us. Existing in this world is killing us and no one is listening as we scream for help and support.

Now let’s talk about some allyship.  I am so often faced with the same kind of whiteness projecting feminist wrapped in a different blanket. Here’s my issue. There are so many people, white women in particular that I know of who say, “Yes! You’re right! This is wrong and we should work together!” Yet somehow my sisters and I are always left holding the bag. In a room full of white people, we are the outliers. When a white woman suggests an exercise that would require mostly white students to get up and say that they assume an identity of an oppressed person, that hurts the oppressed in the room, not the oppressor. Transfer this conversation to a very real room where this dynamic exists and when the POC in the room who happens to be a black woman attempts to call attention to the problematic nature and she is quickly silenced with “Well, that’s not REALLY appropriation”, then you my friend are NOT AN ALLY. When a movie night is suggested monthly by mostly white friends and a black woman attempts to straighten her crooked room of everyday life by saying that she would prefer at least once to watch a film that presents at LEAST one person of color and the white women in the room say ” You know I understand that this moment is problematic, but I enjoy watching other movies because they make me feel good”, then that is SILENCING HER and condemning her back to the crooked room that she crawled out of. If something happens in a room that silences women of color and you don’t stick up for it, but you apologize in a quiet corner where no one can hear or see you but the two of you, YOU ARE NOT AN ALLY. That is participating in the very ignorant acts that you claim are atrocious. If you date a POC, this does not make you knowledgeable nor card carrying in speaking on issues we face. Hold the phone. Hold the space. Check thyself before thou wrecks thyself.

Do you get my point? White women, take a step back. If you actually want change, you have to realize and recognize that fighting for women is fighting for all women. If the white male gaze grants you something that appeals to you, and only you, and you take it as though you were just awarded candy at the county fair, you are not fighting for all women. That is not allyship. You don’t have agency over women of color experiences. Speak on whiteness. You are well aware what that is.

 

peace, love, and true allyship,

Cathy Xo

 

 

Snowpocalypse & Deserving Better

EY YO.Ey yO.EY yo.EY YO!!! No diggity. No doubt. uh.

Wassup yall! Just. Always expect a big weird intro from me. I will never go right into the topic at hand or give a nice cute intro. It will always be weird, and thus we begin. So, it’s like a snowpocalypse outside. I hate snow. Last year sealed it for me. It’s time to move to a place where there is no snow. ANYWAY, this blog is gonna have a lot of music involved. One, cuz I’m a musician and Two, cuz music is life. I was on the bus this morning on my way to a rehearsal and one of my favorite artists Kehlani, came on. Cloud 19 is a genius mixtape. If you haven’t heard it, stop reading this blog, open a new tab and jam and then come back. Ok, now that you’ve done this. Her song, Deserve Better, hit me. Opening goes like this:

“Lemme ask you first, what did you think when you saw me? Was I something that you wanted or only just another cure for lonely, another you don’t plan on catchin’ after throwing? Oh I spent a lot of time fixing my heart, gathering my peace of mind and I worked so goddamn hard. Now I love the girl I become, I finally know the wrong I was done and I deserve better.”

I had heard the song a million times and jammed out, but today, it hit me. I stopped. rewound. played. rewound again. played again. This one verse/song described all that I’d been through in this year. This year/2015 has been a whirlwind of people, places, emotions and status. I know, weird. Let’s start a little farther back. In winter of last year, I directed a play. That winter was hard in so many ways #yetanothersnowpocalypse and I somehow found myself in a romantic situation from this play that was at most absolutely bonkers and at least a lil cray.

In high school, I was pretty confident in my queerness, strongly bisexual. I dated men and women and was polyamorous before I even really understood what that meant. It just was natural to me. College kinda changed the game when I leaned more on the straight side in presentation but was still attracted to who I was attracted to but wasn’t super vocal about it. Post college, I wasn’t dating anyone, solidly confident being alone but not lonely and learning who I was and wanted to be.

Back to last winter, I found myself in a relationship that was decidedly heterosexual. He identified as being a man and possessed a penis. I realized pretty early on that this heterosexual monogamous mesh wasn’t really working. I felt like a traitor, searching for validation. I had a “boyfriend” so shouldn’t I be fulfilled? I was committed to one person, like society says, so I finally had it right? How was I queer, probably more so than ever before in my life and with him? Our relationship was SUPER intense. Five months long, sex very early and passionately, lots of traveling on trains (He lived in Boston and I in Rhode Island), he was biracial and preferred to surround himself with whiteness, I am black and very active in incorporating POC into my life. Although I realized that monogamy and heterosexuality wasn’t working for me, I stayed loyal, refusing to give up cuz I’m just stubborn like that. He cheated, leaving me with no alternative but to end things. I don’t think of him often, but when I do, I send loving thoughts and peace in his direction and keep it moving.

While going through the break-up process I began thinking about loneliness. A big part of me believes loneliness to be a very real social construct. Is that a contradiction? Yep. Am I gonna take it back? Nope. Here’s why. (btw, I use “I” a lot, not because I’m super selfish but because the tendency of human beings to co-opt another person’s experience and generalize is not something I am cool with. Therefore, speaking from I.) I can be lonely whether or not someone is sitting in my room with me or taking up space in my life. It actually isn’t at all about them. It is about me, not having something that I need but that only I can give to me. Meanwhile, society makes me think that if I just have a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” or “job” or “child” or “money” that suddenly that loneliness disappears, and like nah brah. I realize that for many people, it’s not me they really want. I’m just a cure for lonely, another they don’t plan on catching after throwing. I heard a quote by Bob Marley once that basically said (forgive me for paraphrasing) the person who awakens a womans’ love with no plan for actually loving her is an asshole. I agree. Why fall in love, embrace this other persons’ energy and being, only to walk away after like a few months? But do people go into situations like “Ima fuck this shit up, but oh well?” I don’t. But I’m also super picky about who gets entry passed my walls of stone.

Life for me is just about trying, failing, picking myself up, learning from the fail, maybe apologizing, maybe just walking away and continuing to live. It isn’t over, I’m not dead, so obviously I still have work to do. What is it that we human beings deserve? If I fucked up, do I deserve to be punished? Is the punishment the continual fuck up if I keep going down the same road? Sometimes I think, the people who are the most interesting and have the closest spaces in my heart aren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. They’re just doing the work to figure it out. I spend a lot of time fixing my heart, collecting my peace of mind and moving forward. So maybe I just deserve some time. Truth is, besides honesty and love, I dunno what I deserve and I only say I deserve those two because I think I try my hardest to give them. So maybe that’s it. I deserve what I give. I’m koo wit it.

 

Peace, love & survival of snow

 

Cathy Xo

Introductions & Other Weird Things

HELLLOOOOOOOOOOO blog space, thing, world. Yea. That works. SO! I decided to start a blog. Short story shorter, I’m a young 20-something living in a New England city (Hopefully for not much longer). I’m black American, queer and all about the theater. Maybe the blog title gave that away? I usually don’t do internet-y (yea it’s a word) things. I don’t have Bookface or Instagram and Snapchat confusses me. I’m a low-key nerd. I read lots of books, articles, and blogs. I listen to soundcloud for my music jones, I watch web series’ and basically no tv, unless The L Word on Netflix counts as television. I’m currently a theater educator at a theater company here in good ole New England for another eight months. I act, sing, dance, direct, teach, write, basically, I’ll do anything as long as I can be in the room where art is being facilitated and created. I’m social justice active for my QPOC (Queer People of Color). I’m all about blowing the injustice up and dropping the mic and bouncing.  So that’s my introduction. On to the Other Weird Things!

Passion. For the last 6 months, this word has been coming up in my life a lot. Sometimes as a descriptive word, sometimes for blame, sometimes to congratulate, sometimes for excuses, sometimes for sex, etc. So, I finally gave in and just looked up the word that I already knew the definition for, but alas, sometimes like Nike, you just gotta do it. Passion according to Merriam-Webster. (Thank you google)

Passion: (noun) a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something

or a strong feeling that causes you to act in a dangerous way

or a strong sexual or romantic feeling for someone.

What got me, in relation to this word coming my way was the many definitions. I mean damn. I could either be excited, dangerous, or boutta go in bedroom style. The second one caught my eye the most. A strong feeling that causes you to act in a dangerous way. Let me explain, I’m a person about action. Your words mean nothing in my book if not followed up with some action. I feel this way about all facets of my life, my work, my love, my spirituality. What do we leave behind in this world if not our actions? How did we make this world a better place than how it was before? So many times, as a young woman I feel like having “passion”, the feeling of an emotion so strongly that I just have to act (ok maybe sometime it’s in a dangerous way but not always) is looked at as being angry. I’ve been fighting the black woman stereotype all my life. But why? Isn’t feeling emotion a natural thing? Why is it that somehow in the body of a black queer woman, that’s seen as being threatening…dangerous?

Who else noticed that one word popped up the most in those three definitions? Strong. So then Webster helped a sistah out and I looked up that one.

Strong: (adjective) Having great physical power or ability

or not easy to break or damage

or not sick or damaged

Well. Once again, the second one made me pause. The strongest, most passionate people I know have been damaged and risen above, learned, and become better, but never have they broken. Is being strong, really about being invincible? Is strength a choice?

I teach a dance class once a week to some absolutely hilarious teenagers. They are wide-eyed, eager to learn, awkward, goofy and in many ways very privileged. Private school educated, but nonetheless, they’re still young people with challenges and beliefs that they haven’t yet discovered. As I was going over a combination today, they asked me “Cathy, how are you so cool?!” I had to laugh out loud. Were they kidding? Cool? Me? Who were they looking at?! But then I realized that to them, I’m like the young people that inspired me to be an artist. I grew up in NYC and I remember being in awe of the young theater artists that would come to work with me. They were the coolest. Now I wonder if they knew how cool they were from my vantage point. Maybe the most activist thing for me to do isn’t to go out and do seemingly “crazy”, but really passionate marches, conventions, etc. Maybe it’s just talking to the future, the young people. How do we let them know how cool THEY really are, and that we’ve all been there. In only a few short months, I’ll leave them, but the imprint of passion and strength that they’ve left me with will stay forever.

 

Peace, love and hair grease.

Cathy Xo