Hey Speakers! The In Search of My Own Gardens Podcast is HERE! Check out episode one, and tune in next Friday at 5pm for episode two! Make sure to follow!
Damali Speaks Xx
Hey Speakers! The In Search of My Own Gardens Podcast is HERE! Check out episode one, and tune in next Friday at 5pm for episode two! Make sure to follow!
Damali Speaks Xx
“If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it” – Zora Neal Hurston
I don’t really remember the moment that I knew I was queer. I just know that I knew. I had a crush on Josh* and Helen* and I liked them both equally. I wanted to be close to both of them always, hold them always, play “Duck Duck Goose” during recess and all the other cute things that children desire to do with crushes. I remember being asked if I had a crush on Josh* and never being asked if I had a crush on Helen*. Queerness in whatever form it came in seemed to be something that was silently made fun of and only okay if you did it on the terms of straight people, if you adopted their ways, if you picked a side of either masculine or feminine presentation. I remember those silent and unspoken rules vividly.
I’ve always dressed weirdly. Kudos to those who find true expression. I love the feel of clothing, just as I love the feel of removing it. Clothing is expression to me. I’ve always loved the idea of androgyny and the reality scared me. I’m not shaped like a boy and most of the views of androgynous people that I see are with those who have a very “boy-like” shape. But my androgyny exists outside of those boundaries. I love experimenting with what my breasts do in mens clothes, and just how I can both accentuate and disguise my hips and ass in various wears. MY androgyny is based in inclusion and experimentation. Just how many new ways can I find to fuck up the binary?
The other day, I sat with a family member who asked me, “Why can’t you be Queer quietly? Why do you have to broadcast it?” In the moment, I rationalized the sting and said something rehearsed, but I also thought to myself about why I do “broadcast” my Queer, my Polyamory, my Self. Well, because that’s who I am. It is just as much a part of me as is my sex, my skin complexion, my eye color. Who I love, how I love is important because love is what makes the foundation for a world worth living in. Frankly, I’m out, because I can be. I love myself enough to be all of me, whether that’s privately or publicly.
With the invention of internet and apps, we have much less privacy now than we did 10 years ago. What’s your personal threshold? How often do you broadcast your life and what do you choose to keep to self? It’s a constant wondering for myself. I don’t like to put out all my business but I do choose to display some of it. Is there a right and wrong in that? Does it matter?
I’ve always been a creator. I would create clothing/crafts/songs/poems/plays/ etc. as a child and it all seemed to carry over into adulthood. I occupy space in this world as an actor/dancer/singer/director/designer/singer/songwriter/advocate/activist/writer/etc. I am the slash in a world where the slash is confusing. But isn’t that the fun of the all? How do we manage? How do we fall? How do we choose to fly? Confession: I have not gone a single audition in months. I have no desire to. There’s nothing that grabs my heart and truly makes me want to be a part of it. I am not just an actor. I’m an artist. I want to create space where there is no space. I remember being in school and being taught how to manage and maneuver auditions because it would be “so much of life as an artist” and I wanted to vomit. If Nina Simone had spent all her time auditioning, would she have written Mississippi Goddamn? Maybe, maybe not. Let me make this clear, I am not judging those who choose to audition frequently. I’m simply stating that for me, it’s not the way.
Currently, I’ve done a lot. I released an album, finished a play, started on two projects, got asked to do a few more with some wonderfully talented artists and am simply living, teaching and learning. I’m content with the world and growth that I see from my life. I can see a pattern, a place, a space to occupy. As a millennial, I feel that I have to make the space. I not only don’t want to, I am not willing to endorse the system that doesn’t work. If it’s broken, don’t hop on it and try to ride. I’m not here to apologize, to be nice, to participate in so far as abiding by rules that are clearly messed up. Be bold in seeking your truth. Be brash. Be loud. Make mistakes. Make corrections. Find new ways to love both yourself and others. I’m here to re-frame, to burst through, to hold space, make space and take space.
To all my wonderful fellow beings,
I see you. I support you. I live you.
Damali Speaks Xx
I’ve been glued to Issa Rae since The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl. I was in the early years of college or maybe late years of high school, I don’t really remember now. I do remember being glued to my computer screen thinking, “Oh shit! She knows my life!”. I loved everything about Issa, her style, her awkwardness, her confidence, her work. The joy I felt at watching not only that series, but the appearance of a whole YouTube Channel eclipsed anything else that I might have wanted to watch. My friends and I would call each other up or message each other post episode drop, “Oh snap girl, she finally gave White J some!” and we would launch into laughter and recalling of our own lives, sighing in relief that we finally were feeling and being seen. It wasn’t just a dream. There was nothing to wake up from.
When Insecure was finally announced on HBO, I remember doing a happy dance in my bedroom. I had moved on from being a semi-awkward Theater & Africana student to a semi-confident Education Intern at one of the best theater companies in the US and yet still felt like so many things were missing. I was one of the very few people of color in most spaces, including my living space and I was hungry. I oftentimes found myself in situations with either queer men of color who could and would shut me down and desire my silence or with white women who wanted to empathize but not actually do any work required for change. These people all wanted change to happen at a comfortable pace for them, but I needed to see and speak with people in the entertainment world who looked like me and who were visibly making change. I needed to know that it was possible, that all of it was possible. I didn’t have to choose between being an actor and writer. I didn’t have to only put down director or producer on my resume. But at the same time, I didn’t have a black theater/film fairy godmother to guide me along. So I looked to Issa. Issa always got me through. The first episode of Insecure, Season 1 found me hunched in front of my computer screen yet again, and having finished an entire bottle of wine, I don’t remember much, but I do remember screaming “TAKE THAT LENA DUNHAM!” and then falling off to sleep. As Season 1 rolled into Season 2, I continued to watch, joy filling me at the fact that the 20s are just messed up and I’m just normal and that black people look gorgeous in all shades, sizes, sexual positions and hilarious anecdotes.
But still, in all of that visibility and glorious blackness, messiness and realness something was always missing for me. I’m Black, Womxn, Queer, Pansexual and Polyamorous and I want to make work that highlights the art, realness, and humanness of the spaces that I find myself in. Most often, the shows and web series that I find center either white women or drama. The L Word, was the first show that I watched that featured queer women. I remember sitting in front of the computer in college thanks to Netflix and binge watching The L Word. Although it made me feel invisible because of my blackness, it made me feel seen because of my queerness. I’m not saying that the world of queer womxn of color isn’t dramatic, cuz it certainly can be at times, but people don’t need to be murdered for a following to build. So then, what’s the point?
The point is that visibility is possible in all it’s variables. We already know that POC make money. No one wants to see all white anything anymore unless it’s the Bordelons dressed in all white on Queen Sugar (Cuz that was black people magic on all levels). But the thing about production that bothers me is the who. No matter what, are we always engineered by white men because they are the ones with the bank? Literally. How many Oprah’s and OWN Networks are there? Right now? Oprah. That’s it. She’s got it. But even in that, there’s a closed door. I love Oprah, but Oprah isn’t queer, poly or foregoing the idea that GOD isn’t the end all be all for the black community. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up going to church, but at this point in my life, I choose to believe that there’s a lil bit of truth in everything but that doesn’t mean that I have to subscribe to it. So what’s next?
I’ve made it my mission to center varying art forms alongside black, womxn, and queer. I know that’s what I want to see. So why not make it? It’s hard. My biggest obstacle so far is capitalism. I need a team. I want a team. I want to work with artists who are just as hungry as I am. But most of the time, that means money and at 20 something, who has money? But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Right? If that’s my only obstacle, then I’m doin pretty damn well. I also want to highlight theater.
I don’t work loudly. I work mostly in silence. You don’t see that I’m doing work until the work is done. So often, my friends and I sit and dream and plan for our future world where there’s artist housing that’s cheap, studios to work in that houses various forms of art and a collective of beautiful people that just get us. Isn’t that the dream? As good as all this visibility and dreaming feels, how good will it feel when we finally get further along in our process? Maybe that’s the whole point. That it’s never ending and each moment is in fact a process to be savored. I used to say, “I’m the next Oprah”. Now, I simply say that I’m the best version of me, day to day, I’m working towards elevation and building and creation and art.
Thank you Issa for pushing me to be better. Thank you for being visible. I may never meet you and you may never read this, but know anyway, you’ve helped more than one black womxn to find her purpose, just by being you.
Damali Speaks Xx
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“Hit me and it’ll be the last thing you do.” I saw my father hit my mother one time. I was young, maybe 3 or 4. Previous to that moment, I had watched them fight only verbally. They would spar with words like boxers before a long awaited fight, ducking and dodging each others’ blows, some landing with fierce force and others just glazing and narrowly missing the tender skin of their face or neck. The one time I remember physical blows being exchanged, she went after him with a bat, the cops were called and I remember her saying that if a man or woman ever hit me, I had full permission from God above to beat them to within an inch of their life. They probably don’t remember this moment themselves, or maybe they don’t remember that I remember. It’s funny what sticks in a child’s brain, isn’t it?
How do we, keep ourselves safe in a world marked with active bombs ready to detonate at any minute? Maybe the bigger question, concerning the reality that black womxn are currently being killed at higher rates than anyone else in the United States, is how do I as a part of that targeted group, preserve my mental, physical and spiritual self in the midst of a war? Today’s topic is on the many forms of abuse that are slowly killing black and brown women in the world and how we maintain our selfhood in the midst of it all.
I didn’t think it would ever happen and so I didn’t think I would ever have anything to worry about. I also didn’t ever think that I would experience any kind of abuse. But as I grew older and first physical, followed by sexual, then on to emotional and secured by verbal abuse arrived into my innocent bubble of comfort, I realized that abuse is insidious and can take many forms. It makes me heartbroken to realize that my truth isn’t singular. So many of my black womxn peers have experienced the same and worse across boundaries of sexual orientation and gender identity. Just as black men are guilty, so are other people. Domestic violence happens so often in queer relationships. Let’s not forget it.
I was in college when I discovered the writing of Pearl Cleage and her essay called “Mad at Miles”. In it, she talks about black men and women who were known abusers, mainly Miles Davis, but also including Bill Withers and even more. How is it that Pearl Cleage can write about so many forms of domestic abuse in 1975 and it still rings so true in 2017?
The idea for this post came from a bar in New Orleans. I sat and enjoyed the music being played until “Use Me” by Bill Withers was played. I stopped and my blood turned cold. I wondered if he had written the song after beating a fellow sister, or maybe after she left him, refusing to be continually abused by someone who claimed to love her unconditionally. As “Use Me” played on, I thought about what a cosmic oddity it was that I, a black queer woman could dance and enjoy this tune written by a man that would and could have easily beat me into submission before I could have ever enjoyed the loud and yet lilting sounds brought forth by black struggle.
In this week of approaching and now waning eclipse energy, I thought a lot about what it is to be a black womxn that is healthy, centered and working. If I don’t have my mental, psychological state in check, I can work all I like and make no headway at all. In order to thrive, I have to first establish my center, my groundedness, my spiritual self, my emotional well-being, etc. How often do fellow black women allow ourselves the space and time to self care? How often do we even get the time to evaluate? It may seem cliche, but it’s necessary. If we don’t put ourselves first, how can we hope to move forward? Black womxn have always been the background of movements here in the United States and elsewhere. Without us, there would be no past, present or future and yet we’re dying at higher rates. Black womxn are the most likely to be sexually assaulted, abducted and abused starting at younger and younger ages. How do we distinguish foe from friend?
Abuse isn’t always obvious. I do think that it comes in many forms and facets that may actually be difficult to spot and even harder to call out. I do think that it’s easier to approach abuse if I truly love myself. When I truly do care about my own investment in self and security, I can choose to truly engage with the best and worst parts of myself from balance while at the same time, choosing the best that I see in others who only mean me well and not ill. I choose to actively engage in self care and moments that speak to the best parts of my soul and reality.
The narrative isn’t that we’re victims. I don’t wish to bring forth energy that says that we all must pity the black womxn her plight. I want us to mobilize for black womxn like we do for black men. I want us to engage with the problematic and hurtful narrative that keeps vulnerability from entering a conversation honestly and openly. I want to talk openly about toxic masculinity, misogyny, and patriarchy that result in the emotional crippling of both black men and womxn in our communities. We can’t talk uplift until we talk unlearning.
Damali Speaks Xx
Hey Speakerz! For the month of August, In Search of My Own Gardens is going to be home to #BlackWomxnWorkThroughTrauma. Each week will be a new blog post and Youtube video dealing with a certain type of trauma moment that either I have experiences or been witness to as a black queer womxn. Let’s begin!
What is trauma exactly and why is it important for black womxn to work through?
This week’s Topic of Trauma is Trust. I’ve often said “I have trust issues” and usually this statement is met with reciprocity from my peers. “Me too!” and we laugh about it in an ironic fashion and usually delve into our personal stories. But the thing is, trauma around trust isn’t at all funny. Where do these issues stem from? Where’s the trauma? Having “issues” with trust simply means that I have a difficult time extending trust and protecting my truth. Why? How come? Where and how do we engage with our own levels of trust?
Most recently, I’ve been reading a lot of books and watching a lot of YouTube videos on Trust and Human Development. On a basic level, I’m a little things person. I prefer taking note of all the little moments, be they about such things as the clouds outside my window to a friend being reliable in a small moment that may seem insignificant. In life, it’s the small moments of trust and betrayal. Each can level up or level away from a solid foundation for a relationship romantic or otherwise.
Why is lack of trust a form of trauma? How often do we take a look at our formative years? Well, as a black queer woman, I’m discovering myself and forming my own support system. I think that it’s important to speak your own personal truth and the many truths of black women go unexposed. How often is it that the stats say that black women are in abusive domestic relationships or sexual assaults? It may not seem like it, but these all stem from the simple fact of trust. How do we trust in ourselves? I decided to make this month about #BlackWomenWorkThroughTrauma because so often, the black women around me are considered to be ultra strong, and they don’t need help from anyone. But the fact of the matter is that we are human and yes we do need help. We do need moments of vulnerability. Instead of doing all the “work” to seem to have it all, let’s do the “work” of uncovering, unlearning and then re-learning and re-investing in ourselves and our own selfhood.
It’s important to understand trauma response. It’s imperative to work through so that we can find a better future than our foremothers did. Let’s do the work.
*Remember to tune in on Friday at 5pm for the first #BlackWomxnWorkThroughTrauma: Trust video! & another Passage to the Sci-Fi Queer Novel*
One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire Cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the Cat, “it doesn’t matter.”
— Lewis Carroll
Hey Speakerz. This week has been interesting, with the recent news blaring the words “rape” and “sexual assault” everywhere. I’ve been forced to deconstruct so much this week from my own experiences. I’ve realized that for survivors of these horrific moments, it isn’t as simple as “well, I experienced this about however many years ago.” It’s much more convoluted. Depression, inability to connect, difficult relationships with food, etc. can all come from these moments. How do we heal? So much of the healing is being able to name the problem and then continue to work towards a place of stability. Honesty with self comes first and foremost.
As a little girl, my favorite disney tale wasn’t the one with the Prince and Princess, it was actually Alice in Wonderland. I was a child of book learning and so I read every version that I could find from the Disney picture book to Lewis Carroll’s version to the gruesome original tale. I even got an Alice and Wonderland doll set and I painted all the dolls brown because I wanted the dolls to reflect my world, my life and where I seemed to often find myself. Growing up, I always considered myself more of an Alice. I didn’t fit in and spent much time alone, not out of a loneliness but because there was simply so much in my world that I saw that it seemed others didn’t.
As I grew older, I realized the real truth in that the world was Wonderland and I happened to take my role of Alice pretty seriously or maybe not seriously at all. Constantly getting lost, making turns, both right and wrong, which of course mean that “right” and “wrong” are relative. Maybe I’m also the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit and the Queen of Hearts all in one. Maybe I am both Alice and Wonderland. Oftentimes, I preferred my own insulated world because the outside one didn’t understand the intersections of black queer and female.
One thing about this wonderful wonderland of a world that we live in, is that with every day is a new adventure. We wake with a new choice of adventures in just how our days will turn out. As a teacher and lover of children, I’ve been on this journey of how to let children, especially black and brown children, embrace their Wonderland. In this journey, I realized just how often myself and the black men and women around me have lost our Wonderland. We speak so much about self care but really:
What is the process of self care?
What is the process of allowing our Wonderland to thrive whilst still thriving inside of this venture called capitalist/sexist/racist/oppressive America?
How often do you truly put yourself first?
How do you decide when to let your shadow self play?
When do you take the time to connect?
What is connection for you?
What is an embrace? How often do you need one?
When do you allow your thoughts to quiet themselves?
If we don’t keep ourselves in constant awareness and reflection of the necessary, do we find ourselves in the mode of sacrifice? We want to be liked, we want to be loved and so we give in an effort to receive. But the only person guaranteed to receive you, is you. So what now? I had a friend tell me once that consistency is key. How often are you consistent with your selfhood? I’ve been forced to be self aware. As a rape survivor who can and is triggered, I have to deconstruct the triggering in order to survive the moment. But that’s my truth. It doesn’t have to be anyone else’s.
Most recently with the full moon and new moons as well as planetary alignment, I’ve been talking with a lot of people who are saying that they’re in a mode of clean-house. I looked around at my own life and saw that I too had let people in my life and were holding them there for no reason. There was no reciprocity in our relationship. They didn’t reach out. Maybe they did and really sought to control me through their own unresolved issues. I’m not speaking of anyone in particular, but I am speaking of the relationships that we allow in our space that change our vibration, that cause us to sacrifice who we are and what we believe for a moment. None are good or bad, they simply just are.
What do you allow in your space and why?
What is the process of moving on?
It’s okay to be angry, to be sad, to cry, but move. Keep moving. Humanity is not meant to be lived standing still. What about Alice and her Wonderland?
Well, let’s tuck her safely in our hearts and remember that our own little Alice needs some play time and tlc at least once a day. Maybe the question is:
Where do you want to go and does it matter?
Damali Speaks Xx
Te Amo Mas Que
I loved you more than I knew how
You had to teach me
But I was a fast learner
I used to watch you sleep and when you wrapped your arms around me
I wanted it to be forever
I knew when I boarded that plane that you would never join me here
Our listening ears were never meant to work
Joy and Splendor
met with betrayal on a sunny day and planned their escape
Healing work for you eclipsed any of what we could have been and denial of
Queerness left me feeling alone
He mistreated you and I witnessed what you couldn’t let me give
“I know you”
that’s what I said when I first met you
I knew that we had met before and that we were game changers
of a different kind
When I fell in love with you
I don’t think ill of the day you left
You gave me so much but really all I wanted was for you to
Be whole with me