A few words before I shift back into gear:
And I’ve got life. #AllHailNina
Whitney Houston died last night.
The universe has been throwing a lot at me the last few weeks. Personal, professional, economic–you name it. My stamina is running low. My batteries have no time to recharge. I’ve had moments that made me question my worth as a scholar, global citizen, net-izen, and friend. At this point, all I can do is show up–and only because I hear someone’s voice telling me I’d damn well better.
Days like today, I wonder if the #gawds are even listening.
Lo and behold, the universe is speaking.
Happy Birthday Alice Walker!
Kima posting homage on Twitter reminded me that I was about to miss the birthday of the visionary whose words head this blog, who is the namesake of one half of my politico alter-ego, and who has helped me through more hard times than I can count.
Just seeing her presence everywhere reminded me I am more than I am. I’ve been inspired, calmed, and pummeled by Alice Walker’s words, and by the example she sets as a writer, pacifist, and social justice conjurer. Gawd bless her. A world with Alice Walker in it can never be damned. It’s just a world waiting to be saved.
Speaking of saving, today the always loving Alexis Pauline Gumbs reminded me that I also need to be saving myself. Introducing Brilliance Remastered:
To some, December means the end of the year, the end of the warmth and the return of caramel macchiato and pumpkin spice latte addictions.
For me, December means the end of stress, other people’s labor and the beginning of beautiful snowy landscapes, family gatherings and time I can call my own. I have time to dive into ideas I dreamed up during the summer months and tackle fall’s loose ends. I’ve always done my best writing and thinking over winter breaks. Something about the cool air just clears my brain of all the clutter.
Winter is here. Capricorn season is upon us.
And so is 2012. Sooooooo much happened….
If I was a middle-class white man with too much time on his hands
Never mind. News about black folks (read: African-American) is capital these days. Especially news that appears to cross conversations occurring within the community with the megaphone of an unsympathetic outsider. I’m not a Google spider, but I can only imagine a certain host website exploded its monthly click and traffic quota this month. And I won’t help since there are so many amazing critiques floating about.*
What did not get much burn this week was this:
South Korean women forced into wartime sexual slavery held their 1,000th weekly protest outside Japan’s embassy yesterday, demanding compensation and an apology from Tokyo as they have since 1992.
Today I stopped and stared at a carpet.
I was at the @CorcoranDC’s 30 Americans exhibit. I’d just passed through a gallery featuring works by Carrie Mae Weems, Glenn Ligon and William Pope.L. But now a carpet dominated the entire length of one wall, with a single strip of tattered and stained material extending into the path of patrons, guarded by black, rubber bumpers: Rodney McMillian’s, Untitled (2005).
I’d originally passed it by. How does an old, ugly carpet compare to Carrie Mae Weem’s portraits? Or Glen Ligon’s Mirror (2002)? Or Nina Chanel Abney’s caricatures? Granted, Abney’s twisting lines and bright circus carnival colors assaulted me if I focused too closely. And the topics were strange. Ghosts emerged from dress ties and the tails of animals. Jagged teeth gaped and spread into red, wet smiles. Disturbing. But interesting.
I just returned from hearing Rita Dove, poet and professor, read from the published Penguin Anthology of 20th Century Poetry (which she edited). She is full of fun and laughter and sarcastic good humor. I would be her best friend if I could. She signed my journal and left a blessing: “Fill these pages with your songs.”
Thinking a lot of academy thoughts this week. Reading Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower.
Dr. Brown just articulated better than I ever could what it is like being a College Educated Negress:
Where can students of color get intellectual validation that does not require them to so fully assimilate that they lose the best of themselves, their families,and their cultures? It occurred to me that through grade school and high school we had learned to compete, to keep up, but not to surpass; to stand alongside but not in front; to fit in but not to reshape.*
Standing alongside you begin to know the discomfort of ghosts.
And that pressure to assimilate, to choose between where your family is and where you are…well.
That feels a lot like the dissonance of being raised under the determined, near frantic optimism of a colorblind, post-Movement, Puerto Rican mother and an African-American father seething with internalized racism in cocaine80s Chicago.
And that feels a lot like wanting things and not having them and striving for things and not getting them, and dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s and still watching the goal move further away again and again and again, and picking up Piri Thomas for help and picking up Cherríe Moraga for help and picking up, good gawd, and picking up and holding close and hugging Gwendolyn Brooks for help and good heavens almighty, it feels like picking up Octavia and picking her brain and reading every word and holding her hand when things were too much….
And it feels a lot like frustration and tastes bitter as blood. Because Piri is dead now. And it took over 24 hours for an obituary to post. And I never had a chance to tell him what his work meant to me. And Gwendolyn is dead. And she lived in Chicago. And I, knuckle-head high schooler I was, missed the chance to tell her what she meant to me. And Octavia is dead. And she lived half a country away and I was never gonna get to tell her what she meant to me but damn if only I could have.
And it feels like the cold that sweeps across the back of your neck when you realize a mentor you loved like a father…his facebook page is still active. Active. Alive. Living. And you want to post something but you can’t. Because how do you tell someone that you are also active.alive.living now but only because they lived? How do you tell someone that you have survived this far in part because of what they were and that you are remembering them all the time and regretting every phone call you didn’t make and even that doesn’t make you feel better because you know they knew that they knew that you knew you were loved anyway. That nothing you could do could lose their love for you.
And it feels like ……..
But is also full of promise.
After all, here I am. Writing stuff. Grateful for things like Facebook profiles and black Latinidad Twitter communities and emails from mentors that affirm that “yes, I check it too” and voices who check in with me from across social media to say, “Hey there. Hey. Hear my voice.”
I am still here. Writing stuff. Thinking thoughts. I haven’t disappeared yet.
*Leslie Brown, “How a Hundred Years of History Tracked Me Down,” Telling Histories: Black Women Historians and the Ivory Tower, 262