Tag Archives: Travel

Travel & Triumph: Thoughts on Traveling to the South and Selfhood

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?

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

To Freedom, Family & Wanderlust



Hello Blogosphere! It has been a busy weekend! I am currently writing this as I wait for my train back to good ole New England. I hope you enjoy the supplied photos! This post is in homage to Roots as in my family roots, the fight for liberation and of course my realized need to travel!

This weekend, I went to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with my mother and brother for the Spivey Forshee Family Reunion. Recently, planes have become a source of inspiration for me. I love the in-between stage of moments in life. The long drives, the plane rides, all seem to be symbolic for life in a way. There are many destinations: birth, graduations, new jobs, family reunions, death, etc. If we don’t learn to enjoy the in-between than how do we appreciate the destinations? I grew up in New York with my mom and my brother and for the most part we stuck to our little family. I always wanted to be closer to my extended family and now as adults, I think it’s fun that I have cousins that have become friends.  But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s go back to the beginning or at least, what my family could find as the beginning.


Many papers and information were damaged regarding the sale of Africans in this country. I’ll probably never be able to go back far enough to capture the life of the original Africans that came to this country and became my ancestors, but This weekend, I learned this.

1865, the Emancipation Proclamation is signed granting freedom to all enslaved persons. My Great Great Grandfather, Nathen Spivey is six years old in Georgia. He is the son of Tom Spivey a slave owner from England and an enslaved woman of color, Frances. Master Spivey, as he was called, owned he and his mother Frances. Before freedom, his family is separated and sold, and as far as Nathen and Frances knew, some were sold deep south to Waco, Texas. When Emancipation came, we know that one of the first things formerly enslaved people tried to do was to find their families. Nathen and Frances were no different. With searching to no avail, Nathen grew and started his own family. What did he do? He began to name his children after the family members sold, so that if they found them, they would know family by their names. When I heard this, I wanted to cheer. How incredibly brilliant. I’m named after my Great Aunt Catherine. That’s where the tradition came from! I wonder how many other traditions we still have?!


Nathen married Sarah Kelly, another descendent of slaves and masters and together they had 12 children. My Great Grandfather Elijah had a twin Elisha. Elisha and 10 siblings moved to Oklahoma, while Elijah moved to New York City. We in NYC knew that we had cousins in Oklahoma but had no way to contact them. Because of Facebook believe it or not, my mom found a cousin, realized a family reunion was in the plans and off we set to the family reunion. I haven’t had a chance yet to really absorb it all, but even typing this, I feel myself getting tearful. This weekend I saw where my family lived in an all black town by the name of Clearview, put flowers on their graves and got to start to know my cousins who are AMAZING. Twins are rampant in my family. At the reunion, there were 3 sets, one in each generation. Also, there are a set of twins in NY that weren’t at the reunion that fit into a gap. Dear God, do not bless me with twins. Haha But seriously though, this weekend was exactly what I needed. It was fulfilling, affirming and wonderful. Also, I come from a family of seriously good looking people. I’m just sayin.


I feel so lucky. It was like coming home. This is liberation. Knowing that even though life is crazy, there’s freedom somewhere, somehow in family. It seems as though there was a missing piece that somehow fit. I remember watching Roots as a child and my mother said it was so important to know where we had been to know where we were going as a people. At this family reunion, learning so much information about who I’m descended from, I watched myself learn who I had been and who I want to be. I come from amazing, intelligent, resilient, learned people. I feel myself walk a little bit taller now than I did a few days ago.

As I said, I watched the original Roots growing up and when the remake came out I at first refused to tune in. Why would I want to re-live all that pain? But I did watch, and I cried all the way through. There was a visibility in the story. I wanted, no needed to know my family history. I needed to know that I was not just a mistake as the truth of my history is not taught in classrooms. Black and brown people need affirmation of their personhood, their history, their worthiness. I cried because I found it. Now, to do the work to keep and expand it.


Moving on, I realized that the more I get to travel, the more I learn of myself. Growing up, I was a selfish snot of a kid. I was spoiled and awkward socially and alternative black in a world where that wasn’t quite understood. But as I’ve grown and challenged myself to move out of the comfort zone that is NYC, I’ve learned that I possess a hunger. I used to always ask myself, “What are you hungry for, dear girl?” With confidence, I can now say travel. Traveling is one of those necessary things. I never got to travel much as a young person because of money. I still have no money, but I do have a lot more friends, the ability to drive and the will to make it happen. Living in other places, seeing how other people live and survive takes us to a place where the ego cannot thrive. It is wholly human. Whenever I talk to well-travelled people, there’s a wisdom present that is always so very gorgeous. I wouldn’t mind having some of that, but I also just want these eyes to feast on the possibilities. My world is not just America and the states I’ve been to.


My generation is very unapologetic, we don’t adhere to respectability politics and we challenge the world and each other in new and calculated ways. This weekend, I realized just how much I challenge not just the status quo, but those around me. I realize how much love is elusive.

I continued to read Alice Walkers’, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens.” Being in a different place, the midwest, and discovering stories of integration of the area from cousins’ experiences, I came to so many questions about my work as an activist. I came across one question this weekend of rebel vs. revolution that stuck. A rebel can be crushed as they are singular with views that can be silenced. Revolution involves more than one, thereby making it a movement. Which do I take on? How? Have you ever tried to predict the year ahead and failed drastically? We can’t predict life. The pitfalls, the highs, the curveballs. I feel different after this weekend. I feel more in tune with my ancestors. With time. With past, present, and future. The older I get, the more I’m finding that Family, Freeedom and Wanderlust feed my hunger and if I keep hunting for those, I may just get somewhere.


To end this post is an Alice Walker quote from “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens” that this blog was inspired by. Following the quote are Facebook statuses from the three reunion days.

Guided by my heritage of a love of beauty and a respect for strength- in search of my mother’s garden, I found my own. And perhaps in Africa over two hundred years ago, there was just such a mother, perhaps she painted vivid and daring decorations in oranges and yellows and greens on the walls of her hut; perhaps she sang- in a voice like Roberta Flack’s- sweetly over the compounds of her village; perhaps she wove the most stunning mats or told the most ingenious stories of all the village storytellers. Perhaps she was herself a poet- though only her daughters name is signed to the poems that we know.

-Alice Walker