Category Archives: Purpose

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

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

She Ain’t My Wonder Woman: The Problematics of White Feminism and Film

Hey Speakerz! Another Monday, with more material. Most recently, there’s been tons of buzz around the DC comic turned film “Wonder Woman“. The film is the first in history to feature a woman superhero as a lead role and while some have fallen madly in love with the idea of a sword wielding woman taking no stuff, others have felt once again left out of the narrative. Why? Well because Wonder Woman in her fullness has always been a white feminist ideal, even from her inception. So before we delve in, let’s take off our hats of fragility, look at the facts and remember that equality should not come one gender, race, or social construct at a time. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Where did Wonder Woman begin and how? Her first appearance was in DC All Star Comics #8 in October of 1941. She was created by two white men by the names of William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter. The character modeled after the women suffragists of the turn of the century, namely Margaret Sanger, a white woman who like her peers fought for birth control, the sterilization of black women and refused to see past any other fight than that of white womanhood. Don’t believe me? Ask google. It’s factual. Since her inception, Wonder Woman has been given a more muscular look by yet another male artist, George Perez and declared bi-sexual in an effort to give her a broader span of audience.

Wonder Woman, or Diana Prince, as is her civilian name is an Amazon Princess from Themyscira located on mystical and magical Paradis Island. I’m gonna take a guess and if they call themselves Amazons, then they’re located deep in the Amazon Rainforest which is in South America which has the largest population of Black and Brown people outside of the continent of Africa due to the TransAtlantic Slave Trade, but I suppose that in the world of Comics that’s not so.

The thing that makes me question the most isn’t the factual evidence of Wonder Woman as a problematic source. What makes the question is the reaction to her. Are women, specifically white women,  so hungry for representation that they’ll take anything thrown in their way? This leads me back to a post I made a while ago about Nate Parker’s “Birth of a Nation” and the support given to him despite the fact of the one dimensional rape narrative that he presented in more ways that just the film. Being desperate brings about a terrible reality. We will accept anything presented even at the expense of someone else’s humanity. She ain’t my wonder woman because I don’t see any of myself reflected in her but also because she represents everything oppressive that I as a young, black, queer, lower middle class woman has ever known. Even if she isn’t oppressive to you, the fact that I am oppressed and expressing that reality should make a person think twice. If not…why? Why do you not question? Why do you not stand with me in my hurt, even though you will never understand?

Overwhelmingly, the film industry is still run by the rich, white and male. I could say many things about this, but let’s focus on the reality that the male gaze is still in complete control. So no. The film will not feature a complete adherence to all annihilation of privilege. It will have the male gaze because it is still engineered by and for the male gaze even in it’s seeming progressiveness.  What does it look like to completely band with fellow frustrated sisters? It is as though we are all still attempting to get into the “club” that wasn’t made for us in the first place. The “club” exists because someone is on the inside and the outside. It wouldn’t be the “club” if everyone was accepted. What poison do you wish to consume?

I shouldn’t have to convince you of my worth, even if I am well aware of my own self worth in this world. It isn’t this hard. Embrace all of our humanity. Embrace ALL of the Wonder of Women, not just those engineered to satisfy.

Love Always,

Damali Speaks Xx

Hello, Goodbye, Is it a Forever Thing?: Meditations on Human Existence & Saying Farewell

Hey Speakerz! So this week, I was surrounded indirectly with a lot of death. I personally am not as much scared of death as intrigued by it. When I scrolled through the news, there was so much of what seemed to be death and despair, but what I was most drawn to was the fact of human frailty. Today’s topic is on the human existence, death and rebirth.

From the time human beings are born, we’re forced to say both hello and goodbye to so many things in our lives. We say hello to our immediate family members when we’re born and then goodbye when they pass on. We say hello to our friends and as we grow and change, sometimes we leave them behind and move forward and new people come into our lives and stay or go. Every day, we wake up and say hello to a new day and the new possibilities that it brings in its wake. You’d think that we would’ve perfected the art of death and rebirth already. But maybe the question is, how does humanity embrace death and rebirth instead of perfecting it?

We live in a world that strives for perfection, yet human beings are undeniably flawed and that’s what’s so beautiful about us. We make mistakes. We breathe, we reason, we find meaning in each season. Yes, I know, I rhymed purposefully. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with striving for the best that there is. That’s realistic. It leads me to question how it is that we set goals and then set out to achieve them. How is being intentional with all that you do important in creating balance?

I always set “impossible goals” for myself. This summers’ impossible goal is a short film and believe it or not, it’s actually unfolding, mostly through sheer will and determination. My point is that what seems to be an “impossible goal” can actually be very possible. It’s the challenge that matters. The striving toward and not the completion of a job perfectly done. Why is it that we strive toward the end result? It isn’t just the “hello” and “goodbye” that matter as much as the life in between.

With the end of friendships and relationships, come lessons. When people walk out of my life, it’s generally through no ones’ fault, but just that it’s time to move on. It’s the journey that matters more than anything. When I watch a film, I don’t want to watch just the begging and the end, I want to see the arch. 

I went to Barnes & Nobles the other day and saw so many books on getting through missing a person. I thought it was strange and so I set about the dig for what it all meant. Then, I sat down to speak with a friend and they talked about how hard it is to end things or to let someone go. Does it all come back to self worth? Do I have to love myself enough to choose me every time? How much growth is in each goodbye? Literal death forces us to let go and begin a grieving process, but what about the walk away? How do we handle each goodbye no matter how or when with grace and acceptance?

I never did resonate with “Goodbye” but instead leaned toward “Farewell”, the idea that though our journey together ends here, I hope that on your journey as it continues, you fare well with home in yourself, completeness, and a self worthy of all that you are. 

Farewell until next time,

Damali Speaks Xx

 

Freedom & Choice, Wisdom & Voice: The Barriers to Break Down of Ancestral Remembrance

Hey Speakerz! It’s Monday again! Wooooooofff!!! I for one am SO glad. This topic has taken me a few weeks of milling around in my head and finally, I’ve chosen to “speak” on it. So let’s get started shall we? This week’s topic is on Ancestral Remembrance regarding the African Diaspora in NYC, the POC millenial presence, apologetic nature and how we can use our voices, bodies and spirits to elevate our village. Put on your seatbelt, cuz we’re going on a ride.

Many people are not aware of the early enslaved African presence in NYC. It isn’t taught in schools. During the colonial period in New York City (circa 1700s), then under Dutch presence, nearly 41% of households owned slaves. That’s a little less than half. Exact numbers would be helpful but alas.  That would mean that nearly 20% of the population was made up of enslaved Africans. Some of the main ports for the slave trade existed along the east coast spanning from Charleston, Richmond, Washington D.C., New York, Providence and Boston. Enslaved human beings built New York City. They built and made up the American Stock Exchange. They built the battery and it’s strongholds. They built the Wall for which Wall Street gets its name. Their presence is everywhere and yet the only memorial to them is a Burial Ground, only made up of 400 or so bones exhumed from a dig gone wrong in the early 2000s. Where are the rest of the THOUSANDS of bodies? Now you may say, well that was so long ago. To that I say that during the years before the Civil War, Central Park was a stronghold of freed black peoples named Seneca Village, proclaimed imminent domain and then turned into central park, then later, the Great Migration, during which freed Black Americans flocked to cities to find jobs and to escape the poverty and racism in the South, New York City once again flourished with black bodies creating and building. They built the trains and their stations. My grandfather ran a train for many years. We built up the education system. My mother was a teacher in the NYC public school system. The list goes on.

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How do we gather a village if we are not aware of who we are? What was one very important thing that the enslaved were forbidden from doing? Reading. The one thing that each generation of black collective has done less and less is apologize for who we are. Much of this unapologetic stance comes with education. By this, I mean that apology has been bred into our DNA with ignorance of self. Those enslaved survived at first because of compromise and apology. Those who fought through it were dubbed rebellious and indeed they were. It takes a spark of rebelliousness to poison one who proclaims to be a “master”, or to run in the dead of night or the light of day. It takes a spark of self love to leave everything that you have ever known to carry yourself and your family to a city that seems foreign. If it takes a spark of those things to do what our foremothers and fathers did, just imagine what a river of those things can do. I notice lately that myself and other “woke” millenials have less and less apology. We are in fact the dream and hope of our foremothers and fathers. We are carefree, spirit-filled and yes, a lil bit magic. This apology oftentimes comes in the present form of making sure that those who are in positions of oppression do not feel threatened. Let’s be real, “feeling threatened” is why so many young and black bodies are dying today. We are continually under attack because we dare to be what we were denied…human. So it’s natural that in situations of possible escalation, we might feel a need to appease. But, we’ve learned from history that appeasing doesn’t work and very often hastens a different kind of death. A death of the spirit. We must remain whole if we are to move forward. How and when do we learn about who it was that we came from and how do we move forward? Must we leave those who wish to remain behind? What then is freedom and choice? 

Freedom. An ideal. A reality. A hope. I wish to be free to make my own choices. That seems like such a small wish and yet as the great grandchild of those enslaved, I can’t help but know that I carry the weight of those not allowed to breathe, to dream. What does remembrance take? It starts with Choice. We must actively choose every day to remember, to elevate, to push for freedom of voice, of self, of collective, of learning and unlearning. The unlearning that we must do will take most of the time. The fight against what the mind “thinks to be true” is one that can be exhausting, while the learning is like a sponge.

Most recently, I had an experience where I had to explain the system of racism and why it was that poc do not have the structural wherewithal to be racist but can indeed be prejudice. As I explained, I felt myself become rageful. Why was I being forced to educate? Why didn’t the school system teach a grown white woman? Why was I dealing with ageism, racism and sexism at the same time?

But then, what about how black and brown bodies hold, comfort, and revere other black and brown bodies? Black and brown men and women are taught from various angles to be weapons to each other. What has stuck since slavery is the tearing apart of the black familial structure and we seem to cling to what we’ve been taught.  To simply exist is an act of defiance. But existing isn’t enough. How do we heal? How and when do we comfort? Most recently, I’ve been experiencing a well of blood memory. Blood memory is the remembrance that comes in our blood, the tapping into of ancient memory.  As an empathic person, it’s something to be aware of, moving through places that can hold a lot of history. In experiencing this, sometimes it is like a tsunami, a huge wave of sorrow and confusion that I feel like I’ll be lost in forever and all I can do is cry and hold on to something, anything that feels familiar. In this, I’ve found a strong wish to be held and surrounded by other black and brown bodies that feel like home. But what if we as black and brown millenials woke or not, don’t know how to comfort, or have become desensitized to the brutality or the normalcy of racism? Where does this leave us? It all goes back to self love. The ability to look deep and uncover my own soul, gives me permission to be unapologetic, to be open and available, to be expansive. The programming is so ingrained and must be broken so that we can reclaim, restore and ultimately rebel. But is it for everyone? Who is the next wave and what will we do with the knowledge that we are acquiring?

It is the human experience to be conflicted, to falter, but also to rise and move forward. The people make up the systems of oppression as well as the systems of love and wholeness. We must hold all accountable. No one is exempt. We must work hard at cultivating a whole self, spirit, mind and body. We do the work of uncovering with art, with the written word, with self care, with science, with archaeology, with conversation and while we do the work, we must be prepared for the healing work that comes with the reveal. So I ask, how do we each choose to use our freedom and choice, wisdom and voice?

 

 

Love Always,

 

Damali Speaks Xx