Tag Archives: Feminism

The Contours of Voice: Meditations on Vocal Revolution

I’ve been a reader all of my life. I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t read or didn’t pick up a book intent on sopping up the words written inside like a giant sea sponge. Books helped me to understand voice. As the descendant of enslaved peoples who were forbidden from reading as well as a grandfather who only went to 6th grade because he was needed to work on the farm but read the New York Times every week, my mother insisted that we read instead of watch television. Reading was revolution and believe me, we did it well. 

 I remember reading Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” one summer. I was 13 and had just gone through a traumatic rape the summer before. Unlike Pecola Breedlove, there was no unexpected pregnancy to broadcast my shame and I hadn’t told anyone, not even my mother or best friend. I remember sitting with this book in my hands and feeling as though I could escape to a better world. Was it true? I still don’t know. What I do know is that books have saved my life. In high school through to college and even now after “entering the real world”, I find myself caught and enthralled by the words of black women writers. Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Ntozake Shange, Toni Cade Bambara, L.A. Banks and Mia MacKenzie. 

What is it about black womxn writers? We’ve found a way to save ourselves, to continue to use our voices even though to know your own voice is revolutionary in itself, and to transmit that voice is power. But lets back up, because as usual, I fast forward when I talk about black womxnhood because I get excited. 

Reading is one thing, writing is another. I’ve never really been a good writer in the conventional sense. I hated writing papers but I’ve always kept journals from childhood to present day. Something about academia and the way it sought to stomp out my individual tone rather than build it up gave me intense anxiety. I am a procrastinator by lack of spirit at the right moments and while I intend to to do things in a certain fashion, if inspiration doesn’t hit, well then I’m stuck there in front of my computer wishing and waiting for the writing gods to bless me. I don’t do well with deadlines and finality. But isn’t consistency, key? In the polarities of life, how am I finding my voice?  

Voice changes. Literally. Our vocal capacities change with time. It’s proven. Sometimes our voices get heavier with time, raspier, etc. As our voice changes literally, does it change with perception as well, our artist voices a mirror of what our physical realities offer? Reading young Maya Angelou is very different from reading the seasoned woman. If we continue living, our views should continue changing right? We continue to adapt to the world around us or we die. I keep finding myself in states of aporia, where everything I thought I knew is actually what I don’t know at all. I’m constantly back to the beginning. I may not be a huge fan of old Socrates, but he was definitely on to something with the method of Socratic questioning that he learned from his African predecessors. Yes, I had to sneak that in there. 

Learning my own voice is a constant state of questioning. Nothing is final. What I love today, I might despise tomorrow. Everything changes just as the seasons do or don’t. #ClimateChange. But seriously, what is my style today? Who is it that I am today? What helps me to find my voice? In the midst of a world in turmoil, how do we, black womxn and on a larger scale, human beings find our voices? How do we reach those who need the physical help, and soul soothing needed during times of pain and struggle? 

Love Always,
Damali Speaks Xx

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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

Loved in the Light: Meditations on Retreat, Building & the Importance of Sisterhood

Hey Speakerz! THIS WEEK! This week has been incredible, with the highlights of  an even more wonderful weekend and retreat. When I was a little girl, I recall that my mother would go on retreats with her best friends, her sisters. What they would do on this retreat, I have no idea, but they would always come back with shining souls and tired bodies and I couldn’t wait to be old enough to go on my own retreat weekend. This weekend, I returned to a place of home, New England, specifically Rhode Island with my friends and sisters and together we explored retreat, soulwork, racism, solidarity, ancestral remembrance, self and sisterhood.

I’ve been on a self-love adventure for a while now, and with each year that passes, I find myself more and more in tune with the world and all it’s never-ending levels. I’ve always known that my ancestors walk with me. My whole life I’ve felt them talk with me, walk with me, love me, hold me up and sometimes hold me back. One of the reasons why I love art so much is because I feel that I can use it to express those feelings in safety and adventurous exploration.

With the world that we human beings live in, there are so many stressors. The stress that capitalism and greed bring to the world. The hidden truths of the past in the metropolis’ that sprang from the great hurt of oppression and continued active genocide. The stress of growing up and old, etc. However, with all these stressors, it is truly possible to simply tune out of the stress frequency and in to the soul’s truth. Mayhap that’s the reason for the origins of long-standing practices of hermitage, medicine people, active sports, etc. Caring for the body, brain and soul is a mission in this world. I’ve always been interested in the nature, the land, the growth, the act of tuning in and getting the healing. This week, I found myself deep in preparation and solitude. Deep introspection ruled my days and I didn’t know why but I knew that it was so very necessary. This is where my sisters come in.

I have some amazing sisters. No, they’re not biological and yet that makes them no less of my family. Our souls have lived, searched and flown together for millenia and as we continue in this life, it is as though we fall into a routine all our own. All queer women with passion for education and work in the arts, they constantly challenge me to be better and to truly embrace all of myself. How often in the world is there such a strong connection between multiple individuals? We are a force. A sisterhood that endures despite space and time. Spending 2 whole days together meant strength in elevation. We actively challenge each other to love more openly, to speak strongly, to move with more intention and to trust the process. It is so incredibly important to have a team to build with and to establish balance. Just how do we push ourselves to be our best selves?

Healing comes in so many ways. For me, heading back to a place that I experienced profound hurt and joy in, helped me to realize that returning somewhere doesn’t make me any less of the person that I am today. Healing is immeasurable. I can’t really measure how much I’ve healed in a year, but I do know that I’m different and that I know much more of myself today than ever before, except maybe in my childhood. I know that I mentioned it on this blog a while ago, but I did a performance piece last year around 3 enslaved African women. Phyllis, Rose and Fanny. They’re buried in Providence, Rhode Island and going back gave me a chance to visit them once more. I felt so incredibly connected to their spirits, despite the fact that they died 200 years before I was even born.  I laid on their grave in the greenest of grass and as I did, the sun shone on me brighter than ever and I felt warmed with love. They led me to find my own people. My own origins. They held my back as I cried and experienced such pain for the land stolen and the pain that is still palpable today. Ancestors have a hold on us. They guide us and teach us. I truly believe that there is no such thing as coincidence.

I’ve always felt as a sexual violence survivor, that I wasn’t the first in my family. There had to be a narrative of sexual violence, just as there is a narrative of patriarchy and male violence throughout history, thereby giving us the name “his story”. I was right. The strongest of themes from this weekend was love. I have been told repeatedly that I need to be “Loved in the Light”. Myself, along with the women in my family and ancestral bloodlines have been so accepting of being loved in the dark. We take love in the various forms but how often to we demand the level of love that we give, back? We deserve to be loved in the light. We deserve no excuses and action with truth and acceptance. I don’t know that I’m so comfortable talking about all I experienced this weekend with my sisters. Maybe it’s just supposed to stay between us. What I can say is that I’m calling for an Elder to help me discover and understand more of my Native American Ancestry. I’m excited to delve into documentation and artwork that calls upon all the energy I possess and to step into my light as a healer descended from power-filled healers. For the first time in a long time, I am excited for my life. I let the tears fall as they may and the love wrap around me as a warming blanket of comfort and I move on.

 

Love Always,

 

Damali Speaks Xx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Always,

Damali Speaks Xx

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?

The True Meaning of My Queer: Meditations on Embracing the Lack of a Box

Hey Blogosphere! It has been an EVENTFUL week! I turned 25 on Friday and with the official embrace of a quarter of a century came a fully developed brain with less than developed thoughts to sort through. This week’s topic is about embracing my true Queerness. Let’s dive in, shall we?

 

Queer:

 

(Adjective)

Strange, odd, abnormal, unusual, uncanny, weird.

 

Weird:

(Adjective)

Suggesting something supernatural, uncanny, unnatural,                                                 otherworldly

 

Wyrd: A concept in Anglo-Saxon culture roughly corresponding to fate or personal destiny. The world is ancestral to Modern English “weird”.

 

Why do I write all of those definitions, you ask? Well, in order to understand truly what it means to be “Queer” in the whole sense of the word and not just in who I’m attracted to, I decided to do some sleuthing. What I found is fate. Literally. I found my fate in the words I’ve been using. I believe that words have power and to know what we truly are, we have to know what the words truly mean. Just what are we saying when we say that we’re Queer, or Weird? Really, what all of these came back to is living outside of the box. What is it like to defy the box? What kind of human being lives without there being a box? I am me and that is simply truth, whether or not there is a box involved is purely up to you, for I’ve stepped out of it.

Once I’ve stepped out of it, what is it that I’ve found? I’ve found myself, outside of human definition and ties. One thing that I am learning about millenials is that we are defining our own lives absent of what our parents have laid for us. We challenge gender norms, racial inequity and inequality, capitalism, etc. We just don’t care. We are not adhering to any of the stuff that came before us. We are Queer. One of the things that I love about learning to accept all of me is that in learning who you are, you can then appreciate who you are not. Who am I? Do I like the color blue? Do I want to wear heels and makeup? Am I slim? Am I Vegan? Do I have to put a label on anything that I am?

The closer I get to my purpose, the more I realize that I am paving the way. Millenials are paving the way from what did not exist before. Not only do we create whole new identities, we are creating new entrepreneurial statuses. Our parents and their parents never dreamed that we would, and so their growing frustration comes not from a want to halt our progress, but from a mis-understanding. Let us take the time to love and massage assuredness and then continue on our path. We are. We make. We breathe. We live. We exist. As we pull back the veil, let us hold each other tight. Hold tight to our convictions, to our bravery, to our heart.  As we continue to discover and uncover the uncomfortable, the queer, let us truly and honestly look at and accept our undefineability. Truly. I sometimes say “I don’t wanna be boxed!” and then I unwittingly box myself. Let us find the freedom in the empty. I am alone, but I am certainly not lonely. Welcome the Queer.