Another Opportunity for Healing and Growth for Black Women

Hey all, this post comes straight from Alexis @ Broken Beautiful Press announcing their next summer of healing institute. I cannot tell you enough how much I love watching young feminist women take their growth and their healing into their own hands and use it to create and lift up community. So go be fed. (And even if you can’t participate, consider donating and starting your own summer healing group.)

In honor of the great poet Lucille Clifton, who was also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, a mother, an artist and self-identified Amazon warrior through her poetry, the Lucille Clifton ShapeShifter Survival School is especially designed for families that are committed to ending childhood sexual abuse and all forms of gendered violence. Informed by Generation 5 and the regional plan of the Atlanta Transformative Justice Collaborative, the ShapeShifter Survival School is part of a holistic process of ending child sexual abuse by creating healing community.

Lucille Clifton Rebirth Summer

2011

F0r 5 Thursdays in Lucille Clifton’s birth month of June we will gather as survivors of child sexual and physical abuse and sexual violence and parents and caretakers committed to ending cycles of abuse in our families and communities to do writing activities based on Lucille Clifton’s poetry and the ShapeShifter Survivor Rebirth Broadcast video series.  (See videos here: http://blackfeministmind.wordpress.com/category/shapeshifting/).    Participants in the series will also receive digital mixes of the music we work with to create a sacred space of memory.  We can use the digital music mixes at home to activate memories of safety from the group writing space.

Rebirth Summer Thursdays:

Thursday. June 2

Unapologetic: Reclaiming Our Memories and Voices

Thursday, June 9

Bright: On Clarity and Power

Thursday, June 16

Gentle: On Cultivating Self-Love

Thursday, June 23

Futuristic: Towards the World that We Deserve

Thursday, June 30th

Planetary: The Depth and Urgency of Our Healing

Our intention is that after this summer month of Rebirth the Shapeshifter Survivor writing group will continue on a monthly basis hosted by participants as an ongoing source of support and healing drawing on work by Lucille Clifton and other writers.

For more information or to add your name to the reminder list email brokenbeautifulpress@gmail.com

Black Lesbian Excitement in Tejas

So … it seems two of my favorite people and/or their work will be featured in co-sponsored events by Allgo this week. For those who don’t know, Allgo is the place for queer people of color in Austin TX, a place I do not reside but Allgo often makes me wish I did. They sponsor artists in residence, film and discussion series, performances and activism, and just generally conscious-righteous stuff for the qoc.

This week they are featuring a poetic play by one of my favorite black lesbian authors, Sharon Bridgforth on Friday March 4 (TODAY PEOPLE):

8pm, The University of Texas at Austin, Winship Drama Building 2.180, 300 E. 23rd Street, Austin, TX

AND

Tomorrow after the amazing conference Performing Lesbian Archives, Allgo will be hosting an intimate dinner and discussion with  fellow blogger and newly minted PhD Alexis Pauline Gumbs (who I love and you should love too) and colleague in revolutionary black lesbian praxis Julia Wallace.

Bring a dish to share and get a chance to see footage from their amazing intergenerational project on black lesbian lives @ Out Youth 7:30pm 909 1/2 E. 49th Street, Austin TX 78751

And hey, if you can’t be in TX for these events, then consider getting your local college, women’s center, queer center, or feminist bookstore to invite these people out to your town.

FYI SpamBot Edition

I get a lot of spam. A LOT. Some of it is from real human beings acting like trolls, but most of it is spam bots. You can’t talk back to a spam bot. However, on the off chance someone gave them ears for Christmas (Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, or Tuesday Morning if you prefer) or that there are human beings involved … let me be clear: I report all spam referencing under age porn to any and all federal and international agencies set up to monitor and incarcerate people involved in child abuse, trafficking, and sex crimes involving under age participants. And yes, I do pass on IP addresses and if your state has particularly harsh rules, I alert local authorities to. You wanna know why? Because if you really are peddling kiddie porn, there isn’t a dung infested cave dark enough for you to crawl into or a corner of hell painful enough for you to spend eternity in. So Happy Holidays pervs b/c you spam my site, I report you.

Heartbreaking

I admit it, I was not in the mood to be the enigmatic instructor in the front of the room today. So instead, I asked students, via email, to bring in at least one song from the final projects they are working on about women, media, and narratives of self. One of my students brought in this Lauryn Hill classic:

Like many in the room, she did not know the history of this song and its direct comment on some of Hill’s less than positive relationships with other artists who tried to silence her creativity and sell out the sound. Instead, what she heard was the story of men who abuse women, profit from their intelligence, and keep them under control so that they don’t lose access to the power, intelligence, and creativity they bring to the table. She also talked about ambivalence in the song, i.e. that on the one hand it is an anthem for women who have the power to walk away from people who are enigmatic but shallow and the awareness that comes from realizing a person is more invested in their image and being worshiped than in real relationships, but on the other hand there is great cost to walking away from people who are idolized by the rest of your peer group. It was insightful presentation.

Unfortunately, it was also headed to a dark place. Try as I might, I could not preempt that in order to keep us on track and the student from having to face her peers post-melt down. Suddenly, she was comparing the engimatic figure in the song (he who shall remain nameless at least here) and several of her male professors in her other major, a discipline that is notoriously peopled with enigmatic men who are aloof and seemingly untouchable. She compared the shallowness of her relationships to said instructors to the availability, nurturing, and mentorship she had received in other departments and how the “cult of personality” in her discipline was surprisingly missing in others which made her think about how male egos intertwine with misogyny in order to create whole systems of power based on worship and abuse and the pathologizing of anyone who questions them. While the rest of her narrative was mixed with personal issues I cannot repeat here, suffice it to say that this crisis and insight were a result of the student trying to get her needs met from these largely than life men and being summarily smacked down because she wasn’t cute enough, thin enough, dumb enough to fall for their crap, etc. and also the more it happened the more she engaged in approach-avoidance (where you try to talk to someone and when they blow you off you avoid them until you can pull up the courage to do it again, ultimately reinforcing the idea that there is something wrong with you and your ability to be liked or loved instead of with the situation or the interpersonal dynamics that each of you has some responsibility in). For those who don’t know, approach-avoidance is one of the best tools of the abusive professor, because if they can get you on that cycle, then they can point to your neediness and erratic behavior as proof you are a giant nut bar and they are innocent.

Listening to her story in class and then later in my office, complete with email proof of some of her interactions, I began to wonder exactly how it is we continue to support these cults of personality in academe. Though some departments are certainly more guilty than others, and some genders perhaps more so than others, I think we can point to at least one person in every discipline who acts like this and in most cases their unbelievable narcissism is rewarded. In thinking about it, for the first time in a long time, from the student’s perspective instead of the colleague one, I began to wonder how many broken young women there are roaming college campuses because they don’t get called on or mentored by Mr. Fabulous, and then when they go to ask why … Mr. Fabulous makes them feel like the tiniest fleck of poo stuck in his brand new shoes, you know the fleck that stinks forever but can’t be washed out … Some girls go away and cry. Some girls try harder to please, helping build the very cult that dishonors them. And some girls, the really brave or really clueless ones, dare to ask why they are being treated this way or make it known that they see through this behavior, and those girls pay. They pay dearly. We’ve all seen it happen. Social ostracism doesn’t stop in high school; it isn’t part of 8 year old developmental brains. We do this. We let this happen.

I found myself asking the same questions I always silently ask said colleagues in these situations:

  1. Have you ever asked yourself why you are in education?
  2. If you think of students as the fodder to grade your papers, due your research, or even write those books you get raises on, what in the system prevents you from realizing you are a parasite and doing something about it?
  3. How do you think learning works if you engage in your own version of approach-avoidance in which the chosen few are showered with a ridiculous portion of attention and the rest are relegated to the hinterlands of two word emails and bored stares?
  4. If the only thing driving you teach is your ego, then have you considered local theater instead? perhaps a poetry slam at your favorite coffee shop? (people with real talent do this too, but we all know about the pompous pontificators who show up and have a forum, just think, that could be you!)
  5. And if deep down, you really don’t give a sh*t what students think, then why do you have a syllabus that requires them to speak in class and/or interact with you in some version of a virtual extended classroom?

One word: Therapy.

While therapy is not cheap and it doesn’t pay you, in the long run

  1. you will do far less damage to others in this world
  2. you may actually like yourself when it is over
  3. you can do much better in the world with an authentic self and an internal regulating system that doesn’t require you to feed off of others
  4. while you may never be worshiped or adored again, you also won’t need to be and the people who offer you love and friendship will actually mean it and not just being waiting for you to write a recommendation or drop dead so they can move into your office

What I told my student in class, was to listen to another Lauryn Hill song in which she realizes that looking outside herself for validation is not worth it and where she points to all the ways we are told to put our faith, our learning, and our sense of peace, in the hands of others (including educators) when to be strong we need to take it into our own hands and build our own communities of strength that are based on mutuality, mindfulness, and genuine respect for each other.

My world it moves so fast today
The past it seems so far away
And I squeeze it so tight, I can’t breathe
And every time I try to be
What someone has thought of me
So caught up, I wasn’t able to acheive
But deep in my heart the answer it was in me
And I made up my mind to find my own destiny
I look at my environment
And wonder where the fire went
What happened to everything we used to be
I hear so many cry for help
Searching outside of themselves
Now I know His strength is within me
And deep in my heart the answer it was in me
And I made up my mind to find my own destiny
And deep in my heart the answer it was in me
And I made up my mind to find my own destiny

One of the students had brought the entire CD in to do her song, so we ended class with this song. I asked each student to think about the meaning of this song and how it related to their own lives and their own empowerment. I’m passing that on to you, even as I ask the academics among my readers to think of new ways of interacting with those colleagues who are little more than predators feeding on the innocence and trained need of young students just looking for one person to validate and encourage their intelligence.

 

While I was “Away”

And that my friends is only the tip of the iceberg!

Hopefully we will be back to blogging for real next week. :)

Telmary Diaz

I know music posts on this blog don’t generate a lot of traffic, but you know I am less interested in how many people stop by then the quality of what people take away when they do. So I put this beautiful love song on when I got home from a mini-conference on race, gender, and the law at the uni today (don’t ask) and felt celebratory joy about being alive, a woman, and a person of color seeping back into my bones. It’s isn’t a political song, it is is a love song (though of course, love is often political in this world).

Telmary Diaz is a Cubana Canadian based hip hop poet who comments on politics, social justice, women, and life in her music. One of my favorite lines from her songs is “everywhere the capitalists destroy, disguised as socialists” if that isn’t the legacy of Reagan and the war on socialism in Latin America, I don’t what is. (And yes, it is so much deeper than that but again I’m tired of a million qualifiers just to say something these days. Literalism will be death of intelligent, thoughtful discourse and that is the legacy of No Child Left a Mind)

So what amazing female artist are you listening to today?

PS. Telmary Diaz will be playing at the Tornto Women’s bookstore for FREE tonight. If you are there, you should check her out and buy a book, as well as her CD, while you are there.