Category Archives: Wild Women

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

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.