Tag Archives: Black Love

Learning Liberation: Week 3 – On Abuse

“Hit me and it’ll be the last thing you do.” I saw my father hit my mother one time. I was young, maybe 3 or 4. Previous to that moment, I had watched them fight only verbally. They would spar with words like boxers before a long awaited fight, ducking and dodging each others’ blows, some landing with fierce force and others just glazing and narrowly missing the tender skin of their face or neck. The one time I remember physical blows being exchanged, she went after him with a bat, the cops were called and I remember her saying that if a man or woman ever hit me, I had full permission from God above to beat them to within an inch of their life. They probably don’t remember this moment themselves, or maybe they don’t remember that I remember. It’s funny what sticks in a child’s brain, isn’t it?

How do we, keep ourselves safe in a world marked with active bombs ready to detonate at any minute? Maybe the bigger question, concerning the reality that black womxn are currently being killed at higher rates than anyone else in the United States, is how do I as a part of that targeted group, preserve my mental, physical and spiritual self in the midst of a war?  Today’s topic is on the many forms of abuse that are slowly killing black and brown women in the world and how we maintain our selfhood in the midst of it all.

I didn’t think it would ever happen and so I didn’t think I would ever have anything to worry about. I also didn’t ever think that I would experience any kind of abuse. But as I grew older and first physical, followed by sexual, then on to emotional and secured by verbal abuse arrived into my innocent bubble of comfort, I realized that abuse is insidious and can take many forms. It makes me heartbroken to realize that my truth isn’t singular. So many of my black womxn peers have experienced the same and worse across boundaries of sexual orientation and gender identity. Just as black men are guilty, so are other people. Domestic violence happens so often in queer relationships. Let’s not forget it.

I was in college when I discovered the writing of Pearl Cleage and her essay called “Mad at Miles”. In it, she talks about black men and women who were known abusers, mainly Miles Davis, but also including Bill Withers and even more.  How is it that Pearl Cleage can write about so many forms of domestic abuse in 1975 and it still rings so true in 2017?

The idea for this post came from a bar in New Orleans. I sat and enjoyed the music being played until “Use Me” by Bill Withers was played. I stopped and my blood turned cold. I wondered if he had written the song after beating a fellow sister, or maybe after she left him, refusing to be continually abused by someone who claimed to love her unconditionally.  As “Use Me” played on, I thought about what a cosmic oddity it was that I, a black queer woman could dance and enjoy this tune written by a man that would and could have easily beat me into submission before I could have ever enjoyed the loud and yet lilting sounds brought forth by black struggle. 

In this week of approaching and now waning eclipse energy, I thought a lot about what it is to be a black womxn that is healthy, centered and working. If I don’t have my mental, psychological state in check, I can work all I like and make no headway at all. In order to thrive, I have to first establish my center, my groundedness, my spiritual self, my emotional well-being, etc. How often do fellow black women allow ourselves the space and time to self care? How often do we even get the time to evaluate? It may seem cliche, but it’s necessary. If we don’t put ourselves first, how can we hope to move forward? Black womxn have always been the background of movements here in the United States and elsewhere. Without us, there would be no past, present or future and yet we’re dying at higher rates. Black womxn are the most likely to be sexually assaulted, abducted and  abused starting at younger and younger ages. How do we distinguish foe from friend?

Abuse isn’t always obvious. I do think that it comes in many forms and facets that may actually be difficult to spot and even harder to call out. I do think that it’s easier to approach abuse if I truly love myself. When I truly do care about my own investment in self and security, I can choose to truly engage with the best and worst parts of myself from balance while at the same time, choosing the best that I see in others who only mean me well and not ill. I choose to actively engage in self care and moments that speak to the best parts of my soul and reality.

The narrative isn’t that we’re victims. I don’t wish to bring forth energy that says that we all must pity the black womxn her plight. I want us to mobilize for black womxn like we do for black men. I want us to engage with the problematic and hurtful narrative that keeps vulnerability from entering a conversation honestly and openly. I want to talk openly about toxic masculinity, misogyny, and patriarchy that result in the emotional crippling of both black men and womxn in our communities. We can’t talk uplift until we talk unlearning.

Damali Speaks Xx

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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

No Room for Error (Revolutionary Love) – Poetry by Damali Rose Zion

I demand

Everything

In a world of differing values and ethics

To remain in my space is to thrive

To exist in the radiance that is my

Love

Is to acknowledge that

YES

We are different

and yet we coexist.

Too many of the world’s children embrace mediocrity.

Love

Friendship

should not exist within those boundaries

Love is revolutionary.

My love has embraced imperfection and shattered your previous notions

I possess the capacity for

life changing love

But only for those willing to let vulnerability rain in waves of

sharing

hunting

exposing

the innermost being.

Those brave enough to dive deep.

Can you swim?

Comparison: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Hey Faithful Blogosphere! I hope that your week was absolutely full of wonder and love! Mine was! The topic this week came at the very end of the week in sort of a shock to my system and wake up call. All of my life, I’ve experienced comparison. I was compared to my older sibling, my friends, etc. Some of the time, the comparison came from my own mind, but most of the time it came from the people around me. This isn’t a singular experience as I’ve come to realize and so in the hopes of rooting out the truth, I figure a blog post dedication is worth it. So the topic of the week is Comparison: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

 

Sometimes I wonder if it’s natural for human beings to compare themselves to others. We do so with weight, looks, abilities, etc. “Well, she has a better butt than me.”, “He has a better car.”, and yet what we fail to see in these comparisons is that they’re completely unnecessary. Does envy help us get what the other person has? Does it make us value what WE HAVE?

 

The Good

The Good in Comparison is that it works to propel us as human beings forward. I personally choose to compare myself to the person I was yesterday. Am I more grateful today? Am I allowing myself to flow more today than I did yesterday? Am I embracing myself more? If the answer is no, then I’m not doing what I need to be doing and it’s my choice of whether or not to stay stuck or to elevate to who I’m meant to be today. I’m meant to elevate every day, not just on days where I feel like it. Every. Day. Be more. More generous. More loving. More hardworking. More in love with myself. More open. More creative. Be More.

 

The Bad

The Bad of Comparison is pretty obvious. It can paralyze. If we as human beings consistently listened to the lower vibrational pull of “what I don’t have” versus “what they have”, we live in a constant state of envy, depression, greed, jealousy, and overall unhappiness. So why do we do it? Why do we choose to stay at the lower vibration of existing? What’s the appeal?

 

The Ugly

The Ugly of Comparison, especially for those of us in the Black Community where these numbers are escalating, is the source of colorism, homophobia, rape and sexual abuse, etc. How is it that hundreds of years later, we as a people are still elevating light skin above dark skin, straighter hair above tight kinks and curls, and young women are still being sexually abused at alarming rates? Where did we learn this behavior and why does it continue? Where does comparison come in?

 

Overrall, we must CHOOSE to elevate above. Comparison, like any other learned behavior is a choice. We choose to take part. How can we twist things that may seem negative so that we can attain positive results? We must choose to believe in our self. Put out sense of self first above all else and refuse to be brought down. We owe it to ourselves, to this plane, to this planet, to this ethereal world that we take part in every day.

 

Love Always,

 

Damali Speaks

Let’s Toast to Love, Hope & Meet Me on The Southside

Hello Faithful Blogosphere! I know, two posts in one day? Woa, she must have a lot to say today. Well, yes. I do. The last time that I went to the movies to see a film was when the film DOPE came out. That was in super early 2015. Let me clarify. For me to go to the movies and actually pay money to watch something, I have to cross off a checklist. If you’ve ever heard of the DuVernay checklist, coined by amazing director, Ava DuVernay, it goes a lil sumn like dis:

The film in question MUST have at least a black/of color director.

The film in question MUST have at least one black/of color producer.

The film in question MUST have at least one POC in a starring role that is not subservient, exploitative, demeaning and/or dehumanizing toward the POC community. 

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You may say that this is extreme, and I am…extremely vigilant about my mental health when it comes to what I choose to watch. In my early life, my mother was very adamant that I watch movies and tv shows in which I could see myself. Human or not, I needed to watch brown skinned individuals when I turned on the tv. Needless to say, I saw Roots, A Different World, Living Single, all Spike Lee films, Daughters of the Dust and all old black and white films with Lena Horne. So in my opinion, having a checklist seems only logical. I notice very quickly that if I’m not vigilant about the checklist, as soon as I watch something, I feel unfulfilled, mad because I spent my money to further not only capitalism, but a white oftentimes heterosexual way of living and frustrated because I didn’t even get any cool ideas for pieces out of it. I feel that being vigilant helps me in my activism, helps me to remain accountable and ultimately helps me to know who I am in this world.

Image result for southside with you

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, lets move on to the film portion. I went to see Southside With You. Now for those looking at me like I’m crazy because the film’s director is not black, so many of the producers for this film were big BLACK names, that I chose to forego one of the checks on the list. After extensive research, I felt that I knew what I was getting myself into and it wouldn’t disappoint. For those who may not know, the film is a biographical romance based on the first date of Michelle Robinson and Barack Obama. That’s right people! POTUS & FLOTUS! As I was in the theater, I sat next to two friends of mine. One, highly skeptical that love like this even exists anymore, one pretty neutral about it all and me in the middle, cheesing the entire film and marveling at the power of black love in front of my face. 

One thing one must know about me. I came from a “broken” household. My mom was a single parent and I don’t even remember seeing my parents happy or loving towards each other. Both my parents remarried and when I was in college, I got to see my mom in a loving relationship. It puzzled me. So love did actually exist and this was what it looked like? I had a hard time getting comfortable with the idea of public displays of affection in a romantic way. Love with a fellow black person was completely out of my range and made me more uncomfortable than anything else. The beauty of the film, albeit the overdone Chicago accents, was the growth and projection of character. We saw Michelle as a fully flushed out woman and then we saw Barack as a fully fleshed out man. We saw them begin that spark that would turn into a loving relationship that I personally admire today. I can’t remember the last time I saw that on screen. I can’t remember the last time I saw a film without sex in it. Sex isn’t bad. Sex is good! But sometimes, I think love and sex get mixed up. Sexual energy is so very necessary to our development as human beings but it truly isn’t everything just as affection without romance can many times go flat. We need all of these representations.

But aside from the actual representations, there were such necessary themes for young people to watch. When your Auntie or Grandma tells you to listen to the old people to get the best love lessons, this is what they mean:

  1. Defensiveness will dig the biggest holes and you better have a shovel handy to dig yourself out.
  2. Love can come from the most unlikely of places.
  3. People tell you who they are, believe them.
  4. Be able to admit when you’re wrong, and do it with your humanity tuned in.
  5. Be scared of love, love can be scary, but don’t reject it. Let people in.

I remember being told these things growing up and thinking, “Whatever, half of y’all are single parents”. But now that I realize and grow and find love for myself, I know that all of these hold truth and weight.

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Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that the movie that Michelle and Barack wind up going to see in the film is Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing”. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone but I will say that the scene chosen is very calculated. We are blindsided with black love and black death next to each other and it brings so many things to mind. Even as we are hunted and killed, we continue to find love. So maybe there is hope.

Leg Up

Post film, I launched into a beautiful conversation with my friends. One of them, insisted that people don’t meet like that anymore. I think they do. I think that love finds us in the strangest of ways, we just have to be open to receiving it. I think getting hurt is bound to happen, it has to. Hurt is how we learn. Most recently, I read an article that talked about why being single is hard. It’s not the reason you think. The most difficult thing is going without touch. Being touched and touching, is such an important part of being human. 80% of our communication happens not with words but with body language. With singlehood comes a lack of touch. So many black and brown women are statistically going to be single. Does this mean we lose a part of our language? As I pose this question, I think of the weekend I just had. I won’t give away too much but I will say that it was full of late nights, late mornings and lots of touch in addition to conversation, intellectuality, and love. But as soon as it ended, I felt that I had to gear myself up for the coming time of non-intimacy. But what if I choose to seek intimacy? What if life is so unpredictable that all I can do is be present and remind myself that I am fully capable of love?