Coming soon on Inkblot:
- Recaps on recent events, including The Color of My Spirit and Harlem's Poetic Rebellion.
- Exciting updates on upcoming events.
- A creative non-fiction piece inspired by Memorial Day.
- An update on my progress in the Pacific University MFA program, as my second semester comes to a close.
I've been getting hearing some really great feedback from folks who have read some of my recent posts (thanks, y'all!), and who are also awaiting more, so I just wanted to let you know that there's plenty more on the way. Also know that I'm always open to feedback, and to suggestions if you come across anything you think I'd like to blog about. It's not just my work that keeps this blog alive - I wouldn't be able to do it without your support!Here's some entertainment to hold you in the meantime.
Nelly Furtado's music video for "Big Hoops (Bigger the Better)"
includes influences from Native American dancers. That alone is nothing new for mainstream artists, of course, but check out Adrienne K's review on her Native Appropriations blog
, where she discusses why she's so glad to see a mainstream artist including Indigenous dancing in a way that shows respect and avoids cultural appropriation. Do you think this can influence other artists to do the same? Enjoy the video!
Josephine Baker created a space
of her own,
where there was none before
Tomorrow night's event is one that feeds my hope
that there are spaces out there
where my authentic, wacky voice is welcomed. Harlem's Poetic Rebellion: A Salon for the People
is happening at 8 pm tomorrow, May 26, at La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley. I wrote about this event
after seeing last year's installment. It was seriously one of the best shows I saw all year, so I'm just thrilled to be a part of this year's event.I'll be reading some new work - that is, if I can manage to compose myself after the excitement of performances by
Griot Noir, Brontez Purnell, Khalil Sullivan and the other fantastic artists who will be part of the show. We are all queer black artists (poets, musicians, dancers, filmmakers), and we're paying tribute to our Harlem Renaissance heroes, those who made black art visible like never before. Following in their footsteps, we're sharing our original work, showing off our pride in the vibrancy that comes with being a queer black artist. Harlem's Poetic Rebellion is one of the SF Bay Guardian's weekly picks. You can watch a video preview on Vimeo, with clips from last year's event. It's going to be a stellar show, so I hope you can join us. Find more details on my events page or the Facebook event page. Advance tickets are recommended, and you can buy those here.
As I wrote in yesterday's post
about getting back on that submission train, my writing these days is less about trying to find what others want from me and more about creating a room of my own
for my own voice. At least, that's my hope and intention. But as I focus again on the intention of trying to get work published, I'm remembering why it's still important to talk about what it means to feel barriers blocking some writers. Earlier this year, VIDA released their 2011 count, comparing the numbers of male and female writers in major publications.
The results showed that the men were published way more frequently than the women. It's not much of a change since VIDA began the count in 2009, after the Publishers' Weekly list of the year's best books appeared without any books by women. Read more
about how the VIDA count is changing the conversation about publishing, and about how important
this conversation is. As Roxane Gay writes
, "I have to believe we continue having these conversations so someday there is nothing left to talk about but the joy and complexity of the stories we write and read. I want that joy to be the only thing that matters.
Can you just imagine?"I've been following along with one adventure in diversifying the faces of published authors - poet Laura E. Davis has started a group called Submission Bombers. The idea behind Submission Bombers is to
take "action" to increase visibility for writers who often feel silenced. Participants "bomb" a publication with their submissions over a two-week period, and since only consenting publications are selected for bombings, it's like a matchmaking service between writers seeking to be heard and editors looking for writers who don't fit the usual mold of who's being published these days. Read Laura's call for editors and writers to participate, and her blog post on what it means to be a "marginalized" writer. What do you think? Would you participate in a submission bomb? Do you have other ideas for taking action?
I’m getting back on that submission train. It’s been a little while since I’ve submitted creative work for publication. I guess there are a few reasons for that, but I’m glad to say that fear of rejection isn’t one of them.
No, rejection and I are old friends. It might even be nice to reunite. I’ve gotten so many rejection letters now that I’ve come to appreciate what I can learn from them. I’ve learned the logistical things, of course, about formatting and guidelines and making sure the piece is a good fit for the publication.
But here’s the most valuable thing I’ve learned from rejection: I have to stay true to my own voice, regardless of where it’s accepted. Somewhere in me is a fear
that my work won’t be read, especially when I read about the exclusion
of women, people of color and queer folks from many mainstream literary spaces
. Then again, as I’ve pursued my true intentions for writing, I’ve found that many of the spaces that find me irrelevant are irrelevant to me, too. I have my own story to tell, in my own way, and when it comes to an audience, what matters most is reaching those who find it meaningful.
I was searching for an old post
I wrote, which led me to my old blog. I noticed my old blog used to be more fun than this one. A little less professional, maybe, but that’s because I used to write about whatever the hell I wanted, no matter how wacky
it was, so I came across as my authentic self. The voice of that weirdo loner writer rang true.
I think I’ve grown in my writing since then, which is a good thing, sure. I’m more focused, more mindful. I’m trying to make this blog less like my personal diary and more of something that can be useful for other people to read. I just hope I’m not censoring myself. After all, today’s rejection could make room in my life for tomorrow’s most meaningful connection, a connection between my authentic self and someone who feels that my voice matters to them.
1938 Disney rejection letter
QWOC Media Wire has a great article on The Lost Bois, a queer music duo that uses hip-hop beats, jazz styles and insightful lyrics to make some powerful music. In their own words, "We write, we sing, we speak for people like us: queers, dykes, black folks, brown folks, to dance, to fuck, to smile, laugh at and along with." Read more: The Lost Bois: Transforming Queer Hip Hop through Black Feminism
The Lost Bois have a dynamic style, so their songs range from fun to thoughtful to sensual, or all of the above. They work hard, so it can take a while to get the full range. I'll just leave these here to get you started. Enjoy.
As I've written before, around Christmas time
and Valentine's Day
, holidays can be complicated. And today, Mother's Day, is no different. Today I'm celebrating my mom, the strong woman whose love and support helped me become the woman I am today. I'm also reserving part of the day for thoughts and prayers for those who might be struggling. Those who have lost mothers, and children.
And mothers separated from their kids - like those whose children are imprisoned
, or who are imprisoned themselves
.I'm thinking, of course, about my own reasons for having complicated feelings about this day. On Mother's Day a few years ago, I sat in a park with my mom and told her that she would soon be a grandmother. That day never came. I had a miscarriage, instead, a couple of months later. Today I'm thinking about
all the moms who've lost their children before they were born.In a way, I feel guilty for spending time on such thoughts today. I see all of the celebratory hearts and flowers and I think, today's supposed to be a joyful day. There's nothing wrong with leaving it at that. But I have a feeling that, historically speaking, M
other's Day is actually meant to hold all of these complications. Did you know about the radical roots of Mother's Day?
I've been reading up on it. First there was Julia Ward Howe, a poet and anti-war activist who began promoting Mother's Day for Peace
in 1872. Then came Anna Jarvis, a childless woman who persuaded Congress to recognize the holiday in 1914, and who grew to resent the commercialism
of the day. So, this day isn't only for Hallmark. Mother's Day is for everyone, including those who may be unable to get through it without shedding a few tears.
Today I'm holding it all, sending my mom one of these fierce Mama's Day cards
from Strong Families, and also recognizing those working for a better world
for all mothers. Thank you for reading, and for your solidarity in holding the complexity of this day.
If you're curious about what we've been up to at CUAV, visit The CUAV Blog
. I've written a couple of posts there recently, about the work we've been doing and how it relates to my personal journey. Our members have been writing some really moving poems about their own journeys during our Wellness Wednesdays, and some of those will be up on the blog soon, too. I'll write a new blog post there once a month or so, so look out for a May update. You may have noticed that I'm crazy about my job. Some of that is disbelief that I actually have a job that I love in this tough economy, so when I talk about it, I'm saying "pinch me - I'm happily employed." But a lot of it has to do with what we do and how we do it. CUAV (Community United Against Violence) takes a transformative approach to addressing violence within and against queer and trans communities. That means listening to people, affirming their healing and growth, trusting their path toward liberation without relying on shame, isolation,
or criminalization that so often leaves us feeling more vulnerable. That also means that part of my job is embracing my wild ideas about the relationship between the creative arts and social change. I must admit, sometimes I have my moments when I wonder about these parts of myself colliding, the activist and the writer. There are times when I'm upset enough about the state of things to take the to the streets and yell until I'm voiceless, and instead I take to my notebook and write. And for just a moment, I wonder. Is it worth it? Am I really doing any good at all, sitting here writing a poem, of all things, when people's lives are at stake?Today's one of those days when my worlds come together and I can affirm that yes, it is worth it to write about the issues that matter to me. Tonight I'm reading poetry in a performance event
celebrating queer and trans survival and resistance. My co-workers aren't saying, "Are you crazy? Reading poetry when there's violence happening?" No - my fellow CUAV staff members are the ones throwing the event. Pinch me, I'm happily affirmed in the work that I do, both on the page and in the office. Tonight's event, The Color of My Spirit, starts at 7 pm at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts in San Francisco.
It will also be broadcast live on Comcast Channel 76 and streamed over Bay Area Video Coalition's
SF Commons livestream. Details are below. I can't wait!
Details from the Facebook event page
Back by popular demand! Community United Against Violence (CUAV) and the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts invite you to an evening of queer and trans artistic offerings in honor of survival and resistance. Join us for this follow-up to last year’s wildly successful revue of local LGBTQ talent. Artists will share a collective vision of liberation through video, song, poetry and dance.
Poet Yosimar Reyes returns to MC a spectacular line up including Nomy Lamm, Maisha Z. Johnson, Josh Merchant, Our Space, El/LA, and more!!
Buy tickets online or pay at the door! http://missionculturalcenter.org/MCCLA_New/events.html
This event will be televised LIVE! on Comcast Channel 76 and streamed LIVE at SF Commons.
ACCESS: Fully wheelchair accessible. Please refrain from bringing scents or fragrances on your body, clothes, or hair.
BREAKING NEWS: May 11th will also be the release of four beautiful new posters illustrating key tools that we have developed during the implementation of our transformative strategic plan. The set of posters, designed by Tim Simons, will be available for a suggested donation of $10-20.
It could be pretty easy for me to trust someone else’s version of my truth. These days, with election season in the air, all I’d have to do is defer to the media about the politicians and law-makers who claim to know what’s best for me.
Instead, I’m building up the courage to trust my own truth. I have so much respect for those artists who speak for themselves, regardless of how their story is told by others. Artists brave enough to trust their own truth.
Take, for example, the women of Mirman Baheer, an Afghan women’s poetry group featured in this New York Times piece
. These women take the ultimate risk, putting their lives in danger in order to write and share their poetry. Many of them write about love and hope, and about injustice and despair. Is it worth it, the risk of death? A girl calling herself Meena recites a landai: “My pains grow as my life dwindles, / I will die with a heart full of hope.”
She thinks so.
CUAV members and staff
united on May Day
Last Tuesday, May 1, was International Workers’ Day. Like many years before, folks came out around the world to demonstrate in support of immigrants’ and workers’ rights. CUAV staff and members joined the events in San Francisco, uniting to show solidarity as queer and trans immigrants and workers. The media coverage of Bay Area May Day has focused largely on the violence that took place, and there have been many conversations
since about issues of violence at such events, what it means and who’s to blame
Let me just share for a minute that my experience of May Day was very different from the story of the media. Mine was just a piece of the whole truth of the day, but it is my truth. And it looked like this: artists and organizers coming together to lift up our stories as we tell them. I saw street theater, visual art, chants and music telling the stories of the people. This kind of art sends the message that we trust our own truth, and we demand to be heard. If only for a day, we shut down the noise of what others say is best for us and spoke up about the fact that we know what’s best for ourselves.
I’m really looking forward to the event coming up this Friday. It’s time for The Color of My Spirit, an evening of performances by queer and trans folks honoring our survival and resistance. It’s a follow-up to last year’s Safetyfest event
Queer Rebellion, which was just an unbelievably amazing night. This year’s event includes dance, film, music, and spoken word, and I’ll be reading poetry as well. This version of our story isn’t often told, but on Friday it will be loud and clear – we have survived, we have resisted, and we’re proud of where we’ve been
. This is our truth, the truth we can trust.
You can visit the Facebook event page
or the MCCLA website
for more information about The Color of My Spirit, and to buy tickets online. You can also buy tickets at the door (nobody turned away for lack of funds).
And if you can’t be at the event in person, there’s great news for you – The Color of My Spirit will be televised LIVE on Comcast Channel 76 and streamed live at SF Commons, which is exciting. So I hope you’ll be there, in person or in spirit, to see The Color of My Spirit.
Whew! I hit the ground running when I got back to the Bay Area this week, so now that it’s the weekend, I’m taking a minute now to come up for air. This quote by my queen Audre Lorde has been circulating the internet: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.” It’s exactly what I need to hear right now.
I’m pretty busy these days. As I keep up with work, school, and writing, other things have fallen to the wayside. The idea of having a social life is just laughable. And while I may be able to find some time for others, taking care of myself has not exactly been a priority. I’ll eat if I remember to do so, and if I’m feeling really selfish I might squeeze in some time for sleep, but I find that the more my schedule fills up, the less I make time for me.
I know I’m not the only one who tends to forget to add myself to my list of priorities. It’s not unusual for those who work in my field(s) to make more time for others than for ourselves, and it’s also not uncommon for survivors of violence to put “tending to my needs” last on the to-do list, if it makes it there at all. Since I’ve begun work at CUAV, one of my biggest motivators for self-care has been the fact that I just can’t be there for others in the hard work of healing from trauma if I’m not taking care of myself. It’s helpful, but still, as Audre Lorde reminds me, it’s not enough.
The most effective self-care comes from a place of deep love for myself
. It’s not being selfish. It’s daring to be powerful, which comes from another brilliant quote by Audre - “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” As someone who hopes to create change, it’s essential that I recognize my power and strength. I deserve care, simply because I exist. And while some self-care practices may be as simple as tending to my basic needs, the task of tending to myself is no small thing. It’s cultivating a powerful tree whose roots and branches reach far beyond my own needs.
Let me say this again, because sometimes we need to hear it more than once – we all deserve care, simply because we exist. That means you. And caring for yourself is one of the most powerful ways you can care for the world around you.
There’s a book I highly recommend for folks who work around trauma, and even for those who spend time taking care of others outside of their professional lives. It’s called Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others.
Earlier this week, I participated in the Trauma Stewardship Institute
with the book’s author, Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, and that opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time for me. It felt so validating to have someone recognize the toll this work can take, especially with the systems of oppression that add to the daily impact of trauma. Maybe the book can be helpful for you, too.
Our bodies are designed to take care of themselves. Take, for example, the way we continue to breathe, even without thinking about it. When we’re facing the hard truths of the world on a daily basis, though, we could all use a little more intentional care. My suggestion? Breathe a little deeper. What’s yours?