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.
Black woman in meditation
I’ve got this thing about anger. The thing being that I don’t like it. I absolutely hate being the target of it, which is normal I guess, but I really hate to feel it, too. It’s something I could work on. Accepting it as a natural feeling. Nothing wrong with getting mad.
My aversion to anger goes way back, to when I learned that being a good girl means being a nice and gentle person, and that anger often stems from misunderstanding and ends in regret. It also goes deep, to what it means to be an angry black woman, to embody an image that's part of both a negative stereotype
and a painful truth.
So I also tend to avoid expressing anger. I don't like to speak out of anger, for fear that I'll say something I regret, something I can't take back, hurt someone who doesn't deserve it, make someone feel guilty for something they can do nothing about.
But sometimes there is anger that I couldn't avoid, even if I tried. And it's moments like these when I remember that getting mad can be good for something.
Last night, I attended New Poetry Mission, returning to the local literary scene after a few months' absence. There were a few things that drew me back - wanting to reconnect with folks like host Sam Sax, for instance, and wanting to hear some good poetry, which certainly happened when feature Sean Patrick Mulroy
(among others) blew me away with his work.
But mostly, I wanted to go because I'd written a poem I wanted to read at the open mic. I wanted to read it, for Trayvon Martin. And I needed to read it. For the sake of expressing my own anger.
The poem was what I'd call "raw" - just finished, still rough around the edges, nothing I'd consider submitting for publication or sharing with a writing group for critique. It's not what I'd call evidence of my skill or the mastering of my craft. But it's full of my anger
. Anger that's honest, without censorship or hesitation. In a way, that means it's the best I've got.
This is the truth I cannot hide: when I look at the facts of Trayvon's murder
, I get really, really mad. It feels like the kind of anger I'd want to tuck deep inside of a place that would never see the light of day, but it's all over that poem I wrote, and rather than hiding it, I released it into the world. I can't quite say that it felt good, because it felt terrifying, like it was coming from a sad, nearly hopeless place inside of me, but it felt right.
My reading last night reminded me that anger has its place. For me, that place is in injustice. I am angry for Trayvon, and for everyone who could be in his place
. I couldn't, and wouldn't, have it any other way.
Sometimes there are no words. The anger, the sadness, and the longing for justice come too late to hope for one young man to ever take another breath again. 17 year old Trayvon Martin was unarmed, carrying only a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea when a man who deemed him "suspicious" shot and killed him. That man has not been arrested for taking Trayvon's life. Those are the facts.
Rest in peace, Trayvon
And this is the boy we've lost. I'm joining in today's blog-in for Trayvon
, but just to be clear, this blog post itself isn't for the sake of bringing Trayvon justice. No, these are just words, and at the moment they feel like just that, only words
. Here, I can honor Trayvon's memory. But to take action, we must do more. Information from forharriet.com: Sign the petition
at Change.org to prosecute the killer of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin
Contact Bill Lee, Chief of Police
Sanford Police Department
815 W. 13th Street
Sanford , Florida 32771
Contact Norman Wolfinger, Florida's 18th District State's Attorney
State Attorney's Office
Criminal Justice Center
101 Bush Boulevard
PO Box 8006
Sanford, Florida 32772-8006
There are days when I can't seem to do anything right. Or at least that's how I feel on those days. It seems like I'm just doing everything all wrong, when it comes to my writing life, my work life, my love life, and anything else I can think of. Of course, that's not the reality of things. The truth is, I'm doing the best I can, which is just fine in some situations, and even great in others.
But the truth is the last thing on my mind when I'm in one of those moods that has me determined to be hard on myself. What good is reality, really, up against the power of the mind?
Like many others, I can be my own harshest critic. And sometimes I have to wonder why it can be so much easier to view my reality through a negative light than a positive one. If nothing else, it speaks to the power of the mind. It's as if my mind has the ability to create its own truth, as harsh as that truth may be.
So why should I confine my mind to putting a negative slant on things? In truth, the possibilities could be endless - if I can find a way to interpret every move I make as a failure, then I should be able to do the opposite. Sometimes your mind gets used to negativity, so that's where it goes first, but it doesn't always have to be that way.
And maybe it doesn't all have to fall into such categories, negative and positive. Maybe seeing life through the light of my own truth can just be that. The world from my perspective. Based on my passions, my goals. Who I am and the life I deserve.
That may not be the whole truth of things, of course. Just like the light of negativity ignores our triumphs, seeing the world as I envision it may mean looking beyond the obstacles. Seeing a place where I seem like an outsider as one with space to make it my own. Seeing my stories of struggle as the beginnings of my survival. The sparks of the words that now demand to be heard.
There are days when I can't seem to do anything wrong. Or at least that's how I'm trying to feel. Not because I'm flawless, but because there's nothing wrong with having experiences that help me learn and grow.
How would your vision of the world create safe spaces? Shine light on silenced stories?
Lauren Quock, Fabulous, 2011
Acrylic, glitter, collage on panel, 12 in x 9 in
The artwork of Lauren Quock
shows how someone can envision the world they deserve. Lauren "uses art to lift up the experiences of her communities and transform tools of oppression." With her Modified Bathroom Signs series
, she re-envisions public restrooms as safe spaces for those who don't fit into the gender binary.
Lauren and her fabulous artwork will help support the healing of queer and trans survivors of violence during the next couple of weeks. At CUAV's Wellness Wednesdays this week and next week, Lauren will facilitate an Art and Healing workshop, and we'll get to create our own bathroom signs based on our truths. I'm really looking forward to that.
I'm also really looking forward to this Thursday, February 23, when CUAV will have an open house and art show featuring Lauren Quock's Modified Bathroom Signs. There will also be food and music by Deejay Bootyklap, all in celebration of CUAV's work building healing and safety in LGBTQ communities. Visit CUAV's website
or the Facebook event pag
e for more details. And visit Lauren Quock's website
for a preview of her work!
Well, I've seen it in writing now, so I guess it must be true - CUAV's latest newsletter announces that I'm the newest CUAV staff member!
I'm still pinching myself over this news, because this is truly the glittery goodness that dreams are made of. As a member of the CUAV staff collective, I'm working to build the world I've dreamed of - a world where queer and trans folks can heal and protect ourselves from harm, shifting from cycles of violence and living instead in communities of hope.
If you haven't heard of CUAV, you're probably new to my blog, and if you've been following my posts, you might think I'm slightly obsessed with CUAV's work. Here's why - CUAV, short for Community United Against Violence, is rooted in the basic belief that we, as individuals and communities, have the knowledge and power to create our own healing and our own vision of safety, without looking to the institutions that so often contribute to the violence that harms us. CUAV works to prevent and respond to violence within and against LGBTQ communities in a way that incorporates my core beliefs: that those who are so often pushed to the margins of society deserve better, and we can have better by turning to our own survival skills, our resiliency, the strength of our spirit.
Today is about celebrating love. Isn't it amazing to think of what queer and trans folks can learn from love? Through the natural, beautiful act of loving ourselves and loving one another, we build the strength to break down the walls the world builds around us. These walls are littered with messages that say that we're not good enough, not strong enough, that this world isn't ours to survive and thrive in. But with each act of love, each time we care for ourselves or another, we help to tear down the walls, for ourselves and for many generations to come. We stand together in power, and we say, this world is ours.
To learn more about CUAV's work, visit the CUAV website
. Also, check out my events page
to find out about upcoming events at CUAV. I hope to see you for tonight's membership meeting, where we'll have good food, good company, and a fun, thoughtful discussion about love - what the media tells us about it, and how we can tell our own stories. I'm so glad to have you with me on this new chapter of my journey!
These prisoners are people, people with lonely hearts, and just like those of us who are out in the free world, they deserve love. There's a great event happening in San Francisco tonight, to show imprisoned people some of the love that they deserve. The Valentine's Day Card-Making Party for Prisoners is taking place at the Mission SRO Collective from 6-9 pm. Participants will include folks from
SF Pride at Work, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Artists of the 99%, and TransGender Intersex Justice Project, and it's open for anyone who can be there. What would you write to a survivor in lock-up, if you could? Even if you can't make it to the event tonight, there are ways to help prisoners find hope by reminding them that they're not alone in the world. The organization Black and Pink, one of the sponsors of tonight's event, runs a pen pal program to help LGBTQ prisoners communicate with folks in the free world. Visit their website to learn more about this program and others like it.
They also have great information on the prison industrial complex and how we can help build a movement against it. Here's an excerpt from their brilliant analysis
: "Our organizing efforts are guided by a larger goal of collective liberation. We hold strong to a feminist, anti-racist, queer liberationist, anti-capitalist, radical analysis of social, ecological, and economic struggles. We understand the prison industrial complex to be part of a larger system that utilizes systems of oppression to divide people and exploit our individual and collective power. Through movement building and sustained direct action against these systems of violence we will create the world we dream of. We also celebrate in the beauty of what exists now including our love for each other, the strength of our planet, incredible human resiliency, and all of the power we have to continue existing. While dreaming and struggling for a better world we embody a deep commitment to living in the present."Find out details about tonight's card-making party on Facebook or on the Black and Pink website. Here's a great video on resisting gender violence without cops or prisons, featuring author Victoria Law.
With Valentine's Day less than a week away, this time of year can make anyone feel the lonely blues. But life's especially lonely for those who are in prisons, separated from their communities and families, often experiencing and recovering from violence, while taking in messages that oppressive violence is the kind of treatment they deserve.
whole process at times
, making myself relax, clearing my mind of distractions and doubts, letting myself write unfiltered, uncensored, finding my way through those messy, overgrown forests I’m afraid to visit anywhere other than the page. And then, at times, that voice I called for comes through, and all I want is for it to shut the hell up.
For as much as I talk about the power of storytelling
, I still have my moments when I’m ashamed of parts of my own story. The idea of vulnerability
keeps coming up for me
lately, which, well, sucks. I don’t like it one bit, but I guess instead of trying to fight against it, all I can do is try to learn from it. As an abuse survivor, I know there’s no reason to spend time wishing I could erase parts of my story. I’m proud of where I’ve been, as it was all part of the path that brought me to where I am today. I know this already. It can just take some practice
to keep it in mind, even in the vulnerable moments.
It’s Black History Month, and I wonder what kind of history children are learning in schools. Some would want to alter or avoid
those parts of our history that include the worst of our struggles. I’d never want to shortchange our children like that, so in the same way I won't shorten my own history. These, too, are survival stories.
Today is Wellness Wednesday – support, fun, food, and art at CUAV for LGBT survivors of violence (see CUAV’s website for details
). There, survival stories are parts of our journeys. They bring us together. They remind us of our strengths.
I'm way behind, but I finally saw the movie Pariah.
It focuses on a young black lesbian who lives in Brooklyn and writes poetry, so you might say that it’d be hard for me not to love it. But the writing and acting are superb, and it’s been getting rave reviews
from other people, too
I love the poetry in the trailer below. And I think it relates to the vulnerability that’s been coming up for me lately. “I am not broken. I am free.”
Sometimes, I just want my writer voice to shut up. And this after all of the effort I make to let it come through. It can be a
One video that was especially popular during holiday time was this one of a little girl complaining about the way toys are marketed by gender
. Sure, I can grow up and complain about Barbie's role in my life when I was a kid, but it's so much more refreshing to see this child speak up about it now, telling us that she deserves more as she lives through girlhood. When young people find the courage to say for themselves
that they need something more, they deserve at least for us to take a moment to listen.
And here’s a girl who says that all of us deserve better – this thirteen year old talks about slut shaming
, what it is and why it’s hurtful. Her insightfulness blows me away.
And, of course, I gotta love little girls raising their voices
through music. “My First Hardcore Song”
is by Juliet, also known as the 8 year old who’s way more badass than I’ll ever be.
In a more disappointing example of a video gone viral, a Girl Scout named Taylor
is using her voice to ask people to boycott Girl Scout cookies, in order to show opposition to the Girl Scouts’ decision to include a transgender child in their organization
. I’m glad to see girls finding their voices, but it makes me cringe to hear such a voice putting down others. So instead, in this example I’m applauding Bobby Montoya, the transgender child brave enough to speak up for the chance to be where she feels she belongs. She’s opened the doors for a delicious way to make a difference – all we have to do is eat more cookies
to show our support for an inclusive Girl Scouts organization. Sign me up!
Also, check out Girl Scouts’ new Year of the Girl campaign
Overall, I’m loving the presence of girl voices in viral videos these days. They’re not listening to any messages that tell them to grow up before they speak up, or to stay silent their whole lives. Sure, imagine a world full of women who raised these voices in girlhood. But before we fast forward, let’s stop and listen. The girls are speaking to us. Right now.
The online videos making their way around the networks these days show an encouraging trend. Girls who aren't yet old enough to outgrow playing with toys are outgrowing silence and shame. They're speaking up and being heard. They are, as they say, going viral. People are listening.
It's that time of year again. The stars are shifting, at least in my sky. I like where my birthday lands on the calendar. It feels as if I turn a new age, then go into winter hibernation, a time of reflection, so that by the time the new year rolls around, I know where I'd like to focus my energy in the next year. At least, that's how I'd like this to go. Looking back, it hasn't always happened quite so smoothly. A lot of what I've been wondering about has come down to the same question - the question of whether or not to take a chance.
I don't like looking back with regret, and around birthday time especially I prefer to look forward, and to remember the good things about the year that's gone by. I have to notice, though, that when I look back this year, some of the moments that meant the most to me were the times when I took chances. And it makes me look back to those times when I held back from taking a risk, for whatever reason. Fear. Self-doubt. Perhaps because it was the sensible thing to do. Or maybe just because I managed to convince myself of that. Not every chance I took worked out in an ideal way. But how co
uld I regret doing something, really, if in the moment, heart thumping and all, I truly felt alive?
That's more than I can say for some of the times when I stayed in my hole, buried in fear.
Today is Wellness Wednesday
, a weekly gathering of LGBTQ survivors of violence at CUAV (Community United Against Violence
). When I agreed to be a part of the Wellness Circle coordinating this event, I knew that part of the reason the staff had reached out to me was that I am a queer survivor of violence who has sought support through CUAV. CUAV is all about empowering survivors to heal and spread growth and healing throughout communities affected by violence. So I knew, also, that being a member of the Wellness Circle meant taking a chance each week. It means being out, essentially, as a survivor, standing up each week not just as someone teaching others how to heal, but as someone welcoming other survivors along with me on my own healing journey. It feels like a big risk for me. It feels like more than I would've ever risked before. And it feels great to know that I'm moving forward. Of course, I can only take one moment at a time. There are reasons we hold on to certain sources of safety
, and I don't yet feel ready to risk everything. But I think it's okay that I'm just taking one chance at a time. I don't always know what waits for me after I leap, but someday I'll be sure of my landing.
Tomorrow is a special day - it's my birthday! But it's also more than that. I'm glad that my special day coincides with a day that's very important for LGBTQ communities - scratch that, it's a day that's important for all people, everywhere. It's the 13th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance
, a day for all of us to lend a moment of our lives to honor those who have lost theirs due to anti-transgender hate. TDOR is just one day on which we memorialize those lost to anti-transgender violence, but it's also a reminder that this violence is happening all year long. In this piece in the Huffington Post, actress and transgender advocate Laverne Cox writes of the daily struggles of transgender folks who are just trying to live their lives, but who must live under the threat of violence simply because of who they are.
Now is a chance to examine how all of us contribute to this culture of violence, everything from our words and expectations to our silence or blindness to the hate. Now is our chance to explore how we might transform this culture of violence into one of love, support, solidarity. And now is a time to show that nobody is dispensable. Those who suffered at the hands of hatred will never be forgotten. Since my birthday falls on this day, it's the perfect opportunity for me to raise awareness about anti-transgender violence and to support those organizations and individuals working so hard to bring it to an end. That's why I've been asking friends and family to donate to CUAV (Community United Against Violence) as a gift to me and to our communities, to contribute to the essential work of helping our communities grow in our tools to respond to and prevent violence. Any amount of donation from you would
go directly to helping CUAV continue to do what they do, empowering those affected most by violence to create a world without it. Visit the CUAV website at www.cuav.org for more information on how to donate
. And let me know if you do - I'll send you a personal thank-you for this wonderful gift.
The San Francisco Transgender Day of Remembrance will take place Sunday, November 20th at 5:00 pm at the Ark of Refuge. This event is open to everyone in trans communities, including all families, friends and allies, and food and beverages will be provided. Come out to hear powerful words from Carolina Morales of CUAV, as well as other members of our comunities. Click here for more information on this event
. Also, please visit the Transgender Day of Remembrance website to learn more about the day, find other events throughout the country, and read the names and stories of
the people we memorialize this year. For more trans-related resources and support, visit Susan's Place
, Gender Spectrum
or Gender Advocates
. And before you go, here's a quick and dirty reminder that I'm reading tomorrow afternoon, at the Clattering Loom, an event that will include music, food and poetry. Visit my events page for details.