I watched a movie this week that has me thinking twice this morning about the trash that I’ve created already, in the few short hours I’ve been awake today.
But Waste Land
isn’t a movie about garbage. It’s not a film about recycling. It’s not even a documentary about art, which was the impression that drew me to it. Waste Land
is about people. People who do what they can to survive. Who also hold their heads high, and smile, and yes, make art of it.
Here’s the trailer. If you get a chance to watch, I’d highly recommend it.
Happy Earth Day!
Today is a day to appreciate our natural world. How are you celebrating? Here are a few ideas
. You can also visit the Earth Day Network website
to learn more about how you can appreciate the planet that holds us, today and all year long.
And because it's Friday, today's Friday Friend is earthshots.org
. It's a simple concept, featuring each day a new breath-taking photo that reminds us of all there is to admire on our beautiful planet. There's another idea -- take a camera today, and venture into nature. Maybe you'll capture the next featured Earth Shot. Love your Mother (Earth)!
We're six days into the month of April, so you may have noticed already that it's National Poetry Month
. Throughout the country, people are celebrating in various ways, from committing to reading poetry to attending events to leaving poems in unexpected places. Find more ideas for ways to celebrate here
. One way I'm joining in the celebration is by writing a poem every day in April. That's 30 poems in 30 days. Want to join me? Please do! I'd love to hear how it's going, and to read some of your poems. Or, just write for yourself and don't show anybody. Poetry for poetry's sake. Here's my poem for today. It's short and rough now, perhaps something I'll revisit later. april
your sunlight stretches
like a newborn child.
from my shoulders,
your rains rise
into the sky.
we welcome you,
as if you’d be happy
to find us here.
as if you weren’t
through our concrete borders,
for the softness
of the earth you came for.Maisha Z. Johnson
This week's Friday Friends are on a road to preserving herstory. Julia Wallace
and Alexis Pauline Gumbs
are embarking on the Mobile Homecoming Projec
t, an essential and inspiring project for queer women of color of all ages. It's inspiring to know that these herstories aren't dying.
This is a time when I sometimes wonder if the history of queer people of color vanishes as soon as it's created -- fears echoed by the other folks present at last weekend's Black Queer Society. When asked by co-founder Essex Lordes
why a gathering like Black Queer Society is important, we all had our own words for the difficulty of finding other black queer folks in San Francisco, in spite of promises
of a city of diversity and equality.
When the Mobile Homecoming Project touched down in the Bay Area last weekend, they stopped in to the Black Queer Society gathering. And I'm so glad they did. In their bright smiles I saw hope, that at least part of our journey to finding and supporting one another lies in our connections to other generations, and in our preserving of history. History, that is, in the form of herstory that is still alive and within our reach if we just open up and talk to one another.
'we are the ones we have
been waiting for'
So that's what we did. We shared delicious Afro-vegan food (plus decadent mac 'n cheese), talked about everything from music to gentrification to quirky black girls
, and of course fed on learning about what the Mobile Homecoming Project has been setting out to accomplish.
Julia and Alexis are taking a trip in an eco-friendly RV, surviving from the kindness of others
with our elders. They're calling Mobile Homecoming "an innovative and loving response to a deep craving for intergenerational connection" as they set out finding the stories of black women, trans men and gender queer visionaries in the generations before theirs. But I'd refer you to their website
to read more, in their own insightful words, about why their journey is so important.
I can share from my experience why spending time with the women of Mobile Homecoming and their friends was so enlightening. It was the reminder that histories that are erased from mainstream circles cannot be erased from our memories. We hold the power to preserve our stories and draw our family trees as we know them. Folks like Julia and Alexis are spreading this idea throughout the country, and once we start sharing our stories, we can't be silenced. It's just as June Jordan said, in words that guide the Mobile Homecoming Project: "We are the ones we have been waiting for."
I’ve been dreaming for a long while of getting a bicycle. There are many reasons to ride
one, of course – for personal fitness, for the convenience of getting around without relying on public transportation, for the environmental impact of using human power to travel. I already walk a lot, for many of the same reasons – I’m typing up this post as I rest my legs in a café in the Mission
, where I walked this morning from my home in the Inner Sunset
. If you know the city, you know that’s far. But if you really know the city, you may be unimpressed still, because you may know that if you put your mind to it, getting across San Francisco by the power of your own body isn’t too difficult. On a bike, I’m sure, it would be even easier.
Wave rack by Ryan Dempsey
And now, as if I need any more reason to get a bike, I’ve been hearing about art projects related to bicycling. This is what I love about art – no matter the situation, art can be used to highlight it, and to add creativity and make it fun. The simple act of locking up your bike, for example, can brighten your day if you find one of the fun artist-designed bike racks around the city, like the one on the left. You can read about these racks from the San Francisco Bike Coalition here
. I’m disappointed that I’ve never noticed these racks in the city before, but I guess if I were riding a bike I might pay more attention to such things.
So biking is good for the planet, and art can be involved. What more do I need? I suppose I have only one reason for not getting a bike, and that’s my fear of riding in the city. But with free urban cycling courses
available from the SF Bike Coalition, I guess that’s no excuse.
What do you think? Can such art projects change our way of moving through our worlds? What would it take to convince you? And if you bike already, what are your reasons?
Let me know if you know of any other bike-related arts projects, and if you have any tips for getting over my fear of riding in the city. And finally, last question: where can a girl get a cheap bike in this city?
Until then, I’m off to continue my walking adventures…
More excitement in the air
in San Francisco. This time, it’s not just in the literary community, though that’s where it’s beginning, with some of the most brilliant and creative minds in the SF lit community pursuing a vision that is, as Alan Kaufman
put it, “a dream far too important to hold hostage to any particular person or personality-type.”
This past weekend I attended the first planning meeting for the Free University of San Francisco. It’s very early in the development stages, only just morphing from idea to reality. You know what that means? That means that you (yes, you, if you live in the Bay Area) have a chance to be a part of this from the very beginning.
What’s the vision? To create a university where knowledge is freely given
between those who wish to share it. But that’s only part of it. The other part is what you and I and everyone else who wants to make this a reality can bring. I attended the meeting in awe of folks like Alan Kaufman
, Matt Gonzalez
and Diamond Dave
, but I found that everyone was there to listen, believing that everyone who’d come had something to contribute. It’s very inspiring, how grassroots this whole process is.
Still, it’s obvious that at this point the communities involved are limited. Which is a shame, because an opportunity like this one should be available for everyone to share, from the beginning. So they’re hoping to get more folks involved, more people of color and queer and trans people, educators and experts in all kinds of fields, which could mean having a degree in a particular field or having a grasp of a practical skill, or anything in between. And also people who can help with the logistics of setting something like this up, and anybody who's interested in learning. If you know anybody who would want to be involved, or if you have any sort of inkling to come see what it’s about, please check out the Facebook group here
, the website here
(still very early in development), and I can’t recommend enough, even if you don’t want to be involved, reading Alan Kaufman’s opening remarks
from the meeting, just for the sake of the enrichment that brings.
Also, if you can make out the audio, here’s a video peek
at how the first meeting went. Help spread the word! And let me know if you know of any organizations or individuals, particularly folks of color, who want to be involved. Education for all!Note: As I mentioned later in this post, I've since decided to step away from being a part of the Free University collective, though I wish them the best of luck!
Happy holidays! I can't believe it's already the week of Christmas. I've made a couple of suggestions for Good for the World holiday shopping, and here's one last reminder for last-minute shopping: shop local. I know that at times like these it's easier to get everything at the big corporate stores, but don't forget to save some holiday love and spending for the small businesses, which are having an especially rough time these days. For gift ideas, don't forget to try your local craft stores, artists from your town, or, my favorite, independent bookstores. It may be too late to order online, but you can check out resources
to track down local artists and craftspeople and contact them to lend your support. Or, why not give the gift of a donation to a local organization
doing good for the world? Last suggestion: a locally-produced literary magazine
featuring the poems of your favorite blogger makes a great gift. Okay, so maybe that last one was more selfish plug than Good for the World gift idea, but really any of these could help support your community, and local artists. Read about more reasons to shop locally here.
“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live within and know we cannot live without.” –James Baldwin
That’s one of my favorite James Baldwin quotes, and I’m wearing it proudly on a shirt today. Where would I find such an enlightening shirt, you ask? It’s from my second pick for Good for the World holiday shopping (read about my first pick, LGBabyT, here
). Today my eye is on Liberation Ink
You can’t get much better than this – a volunteer-run, worker-owned collective that makes (cute!) sweatshop-free apparel with socially conscious designs, with funds going to support social justice organizations. Shopping that’s good for the world, indeed.
I don’t think I need to say anymore, besides that they’re having a SALE right now, so you can buy three items and get one free until December 19th.
So it's good for the world, and also good for me... in case anyone’s wondering, these are the three I’d like. Feel free to keep the fourth for yourself…
Onesie available from LGBabyT
Ordinarily my least favorite part of the holiday season is the rampant consumerism, the so-called “spirit of giving” that has us running around like rabid animals showing more greed than giving as we fatten the pockets of the already-rich people who get to benefit from it all.
But I figure at least I can get into the spirit by finding gifts worth giving, to make the art of holiday shopping something that can be good for the world.
So here’s Maisha’s first pick for this year’s “Good for the World” holiday shopping: LGBabyT
LGBabyT sells queer-friendly and gender neutral baby clothes (and some for adults too!), perfect for any progressive-minded parent who would love to dress their baby in something like an “I (heart) Harvey Milk” onesie. More reasons to love LGBabyT:
- Their mission statement is “let babies be babies,” so that rather than using babies to push an identity or agenda forward, they have shirts with phrases like “When I grow up I want to be” and “I’m not flirting, I’m a baby.”
- Sustainability. According to their website: “We offer organic and recycled options and plan to one day work with solely recycled materials. We use Environmentally friendly products, water-based inks, energy conserving lights and try to find multiple uses for every scrap of paper or fabric we come across.”
- They’re doing good for the world, sending positive messages such as “Don’t raise bullies” on t-shirts are also available for adults. This message is especially relevant after the media coverage of the gay teen suicides this year. Also, LGBabyT donates 30% of its profits to organizations that support LGBT youth, education, and social equality for marginalized groups.
- They began with art, and an idea, and now they’re making the difference. I happen to personally know one of the women behind LGBabyT, and she’s fabulous, which is reason enough to support her, but she’s also inspirational, in the way that she’s taken a screen-printing hobby and turned it into something creative, sustainable and good for the world. Simply put, a world where kids wear these clothes makes for a better future.
So if you’re doing any holiday shopping, consider letting LGBabyT be part of your gift-giving. The world will be a better place for it.