Friday, August 3, 2012
Of all the things she could have learned
Throughout the drama she never confirmed.
She saw her days as hungry displays
Of unusual advances and disoriented ways.
She dove into truth like a handsome lunch,
Never suspecting that she'd ordered too much.
And now with full belly and sore arms,
She's ready to send it back or beyond.
Purging the bounty that gave her this,
Enormous space of emptiness.
A stomach filled with the pain of indulging,
Too fast and too slow for her insatiable longing.
Discovering late that she was stuck in the middle,
And the reality was, that she'd eaten too little.
Her choices are like that of a game,
Multiple options that she was unable to claim.
She swallowed down hard on the remaining crumbs,
Completing the meal of what she had become.
But reversing the already eaten plate,
Would put her body behind its fate.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Living in a state of psychic unrest, in a Borderland, is what makes poets write and artists create.*
I taught myself to ride a bike when I was around seven or eight years old. For some, that's a bit late for a young kid. Now, almost 23 years later, my current bike's front tire is slightly crooked and in need of some attention. Recently, I realized that I have taught myself most of the things that I know and have come to rely on. And that's not usually my first instinct.
When I first began to learn, my dad would run along side of me, with one hand clasped over my tiny brown fingers. The other hand held onto the back of the bicycle seat, guiding it along. I would pretend like I was riding alone, despite the fact that someone was holding onto me. He knew it, too. I could tell. Still in his slacks and tie from working all day and a Kool Mild tucked under his top lip, he would hide an exhausted smile. And, I would look up at him instead of the path ahead, enjoying the ride. My driveway was this long slab of cement that extended the span of my house, past our yard with the grapevine and maple tree, ending at the storage unit. The cement of the driveway was cracked and uneven, certainly not ideal for bicycle lessons. Although, most folks saw our home as the "neighborhood house". It's where all the young kids that lived on my block would come and play. My parents and other neighborhood parents would trade off on who kept an eye on the youngins that were riding around in our Big Wheels and terrorizing weeds with garbage pots and kitchen utensils. Therefore, I often found an audience for my consistently failed sessions on my big girl bike.
There was also a tiny ditch. It ran along the grass in the yard of the duplex next door. It was a wide dip in the soil that was combination of broken cement and consistent mud, regardless of the weather. A mud puddle, essentially, but it appeared enormous to my rebellious, doe eyes. I could feel it preparing for my young fate. And there was evidence. The little boy next door had cracked his head on it one day while playing wildly without his helmet. Since then, my pals and I were scared of that ditch.
Picture language precedes thinking in words; the metaphorical mind precedes analytical consciousness.*
When I began to realize that I was quickly becoming the oldest person with training wheels in my neighborhood, my dad removed them from my bicycle. I don't remember the specific day that I rode forward freely, but I do remember this day. Several months passed, and I had resigned to not riding at all since that meant that I would have to learn. I could identify a clear desire to ride independently, but I also wasn't quite ready. I began to hide indoors in the AC when I noticed more of my friends whizzing past me on two wheels. It was time for me to get out there.
One summer afternoon, I decided that I was finally ready to learn. And I knew that it needed to happen on my own. I ate dinner and stared out of the window at my opponent--the cement driveway. I asked my mom if I could go outside. My dad was away for the weekend on Reserve duty, so I knew that this was opportunistic Peter Pan time. The yard was empty and my mother kept the back door open and sat by the window, either reading or watching evening television. "Be careful!", she hollered out the window as I ran out of the house, missing the last porch step. This was a great start. Undiscouraged, I stood up and threw myself onto my bike, believing that I would expertly ride off into the sunset, because at that age, my fresh inner faith was my superpower. I believed that it was all that I needed. And it was. Not just yet, though. I needed to fall a couple of times, get up, and fall all over again. I needed practice.
So there I was in a tangled heap of pink bicycle and brown body, lying on the concrete with cuts on my elbows and ankles. My arms had been flung above my head and immediately, I jumped up wondering if anyone saw me. No one was around. Except my dear mother, shouting out the window, "to get my ass inside". That summer, she would occasionally stand with me as I tried "walking" my bike with one leg, letting the other leg dangle over the seat. But my mother wasn't too fond of the heat. She preferred her indoor AC serenade in her nightgown, with her latest Danielle Steele close by. I couldn't blame her. As an elementary school teacher, summer was her time to chill.
I brushed myself off, lifted my tiny bike upright, and prepared to jump right back on. Again, I haphazardly threw my leg over the seat, extending my foot towards the pedal, pushing off, hoping that my other foot would make it to the other pedal. This second fall hurt more. I landed hard and the handlebars whipped around and smacked me in the face. The wind flew out of me which was challenging because I hadn't quite caught my breath after the previous fall. It was becoming clear that I had no idea what I was doing. I lay there for a moment, scanning the grass, suddenly wishing that I wasn't alone.
And then I saw it. The ditch. At that moment, my bicycle had been replaced. Now, overcoming this ditch became my new priority. All of my self determination had escaped me and I became fixated on avoidance rather than completion. Eyeing the ditch, I stood up, very carefully. Determined that if I saw it, watched it, and kept it in sight, it couldn't hurt me. I fell several more times after that, ripping my baby skin and engraving my checkbones and knee caps with gravel. I began to feel, less and less--pain and fear. My determination to ride had become a bit blind. Invisible, even. This fleeting destiny that I believed in my young heart would be fatal, couldn't happen to me. However, I wasn't aware that it already had. The abstract fear of falling into that "ditch" had been a successful distraction from actually learning how to ride. Instead, I was continuing to repeat my flailing series of falling and catching myself--creating new scars. Marks that discolored my skin and not my memories. However, my skin's disappearing marks represented the "forgetfulness" that was beginning to inform my personhood.
And, eventually, I fell in the ditch.
I did manage to ride for a brief moment. My pedals rotated around my bike chain, at least 3 times that day. Immediately after, I leaned a bit too far to the left and landed in the soft grass. My equilibrium tactics were a tad off and I kept trying to push forward a bit crooked and off balance. I could never do anything in a straight line. But fortunately, I finally learned how to land.
She learns to transform the small "I" into the total self.*
(excerpt from Letting Go)
*Borderlands/La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldua
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
About a month ago, I turned 30.
My birthday was nothing more than a tale of voodoo and mischief and it had been a long while since I'd laughed that hard. It was a very special surprise to have so many people in attendance.
We ambushed my regular birthday joint, Royal Bangledesh, with 20 folks (the early headcount and reservation number), however, they weren't prepapared for us......and their other innumerable Friday night parties. We had to make some guerilla-style endeavors just to get menus, but we managed to fill our bellies and have a fabulous time. And as the festivities grew, and the wine (and whiskey!) were flowing, so did the people. After the restaurant take-over,(and after wine bottles were opened on the front stoop) the party drama parade commenced at a nearby bar, where we got our late night party on. It is apparent that the need for decadence was urgent for most of us that evening. Delicious.
Again my laughter was almost overwhelming (still laughing) and I am warmly and eternally grateful to EVERYONE in attendance.
I am fortunate to have so many special and loving people in my life.
Since then, I have experienced several revelations. Intense identity crises, deep love for myself, and also deep examination of my previous thirty years. It's been tough for me to realize that I have even lived 30 years and also simultaneously humbling. I hope I can remember it all. I probably don't. Somehow I feel responsible for every second within my past three decades. But because certain experiences are over, does not mean that they did not happen and I will not remember them. History does not require history books, it just requires repetition. And after the last 30 years, I think it's safe to say that I am willing to learn from my history. Learning by provoking change instead of repetition. Learning by stepping forward. Learning by speaking up. My life has been comprised of interesting, amazing, harmful, exciting, and liberating people, experiences, and LIVES. And I think that I am within my 13th. Life, that is. The Lucky Number. My rebel heart has brought upon most of the risks, happiness...and suffering...and I wouldn't change a thing. And as outspoken as I am, or claim to be, the truth is, I have been the author of my own silence for 30 years. My tiny hand is on the volume button and hopefully my voice will crescendo louder into all of your ears.
One day, you will hear me. Unless you already have. My voice has a tendency to shout before I can adjust the sound.
Or maybe you will even read what I have to say. Like now.
Nonetheless, I am finding myself at some level of one. This oneness should be almost divorced of a feminist lense, if you will. This exploration is provoking me to explore a separate existence. A concept of oneness that is simultaneously a belief in sisterhood, but also coupled with individuality.
And....suddenly, there was ONE.
These thoughts have led me face to face with Frida. One of her self portraits. Singular Frida. In a suit, surrounded by clippings of her own hair. Self Portrait with Cropped Hair. A piece filled with pain, transition, love, confusion, release, and HAIR. These words I use are thoughts, and also based on my presumptions. Here is another word. Joyful. This should be included.
If I could change the title of this self portrait, I would call it,
Talking to Myself.
drawings and scribbles, scribbles and drawings
Below are my delayed thoughts on Beyond Visibility, feminism, and otra brain matter. Most of which was written a few months prior, therefore pure and exceptionally honest. Please be gentle when examining my axis. Ah, that's what she said.
BEYOND VISIBILITY HAPPENED!!!
Honestly, I glow as I write this and immediately begin to recollect. I spent the afternoon truly humbled by the femme presence. I am so grateful for the opportunity to facilitate. It returned me (fearfully!) to ownership via community organizing and DAMNIT, I liked it. I am ready for more.
We called it "Aligning and Illuminating Femmes"...and it sure did. I felt re-acquainted with a community I didn't realize I needed so much. And could also be so incredibly triggered by. And I LOVED that. My wheels were turning for dayz...
Topics surrounding working class, intersectionality, survivors...
I found that as much as we all wanted to "kick it" in solidarity, there were still some feelings. Processing needed to happen. And of course, may not have been fulfilled in one afternoon. As an individual that "passes", whether I want to or like it, found myself stunned by the feeling of being on display as a facilitator and just being OUT. As queer, as black, as femme-identified. It was powerful. And full disclosure, I boundaried myself and my Erica emotions by not reading my work that afternoon. I had an essay that I had been fine-tuning and was dying to share, but found myself handling my self in enormous ounces that I knew that I would feel diminished post the experience...with minimal opportunity to release or relaxe. I am not sure if this was my objective, but I am able to recognize my own red flags and decided to wave them. In solidarity.
The power in not just identity, but identifying...is incredible. And audacious. Both things that I enjoy staring directly into. The Abyss of understanding, perhaps? Methinks that connection at that point was too connected.
Three of my femme identified youth came and blessed the Femmes of Color Caucus with their brilliance and positivity.
"This is A LOT." Nefertiti Martin
I quote her because I fel that she said so simply what everyone felt. It WAS a lot. And that's okay. I hope we can begin from here.
When I had to dip out for nourishment, Aisha (my AMAZING Women's Task Force intern), coordinated the Caucus by asking femmes to define what makes them "femme" in one word. The feeling of the room changed considerably as I re-entered to give a time check after disappearing for a bit. Perhaps because my hungry melodrama had exited, or more appropriately because we let the youth take the lead.
I am ready for more events like this. I think we can all agree that it was one entire day of 4 events: skillshare/brunch; fishbowl/breakout groups; caucauces; literay salon; and caberet/party. Whew! So femme, so spectacular. I look forward to a weekend of similar programming!
accidental feminist thoughts
I have found myself consistently invoking the musings of my previous sisters leaving me to contemplate educating our brown girls. Such a wanton outcry (a la bell hooks' yearning!), from the youth I work with, but also within myself. Call it over-identifying or just call it detectingtheneedforaDETECTIVE. The fearful feminist is in search of some answers. My outcry for sisterhood grows stronger and my desire to redefine feminism is overwhelming. A movement IS upon us...and now it's up to US to get it poppin.
More specifically, I am seeking the deconstruction of the myth and the truth of the "strong black woman". Been wondering how many black women, girls, trans women and girls, and other gender non-conforming black woman identified folks can relate to its mythical quality. Duty and presumption continue to astound, confuse, and infuriate me. This is a current project. And like most projects, it found me. Mostly because it IS ME.
grad school plans
I have offically begun the doctorate crawl. Officially, as in, I have plugged in some names of schools into my search engine and made some lists. As usual, the omnivore is having trouble deciding. And my search engine consists of google, but also the genuis minds of my colleagues, pals, party goers, acquaintances and new strangers. So, if you you've got any suggestions for a decidedly disoriented artist/thinker interested in anthropology, gender, sociology, education, and ART ART ART....then hit me up.
I complete this post with a pictures of folks that make up my Femme Root Equation. After much processing ...and over-processing...my equation consists of this:
Clorinda Bradford + Denise Huxtable + Annie Hall
Divided by Brandon Boyd,
And multiplied by Sesame Street's own Abby Cadabby.
All equalling good old E DAWGS.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Beyond Visibility is happening...this Sunday. Info is below. Please pass on!
*A Message from my hard-workin' Organizers:
Please keep in mind that this an event created to give space to queer femme folks. As some have asked, this event is not primarily feminist or woman-identified, but for queer femme individuals to develop community, congregate, and share. ALL and we look forward to celebrating and dancing at our evening's programming.
Allies are welcome to the multidisciplinary event, Illuminate: A Femme Salon, at 7pm, as well as to the Cabaret/Dance Party curated by my sweet sista, Heather Acs, at Public Assembly immediately after!
Website - http://beyondvisibility.femme2012.com/
FB event is here: http://www.facebook.com/events/143595372417669/?ref=ts
Beyond Visibility January 15, 2012: Illuminating and Aligning Queer Femmes in NYC
Beyond Visibility: Illuminating and Aligning Femmes in NYC is a day-long event for LGBTQQI2 folks on self-identified femme/inine spectrums to come together in conversation, coalition, and celebration of *all* the parts of ourselves and our many communities. Events are taking place in NYC, Toronto, Philadelphia, San Francisco, London, Los Angeles, and beyond.
The NYC extravaganza celebrating femme/inine queer accomplishment includes a Brunch Skillshare Salon, a Community Discussion with Breakout groups, and a Literary event at Judson Memorial Church [all-ages, Assembly Hall at 239 Thompson Street, NY, NY]. In the evening there is a Cabaret and Dance party at Public Assembly [21+, 70 N 6th St Brooklyn, NY]. Both locations are wheelchair accessible. Daytime events are only for self-identified femme-spectrum people of all ages, genders, and abilities.
The Literary event and Cabaret/Dance Party is open to everyone, allies strongly encouraged to attend.
More information is below including details on the events, Vision and Schedule ofthe Day. Please feel free to contact organizers with any questions and forward widely!
Heather M. Acs and Damien Luxe
Organizers of Beyond Visibility
Description of Events:
On Sunday January 15 from Noon-2p, femme/inine folks are invited to enjoy aBrunch and Skillshare Salon. At 2:30p join a Community Discussionmoved along via transformative facilitation, where everyone will have theopportunity to contribute their needs, desires, and celebrations. This will be followed by break-out groups to continue engaging in intersectional topics such as Safety, Pride & Shame, Truth-telling, Health and more. From 5-6:30p, take a dinner break and participate in documentation including a zine table, blogging station and photo booth!
Because Beyond Visibility aims to create and hold femme/inine queer space to ally with and learn from each other, and to discuss ways to align organizing and organizations to ensure that femme communities grow as intersectional sites of gender justice, the brunch, discussion and break-out groups are free, intentionally safer-spaces, and for only femme-spectrum people of all ages, genders, and abilities.
An additional function of Beyond Visibility is to illuminate the cultural, political and artistic work of participating individuals and groups, and so all are welcomed to the two cultural events taking place. At 7pm at Judson Church, join us for a Literary Salon including Kate Bornstein, Trina Rose, Cristy Road, Nath Ann Carrera, Dondrie Burnham, Alejandro Rodriguez and more. This event is $2-$10.
Starting at 10pm, head over to Brooklyn and the Cabaret/Dance Party where Hana Malia & Glenn Marla bring biting performance art, Serpentina of theConey Island Side Show makes sparks fly, musical stylings from Jazzmen Lee-Johnson & new work by Sassafras Lowery! DJ's Shomi Noise and Nolita spin fierce femme tunes all night! Allies welcome to attend & dance the night away with us! This event is $5-$12.
This event is co-produced by 20 local organizers and is partnered with the bi-annual Femme Conference [www.femme2012.com/]. Beyond Visibility takes place the day the Conference releases its 2012 call for performers and workshops, and aims to generate conversations that grow local community as well as resonate into the Conference, which is taking place in Baltimore August 17-19, 2012. Co-sponsoring organization include the Heels on Wheels Roadshow [www.heelsonwheelsroadshow.com], NYC’s own glittery performance art queer femme tour, Feminist Press [www.feministpress.org/], and QUORUM Forum [http://quorumnyc.org/].
For more information on the NYC event, please visit: www.beyondvisibility.femme2012.com/
Or find the event on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/beyondvisibility
A toolkit of ideas for femmes in other towns to hostess their own femme gatherings are here:
Beyond Visibility: Illuminating and Aligning Femmes in NYC will be a day-long event for queer folks on a self-identified femme/inine spectrum to come together in conversation, coalition, and celebration of *all* the parts of ourselves and our many communities. We aim to illuminate the cultural, political and artistic work of all participating individuals and groups; to create and hold space to ally with and learn from each other; and discuss ways to align organizing to ensure that femme communities grow as generative, intersectional sites of gender justice.
Schedule for the Day:
12-2p – Skillshare Snack Salon!
Show off your skills! Bring some delicious snacks and learn about changing a bike tire, tiny nail art, create Intersectionality Mural, and much more!
2:30-4 -- Roundtable Discussion
Participate in a co-facilitated community “temperature check” where we reflect onthe resources we have and create action for moving forward.
4-5p -- Break-Out Groups
Continue engaging in self-selected smaller groups based on topics such as Safety, Pride & Shame, Truth-telling, Health and others TBA.
5-6--Caucuses- Femmes of Color, Trans-Femmes
6-7pm Dinner Break
Grab some food or bring your own and visit the documentation table for zine making, photo shoots, and blogging!
7p -- Illuminate: A Femme Salon
Join us for an incredible line-up of performers in an all-ages, sober-friendly space.
Nath Ann Carrera
10p -- Cabaret & Dance Party
Celebrate gender justice with a wild revue of femme/inine performers and DJs as we dance the night away!
Monday, January 2, 2012
I have five plants--Harissa, Medusa, Glory, Nessa, and Pete. All are women and extremely youthful. I am terrible at knowing the species of each plant and of most wildlife and botany. Some would like to think that, "you are where you came from," but you also are where you are. Nessa was gifted to me via one plucked leaf from Jessa and Nathaniel's plant life in Brooklyn many moons ago. She grew almost immediately...I would like to believe that she began to grow within the paper towel I transported her in back to my apartment in Queens. She gets her name from a combo of Jessa and Nathaniel's names...mostly favoring Jessa, of course.
Harissa, Medusa, and Glory have lived with me for one year this month. They were amongst four plants sent to me in a condolence package when my godfather passed away. They were the trio of survivors and appear to be in it for the long haul. Harissa is named for her one bright leaf that she hides which I think makes her secretly sassy. Medusa was named for her random long leaves that monopolized our dish drain this summer from her spot at our kitchen window, causing my roommate Luca to name her Medusa out of irritation. And Glory is glorious with her leaves consistently in "testimony", reaching upward to Heaven.
I found Pete at the Union Square farmer's market this summer. I exited the subway intending to purchase some tomatoes but took a disoriented stop in front of a plant seller and decided to go for it. She boasts two new long leaves in the center of her pot. She is the most colorful of the five. Her name just tumbled out of my mouth about a week after I bought her, I can't recall my intention. Maybe because she seems like the little one, the little sister.
There is a new plant in my house. She's not that tall but her branches are long and appear ancient but sturdy. She is youthful like the rest. And there are some tiny green buds sprouting on her branch tips that can be observed if one decides to lean in and look closer. Like the rest, I am unsure of her species, but something tells me that it's new. Perhaps a hybrid of the spider plant, based on her spirit of possessing numerous and entangled arms reaching out to feel the layers of life and of previous lives that exist within the air. She is also extremely thirsty. And her country of origin doesn't exist. She is "where she came from", but not anymore, at least. And she seems content knowing this, and is ready to grow in her new homeland. Perhaps I miscounted. There are six plants in my house.
The sixth one is named Erica. Please water her.