Tag Archives: Truth

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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In the Quiet/In The Closet/In The Space: On Thoughts of Self, Success & Androgyny

“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.

Love Always,

Damali Speaks Xx

 

Learning Liberation Week 4: On Love

” Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13

It’s so cheesy of me to take this passage that so many people use, but I went to an art display recently and I found it staring back at me and as someone who is not religious at all, but very spiritual, I find that there’s a little bit of truth in everything. Welcome back to #BlackWomxnWorkThroughTrauma’s last week. This week, I wanted to focus on Learning Liberation surrounding “Love” not as an idea, but as a reality.

When I think of the word love, what immediately pops into my head is what I’ve been conditioned with by society. Films, tv shows, ads, church and familial expectations, peer pressure, etc, these all help to inform my personal view of what giving and receiving love looks like. One thing I realize is that up until this point in my life, I’ve been searching for love but never really established just what love is and looks like for myself. It’s one thing to know what love feels like and to know especially, if you’ve experienced some sort of abuse, just what love is not. What about what happens when love looks and feels like abuse because that’s what we’ve been taught? I am not a fan of gender roles or traditional relationships in the form of monogamy, because I really do believe that love should always be free, honest, and communicative.

I put 1 Corinthians 13 up there because I realize that through this month of #BlackWomxnWorkThroughTrauma, I’ve been working through each week myself as well as with you all and what I’ve come to realize is that the definition of love starts for me with how I choose to love myself. Just how do I affirm my selfhood? Am I patient and kind with myself? How do I protect myself? How do I trust myself? How do I guard my truth? If I can’t answer those definitively, then I haven’t been truly loving myself as I deserve. I deserve the highest amount of love from myself. We all do. Love isn’t the superficial. Love is depth.

For the last post of #BlackWomxnWorkThroughTrauma:

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

In Them I Found (Poetry by Damali Rose Xion)

I found my life partner

In between being

abused and being worshipped I found that I want or need neither.

I was searching for her all along, and him, and them

It all fit.

I put it together early on that I was queer

In the midst of friendships there was something

That fit so right here

I just loved

being close

holding

kissing

My friends were more in every sense of the word

and I discovered a deep well of love and what didn’t belong

and I don’t have to explain that to

you

-Damali Rose Xion

 

Allow Alice in Wonderland: Meditations on Self Sacrifice, Reflection & Moving On

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire Cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the Cat, “it doesn’t matter.”
— Lewis Carroll

Hey Speakerz. This week has been interesting, with the recent news blaring the words “rape” and “sexual assault” everywhere. I’ve been forced to deconstruct so much this week from my own experiences. I’ve realized that for survivors of these horrific moments, it isn’t as simple as “well, I experienced this about however many years ago.” It’s much more convoluted. Depression, inability to connect, difficult relationships with food, etc. can all come from these moments. How do we heal? So much of the healing is being able to name the problem and then continue to work towards a place of stability. Honesty with self comes first and foremost.

As a little girl, my favorite disney tale wasn’t the one with the Prince and Princess, it was actually Alice in Wonderland. I was a child of book learning and so I read every version that I could find from the Disney picture book to Lewis Carroll’s version to the gruesome original tale. I even got an Alice and Wonderland doll set and I painted all the dolls brown because I wanted the dolls to reflect my world, my life and where I seemed to often find myself. Growing up, I always considered myself more of an Alice. I didn’t fit in and spent much time alone, not out of a loneliness but because there was simply so much in my world that I saw that it seemed others didn’t.

As I grew older, I realized the real truth in that the world was Wonderland and I happened to take my role of Alice pretty seriously or maybe not seriously at all. Constantly getting lost, making turns, both right and wrong, which of course mean that “right” and “wrong” are relative. Maybe I’m also the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit and the Queen of Hearts all in one. Maybe I am both Alice and Wonderland. Oftentimes, I preferred my own insulated world because the outside one didn’t understand the intersections of black queer and female.

One thing about this wonderful wonderland of a world that we live in, is that with every day is a new adventure. We wake with a new choice of adventures in just how our days will turn out. As a teacher and lover of children, I’ve been on this journey of how to let children, especially black and brown children, embrace their Wonderland. In this journey, I realized just how often myself and the black men and women around me have lost our Wonderland. We speak so much about self care but really:

What is the process of self care?

What is the process of allowing our Wonderland to thrive whilst still thriving inside of this venture called capitalist/sexist/racist/oppressive America? 

How often do you truly put yourself first? 

How do you decide when to let your shadow self play? 

When do you take the time to connect? 

What is connection for you? 

What is an embrace? How often do you need one? 

When do you allow your thoughts to quiet themselves? 

If we don’t keep ourselves in constant awareness and reflection of the necessary, do we find ourselves in the mode of sacrifice? We want to be liked, we want to be loved and so we give in an effort to receive. But the only person guaranteed to receive you, is you. So what now? I had a friend tell me once that consistency is key. How often are you consistent with your selfhood? I’ve been forced to be self aware. As a rape survivor who can and is triggered, I have to deconstruct the triggering in order to survive the moment. But that’s my truth. It doesn’t have to be anyone else’s.

Most recently with the full moon and new moons as well as planetary alignment, I’ve been talking with a lot of people who are saying that they’re in a mode of clean-house. I looked around at my own life and saw that I too had let people in my life and were holding them there for no reason. There was no reciprocity in our relationship. They didn’t reach out. Maybe they did and really sought to control me through their own unresolved issues. I’m not speaking of anyone in particular, but I am speaking of the relationships that we allow in our space that change our vibration, that cause us to sacrifice who we are and what we believe for a moment. None are good or bad, they simply just are.

What do you allow in your space and why? 

What is the process of moving on? 

It’s okay to be angry, to be sad, to cry, but move. Keep moving. Humanity is not meant to be lived standing still. What about Alice and her Wonderland?

Well, let’s tuck her safely in our hearts and remember that our own little Alice needs some play time and tlc at least once a day. Maybe the question is:

Where do you want to go and does it matter? 

Love Always,

Damali Speaks 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

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

Black Radical Women: An Exhibition & A Way of Life

Hey Speakerz! This week, I made my third trip to the Brooklyn Museum in Brooklyn, NY to see Black Radical Women: We Wanted A Revolution 1965-85 Exhibit. Each time that I go, I see more, I feel more, I experience more. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up.

As a child, I was always exposed to museums. My mother, a New York City English Teacher prized learning above all. And so, every summer or school break, she would drag me and my brother out to museums. She always tried to find the exhibitions of black men and women so that we could see ourselves mirrored in the subjects and for that, I am eternally grateful. In so many years, I can count on my hand how many times I’ve seen truthful, honest and beautiful exhibitions dedicated to the fullness of black womanhood. So in April, when I heard of the Black Radical Women exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, I actually shouted with glee. A whole exhibition dedicated to black women like me!

The first time I went, I experienced sheer open-mouthed joy. I ran through each portion, barely taking it all in and just reveling in the fact that these women looked like me, created like me and left things for me to find. Most of them are still living and making work. I was astonished. The second trip, found me much more focused. I scrolled through one portion, completely dedicated to the ideal of immersive living and appreciating. I was almost existing in these pieces as much as with them. These women, seemingly ordinary, simply took marked moments of their lives, in their movements, their speech, their questions, their art, their letters, etc. The third trip found myself alongside a partner of mine and I cried. I think visibility, the closeness deep in the skin, the remembrance, the acknowledgement of my own black and radical woman existence realized caused me to cry.


One of the most beautiful things about the Brooklyn Museum is that it’s donation based. I saw this exhibit each time for one dollar. I scoff at capitalism! But really, I found so much more than just defeating capitalism in the “radical” of these repeated visits. I suppose that I’ll go again, a few more times, and whatever reaction comes out of it is what comes. But what is it that all these moments from this exhibit really expose for me? Just what is a Black Radical Woman as I profess myself to be?

In the exhibition is a variety of mediums. There is film, paper, photography, fashion, etc. To move through the exhibit in it’s fullness takes time and attention. What is it to really see each of these women? How do I hold onto Blondell Cummings as she moves effortlessly on screen? How do I take in the fullness in the eyes of Ming Smith as she photographs her own visual? Where do I hold the emotion that wells up when I see Julie Dash’s Daughter of the Dust in screenplay and all her plans for the week in her planner? Black women demand presence and not just a cursory glance.


To be black, radical and woman is to be alive in this world. I think that our very existence in a world that seeks to shatter and annihilate us is resistance. All of these women showed themselves, their lives, their truths. To be a black radical woman artist is to share your truth in all of it’s ugly and beauty. The question that I’m left with is where my work fits in? Where would I like it to fit in? I accept the mantle of black woman and radical and yet there’s the object and how I am carrying it.

Love Always,

Damali Speaks Xx