Blk Girl Soldier

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Shifting: Meditations on Black and Woman

Today’s post is going to be a partial rant about injustices but it’s also going to be an in-depth look at me attempting to sort out dealing with both anti-black, white supremacist and sexist moments all at the same time. To be clear before I start, I am not “dogging” black men or women in this post. But I am also not adhering to respectability politics.

The book on the left side of the collage is a book that I’ve been gradually easing through for the past year. It is the only book written to date that chronicles the experiences of black women dealing with both sexism and racism at the same time and how it impacts health, mental, physical and psychological as well as emotional in a statistical forum. The photo on the top right is me, being a goof ball geek and the photo on the bottom right is a painting by one of my favorites. Kerry James Marshall is an artist that I was exposed to in college and I fell madly in love with his work. One day, I will buy one of his works and display it proudly in the home that I make with love and care and pride in black works by and for black people. The piece is entitled, Is This Love? and it deals with so much in one small photo. I pieced all those photos together because, well, they are what is black womanhood for me at the moment. Goofy, strong  and beautiful gazed, helplessness, sex, fear, heartache, visibility or lack thereof, etc. But alas, it is here and now that we dive into the topic of the day.

Black women in the world don’t get to separate the burden of being both black and woman. As difficult as dealing with both are, I would choose to be nothing else in this world. I was speaking with someone once and they could not understand the usage of the term “Silencing” when referring to the behavior of those who do not wish to uplift black female voices and instead seek to keep them hidden and out of sight. I haven’t done this in a while but lets head to Merriam-Webster.

(To) Silence:

to put or bring to silence; still.

to put (doubts, fears, etc.) to rest; quiet.
In many areas for many years, black women in this country have dealt with being silenced. Purposely brought to silence, stilled. We have been filled with doubts and forced to be quiet. Why? Well, we can theorize for days about why that is, but the first step in changing something is to acknowledge that this is in fact taking place everyday in the world around us. To deny it is to continue to silence black women. Black people are consistently shifting in this world but in specific to this post, in America. We code switch, we shift our gaze, etc and we’ve been doing it for centuries. However, for black women it’s different. We are on the bottom of the social stratosphere. When black people gather, black womens’ voices are the last heard and even then, colorism within the community as well as sexual orientation, economic standing, education level, weight, etc. ranks who gets the microphone and when. I’m not going to lie, as a straight passing, light skinned, educated, young woman from New York, I usually get the mic pretty quickly in succession behind black men because of privilege. I acknowledge it. I am not in any way attempting to claim that I don’t. This isn’t just in the social climate of the black community either. At home, in familial settings, in friendships, in relationships, all of these moments contribute to black women experiencing silencing within the black community.
I can speak to my own experience, growing up in an urban setting with a single parent mom. There’s a saying that I heard a lot growing up: ” Black women love their sons and raise their daughters.” As I look around at the black men and women around me and even my own life, I’ve been forced to really look at what that means. In my own life, I was always made to be accountable. Tears were a luxury that I simply didn’t have time for. I worked hard, I took time to investigate and find myself and really branch out as an adult despite feeling silenced, suffering from depression, sexual abuse, etc. I would defeat the odds, according to my mother. The men in my life were the opposite, not being made to truly extend themselves and instead participated in the active silencing. My rapists were black men, my father is a black man, my brothers and cousins are all varying shades of black and brown men. Does that mean that all black men have been the enemy? No. But they certainly have not been a source of shade in this storm for me thus far.
I recently was informed of the suicide of a friend. A fellow young black woman.  It made me think, just how many black women in my age group are breaking under the strain of forced silence and feeling left alone? I am aware that stats are rising in my age group significantly, from 20-30 years of age. If the black woman is queer, that raises the stats significantly. So I must ask, why is accountability so difficult? Why is it that when a black woman speaks out about her experience, she’s seen as “betraying” black men?
Earlier this year, photos of Lil’Kim came out. Her skin lighter, her hair blonde, her face obviously re-shaped. I watched social media talk all the shit in the world, but when she replied that whenever she dealt in relationships with black men, they always wanted lighter women, my heart broke. I remember sitting in front of the tv as a young teen and loving Lil’Kim. I loved her look, her brown skin, her gorgeous eyes, her body, her voice. I saw her as one of the most gorgeous women I had ever seen. She was a rap goddess along with Missy Elliott, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez, Remy Ma, etc. Yes, I’m including light skinned women rappers that I looked up to beside dark skinned women rappers.  We, the black community had failed Lil’Kim and countless other women. I learned to hate my hair not from white people, but from my own community who re-inforced the colorism/anti-black behavior. On the opposite end, I learned to value parts of myself as a light-skinned woman that were oppressive to other darker people around me from people in the black community. Everyone is so willing to talk about the oppression from white people. Lord knows, I’m head of the team, but what about uplift from the inside?
To healing, hope and accountability,
Cat Xo

New Pieces and New Peace

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Hello Blogosphere!

I’m working on a new piece and although I video doc’ed the first day, I’m not quite confident enough to post the video yet. It will come soon! Anyway, I’m working on a new movement piece. It’s called “I Watched My Future Leave Without Me” and it documents my last year in Providence. So much has happened this year and I always knew that it needed to take form in art, yet there was so much stifling that creation. However, with only a few weeks left, the time has come for some creation and healing and lots and lots of work. The piece features poetry that I’ve written over the course of the last year, as well as movement, and probably some music. I’ve been using a lot of Tracy Chapman as inspiration.  I’ll keep you posted! haha “posted”.

Enjoy!

Cat Xo

Must It Be Violent and How do I Change?

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Lately, I’ve been having a quarter life crisis. Believe me, as dumb as that sounds, it is completely and totally real. I feel like I’ve lost myself in the belief that I’m not perfect enough and that everything in society is wrong and everyone around me is an enemy because we all perpetuate these societal ideals that wind up oppressing people around us at various levels, etc. Then today, I had a realization. What if my fight isn’t a violent one?

I think that coming to consciousness is a strange process. If we look at societal trends, as well as astronomy, we are currently in the Age of Aquarius. In the 60’s when this began and hippie attitudes were rampant, everyone thought “We’ll all going crazy!” and then things settled back down and suburbia reigned once more. Until, there came in the 2000’s an alternative wave that continues to expand today. Futurism, Afrofuturism, Alternative ways of living and presenting, etc. came flying to the forefront. Well, that’s kind of how Aquarians function. I know, I am one. We have times of what seems to be “crazy” and “revolutionary” followed by seasons of what seems “Calm”. The Age of Aquarius filters, new belief systems, a coming to consciousness, a chaos, a revolution, an educated stance, an interest in the paranormal, old souls, etc. As I look around me, I realize that violence is so rampant, not just in out and out killing although that is there, but there’s an oppression that is almost nice in its approach, yet there is a violence about it. There’s a violence in not allowing a person the time to choose and explore their voice. There’s a violence present in even the most minute of misogyny, sexism, racism, ableism, etc. In many ways, I feel that I’ve retreated to the depths of solitude. My friend group is small, I isolate myself on purpose. But is that a necessary step? Where is the peace amid the violence?

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the last few weeks, it’s that we make our lives in the very real social constructs. Angela Davis, a woman I have always admired is in fact an academic, a fellow Aquarian, who although radical, chose very specifically how she would engage in the movement. She was just radical enough to maintain her academic life. Assata Shakur, another woman that I have always admired took another route in the movement for freedom. A different kind of violent stance and is now living in Cuba, a life that seems not exactly what she chose but was worth it in the attempt to dismantle the world that is violently oppressing. controlling and killing black and brown bodies. Both radical, knowledgable, strong, and yet eerily like myself and my friends. We could choose the paths they chose. Will we? We learn about these people in history classes in college, freshman year, eyes wide and hearts open and yet the ways that we learn about them insinuate that we can never be them. Is that society attempting to keep us heads down and an active part in the established societal oppression? Both Angela and Assata probably had the same realization moments that I had and am having. So who do I want to be with the knowledge of my ancestors and who I come from? Who do you want to be?

I’m slowly beginning to realize just how vast life can be. In one life, there is no guide book of this is how life will be. There are steps and we choose them and we fail or fly or just remain. I don’t ever want to live in materialism or mediocre. I want to remain real. The most interesting thing to me is the humanness of a human being. I know that sounds crazy but I’ve met human beings who are anything but human. They are what society makes them, authority figures, talking heads, oppressive structures in human form, materialistic barbie dolls, etc.  How does one live outside of that while still being able to eat, live, work and exist?! That is the question. I keep waiting for the answer as though at 24 years old, it’s going to land in my lap and well, things just don’t work out like that. I wish they did.

But, in taking a closer dive to the positive. What if my life isn’t immediate change in revolutionary action? What if I use my art as my voice and live the change while still searching for happiness and acceptance?

To love, hard work, and self-love,

Cathy Xo

Let The Work Speak

Recently, I’ve had the great fortune of being around some amazing, unapologetic, black artists and it’s caused me to stop and take stock of the work that I’m doing and not doing. I’ve been doing a lot of research around the lives of Angela Davis and Assata Shakur. Both incredible pillars of unapologetic blackness and womanhood. Both of them, soft spoken yet armed with powerful streams of consciousness with words to match. It all made me think, have I been talking too much? Have I allowed myself to become nothing but a talking head?

 

These past few weeks have been armed with sorrow and questionings of black life. Following The Pulse Orlando shooting, I attended a Vigil here in Providence, Rhode Island. I don’t know why I was surprised, but the lack of attention and active silencing paid to voices of people of color and then to the voices of women of color were astounding to me. Yet, at another gathering, I was asked to speak and I said no. I had nothing to say. My voice didn’t feel strong enough, the words would never be right and I would be left feeling more empty than fulfilled. I watched my peers, women of color get up and speak and in so many ways, find freedom in their voices being heard. Why could I not have that same freedom? To use the words of Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a Woman?”

As an artist, I’m both blessed and cursed with the ability to bring to life, the hidden stories in the everyday world. Lately, I haven’t been doing much of that. I’ve been taking the time to educate, to debate, to fight white supremacy with my words and I’m left feeling exhausted, and burned out. What if the way for me isn’t to constantly speak using my vocal chords for conventional speaking purposes? My art for the past year has been stagnant. I went from actively writing and creating to doing everyone else’s work but my own and that feels wrong in so many ways. How do I get back to finding me? My voice? MY being? I had a professor once, who used to say, “let the work breathe”.

I’m creating an experiment, the duration of the next 6 months and calling it “Let The Work Speak”. I can only make 2 posts via social media, 2 educational or “call out” moments, but I can write, dance, sing as many feelings/songs/emotions/etc a day related to whatever I want, experience, live, etc. Can I do it? What will my work look like at the end of it all? Will I lose my mind at not addressing evident ignorance? I think that black women tend to force ourselves to address, to fight. Yet, how much of that is weight that we put onto ourselves? What if we all took action in subversive ways, not yelling ourselves into exhaustion, but continuing the work in the unconventional ways of Angela and Assata?

In love, revolution and artistry,

Cat Xo

 

 

Happy Pride Month

For those who don’t know, this month is Pride Month. Pride month is a time when the LGBT community gets together and celebrates each other. It’s raucous, loving, sex-filled, but also can be erasing. Within mainstream PRIDE, there are subsets, Black Pride and LatinX Pride. I’ve never felt at home at Pride. I’ve always gone to Black Pride and felt a relief wash over me. These were my people. Black Womanhood is tricky. It dictates that my life be filled with both racism and sexism, therefore, I’m not at home with Queer people as they tend to erase my tri-existence as Queer and Woman and Black. With the event of the Pulse shooting in Orlando and the loss of people that I knew in my life, I had to take stock. I went to this vigil in Providence and somehow the mention of this event occurring to People of Color went unacknowledged. The notion of intersectionality went unaddressed. I cried, I’m healing, I’m moving forward.  I want this life to be more about joy than about erasure.

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