Join DJ Tiger & Street Jesus Got Soul this Sunday Funday, Dec 3rd from 11-3p at @vampwinelounge
Join DJ Tiger & Street Jesus Got Soul this Sunday Funday, Dec 3rd from 11-3p at @vampwinelounge
This November I celebrate my one year anniversary of organizing with Just Resisting! (Just Resisting is a black and brown community organization that focuses on social justice issues- primarily on injustices involving the local Buffalo Police Department/ Strike Force.) As I celebrate this accomplishment, I sit with the experience of attending BOLD,Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity Amandla – Praxis. The combination of the timing of both events is not only emotional, but monumental.
For five days I had the privilege of being able to share space with beautiful black organizers and folks from all over this country. We endured twelve hours of intense somatic, embodied leadership training, political education and on the ground practice with the local organization, 10K for Durham. As I write this I’m still unpacking a wealth of emotions ranging from raw newness to frustration.
I was under the impression going into the training that I would be learning practices for my organizing and that some somatic would be practiced.( I still didn’t know or understand the premise of somatic and what it entailed beyond centering). I did not know the small exposure to somatic practice would affect me on the level that it did. As one of the co-director to JR said so perfectly “ it’s like constantly being ripped open layer by layer exposing yourself in your bare humanity” all while maintaining everyone’s dignity in the space- it was amazing. Each practice forced me to acknowledge pieces of my trauma that I tried to deny- things I had buried within myself, beliefs that I thought were long ago debunked. I discovered the power in living in the truth of my story, living centered in purpose.
This painfully culminated during a practice on the fourth day, where we were instructed to write commitments that we would carry with us back home beyond this training.
My OG commitment went like: “I am a commitment to being a source of love and strength in connection to myself, my children, and my community for our liberation.” When I shared this with my team that I had been working with for the past week, they all responded that they had seen me doing that – the way I cared for Zaire and Kelila, in the way I talked about folks back home. I said without a thought “yea, but not myself.”
It was then when one of the lead facilitators that was on our team challenged me to cross everyone else out leaving myself, then try reading it aloud. I did, read it, and burst into tears. I was forced to face the truth that I did not know how to care for myself or felt I was worthy of that.
This triggered memories of my mother- her telling me that I am so strong and have endured much in this life, her trying to reaffirm my worth. I understood that to mean that strength was resource- something I could draw from, tap into in moments of weakness- not gift. Until then I believed that my purpose was to give of myself as a sacrifice for still having life in this body.
I was able to see the life that mattered in my children, in Jose, in Meech, in Aj, in my community- but not mine. I cried because I felt like that suicidal sixteen year old girl I once was all over again, plagued with PTSD from being sexual abuse that left me feeling worthless. The memory of waking up the day after my first suicide attempt in a hospital room came to mind vividly. I remember thinking that I was not physically supposed to be there but, also knowing this must’ve meant that I still had a purpose to fulfill on this earth. Since that moment, I was willing to live as a martyr for that purpose once I found it.
I first thought that Zaire was the fulfillment of that purpose once I met him and nurtured him as such, the same with Kelila, the same with my organizing work.
As I poured the love and strength in me into them and my projects I felt the pressure of life closing in around me, I felt depleted. In that moment when I acknowledged that my life mattered, and despite my traumas I will always have worth, a shift occurred within me. I spoke my commitment again; tears flowed as I said the words firmly. I️ am a commitment to being a source of love and strength in connection to my own liberation.I strive to live in that commitment since then by honoring myself slowly in small ways. Reaffirming that I do have worth and being gentle with myself has become a daily practice.
I allow myself to feel deeper in my interactions with folks: the boundaries that are born from it and the relationships I challenge to feel deeper in. I feel the frustration in my social media feeds seeing how much of society has feed us bullshit that has shrunk us down and isolated us as black folks.
When we collectively acknowledge our trauma and pain that healing process can begin. The acceptance of how our stories shift and shape us is the source of our power.
I understand the fear to go deeper. It’s not always safe to engage deeply in all interactions- it requires a level of trust in a time in our history where so much distrust has breed between all relationships. It’s also scary to face what lies in wait below the surface- what memories have been denied to revisit, what stories do we tell ourselves daily that are not true- things that sit in our depth that must be sorted through, and unpacked to heal in our full dignity.
This movement for Black Liberation exceeds breaking systems that were created to oppress us but, it’s for our collective healing as black folks. It is for the moments of freedom we are rarely granted to be extended.
This liberation is for the empowerment that we will always have our dignity- Despite what the society we live in feeds us through media influence and experiences. Connecting from that place of healing will create a people that I can only imagine our ancestors dreamed we would become.
I’m sitting with and processing emotions from interactions I’ve had over the past week. This has been forcing me to acknowledge my social conditioning : how I default in handling situations and the result that has on myself.
I was raised heavily in Assimilation Culture and by Respectability Politics: that if I did mind my manners, speak properly, tamed my hair- then white people would not be an issue, and if they were, to avoid Any confrontation. I’ve never witnessed my parents prioritizing their blackness over whiteness. Without noticing, I began doing the same as I’ve gotten older- that is until recently.
In the past year I’ve been spending more time in black and brown only spaces, spaces that center blackness and organizing with people of color collectives. In these spaces I’ve realized my conditioning and how it stems from systematic self preservation tactics pasted on generationally. Returning to work in a predominately white space has triggered how I see myself, my blackness in reference to how I handle whiteness.
I didn’t realize the problem I had with prioritizing whiteness until fellow organizer and friend brought it to my attention in the wake of Charlottesville both in a conversation we had on it and later in an important piece on this topic.*
I was telling her how I was avoiding going to places because I didn’t want to talk with white people about what had recently happened. She shifted the conversation and my view from avoidance to standing in myself and simultaneously refusing to talk about matters that made me uncomfortable.
Friday I remembered her words after enduring a rant at work from a white man on Charlottesville, how it was staged, the manufacturing of a race war and how now isn’t the time to worry about race. Despite my attempts to end the conversation it didn’t stop until my boss intervened. I felt at the end of it exhausted from listening to him, exhausted from his entitlement to my time, and his ignorance of his privilege that has resulted in so much violence.
As a black American woman, I felt insulted and triggered by his reduction of over 400 years of oppression and violence to singular moments of eruption of race relations when white supremacy feels threatened by our fight for liberation.
I noticed in this moment how it felt to let my identity come second in an interaction that:
1. Did not need to be had,
2. Would not reflect negatively on my job performance, had I centered myself
3. Would be more loving/ honoring to myself to center my identity.
White people have created and we’re raised in a society that has always put their ideas first, gave themselves room to be expressive without judgment which in turn resulted in them believing that they can encounter any interaction in that way. Where as black and brown people were not, we have always made space for whiteness.
Now, however is optimal time to enact Auntie Maxine Waters words and Reclaim Our Time.
I urge all my black, brown and all intersecting identities to stop, give yourself space and reclaim your time in the face of whiteness- supremacy and toxic masculinity.
Stop yourself in interactions ask ‘ am I prioritizing self or whiteness?’ – if the latter, reclaim that time.
To futher quote her words in the Just Resisting post “Are we actively in this moment, joining and working to build a world we want to live in? A world that centers us? Are we engaging in the work that prepares us for what we’re so obviously up against?”
End that respectability/ assimilation mindset and reclaim your unapologetic blackness : in your interactions, in demanding our rights, justice and the continued fight for liberation.
I’m still working on this – from my organizing to my own personal experiences and my hope is for you to do the same.
Come round out the Summer in NYC this weekend with Elyse Fox of Producedbygirls & Sad Girls Club as she cliques up with the boys of the Dirty Logan Gang, Fernandough the Poet & Kenzo this Friday 9/8 in Brooklyn, NY for The Rooftop BBQ!!!
Music: DJ ELLAHU$$LE
Location: 613 Wilson Ave Brooklyn
You saw how the #NeverDrinkingAgainBrunch went down this past weekend in Buffalo at Pasion! And if ya didn’t follow the Gang on IG: geist_mode @fernandoughthepoet @hollywood_coe @faceguevara!
Also peep the recap photos below:
SoundCloud Link: https://soundcloud.com/trueyv/this-is-love-prod-by-ogsole
Marielle Smith is a Buffalo, New York native and single mother of two beautiful children. Marielle enjoys writing poetry and short stories that highlight her experiences as a queer black woman, both the joy and struggles that personhood entails.
Over the past year Marielle has dedicated her time as a community organizer working with Just Resisting, a People of Color Community Organization that focuses its efforts on social justice, inclusion, and self- care / reflection. She was drawn to this organization when she experienced the centering of black femme voices and the validation of experiencing all emotions while also incorporating art into this movement. Marielle feels that art, in all its different mediums, is not only important to be a part of activism, but is an act of activism in itself. Art serves as a way to heal, it expresses a narrative and point of view that needs to be seen in order to address and solve the issue within the community.
Marielle also spends her time working with the Buffalo- Niagara LGBTQ+ Project, a local history project that conducts research and preserves the history of LGBTQ people. This history project is currently working on documentary style interview series composed of trans- activist and documenting their personal archives into Project’s archive base at Buffalo State College Library. Marielle is head of the POC Subcommittee, which focuses on the stories/history of people of color and preserving them for future generations.
In her spare time Marielle enjoys attending art shows/exhibits of various artists and brunching with friends where mimosas flow endlessly.