Category Archives: Love

Learning Liberation Week 2: The Trauma Response

Week 2 of #BlackWomxnWorkThroughTrauma and we’re met with a world in turmoil, and as a black queer womxn, I can say that my fear and trauma are at the surface of my experience. Let’s dig further into this week and the experiences that shape the current world.

When I was a teenager and obsessed with reading, I read that Yoko Ono once said that “Woman, is Nigger of the World”. I remember putting the book down, getting in bed and sobbing from that one statement. I never knew why I internalized it and in time, I forgot about it until I picked up the book from which this blog gets its name. “In Search of my Mothers’ Gardens” by Alice Walker. In the book, she exclaimed a similar reaction to the words of Yoko Ono, a woman of color herself, dismissing other women of color. You see, I and my fellow black sisters are women and black and we are alive. So, by definition, we are excluded from Yoko’s world of womxnhood and I can take it even further and say  our existence in invalidated by her assessment.

This week, there was a gathering of white supremacists. Lives were lost, and trauma response was brought to the forefront for most of black America. “Trauma Response” is the way in which one responds in a traumatic situation. It may not make sense, it may be hurtful, it may be filled with what seems like anger, rage, etc. In some way it is. I am reacting from a place of primal existence and not necessarily with calm reasoning. All of black America has been surviving with trauma response at the forefront of centuries. How does this manifest in black womxnhood and how do we work through the trauma?

First is to diagnose that there is in fact trauma and a response to that trauma. Many Black womxn have been taught to ignore their feelings, their reactions and to be strong and move through. But what if our move through takes a longer time? How do I admit to feeling helpless, rageful and exhausted without causing someone to want to comfort me? Maybe I don’t want comfort. Maybe I want to instill a sense of moving forward. See my trauma and move with me.

All reactions to the invalidation of black people’s existence from black people, black womxn in particular are valid. I am allowed to yell, to scream, to be rageful, to make a facebook status, etc. We must allow space and time for each of our reactions and then force ourselves to do the work that is moving through.

In this week, we must all take the time that we need. Self care. Self love. How do we establish trust in ourselves while moving through this difficult time? Little acts of trust. Take yourself on a walk, make some cookies, take a shower, wash your hair, lay on the run for 5 minutes. It is the small acts of trust that not only remind you that you are in face alive but that you are worthy of the space and time that you occupy on this plane. Take that time. Make that space. Only you can do that for you.

I send you love and healing and I embark on my own healing journey.

Damali Speakz 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* 

Allow Alice in Wonderland: Meditations on Self Sacrifice, Reflection & Moving On

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? 

Love Always,

Damali Speaks Xx

Flash Forward Friday – Passage Two

“Mommy!” A little girl screamed with joy as she ran around in the tall grass, woods surrounding her as she was chased by her mother. “I’m gonna get you!” The woman, her mother screamed after her. 

They moved with such grace, the woman and the small child who seemed almost a carbon copy of her mother. Through trees as tall as the sky itself, they ran and ducked and dodged. In this time, no sounds of modern technology surrounded them as they ran and played. No planes or trains. No cars or buses or cellular phones. With no shoes, clothes made of animal skin and the golden and strong look of brown skinned people who spent precious time in the sun, the two looked perfectly at home in a natural scene such as this. Around and around they ran, laughing the whole way. It somehow seemed that the more they laughed, the faster the world whizzed by.

 Finally, in one swoop the mother of the child, let’s call her Andrena, picked up the young girl and down they fell in the tall grass, the sounds of a waterfall thundering close by. They continued to laugh, mother and child until they could laugh no more and together, they rolled and looked up at the sky.
 “Mommy?” the little girl said, inquisitive as ever. “Yes, my love?” Andrena responded. “What’s up there past the sky?” the little girl turned and looked at her mother with such a look of earnestness and curiosity that seemed beyond her young years. “Well, no one truly knows. Some say heaven, some say space, some even say the Gods and Goddesses.” The little girl snorted a laugh. “But what do you say mommy?” Andrena turned and looked at this little girl; her little girl. The only child she had ever truly given birth to. The child’s beautifully coiled braids had come loose during their time of play and her big poofy hair framed her face like a lions’ mane. 

Her pupils were a light green and as Andrena stared into them, she knew very well how interesting life would be for her “new-being” daughter as different as she was. “I say that discovering your own truth is the only way you’ll know. Now come my little Cora. It’s time for us to be going.” 

Andrena held her daughter’s hand, the girl’s eyes returning to their original deep dark brown and together they flew onward. 

Te Amo Mas Que – Poetry by Damali Rose Xion

Te Amo Mas Que

said Shange

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

together

Joy and Splendor

met with betrayal on a sunny day and planned their escape

Nothing personal.

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

For real.

Truth.

“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

Rule breakers

Heart makers

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

Come

Back

To

Me

Be whole with me

Open-Minded Is Dangerous: Meditations on Un-Learning, Re-Learning & Listening

“You have to be willing to teach men, baby.” My mother said as we delved deeper into both conversation and cheesecake. I looked up at her like “Que?!” This was coming from the woman who raised me and my brother as a single parent, and is now happily tied with my stepfather as they treat each other like beautiful gifts instead of roles to be set and conquered. I sat confused. I sat hurt, not because of anything to do with sexism or patriarchy, but because in some ways I was reaching too high and my wings “needed” to be clipped by a “reality” that I never consented to join in the first place.

Hey Speakerz! Yet another Meaning-Full Monday with yet another blog post! This week was one that seemed to fly by and while time is a social construct, I do think that weeks/days/years/hours/seconds have their own distinct feel. Last week felt like Unlearning to me. “Unlearning” is a term that my friends and I tend to use in conversation regarding discovery of self and the world around us. Most of us are millennials in our mid-late 20’s. Yes, we’re the ones who are constantly shit on for being different. Every generation has their “moment” in which the previous are like “they’re destroying everything”  and we’re no different. “Unlearning” encompasses the act of deconstruction. Taking apart everything that you’ve been taught, evaluating and deciding what to salvage, what to discard and how to move forward. Today’s post is largely concerning “unlearning”, “re-learning” and “open-mindedness” in terms of black queer womxnhood in conjunction with experiencing patriarchy, sexism and misogyny.

The other day, I sat with my mother in Juniors (a magnificent place for Cheesecake in NYC. Like seriously. Go there) and as we sat and talked, she asked me some important questions as she usually does. Black mothers have this uncanny way of making you think about the exact thing that you might have been avoiding in a gentle but firm way. I honestly think it’s genetics. But I digress, my parents who are older than your average Millennial parent have no idea what to do with me or the Millennials in general. Sometimes when I talk with my mother, our views clash because I have no intention of living my life as the generations before lived theirs and I realize that the uncertainty in many ways leaves anxiety for those who are nearing the end of their cycles on this plane.

Explaining my Openness in my sexuality to my mother was something that I never really considered as an anniversary, mark on the calendar moment. I never really had a “coming out” moment. She knows my preferences and has her own reservations and homophobic moments and I establish boundaries. I’ve been attracted to so many various types of people for so long that for me, embracing the fact that a “scale” of attraction is in many ways unnecessary for me. Embracing a label, even Queerness is something that I use for convenience in conversation rather than to define myself. At the same time, as long as I know myself well, and know what it is that I want and need and can communicate that openly and honestly, then that’s all that should matter right?

One topic of conversation that sat so strongly with me all week was the danger in being so open-minded. With all the beautiful, brown, open and openminded womxn that I know and love, all of us have found great love amid great strife. As educated and in many ways privileged as we are, we find ways to filter a space that annihilates ideals of right and wrong, good and bad and ugly and beautiful. We simply exist in our truth as different and in many ways holy as they are. Black and brown womxn in the new generations in specific seem to be unwilling to compromise as we move forward and I honestly believe that is what will change the world for the better.

This idea that womxn have to be gentle with men and their fragile egos is something that I find myself and my sisters pushing back on. If I can dismantle the problematic ideology that I was conditioned with, so should men. The expectation should be present more than anything else. Let’s change the narrative. I’m finding more and more that as we unpack this conditioning of marriage and children being the height of a womxns’ life, we find more equality and stability. I have no intentions of being “equal” with anyone. I have every intention of engaging in humanity. I’m human and so are you, different as we are. I want equity. I want accountability.

So often, I’ve been confronted with conversations that start with “well that’s just how it is”. But don’t “we” as a society make it that way? Therefore, that very same “we” can dismantle it. Taking part in the problematic behavior does nothing to correct it. Blame and shame are games that society toys with, especially with black women. We are shamed for our preferences, for our thoughts, for daring to reach higher than our foremothers did. Yet still, we do so unapologetically. Therein lies the danger. To be black and womxn is dangerous. To be black, womxn and open is another type of danger entirely. To have an open mind in my opinion, which changes every day is to acknowledge that learning is constant. I may think/feel this way today, but tomorrow, I can think/feel something else entirely. I grow with every moment that I spend in this body, time, place, etc. To find all types of people sexy, to want to experience them sexually, intimately, emotionally, and/or otherwise and to be unapologetic about that behavior is in many ways contradictory to society’s goals of sameness and this is again seen as dangerous. It is something to be ashamed of rather than liberated by. Sexual assault is not a coincidence or a random throw of the dice, it’s a tactic. 

Patriarchy and misogyny along with a host of other societal pressures and conditioning prevents human beings from fully experiencing our whole range of capability. Black Queer Womxn have for centuries turned all ideology on it’s head and for that we’ve been assaulted, molested, raped, killed, etc. It may hurt to speak about, but poison bites two ways, on the way in and on the way out. To acknowledge and to move forward is to raise a new generation of womxn. Womxn who are strong and fearless, are human and precious. It’s all a part of the un-learning.

Re-Learning is fun because it’s all a new process. Actively creating a new way of operation is a part of the healing process. We can’t have one without the other. In positions of privilege, how do we as human beings and more specifically as black and brown people, best support one another?

Do we listen? I’ve been reading a lot of articles recently on the importance of knowing how to listen. Last week, I was with two friends, both black males and I just sat and listened. There came a point where they both asked me what I thought about something and while I gathered my thoughts, they talked over and past me and soon the moment was gone. I could’ve pointed out the misogyny, but I decided that all of this was a learning moment for me. I don’t always want to have to teach men, especially black men about their patriarchal tendencies. Be accountable for and to your own self!

Just how do I listen? I enjoy listening to others speak and while I take everything in, I become a sponge. I’m not in a talking mode because I’m fully invested in listening mode. So often we listen to respond and especially for those conditioned as male, the expectation to specifically grasp the idea that deep thought is separate from a moment of deep listening isn’t present. Listen with more than just ears. Listen with your whole self, your entire atomic self and see just how much you pick up. I say this for everyone, all people.

How do we spend our time? In my world, time is my most precious friend, partner and confidante. If I choose to spend my time with you, if you have access to me, then you are probably important to me in this moment. How do you decide who gets that access and why? If someone abuses it, how do you handle the misuse?

How often do we pass the mic and let others speak? It’s not always important to speak. Your experience isn’t the only one that matters. There are different levels of this even among black queer womxn. If the space is for a specific moment, acknowledge that and act accordingly.

Everyone wants to feel and be seen. Just see them. 

As I continue to grow and learn and listen, I hope that I stay open-minded, but I also commit to doing the work to stay that way. Open-mindedness is a choice. A dangerous one. One that can cost life and love, but I like to think that we can all find completion in what we desire with knowledge of self.

Love Always,

Damali Speaks Xx

Flash Forward Friday: Passage One

Cora sat sequestered in bed, the air conditioner whirring to her left while sunlight streamed in gorgeous and full view right in front of her face. Her pillows protected her back as she sat with her legs crossed attempting to meditate. “What is my life?” She wondered. All yesterday she had been lazy, watching episodes of The Flash on Netflix and while it had been a much needed relaxation period, it was also a distraction. A distraction from working, from creating, from responsibility. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s go back.

Cora Strong stood, watching the waves roll back and forth. Here she was on Venice beach and felt the cool night air as her toes sank in the sand. This was her last night in Los Angeles and she wasn’t exactly sad to be venturing away. The time here had been difficult as all new beginnings are, but there was something in addition. The move wasn’t opportune. It didn’t fit her and she decided to leave and go back home to the east coast where her family and support system could hold her up as she decided for herself the direction in which she wished her life to flow. “I’m going to miss you.” she said aloud to the ocean and it rolled gently to her feet in a light caress of a response. “You will find us wherever you land” the ocean responded. The tears rolled lightly down her face and she breathed in the ocean air. She lived for moments like this. Moments where she didn’t have to speak or think and could simply exist in the world if only for a short time. Cora didn’t quite know why she cried and she didn’t care to dig through the wave of emotion to categorize and give the reason a name. After the tears dried, she cleared her face with ocean water, turned and walked back to the car, where her friend expected her.

“How was your time alone?” Brenda questioned. Brenda was Cora’s friend, sister and business partner all rolled into one. They met during Cora’s time here in LA and already their duration of time together had been fraught with challenges even while they knew so little about each other. “Time being a social construct aside, it was much needed. Thank you for letting me have that.” Cora responded. Brenda laughed in response. “Had to add that social construct in there didn’t you?” Cora said nothing and Brenda started up the car. “Last night here. Tomorrow morning you get on your way home.” Brenda was engaging in small talk, which Cora despised. She said nothing, unwilling to give energy to a moment that didn’t matter. “Why so serious?” Brenda pushed lightly. “Nothing. I hate small talk. I’m sorry. That was a snap. What are we doing tonight?” Cora finally turned her head and gazed at Brenda.

In the mix of street lamps and headlights, Brenda’s skin almost glowed. She always looked like a fairy; something not belonging to this earth and in so many ways Cora fell in love with the spirit that shown threw every time their eyes met. “What do you want to do? You wanted to go to the water. What’s next is up to you.” Cora loved when Brenda cultivated riddles. It made her mind race and sometimes, most times that was all she really craved, to figure out the puzzle of life. “Let’s go to the house. It would be great to experiment.” Brenda glanced over at Cora. “ Okay. To the house it is. Any particular idea of what you’re making? Do we need to stop at Pavilions or Trader Joe’s on the way?” She could almost see the wheels in Brenda’s mind working on what turn to make where to get to either place. “Nah. We have everything we need.”

Cora was one of those cooks that wasn’t really a “cook” in the traditional sense of the word. She didn’t use measurements and recipe’s in the way that most people did. She just sensed what it was that she wanted to make and voila. It was made and it was usually amazing. She cooked to dig. Whenever she cooked, her mind would work in such a way that allowed her the time and space to sort things out and to truly be at peace. She cooked, or “experimented” as she called it, to cultivate the energy she needed. So here she was, baking a cake. The kind of cake, she didn’t know, she just continued on. She could feel Brenda as she slowly moved threw the hallway to stand right at the kitchen door. “Hey”. Brenda said to announce her presence. “You know you didn’t have to announce yourself.” Cora kept stirring the big bowl of flour, eggs, and a host of other ingredients as she talked, her back to the doorway. “Yea. I know. I just…” Brenda let the thought trail off. “What’s wrong?” Cora continued to stir. “I’m gonna miss this. You and me. Us.” Cora stopped stirring for about 10 seconds and gestured to the cake tin. “Oil that for me will ya?” She continued to stir. “Sure. Just what are you putting in this cake that it needs to be stirred so thoroughly?” Cora continued to stir with a gentle laugh. “Just love. Lots of love. Also, if you wouldn’t mind turning on the oven, that’d be great.”

Brenda moved swiftly to turn on the oven and oil the cake tin like Cora had suggested and then wash her hands in the sink next to where Cora was standing. She kept trying to get a good look at Cora’s face and Cora kept dodging and averting her gaze. “Why won’t you look at me?” She finally asked out of aggravation. “All you had to do was ask. The cakes’ ready to bake anyway” Cora stopped stirring, poured the batter into the cake tin and moved around Brenda to put it in the oven. After closing the oven door, she stood and looked at Brenda directly in the eyes. “Your eyes…” Brenda started to speak and stopped.

Cora’s pupils were glowing a light purple.

Loved in the Light: Meditations on Retreat, Building & the Importance of Sisterhood

Hey Speakerz! THIS WEEK! This week has been incredible, with the highlights of  an even more wonderful weekend and retreat. When I was a little girl, I recall that my mother would go on retreats with her best friends, her sisters. What they would do on this retreat, I have no idea, but they would always come back with shining souls and tired bodies and I couldn’t wait to be old enough to go on my own retreat weekend. This weekend, I returned to a place of home, New England, specifically Rhode Island with my friends and sisters and together we explored retreat, soulwork, racism, solidarity, ancestral remembrance, self and sisterhood.

I’ve been on a self-love adventure for a while now, and with each year that passes, I find myself more and more in tune with the world and all it’s never-ending levels. I’ve always known that my ancestors walk with me. My whole life I’ve felt them talk with me, walk with me, love me, hold me up and sometimes hold me back. One of the reasons why I love art so much is because I feel that I can use it to express those feelings in safety and adventurous exploration.

With the world that we human beings live in, there are so many stressors. The stress that capitalism and greed bring to the world. The hidden truths of the past in the metropolis’ that sprang from the great hurt of oppression and continued active genocide. The stress of growing up and old, etc. However, with all these stressors, it is truly possible to simply tune out of the stress frequency and in to the soul’s truth. Mayhap that’s the reason for the origins of long-standing practices of hermitage, medicine people, active sports, etc. Caring for the body, brain and soul is a mission in this world. I’ve always been interested in the nature, the land, the growth, the act of tuning in and getting the healing. This week, I found myself deep in preparation and solitude. Deep introspection ruled my days and I didn’t know why but I knew that it was so very necessary. This is where my sisters come in.

I have some amazing sisters. No, they’re not biological and yet that makes them no less of my family. Our souls have lived, searched and flown together for millenia and as we continue in this life, it is as though we fall into a routine all our own. All queer women with passion for education and work in the arts, they constantly challenge me to be better and to truly embrace all of myself. How often in the world is there such a strong connection between multiple individuals? We are a force. A sisterhood that endures despite space and time. Spending 2 whole days together meant strength in elevation. We actively challenge each other to love more openly, to speak strongly, to move with more intention and to trust the process. It is so incredibly important to have a team to build with and to establish balance. Just how do we push ourselves to be our best selves?

Healing comes in so many ways. For me, heading back to a place that I experienced profound hurt and joy in, helped me to realize that returning somewhere doesn’t make me any less of the person that I am today. Healing is immeasurable. I can’t really measure how much I’ve healed in a year, but I do know that I’m different and that I know much more of myself today than ever before, except maybe in my childhood. I know that I mentioned it on this blog a while ago, but I did a performance piece last year around 3 enslaved African women. Phyllis, Rose and Fanny. They’re buried in Providence, Rhode Island and going back gave me a chance to visit them once more. I felt so incredibly connected to their spirits, despite the fact that they died 200 years before I was even born.  I laid on their grave in the greenest of grass and as I did, the sun shone on me brighter than ever and I felt warmed with love. They led me to find my own people. My own origins. They held my back as I cried and experienced such pain for the land stolen and the pain that is still palpable today. Ancestors have a hold on us. They guide us and teach us. I truly believe that there is no such thing as coincidence.

I’ve always felt as a sexual violence survivor, that I wasn’t the first in my family. There had to be a narrative of sexual violence, just as there is a narrative of patriarchy and male violence throughout history, thereby giving us the name “his story”. I was right. The strongest of themes from this weekend was love. I have been told repeatedly that I need to be “Loved in the Light”. Myself, along with the women in my family and ancestral bloodlines have been so accepting of being loved in the dark. We take love in the various forms but how often to we demand the level of love that we give, back? We deserve to be loved in the light. We deserve no excuses and action with truth and acceptance. I don’t know that I’m so comfortable talking about all I experienced this weekend with my sisters. Maybe it’s just supposed to stay between us. What I can say is that I’m calling for an Elder to help me discover and understand more of my Native American Ancestry. I’m excited to delve into documentation and artwork that calls upon all the energy I possess and to step into my light as a healer descended from power-filled healers. For the first time in a long time, I am excited for my life. I let the tears fall as they may and the love wrap around me as a warming blanket of comfort and I move on.

 

Love Always,

 

Damali Speaks Xx

Black Radical Women: An Exhibition & A Way of Life

Hey Speakerz! This week, I made my third trip to the Brooklyn Museum in Brooklyn, NY to see Black Radical Women: We Wanted A Revolution 1965-85 Exhibit. Each time that I go, I see more, I feel more, I experience more. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up.

As a child, I was always exposed to museums. My mother, a New York City English Teacher prized learning above all. And so, every summer or school break, she would drag me and my brother out to museums. She always tried to find the exhibitions of black men and women so that we could see ourselves mirrored in the subjects and for that, I am eternally grateful. In so many years, I can count on my hand how many times I’ve seen truthful, honest and beautiful exhibitions dedicated to the fullness of black womanhood. So in April, when I heard of the Black Radical Women exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, I actually shouted with glee. A whole exhibition dedicated to black women like me!

The first time I went, I experienced sheer open-mouthed joy. I ran through each portion, barely taking it all in and just reveling in the fact that these women looked like me, created like me and left things for me to find. Most of them are still living and making work. I was astonished. The second trip, found me much more focused. I scrolled through one portion, completely dedicated to the ideal of immersive living and appreciating. I was almost existing in these pieces as much as with them. These women, seemingly ordinary, simply took marked moments of their lives, in their movements, their speech, their questions, their art, their letters, etc. The third trip found myself alongside a partner of mine and I cried. I think visibility, the closeness deep in the skin, the remembrance, the acknowledgement of my own black and radical woman existence realized caused me to cry.


One of the most beautiful things about the Brooklyn Museum is that it’s donation based. I saw this exhibit each time for one dollar. I scoff at capitalism! But really, I found so much more than just defeating capitalism in the “radical” of these repeated visits. I suppose that I’ll go again, a few more times, and whatever reaction comes out of it is what comes. But what is it that all these moments from this exhibit really expose for me? Just what is a Black Radical Woman as I profess myself to be?

In the exhibition is a variety of mediums. There is film, paper, photography, fashion, etc. To move through the exhibit in it’s fullness takes time and attention. What is it to really see each of these women? How do I hold onto Blondell Cummings as she moves effortlessly on screen? How do I take in the fullness in the eyes of Ming Smith as she photographs her own visual? Where do I hold the emotion that wells up when I see Julie Dash’s Daughter of the Dust in screenplay and all her plans for the week in her planner? Black women demand presence and not just a cursory glance.


To be black, radical and woman is to be alive in this world. I think that our very existence in a world that seeks to shatter and annihilate us is resistance. All of these women showed themselves, their lives, their truths. To be a black radical woman artist is to share your truth in all of it’s ugly and beauty. The question that I’m left with is where my work fits in? Where would I like it to fit in? I accept the mantle of black woman and radical and yet there’s the object and how I am carrying it.

Love Always,

Damali Speaks Xx