Category Archives: #BlackWomxnWorkThroughTrauma

In Search of My Own Gardens Podcast: Episode One – What is Voice?

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!

 

Love Always,

 

Damali Speaks Xx

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The Contours of Voice: Meditations on Vocal Revolution

I’ve been a reader all of my life. I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t read or didn’t pick up a book intent on sopping up the words written inside like a giant sea sponge. Books helped me to understand voice. As the descendant of enslaved peoples who were forbidden from reading as well as a grandfather who only went to 6th grade because he was needed to work on the farm but read the New York Times every week, my mother insisted that we read instead of watch television. Reading was revolution and believe me, we did it well. 

 I remember reading Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” one summer. I was 13 and had just gone through a traumatic rape the summer before. Unlike Pecola Breedlove, there was no unexpected pregnancy to broadcast my shame and I hadn’t told anyone, not even my mother or best friend. I remember sitting with this book in my hands and feeling as though I could escape to a better world. Was it true? I still don’t know. What I do know is that books have saved my life. In high school through to college and even now after “entering the real world”, I find myself caught and enthralled by the words of black women writers. Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Ntozake Shange, Toni Cade Bambara, L.A. Banks and Mia MacKenzie. 

What is it about black womxn writers? We’ve found a way to save ourselves, to continue to use our voices even though to know your own voice is revolutionary in itself, and to transmit that voice is power. But lets back up, because as usual, I fast forward when I talk about black womxnhood because I get excited. 

Reading is one thing, writing is another. I’ve never really been a good writer in the conventional sense. I hated writing papers but I’ve always kept journals from childhood to present day. Something about academia and the way it sought to stomp out my individual tone rather than build it up gave me intense anxiety. I am a procrastinator by lack of spirit at the right moments and while I intend to to do things in a certain fashion, if inspiration doesn’t hit, well then I’m stuck there in front of my computer wishing and waiting for the writing gods to bless me. I don’t do well with deadlines and finality. But isn’t consistency, key? In the polarities of life, how am I finding my voice?  

Voice changes. Literally. Our vocal capacities change with time. It’s proven. Sometimes our voices get heavier with time, raspier, etc. As our voice changes literally, does it change with perception as well, our artist voices a mirror of what our physical realities offer? Reading young Maya Angelou is very different from reading the seasoned woman. If we continue living, our views should continue changing right? We continue to adapt to the world around us or we die. I keep finding myself in states of aporia, where everything I thought I knew is actually what I don’t know at all. I’m constantly back to the beginning. I may not be a huge fan of old Socrates, but he was definitely on to something with the method of Socratic questioning that he learned from his African predecessors. Yes, I had to sneak that in there. 

Learning my own voice is a constant state of questioning. Nothing is final. What I love today, I might despise tomorrow. Everything changes just as the seasons do or don’t. #ClimateChange. But seriously, what is my style today? Who is it that I am today? What helps me to find my voice? In the midst of a world in turmoil, how do we, black womxn and on a larger scale, human beings find our voices? How do we reach those who need the physical help, and soul soothing needed during times of pain and struggle? 

Love Always,
Damali Speaks Xx

In the Quiet/In The Closet/In The Space: On Thoughts of Self, Success & Androgyny

“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.

Love Always,

Damali Speaks Xx

 

Learning Liberation Week 4: On Love

” Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13

It’s so cheesy of me to take this passage that so many people use, but I went to an art display recently and I found it staring back at me and as someone who is not religious at all, but very spiritual, I find that there’s a little bit of truth in everything. Welcome back to #BlackWomxnWorkThroughTrauma’s last week. This week, I wanted to focus on Learning Liberation surrounding “Love” not as an idea, but as a reality.

When I think of the word love, what immediately pops into my head is what I’ve been conditioned with by society. Films, tv shows, ads, church and familial expectations, peer pressure, etc, these all help to inform my personal view of what giving and receiving love looks like. One thing I realize is that up until this point in my life, I’ve been searching for love but never really established just what love is and looks like for myself. It’s one thing to know what love feels like and to know especially, if you’ve experienced some sort of abuse, just what love is not. What about what happens when love looks and feels like abuse because that’s what we’ve been taught? I am not a fan of gender roles or traditional relationships in the form of monogamy, because I really do believe that love should always be free, honest, and communicative.

I put 1 Corinthians 13 up there because I realize that through this month of #BlackWomxnWorkThroughTrauma, I’ve been working through each week myself as well as with you all and what I’ve come to realize is that the definition of love starts for me with how I choose to love myself. Just how do I affirm my selfhood? Am I patient and kind with myself? How do I protect myself? How do I trust myself? How do I guard my truth? If I can’t answer those definitively, then I haven’t been truly loving myself as I deserve. I deserve the highest amount of love from myself. We all do. Love isn’t the superficial. Love is depth.

For the last post of #BlackWomxnWorkThroughTrauma:

Learning Liberation: Week 3 – On Abuse

“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

Learning Liberation Week 1: Introduction to Trauma – Trust

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? 

Trauma (NOUN):

  1. a deeply distressing or disturbing experience
  2. emotional shock following a stressful event or a physical injury, which may be associated with physical shock and sometimes leads to long-term neurosis.

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*