Hey Speakers! The In Search of My Own Gardens Podcast is HERE! Check out episode one, and tune in next Friday at 5pm for episode two! Make sure to follow!
Damali Speaks Xx
Hey Speakers! The In Search of My Own Gardens Podcast is HERE! Check out episode one, and tune in next Friday at 5pm for episode two! Make sure to follow!
Damali Speaks Xx
Hey Speakers! Some healing for the day Xx
“If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it” – Zora Neal Hurston
I don’t really remember the moment that I knew I was queer. I just know that I knew. I had a crush on Josh* and Helen* and I liked them both equally. I wanted to be close to both of them always, hold them always, play “Duck Duck Goose” during recess and all the other cute things that children desire to do with crushes. I remember being asked if I had a crush on Josh* and never being asked if I had a crush on Helen*. Queerness in whatever form it came in seemed to be something that was silently made fun of and only okay if you did it on the terms of straight people, if you adopted their ways, if you picked a side of either masculine or feminine presentation. I remember those silent and unspoken rules vividly.
I’ve always dressed weirdly. Kudos to those who find true expression. I love the feel of clothing, just as I love the feel of removing it. Clothing is expression to me. I’ve always loved the idea of androgyny and the reality scared me. I’m not shaped like a boy and most of the views of androgynous people that I see are with those who have a very “boy-like” shape. But my androgyny exists outside of those boundaries. I love experimenting with what my breasts do in mens clothes, and just how I can both accentuate and disguise my hips and ass in various wears. MY androgyny is based in inclusion and experimentation. Just how many new ways can I find to fuck up the binary?
The other day, I sat with a family member who asked me, “Why can’t you be Queer quietly? Why do you have to broadcast it?” In the moment, I rationalized the sting and said something rehearsed, but I also thought to myself about why I do “broadcast” my Queer, my Polyamory, my Self. Well, because that’s who I am. It is just as much a part of me as is my sex, my skin complexion, my eye color. Who I love, how I love is important because love is what makes the foundation for a world worth living in. Frankly, I’m out, because I can be. I love myself enough to be all of me, whether that’s privately or publicly.
With the invention of internet and apps, we have much less privacy now than we did 10 years ago. What’s your personal threshold? How often do you broadcast your life and what do you choose to keep to self? It’s a constant wondering for myself. I don’t like to put out all my business but I do choose to display some of it. Is there a right and wrong in that? Does it matter?
I’ve always been a creator. I would create clothing/crafts/songs/poems/plays/ etc. as a child and it all seemed to carry over into adulthood. I occupy space in this world as an actor/dancer/singer/director/designer/singer/songwriter/advocate/activist/writer/etc. I am the slash in a world where the slash is confusing. But isn’t that the fun of the all? How do we manage? How do we fall? How do we choose to fly? Confession: I have not gone a single audition in months. I have no desire to. There’s nothing that grabs my heart and truly makes me want to be a part of it. I am not just an actor. I’m an artist. I want to create space where there is no space. I remember being in school and being taught how to manage and maneuver auditions because it would be “so much of life as an artist” and I wanted to vomit. If Nina Simone had spent all her time auditioning, would she have written Mississippi Goddamn? Maybe, maybe not. Let me make this clear, I am not judging those who choose to audition frequently. I’m simply stating that for me, it’s not the way.
Currently, I’ve done a lot. I released an album, finished a play, started on two projects, got asked to do a few more with some wonderfully talented artists and am simply living, teaching and learning. I’m content with the world and growth that I see from my life. I can see a pattern, a place, a space to occupy. As a millennial, I feel that I have to make the space. I not only don’t want to, I am not willing to endorse the system that doesn’t work. If it’s broken, don’t hop on it and try to ride. I’m not here to apologize, to be nice, to participate in so far as abiding by rules that are clearly messed up. Be bold in seeking your truth. Be brash. Be loud. Make mistakes. Make corrections. Find new ways to love both yourself and others. I’m here to re-frame, to burst through, to hold space, make space and take space.
To all my wonderful fellow beings,
I see you. I support you. I live you.
Damali Speaks Xx
I don’t like sleeping with (fucking) straight men.
I have never liked sleeping with (fucking) straight men.
But I pretended to, because that’s what was “right”.
I’m attracted to them in so far as they intrigue me, much like a flower grown out of concrete.
I like to watch them when they don’t know I’m looking.
I see the planes and plateau’s of their voices.
I see the way they hold patriarchy and misogyny as loaded guns to be fired.
I see how they smile with pearls of white and eyes of black and how it can make my knees weak.
I see how they grow and change with muscle and dream.
I see the stunted way that emotions are squashed further and further down to Alice’s rabbit hole.
I cannot see a future with them, being who I am right now.
Who am I?
I am sexually female.
I have a vagina and a working uterus, breasts and hips, a round ass and I secrete estrogen and testosterone at certain parts of the month, sometimes year.
I enjoy wearing tight dresses and loose jeans stolen from my brothers’ closets.
I’m attracted to people alongside and without the binary.
I love differently.
But…I don’t feel like a “woman” because gender seems rigid even though I know that it’s wide and open, still something I could never quite starve myself into. Womxn…all inclusive.
Let me make this clear. I am not transgender.
I am balanced and I still need to explore what that means for myself.
Being called “Queen” used to make me feel good and now I hear it and want to vomit. I am not royalty. I am spirit.
It feels like a cage I don’t want to be stuck in. I want fluidity.
I hunger for satiating sex. It’s been so long, too long, forever. Bare in mind that I said satiating, not just sex. That, I had…last month. I wonder when, why and how but honestly, right now I just want to let go. With kisses deep and limbs entangled touching every part of me. I hunger for depth and someone that I won’t later regret. I guess that’s love. Is it? Maybe it’s just sex. I’m horny as fuck, pardon the pun and I do love sex. So good. Like real and deep and no matter how cool I am, a moment doesn’t lie and heat is telling. Good sex helps me focus like masturbation but lasts longer before I need another hit. I’m twitching.
I love touch. It’s essential and overrated at the same damn time. Where did I get those expectations? Explanations? I explained them like I expected them to be who they were not. Still, I tried didn’t I? Do I get points for that? Oh, this isn’t weight watchers. Yet, here I sit on this late night train with tired thoughts and mourning brain wondering when my body will be good enough. Strong enough. Thin enough. Thick enough. Held enough.
I guess the perfect feminine forgot about me, or maybe I refused to tag along. I got bored of always being too much of “something” and not enough “no-thing”. Now I’m rambling. I suppose that black, womxn and feminine couldn’t co-exist outside a lovely box so I made something up. Made believed it fit. The truth is that what you find sexy about me is the exploitative. Or the balance. You like my truth. But my masculine sneaks through when you least expect it and unleashes countless amounts of venom. This small book can’t possibly contain all my truths. I’d need more ink. But since this train is still going, I might as well too.
I’m having an existential crisis at 25. My soul feels more like 2500. Years. Old. What am I doing here? I was told once that I have books in my eyes. That someone could fall deep into them and never want to come out. I laughed at the reality with diamonds in my throat. My soul is too old to comprehend Cubic Zirconia. Some times, all the time, fake isn’t better. Last night, I spent hours on the beach engaged in my books, my oldness, my youth, my wombanness in that my sex is female and I can create life from a womb and I stood with water tasting my toes on a warm and well lit night. I thought “Wow, this shit is wild and so am I. Who the fuck will get me? Does it matter? Am I one that gets got?”.
I continued to miss intimacy, not sex because I figured out that post my achieved orgasm, I want to try to be held. Something different than my usual vanish and disconnect. That gone girl happens when I sleep with (fuck) straight men and don’t come for various rules of patriarchy require my orgasm be to his own liking. With anyone else, it’s different. Without “straight” as an elephant in the room, I want close, I want to try. Maybe that’s maturity, growth or just loneliness. Maybe it’s some or all. I’ve been interested in the pattern of breath lately. The rise and fall.
How alive am I?
Damali Speaks Xx
I’ve been glued to Issa Rae since The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl. I was in the early years of college or maybe late years of high school, I don’t really remember now. I do remember being glued to my computer screen thinking, “Oh shit! She knows my life!”. I loved everything about Issa, her style, her awkwardness, her confidence, her work. The joy I felt at watching not only that series, but the appearance of a whole YouTube Channel eclipsed anything else that I might have wanted to watch. My friends and I would call each other up or message each other post episode drop, “Oh snap girl, she finally gave White J some!” and we would launch into laughter and recalling of our own lives, sighing in relief that we finally were feeling and being seen. It wasn’t just a dream. There was nothing to wake up from.
When Insecure was finally announced on HBO, I remember doing a happy dance in my bedroom. I had moved on from being a semi-awkward Theater & Africana student to a semi-confident Education Intern at one of the best theater companies in the US and yet still felt like so many things were missing. I was one of the very few people of color in most spaces, including my living space and I was hungry. I oftentimes found myself in situations with either queer men of color who could and would shut me down and desire my silence or with white women who wanted to empathize but not actually do any work required for change. These people all wanted change to happen at a comfortable pace for them, but I needed to see and speak with people in the entertainment world who looked like me and who were visibly making change. I needed to know that it was possible, that all of it was possible. I didn’t have to choose between being an actor and writer. I didn’t have to only put down director or producer on my resume. But at the same time, I didn’t have a black theater/film fairy godmother to guide me along. So I looked to Issa. Issa always got me through. The first episode of Insecure, Season 1 found me hunched in front of my computer screen yet again, and having finished an entire bottle of wine, I don’t remember much, but I do remember screaming “TAKE THAT LENA DUNHAM!” and then falling off to sleep. As Season 1 rolled into Season 2, I continued to watch, joy filling me at the fact that the 20s are just messed up and I’m just normal and that black people look gorgeous in all shades, sizes, sexual positions and hilarious anecdotes.
But still, in all of that visibility and glorious blackness, messiness and realness something was always missing for me. I’m Black, Womxn, Queer, Pansexual and Polyamorous and I want to make work that highlights the art, realness, and humanness of the spaces that I find myself in. Most often, the shows and web series that I find center either white women or drama. The L Word, was the first show that I watched that featured queer women. I remember sitting in front of the computer in college thanks to Netflix and binge watching The L Word. Although it made me feel invisible because of my blackness, it made me feel seen because of my queerness. I’m not saying that the world of queer womxn of color isn’t dramatic, cuz it certainly can be at times, but people don’t need to be murdered for a following to build. So then, what’s the point?
The point is that visibility is possible in all it’s variables. We already know that POC make money. No one wants to see all white anything anymore unless it’s the Bordelons dressed in all white on Queen Sugar (Cuz that was black people magic on all levels). But the thing about production that bothers me is the who. No matter what, are we always engineered by white men because they are the ones with the bank? Literally. How many Oprah’s and OWN Networks are there? Right now? Oprah. That’s it. She’s got it. But even in that, there’s a closed door. I love Oprah, but Oprah isn’t queer, poly or foregoing the idea that GOD isn’t the end all be all for the black community. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up going to church, but at this point in my life, I choose to believe that there’s a lil bit of truth in everything but that doesn’t mean that I have to subscribe to it. So what’s next?
I’ve made it my mission to center varying art forms alongside black, womxn, and queer. I know that’s what I want to see. So why not make it? It’s hard. My biggest obstacle so far is capitalism. I need a team. I want a team. I want to work with artists who are just as hungry as I am. But most of the time, that means money and at 20 something, who has money? But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Right? If that’s my only obstacle, then I’m doin pretty damn well. I also want to highlight theater.
I don’t work loudly. I work mostly in silence. You don’t see that I’m doing work until the work is done. So often, my friends and I sit and dream and plan for our future world where there’s artist housing that’s cheap, studios to work in that houses various forms of art and a collective of beautiful people that just get us. Isn’t that the dream? As good as all this visibility and dreaming feels, how good will it feel when we finally get further along in our process? Maybe that’s the whole point. That it’s never ending and each moment is in fact a process to be savored. I used to say, “I’m the next Oprah”. Now, I simply say that I’m the best version of me, day to day, I’m working towards elevation and building and creation and art.
Thank you Issa for pushing me to be better. Thank you for being visible. I may never meet you and you may never read this, but know anyway, you’ve helped more than one black womxn to find her purpose, just by being you.
Damali Speaks Xx
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As I am right now, sitting in a coffee shop in the heart of New Orleans, I always imagined myself much like Baldwin or Cleage, writing something that would challenge the male ego or enlighten the ways of queerness and my attraction to women, men and those outside the binary. Here I sit, grown as I know how to be, with no money but a $1.50 tea warming my hands. The air is sticky with new smells of rain, Wynton Marsalis plays in my ears and life seems oh so simple. Free Spirit and Artistry inside, life is wonder full. Everything comes in it’s own time and travel shows me so much more of my self. This Saturn year isn’t so bad, after all.
It’s been little more than a week since I left New York City with it’s tall buildings and teeming centers of human beings with uptight energy that propels one forward. For the first week, I found myself in Atlanta, Georgia with a collective of queer people of color as we embraced what might seem odd. For me, I always feel odd, even with queers and people of color. My identity has always been just different. I don’t like clinging to a label in the queer community. I’m attracted to men, women and others who reject the binary. My ancestry has roots and branches from all over the country and world. I am a young, black, queer woman and I hold a certain comfort in being able to maintain fluidity.
I now find myself in New Orleans. We drove down from Atlanta, a small queer group of us. The heat of the south is different. In New York, it almost knocks me over with it’s force and humidity. I sometimes can’t breathe as it engulfs my senses and threatens to destroy my will to want to live through the moment of all encompassing heat stroke. The south has a fluidity to it. It’s hot, but not unbearable. I sweat, but not in buckets. I suppose it is a lazy way of being. In moments like this, I remember just how little time I’ve spent in this body on this earth. How little I know, how big and at the same time small the world seems. I remember my mortality. I hold it close to my chest and take a deep breath in. I am here. Today, maybe tomorrow, and I want to be here. The world holds so much surprise and culture. The unexpected seems blessed. I don’t need much. I can and do actually go without a lot. I don’t have much money and though I find myself worrying about it in intervals, right now, I’m not at all bothered. I planned this trip for a week and I have so little clothes and yet, I’m so incredibly comfortable. Life without a lot of materials is actually quite freeing in its’ organization of need vs. want. I’m a minimalist by nature and so living with few materials isn’t ever a surprise to me and feels in a way refreshing.
While here in New Orleans, I’ve been the utmost of a tourist and yet, I somehow feel my ancestors with me more now than ever before at this juncture of life. I’m the only black queer person in our group and that never before bothered me until today. My ancestors speak so loudly and there seems to be no one to share it with. I feel them at my back, my front, my sides, below me and above me. While here, I’ve gone to visit a plantation. The Whitney Plantation, originally named The Haydel Habitation. This one being different than others that are restored in the area because it focuses specifically on those enslaved here in it’s operational duration. While on this ground I felt all kinds of things. I felt anger, fear, helplessness, hurt, joy, etc. The heat felt welcoming and warming as the sun beamed down in an oppressive way. I sought remembrance. I didn’t seek peace or wholeness, just remembrance. In my blood, I remember a time when this, the enslavement of my people was normalized.
Alongside the great pain, I’ve found great pleasure. Moments of feeling seen and held by art. I’ve gone to visit an exhibition called StudioBe by artist Brandon Odums. The exhibit is an a huge warehouse with painting and artwork all throughout, dedicated to blackness of all kinds as well as to New Orleans. In the beginning of the exhibition, there’s a huge written work called “Ephemeral, Eternal” and he talks about those two ideologies as inspiration for this entire piece. Ephemeral is fleeting. The love you feel for a short time, while Eternal is everlasting. What does it mean to be both and a little in between. Human life for me is just as much about the short and the long, the close and distant, the journey and the destination. It’s in the center of all that I find my grounding, my home. Home is me, where and how I occupy space. It gave me pause. I want a big warehouse space with which to do my art. An impossible goal. How do I go about accomplishing it?
Writing in a new place, existing in a new space, brings with it such an air of separation and truth. The question I’ve been asking myself, “what are you worth, darling girl?” I’ve always called my inner little girl, “darling girl” and as she and I continue to deconstruct and learn more about the inner workings of my heart and soul, I find that she answers in mysterious ways. Worth. What a strange idea and reality. How is it measured? If I was not defined by my interactions with others or through my capitalist existence, by the art I create or the way spirit flows through me, what would I be worth? What is my worth on this earth? Why am I here? I could spend time answering it, but to me, it’s more about the journey than the destination. So ask yourself. What are you worth?
Damali Speaks Xx
Cora sat beside her mother in wordless bliss as they drove home to their house. Words became a welcome additive to their world of deep communication and love. After a long time of centering and remembering what it felt like to be immersed in a world of love and acceptance, Andrena looked across at her daughter, who it seemed had grown even more into a strong and beautiful woman that she always knew would be there.
“How are you, my love?” Air hung between them as the streetlights glowed in a steady motion from darkness to light. The car wheels hummed along the road and the whole world seemed committed to a space held in familial love. “I’m well, mom. I’m really and truly well. I feel like I’m ready for this new adventure. How are you?” Cora looked over at her mother and for the first time, she realized that her mother hadn’t at all aged. Her face and physique were just as clear and crystal and they always had been for as long as she could remember. “I’m well. So tell me about these dreams you seem to be having.” Cora looked over at her mother in complete shock. “How did you know?” “I’m your mother, I know everything.” Cora had two options, she could choose not to tell her mother, or she could choose to engage in the spiritual moment that she knew would be exhausting on so many different levels.
As they pulled up to the house, Andrena looked over at her daughter and smiled. “You can tell me later if you want. You could use some rest.” Cora tiredly picked up her bags and walked into the house. The house they shared was one of the oldest on the block, dating back to the early 1900s and was separated into two apartments, one downstairs and one upstairs. Cora had the upstairs apartment, while Andrena lived on the first. “I went food shopping, so you’ve got some food up there. I saged some too, so the space is ready for you.” Cora mumbled a thank you and walked for what seemed like ages up the stairs and inside.
She opened the door and everything was just as she’d left it. As a teenager, she had decided that the apartment was her “Chakra Apartment” with each room representing a different chakra energy center. As she opened the door, she was greeted with a deep blue that reminded her to use her voice daily. To the left was the creative room where she did most of her painting, writing and music production for the Root Chakra and grounding. Walking through the house, various colors met her eyes and she soaked in the healing energy and remembrance that they came with. With each room, her pupils changed as though downloading information from the very walls. By the time Cora reached her bedroom that glowed with a light purple for wisdom, she had put down all bags, removed all clothes and stood naked before her bed. It didn’t even seem likely that in her body as she was now, she could fold back the covers and crawl into bed, but she did. Sleep enveloped her like a friend that she had missed for so long.
As soon as her eyes closed, Cora saw a great hall, never-ending and blurring. As she ran through the hall the years passed overhead, to her sides and even below her feet. “It’s a timeline”, she realized. No years marked the hall, only memories. She saw her face flash by continually through years and years of clothing changes, industry, enslavement, ancient times, and more. As much as she wanted to stop and discover each time, something was pulling her onward. Cora continued to run down the hall of time to the very beginning as a hole seemed to open in the wall and a wave of blue light emerged, sucking her inward and upward.
Cora “awoke” to the grass beneath her feet and the sounds of a village in front of her. She saw women and children, teens and young adults. Some were singing, training, cooking, making art and weapons, etc. As she looked around, one small girl stood out to her. The girl looked so much like she had at that age. Her skin was a beautiful bronzed cocoa much like her own and her hair was frizzy and beautiful with afro puffs on each side of her head. She had on animal skin clothing and cowry shells around her neck. Her eyes were big and bright and glowing bright purple. She seemed to be concentrating on something outside of herself and as the world went on around the two of them, she wondered if the girl was a part of her imagination.
Cora bent down and tried to see what the girl must have been seeing, but she saw nothing. In her head, she thought,” Well this is helpful. Where am I supposed to be going?”. The young girl lifted a finger and pointed to a small hut on the outside of the perimeter embraced by trees. “There?” The girl said nothing, but continued to point. As Cora moved toward the hut, the girl disappeared as though she had never even been there. “Okay.” Cora said. She took a deep breath and slowly walked up to the hut. It seemed so close and yet the walk there seemed to take ages. She took notice of how tall the trees were and how green everything seemed. She could feel the heat of the sun and yet it felt glorious instead of hot and sweat producing. She reached the hut and as she put her hand on the door make of oak bark, she felt a great change in the air around her.