Archive for writing

20. My Leap Into Revolutionary Action

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 4, 2008 by alexis

“We might use our position at the bottom, however, to make a clear leap into revolutionary action.”

Imaginatively describe your “clear (or not so clear) leap into revolutionary action” in the style of the “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay (but better!)

Where are you leaping from? how does the leap feel? what do you smell along the way?

Send us your “My Leap Into Revolutionary Action” reflections at brokenbeautifulpress@gmail.com!

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For example poet/artist educator Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha wrote the following!

fresh
The thing about a leap into revolutionary consciousness: it feels good. It feels so, so good.

I’ve been thinking about this lately as I am 33/ Bay Area/ life of my dreams/ working, working working/ friends, fam, love/ grad school, four jobs, writing, performance, career/ and one of those is one of those Bay Area nonprofit jobs you may have heard of. That people whisper, bitch, moan and complain about. That sounds good on paper, so much so that if you love somewhere else you are like “what the fuck are my Bay Area friends complaining about”. Until you experience it. You get one of those jobs that looks so good on paper, where you are gonna be loved and hired cause of your passion, your brown queer girl or boy genius, your smarts and fashion and drive and deep grounded grassroots intellectual knowledge and all the people you know and all the brilliant ideas you are gonna come up with. And instead it is one of those places that feels like a migraine headache, like someone is squeezing your brain with both hands, like you don’t have business casual business casual enough, like it so dry, like your brain just wanders. Like the words, they look alright on the page (sometimes) but how you got there, how you were used and how it felt when you were-

that

don’t.

And it don’t matter how many fancy brunches they take you too on their dime, it don’t take away from the fact that you need the $500 a month but you ain’t getting anything done, and you feeling traumatized, used, dis or un respected and deeply misunderstood while you doing it.


And not loved.

not loved like you need to be.

We all do different strategies we need to do to survive and thrive. And sometimes that means working jobs we kinda like but kinda hate, or straight up all the way hate cause we know we need cash or connections or they a bridge or it a trade off. but it’s important not to let them limit the power of our imaginations, our wildest black and brown queer and trans girlboy dreams. Because those dreams and our energy are our first resources. Sometimes they are the only things we own.

One of my longterm survival/growth strategies  has been to not deal with folks who make me feel like shit or deeply misunderstood/unloved/etc. Some folks call it “living in a bubble.” I call it, QTPOC can’t ever fucking afford to live in a bubble but we can indeed thrive quite well when we have folks who love and get basic important things about us around us.  This has looked many different ways. When I was 21, it meant leaving the United Stated on a Greyhound to move to Canada when my full scholarship ran out- to split the country for a city (Toronto) that had queer woman of color, mixed race girls who talked about it, radical South Asians, Sri Lankans, health care, bike lanes, and cheap vegetables. All things I was missing in New York. It meant, after feeling like I was carrying a toxic burden from trying to work as a scared yet fierce 20 year old with white anarchists who didn’t get or respect much of what I was about or believed for a few years, choosing to not work with white-dominated political organizations or scenes for a few years. I was part of that mid-90s wave of punks and anarchist people of color  who said fuck this to fighting the same stupid fights about racism, sexism, queerphobia, classism and ablism in spaces we didn’t start, shape or control, and going back home.

After a while, I built up my strength. And there were other kinds of relationships and work, including with white folks who weren’t dumb, that became possible. But I still consciously decide what I let in and what I don’t. SO when a friend was like, “Girl, there were so many whitefolks at Critical Resistence!!! WTF!!!” I say, really? I just noticed all the QTPOC everywhere. And she was like, are you kidding, you didn’t catch the scent of the anarchist armpit? And I go, it wasn’t important to focus my energy on that. You might call it optimism. You might call it self-preservation, or playing to our strengths not our weaknesses. Building ourselves stronger.

There is this thing inside me. It’s that crazy little voice I listen to in the center of my chest. A feminist cliché for sure but I still hang on to it. It my compass, my magnetic north. It tells me where to go. It’s my bullshit detector, inherited from my working-class white and middle-class brown ancestor ladies. My mama saying shit or get off the pot, my grandma who knew what was up in her  brownLankan community, family, island, trying to organize, trying not to get married, with all her body. I keep what they gave me, and I add to the recipe. Improvising, experimenting, playing. Always following that pull. Sometimes clearer than others. When I lit out for Canada at 21, it was the path that was all lit up. When I got older, Oya and Kali, they made the choices more complicated. Should I stay in Toronto where I have friends and love and work and an apartment, or pack up everything and move to Oakland because I hunger for QTPOC art peers and I always wonder what it would be like to go back? But I still hold on to her first. She the source of my sanity. And I hold on to her for so long, sometimes I forget how many folks, women of color, queer and trans people of color, we trained to think that voice crazy unimportant. How easy it is to relinquish back into a life of doing what you’re told, staying in grad school when we hate it, buying thing and watching a box not because of joyful relaxation but out of numbing habit.

When I was sitting in that job, I would think of INCITE meetings and Mangos With Chili meetings. Mangos meetings in Cherry’s hot pink living room, painting each other’s toenails and squinting at budgets. Cancelling and rescheduling when we got sick or had a brown girl overscheduled overwhelmed moment. Loaning each other twenty or a hundred bucks when we needed it. Taking turns freaking out, laughing and cracking up, driving two extra-loud no-muffler early 90s Toyotas through east Oakland hills and to the ocean to offer Yemaya a watermelon from Trader Joes. And how it felt like joy. And love.

The thing about the leap into revolutionary consciousness is that it feels gooooooood

good                         good

good

so so good

Like it feels right and like you are at the fucking center and you can make your dreams real and you can make them real anyway that works for you. Like that if you are a single woman of color single mama with a car that breaks down and you are late for a meeting this is not met with a  sniff from someone else/your boss about how there is a lot of “chaos” in your life and this “needs to be looked at” or, worse, ‘you should be more MINDFUL about the CHAOS in your life.” But the meeting, how it happens, how you do the work, gets figured out by you. Like for real, you can do it at your kitchen table. You can use your strengths. Your strengths are not just acknowledged, but understood. A meeting can look like two girls at a kitchen table in east O/ over some wine/ “check in” is an hour when you talk story about your girls and boys, stress, the thing that happened in the Trader Joe’s line, the horrible day job, you rub each others feet, and then shit  happens and it’s easy, or it’s not always easy, it’s work, but it’s like pushing out a baby when you’re squatting instead of having your legs in stirrups. Gravity and the natural force of the universe is working with you, you not working against it. Meetings can happen over G Chat. Meetings can happen on skype, at the Laundromat, at 2 AM. If your chronic illness or disability or lack of money means the way the goddamn meeting happens isn’t working, you can switch it up, and all those things are a source of value, the center of the head of the clit of embodied knowledge, not a source of shame.

It feels delicious. It’s not burnout. It’s not without childcare. It’s not dry. You understand what everyone is saying. When you don’t, you can ask and you can talk about it.

This is not to say that there is not argument, not disagreement, not labor, not tired. But the work, the work is your wildest dreams together. Feels like grow. Like life. Like juice. Like more not less. Like we getting some where. Like I never never get tired of saying we at the center, we grow, grow grow. Make our genius on shine. Make what we need, what our fam, our peops, our communities need. And we look so cute when we go it. And it so  sexy. So fresh. So wake up smiling and fighting. So beautiful resistance. SO what our ancestors did, what we wanted.

And if mainstream society doesn’t recognize- maybe it don’t matter at all. You don’t know me, but I know you. And I know me, and us, and what I don’t know I can learn. And I/we can be clear about where we putting in energy and work.

Our energy, our flyness, our genius, our dreams, our scar healing salves, our psychic powers, our gardens, they all our resources. We are not just “quadruple jeopardy.” We our own light.

Feels and tastes and looks: just like fresh, fresh water.

The thing about the leap into revolutionary consciousness is it slakes your queer colored girl thirst you had all your life. Just like the freshest river water.

Miracle makers, us. Have been and always will or could be.

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

26. The Manifesta

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 4, 2008 by alexis

“As Black feminists and Lesbians we know that we have a very definite revolutionary task to perform and we are ready for the lifetime of work and struggle before us.”

Lifetime of work and struggle!!!!!!! What makes this worth it for you? The faces of little revolutionaries deserving the best world ever? The mandates of elders who taught you how to be fierce? Write a manifesta about your own lifetime of commitment and what that means to you. Don’t forget to let us know who it is dedicated to!!!

For example guerilla mama and outlaw midwife Mai’a Williams wrote this beautiful Manifesta

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Outlaw Midwives: A Manifesta

LIFE AND DEATH

Every child will not be born alive or may die in infanthood.
Early motherhood is the interplay of life and death and sometimes filled with sadness and loss, with joy and sweetness.
Always death is interwoven in to the fabric of the living moment. Cells reproduce and die like the rhythm of breathing, like the opening and closing of a gate.
We center, not simply the biology of birth, but relationships we have with people we take care of and those that take care of us.
And mourn daily the dead and the missing, the actions of our governments and other powerful entities that kill and maim babies and mothers, the destruction of resistance communities’ next generation.  That destruction privileges many of us with resources allowing us more reproductive choices.
The pro-life movement focuses on birth control and abortions, we go deeper. We ought to be able to decide when, and how we will conceive and with whom, who and what practices will be part of our pregnancy, what we allow into our body, where we give birth and with whom, how we feed our children, etc. Our intelligence, agency, and subjectivity are central. The health of the next generation depends on the psychological, physical and spiritual health of the mother today, our levels of stress, support networks, confidence and joy.

MEDICAL VIOLENCE
The medical system’s structural and physical violence denies us  the full expression of our agency. Doctors and nurses routinely manipulate information for the convenience of the medical system and its workers. They force us to have strangers’ hands, medical instruments and machines on our body, to undergo unnecessary and dangerous procedures such as hormonal birth control, surgery, genital mutilation and sterilization, experiment on our bodies and psyches, verbally threaten the ours and children’s lives, lie to them, and sexually harass and abuse us with little impunity. They deny us our basic human rights, humanity, moral expression, personal and communal wisdom, cultural understandings of body and being, full access to the power of reproduction and creation, and our connection to our children, loved ones, culture, kinships and cosmos.

In order to realize resistance and liberatory revolutionary communities that care for all their members, we co-create respectful spaces for folks to make their decisions about their body, family, communities, life and death.

NATURAL AND NORMAL CHILDBIRTH

The concept of ‘natural’ childbirth or lifestyle is dependent on the concept of the ‘artificial and that the ‘normal’ birth concept is dependent on the existence of the technological and medical models of birth. So natural/normal birth did not exist before modern western birth culture.

Mostly pregnant middle and upper class educated white women have the economic and racial privilege and choices to have a ‘natural/normal’ birth. These women, a small segment of the global birthing world creates their natural experiences by exoticising, fetishizing, imitating and co-opting the practices and images of 3rd world brown women childbearing cultures. Natural/normal concept is really code for ‘preferred’, it is the elite white women who have the preferred childbirth and normal body. Their body, lifestyle, childbearing, mothering, and inevitably, their children set the standard through their privilege and access for what is normal and natural.
It’s not about ‘natural’ birth, vs. medical interventions vs. Cesarean. It is about empowerment.

Many midwives in the West have fought so hard for legal recognition for their craft that all other considerations about birth have become secondary or tertiary. The privileging of ‘certified’ and ‘insured’ midwives has been not only negligent but destructive to women of color, the queer community, sexual and trauma survivors, imprisoned women, folks with disabilities and many more marginalized peoples in the birth community and in the world at large.

Imagine for most of human history midwives were just women who had given birth or were the sister or the mother or had been around for births and knew the rituals, the songs, the calls that that community had developed around the emergence of a new being into the world. Perhaps a well of community knowledge held by various men and women in the community. Some oral traditions. Drawings that acted as guides and recorders of history. Helpful herbs. Folks had watched other mammals bring forth their young. Most likely they knew the particular woman giving birth. Her temperment, her favorite foods, her moods.

They were the mother, sister, aunt, cousin, grandmother, neighbour who came by and helped. The women who had a knack. Who were in charge of gathering and drying herbs. Who took it upon themselves to care.
We cannot afford to romanticize the past, nor believe in an edenic before, but this is the way birth still is happening in a good many parts of the world right now.

Right now 300,000 women are giving birth. Most of the babies will live. A few will die.
It is a joyful sad knowledge.

A LACK OF EXPERTISE

We are not the authority, nor the expert. It is that lack of authority and expertise that is our greatest strength. We know what we know, do not claim to know more than we know, and we follow the birthing person’s leadership.

A community is only as empowered as its mothers.

Before the beginning of human history, human beings have controlled their reproductive lives. Folks found leaves, roots, sap, smoke, dance, prayers, animals and more that helped to regulate fertility and those processes continue to this day. They choose persons and processes that honor their reproductive lives. And we are willing to break the law and go to prison to honor and empower the mother, the child, and the community.

It can be difficult to receive that training and apprenticeship when doors refuse to open because we are from a marginalized community. Access is not solely (or even primarily) dependent upon our passion, ethics, intelligence, or dedication. We get all the training that we can. Teach each other. Read everything we can. Talk to everyone who will talk to us. Develop a strong intuition with our own bodies, minds, lives, with the universe. We never stop learning, because the more we know, the more that we can offer. But we don’t deny folks the right to choose for themselves what kind of pregnancy, birth, and child caring they want. We explain to folks what we know and what we don’t know and let them make their decision.

CREATING REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNITIES OF LOVE

We envision anti-violence safer communities where mothers and children heal from reproductive violence, because it is when we are whole and confident in our own leadership, are we able to co-create healthy communities.

Communities in which loyalty to a mother’s choice is 99 percent of being a midwife and in which we define ‘motherhood’ as love by any means necessary.

Communities in which we care for ourselves developing spiritual and physical awareness so that we can hold the space, the energy, the vision for folks to make decisions that center freedom, community and revolutionary love.

We must mother ourselves. Hold ourselves the way that we hold our children. And know that our wisdom is stronger and more knowledgeable and relevant than outside expertise. We must live the lives that are given to us. And trust others to do the same. For the sake of our survival. For the sake of our ancestresses. For the sake of our communities. For the sake of love.

email us your manifestas at brokenbeautifulpress@gmail.com!