Category Archives: Queer

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

Flash Forward Friday – Passage Four

“You have to be aware of all your surroundings!” Andrena came at Cora with her walking stick ready to be brought down in a crushing blow. Cora quickly ran and unfurled her wings and let loose an arrow in mid-flight. It flew exactly where she aimed it and yet still, her mother moved away just in time. “I am! Mother!” Cora was out of breath and yet still pressed on. “Again”. 

Andrena was a merciless teacher. She used anything she deemed fair in a fight and for her that meant any and all power she wielded. Her weapon of choice was a huge walking stick, the symbol of her people emblazoned on it. “Feel the current of the energy. Feel your feet on the ground, the wind at your back, the beat of your heart. Hear your breath. Now see what I’m going to do. See it in your mind before it happens and you will stop it. “ Andrena watched her young daughters’ eyes glow a subtle red before she closed them in concentration. “Harness it. Trust it.” The energy around Cora lit up and when her eyes opened again, her whole eyes glowed with blood red light. “Let’s go mother. I’m waiting.” The energy changed her daughters’ voice in a way Andrena hadn’t heard before and she had the lightest bit of hesitation in her movement that not even Cora could’ve picked up on. 
The two squared off. Andrena lunged as Cora ducked and managed to grab Andrena’s walking stick and turn it around to trip her mother in mid-lunge and place the stick above Andrena’s head in what would be a killing blow. Cora’s eyes slowly returned to their usual deep brown with no sign of what they had been only moments ago. Both women stopped for a second, surprised at what just took place before Cora extended her hand to Andrena and helped her up, returning her walking stick to her left hand and standing in conference of the morning battle lesson. 

“How do you feel?” Andrena said. “Like I just tapped into something greater than me.“ Cora turned to sit on a nearby rock. “That’s your power. You’re stronger than you realize. One day, you’ll be stronger than me.” Andrena pushed herself up and sat on a rock opposite her daughter. “I don’t understand. How can I be stronger than you?” Andrena caressed her daughters beautiful brown face with eyes that shown so brightly. The face that looked so much like her own. “You’ll innerstand it one day my love. Now, we need to get moving. We’re getting a visitor for dinner.” Andrena stood, stretched her long limbs and began to move toward their village. “A visitor? Who could possibly be visiting us mother?” Cora said with doubt. They never received anyone in the village. Everyone of importance lived with them. “Martol” Andrena responded, her back turned away from Cora as they walked. 
“My father?! Martol? The man you never even talk about, much less see? What would he be doing here?” Cora was shocked. “I see someone’s been snooping.” Andrena responded. “I know that you’ve known his name. But you’ve yet to meet him. That was my error. I feared that you would see so much of yourself in him.” Cora didn’t quite understand what her mother meant. “So much of myself. Is that…” she trailed off. “You’ll see” Andrena replied. 

Cora had only ever heard her father’s name mentioned once during a convened council that she snuck in on as a young girl when her powers were too great for her to control at times. She had used her abilities of sight to keep watch on her mother and that accidentally led to sneaking in on a council meeting and hearing the name of the man who fathered her. Martol the Warlock. She couldn’t imagine just what her mother was planning, but she knew it came from a place she couldn’t yet grasp. 
Cora woke to the sounds of the pilot exclaiming that they had safely landed at JFK Airport. She felt unsure and confused. What had she just dreamed? It had seemed more memory than dream and she saw her mother clearly. Martol, her father was there as well. There would be more time to think on it later and she slowly brought herself back to her surroundings with slow breath, removed her headphones and waited until the seatbelt sign flashed so that she could remove her seatbelt and retrieve her few belongings. She waited until it was her row’s turn to disembark and she walked as though in a dream off the plane and into the airport. It seemed to take forever for her to grab her bags and find the gate where she told her mother to meet her. Just as she was about to get frustrated about where to find her with a dead cell phone she heard a voice behind her. “Hello my love” Cora turned to see Andrena standing right in front of her, arms open. “Hello mother”. Cora slipped into her mothers’ arms and took in her scent, the feel of her skin and the warm stability that she always emitted. “Let’s get you home, shall we?” Cora simply nodded and smiled and allowed herself the time and space to enjoy her mother and the world of home. 

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* 

Flash Forward Friday: Passage Three

*The name of the character of Brenda has been changed to Bridgid*

Cora stood in front of Bridgid, breathing even as they kept eye contact. “What do you see?” she asked. “Your pupils are purple this time.” Cora blinked and laughed as she moved to lean against the kitchen counter. “Pretty purple or bruised and battered purple?” Together they laughed as Bridgid situated herself back in her spot against the doorway. They stood directly across from each other as they spoke. “Pretty purple. Light purple. A little inhuman but not too shocking even if you did catch me off guard.” 

Cora stared into Brigid’s eyes, the purple getting brighter as they played the staring game they often played in the moments like this. “Do me a favor? Look at yourself in the window. Bridgid looked past Cora to the window to see her own pupils looking back at her with not the usual deep dark black but a light brown. “Am I mirroring you?” There was light concern in her voice. “No. You’re cultivating that entirely on your own.” “So, what now? Do we both just stand here?” Cora laughed. “We don’t have to. Or we can. But before we decide the course of action, how about you check that cake?” Bridgid walked over to the oven and opened it.

The smell that wafted up at her was heavenly and there in front of her eyes was a beautiful cake the very same shade as Cora’s eyes. “Done already? Just 4 short minutes. I love when you do that.” Bridgid sighed as she took the cake from the oven and placed the glowing pile of sweetness atop the stove. “Do what?” Cora asked, genuinely curious. “Use your powers to heal. I’ll miss it.” Cora sighed. “ It wasn’t just me working on that cake. You have incredible powers of your own. Just because I’m leaving doesn’t mean that I won’t be with you. It doesn’t make us any more separated. Physicality is a trick. You can be anywhere that you choose to be.” 

Cora walked up to Bridgid’s back and with love and care placed her hands around her waist and moved one hand up to Bridgid’s heart. Speaking right into her ear she said “I love you and that’s never going to change. Trust it. Trust me. Don’t make this harder than it needs to be, baby.” She gently kissed Brigid’s cheek lingering for only a short second before Bridgid turned and lightly placed a kiss on her lips. They hovered for a moment, light purple pupils staring into light brown before Cora cut herself a piece of cake. She carried the piece of cake with her as her eyes returned to their deep dark brown and she walked down the hallway to finish her packing. “I wish you would stay.” Bridgid whispered, cut a piece of cake and turned to look in the window as her pupils slowly faded back to their usual black. 

Cora sat on the plane completely at ease. It was early in the morning, or should we say night. It was 5:55am and her plane took off in two minutes. The sun wasn’t yet up and most of the people on the plane were asleep. She and Bridgid had woken up this morning with a combination of sadness and excitement. It was unclear what would happen next for both of them together and apart. They could only plan so far into the future without time travel. No, time travel doesn’t exist in this particular story…well, at least not yet. They had spent the morning in each other’s arms, talking without speaking words. Cora believed in their abilities and their intimacy. She apologized for seeming cold. It was often in her life that when she was working through her thoughts, her abilities, she could seem detached only because she withdrew deeply into herself. Bridgid didn’t push her. She understood. She did much of the same.
 When Bridgid dropped her off at the airport, they held each other tightly, wanting to somehow keep the other from moving, but time continued and Cora took her bags and left through the boarding gate. Cora hated the way airplanes were stuffy, but loved the idea of flying. She seemed to remember a time, faint in the back of her mind when she could fly. Maybe it was just a dream, a fantasy in her subconscious. With 5 hours to spare, Cora closed her eyes, turned on Solfeggio frequencies on her Walkman and fell asleep. 

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.

Power, Pleasure & Patriarchy: Meditations on the Power in Silence & Speaking

My Dearest Speakerz! Another week has gone by and with it incredible changes and challenges in life’s ever revolving wheel. This week, among so many other things, I began to think most intensely on what it is to be a free spirit and just how essential it is to constantly and consistently deconstruct the programming of what we’re taught to reach the expansiveness of self. Let’s dive in!

I’ve always been a listener. I don’t prefer to talk on the phone much and if I answer the phone for you or pick it up to call you, count yourself lucky. I much prefer silence and reading much more than just what a person says with words.  When I listen, I try to do so with my whole self. How often do we listen to others? How much do we take in information from the words they say, to the language that their bodies speak, to the stories that their aura’s tell, etc. Once we take in their story, just how do we love them? Maybe the real question is, how do we listen to and love ourselves on the many levels that there are and love so deep that we see that self mirrored in others?

Most recently, I’ve had many conversations with beautiful, intellectual, strong men and in most of the conversations, I’ve shut up and just listened and let people show and tell me who they are. They’ve been incredibly breathtaking, heart-warming, soul-clenching experiences and yet within these conversations has been much patriarchy present. I hate to admit it, but I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t.

Patriarchy:

a system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is traced through the male line.
  • a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.
  • a society or community organized on patriarchal lines.

Where men hold power most simply in a conversation is that their voices are louder, their rib cages wider, their diaphragms more power- filled. They can speak over everyone so that they are heard with almost no strain on their vocal chords. This oftentimes leads to silencing for women. Processing active silencing is something that has been with me since college and before to my early days of living. Having a loud and deeper toned voice allowed me to burst through many a space, but still, what hurt lives in my diaphragm from having to exert that extra push?

As a woman, and more specifically as a black queer woman, I face so much of the patriarchy on a very regular level. I’m only recently learning, with a phase of being more attracted to men than women at the moment, how to really love, admire and uplift men, specifically men of color, through the patriarchy. With this, has come less of a need to fight and stand up for myself immediately with my vocal chords. I realize that my actions say so much and so I’ve learned to truly listen deeper than I ever have before. Many times, listening is perceived as submission, but really it can be a place of firm strength. Within my silence is great power. There’s mystery that you can only uncover with my permission. Learning to build rather than to just take over is something that I’ve learned is hard for men dealing with issues of patriarchy. There’s so much to unpack and unlearn dealing with masculinity (hyper/hypo) that it affects the very core of who we are as human beings in learning how to build.

Most recently, I had the opportunity to dance in various styles and spaces. While dancing, I was constantly told by men, “Let me lead!” And I thought, whoops, did I just take over? Then I questioned further. Shouldn’t the dance of life be a constant give and take? Why can’t I lead when I know the way? When the music moves me, shouldn’t I move? What is it to follow not from submission, but from assuredness? If gendered norms did not exist, would this moment?

I’ve spoken about this before, but both of my sexual assaults were perpetrated by black men that I trusted. So many black women that I share space with have similar stories. I truly believe that the only people that should speak about the experiences of black women being sexually abused, should be black women. Now hold on, I don’t mean that only black women should acknowledge the presence that sexual assault plays in the black community. I mean that the experience of being assaulted, molested, etc. that is distinctly hers, should be able to spring from her mouth without fear of retribution. We should be free to tell our stories as we wish. At the same time, there shouldn’t be an expectation that I have to share. Some women want the mic and they should be allowed to have it. Some women don’t and they shouldn’t feel shamed for that.  Everyone else, shut the hell up. It’s not your experience. Black womens’ wombs belong to them and not to you. We have been policed for far too long. Our sexual autonomy is our own. How to help? Active listening and unlearning of the patriarchy.  How do we allow women the space to heal and men the space to process? How do we process love?

When it comes to pleasure, what are the ways in which men and women assert themselves without permission? In my world, consent is key. There is nothing sexier than asking me if you can kiss me or touch me in certain places. How have we programmed men to take what they want without regard? In what ways have we programmed young women to hate sex when in reality, sex is a big part of who we are and should be embraced in whatever form be it heterosexual, homosexual, polyamorous, asexual, etc. Something that I find isn’t often spoken about are ” Emotional Triggers”.

Emotional Trigger:

An Emotional Trigger is a response to a. person, situation, event, dialogue, reading, film, or other content providing entity, that. provokes a strong emotional reaction. Often. we are not self aware when we are triggered, and fall into reacting prior to sifting through. our strong emotional response.

With this understanding of what is is to be “triggered” in a moment comes with it a freedom. We can move past and through our triggers when we understand what they are, how they affect us and that we are not victims to the system. We human beings make up the system and it’s time for listening, shifts in power and pleasure and much more love.

So here’s to pleasure, a firm grasp on power dynamics and well, self love.

Love Always,

Damali Speaks Xx