MaDamn Noire Reclaims the ‘Angry Black Woman’

On March 31st at the closing ceremony for FREE AGENT, MaDamn Noire strolled up to the stage with a white Barbie doll on a leash in tow. I was eager for the performance as I already knew that it would be the representation of MaDamn Noire frustration of whiteness. In preparation MaDamn Noire , Obsidian, Curtis Luvell, and I held a ritualistic ceremony where each of us gave a blessing over MaDamn Noire and her performance. I’ve come to love and cherish my relationship with each of these beauitful black femmes, we poured that love over her as a reminder that her life long dance career aligned with her knowing her fullness in her idenity that she was more than ready for this. It was scared, intimate and healing space that we held just for ourselves among the others preparing for the show.

As the music started so did she, MaDamn Noire was the embodiment of the rage black women feel and the liberation from letting it free not afraid of who may see. On the stage she moved fiercely with a sexiness that felt natural to the raw anger energy. Over the music and the crowd roaring their delight of consuming her vibrant dancing, her body screamed its disgust from the treatment that white folks have put her through. Challenging major Grace Jones vibes she bites then spit out the head of the Barbie in the face of a woman in the front row that sent the crowd into a louder uproar. In that moment my heart swelled with pride for her boldness and it ached for her sacrifice she had made performing this in a predominately white space.

Black folks in the audience knew that with each twirl MaDamn Noire swung that Barbie above her head represented what she really wanted to do after every unwarranted hair grab by a white woman that just wanted to feel it. Black folks knew that with each shake she gave that Barbie was for each time she was harassed by a white coworker that went unnoticed, for each condescending comment made to her face and every stereotype that had been nailed to her back. She danced for every slight and large injustice, mircoagression, and hidden racism that black femmes face daily that looks at us with thin lipped smiles and eyes that willingly go blind to black violence. She danced to communicate that we will not idly play along with your games. We will not entertain without forcing you to see what you have done to me, to my people, and our collective ancestors. We will disrupt all aspects to your lily lives as ours has been until you work to correct the harm that we are currently in.

She trotted off the stage and out the door giving the perfect end to the event. I felt joy of her releasing so much of the pain we suffer through, I felt her soul being free as she let her artistry channel who she was physically. I felt healed watching her reclaim what I had been told until now was some far off mythology of liberated black femme sexuality.

Photo cred. @pjeightyeight/instagram.com

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How Audre Lorde’s Uses of the Erotic Improved how I Self Love

After returning home from BOLD’s National Gathering I spent the following week feeling deeply into the amazing power and joy of black people. BOLD, Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity, is a network of Black Organizers from across the country that bases it training in political education, somatic practices, and building conections across the country. Among the most cherished experiences that I had was the lunch conversation with Adrienne Maree Brown on Pleasure Activism. “Adrienne Maree Brown is author of Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds and the co-editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements. She is a writer, social justice facilitator, pleasure activist, healer and doula living in Detroit.”(brief bio, Adrienne Maree Brown) . Being committed in healing journey and bridging the gap of what I desire to actually embodying in my activism drew me to Adrienne and also just me wanting to fangirl over one of my favorite black femmes in this movement.Adrienne suggested, and I suggest to y’all listening to the youtube video of Audre Lordre’s Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as power. In this speech and released publication Audre speaks to a deeply powerful energy that lies within femmes that has been demonized by patriarchal society. This has been done through suppression of our erotic selves within our oppression in a dominate male world and gaze, denying us power that in many ways and times while manipulate us for men to be on the receivingof it.Audre goes on to define eroticism as “the measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos and power of our deepest feelings, it is our internal sense of satisfaction that once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire … this depth of feeling and recognizing its power and self-respect we can require no less from ourselves”.(Audre Lorde, Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic I listened to this daily at work on my break as I took brisk laps around my school. I listened to her words to inspire and affirm my commitment to growing black folks through the resources of education for our collective liberation before returning to work. I feel the importance from the students I work with of my presence mattering, but struggle within feelings of obligation of service to other areas of my job. By feeling more into those areas of discomfort while looking for the pleasure of being in the current moment has improved my sense of fulfillment. With each passing day I felt that fullness deeper, amazed by it I wondered what that pleasure would feel like sexually in relation to myself . “the erotic offers a well of replenishing and provocative force to any woman that .. Hasn’t succumbed to the belief that sensation is enough”- Audre Lorde, Uses of th Erotic: The Erotic as Power.Until this past week I used masturbation just to get myself off when experiencing sexual tension or frustration but, then I realized I had denied myself touch in a way that truly fulfills my needs. My sexual performance with partners has been more passionate in using ways that I know will best pique my own arousal in relation to heighten my partner’s experience. Last month for the first time I used those same tricks and techniques in service of me: I played the music I like to hear, moved at the pace, rhythm that felt best to me and switched to the positions I wanted when needed accurately. I loved on myself in a way that up until then I still struggled with due to its taboo nature that was projected on to me. I still battled with shame attached to it from growing up in a conservative Christian household that ruled by sexual ignorance in hopes that would deaden any sexual exploration. For the first time I committed to being in the fullness of eroticism for me. I orgasmed from myself for the first time and felt love for myself differently, from the tender and caring lover that I had been complimented as by partners but never knew personally. I know now that this feeling was never given to me through any other person than me- that is empowering. It felt empowering to carry that joy of self into my job performance, into my creative writing process and embracing being in love with me. I felt a rare level of intimacy with myself that was both intoxicating and healing. The uses of eroticism in connection to self-love is radical AF and yet so necessary to femmes and folx across the gender spectrum just do to for ourselves, to discover more of our identity and seeing ourselves in our full dignity.

Black Girl in Om: Healing the woman I am within

I wanted to create space to speak a mini testimony of what has been a successful practice for me to manifest greatness and appreciate the greatness in my life : listening and being inspired by black women/ femmes.

Last January I was struggling to find my voice as writer, how to become an active part of the change I wanted to see in my City, and finding, loving me. For each challenge that I stumbled through somewhat blindly there was a black woman there to help guide me back on to my path.

My Writing

My dear friend and talented poet, Eve routinely sent me invites to poetry events, readings, her featured shows until I began to show. Listening to her truth spoken boldly and feeling that connection to her spiritual left me in tears many of time and inspired to honor my own truth through my voice. As our relationship grows she challenges me to improve my writing in ways I didn’t know were possible. Im so grateful of having that experience of someone in my same medium. Some months into 2017, one of my closest friends, Taylor suggested me to a mutual friend that owns a site called FlagrantCity that was looking for bloggers, which led me to Rhonda. Rhonda has provided me the creative freedom to express on a platform while also giving me advise on how to build my own brand,and I deeply grateful for this. From this experience had led me to my most recent accomplishment of being hired as a freelance writer for Vocally!

Organizing & Self Awareness

I was in awe of Shaketa’s leadership and Natasha’s strategy: their combined efforts is black girl magic to me. As I continued working with them and growing closer to them; the experience of their patience, their love, their ability to see me in my fullness in a way I had yet to see in myself was affirming for me which led me to BOLD Praxis .BOLD was an experience that shifted my inner narrative of my life. This past Friendsgiving I shared the experience of how BOLD affirmed my worth, dignity, abilities. How, in the future, I wanted to carry healing our traumas and self care through words/ art into my organizing when Linda asked if I had listened to Black Girls in Om, it was a Chicago based podcast run by black women, that centered self care – she strongly suggested that I listen to it.

Black Girls In Om

From their first episode Lauren’s soft voice over subtle instrumentals speaking BGIO’s mission: “To promote holistic wellness and inner beauty for women of color, encouraging self care, self love, and self empowerment for communities of color” was an affirmation of the exact mission I have been envisioning. To the present with the episode number 30: “Intentional living with Roe of Brown Kids” .

There were several things that Roe said that resonated deeply with me. On creating a capsule wardrobe, a wardrobe that can be carried throughout the year and importance of buying quality clothing . Coming home from my experience at both Bold and Just Resisting retreat, I have come to terms within myself that I did not feel up until then worth period – Let alone luxuries of expensive clothing . After twenty four years of living in Buffalo, NY I did not own a down coat or bought good winter boots in at least five years, because I did not think I was worthy of those new things. I realized that stemmed from conditioning: my parents treated shopping as a reward and growing up in generational poverty. As an adult when I did splurge on anything self indulgent it was lingerie, something super sexy, maybe a casual thing – but never my essentials that would actually care for my body.

What Roe and Lauren spoke to about living in a limbo state is something I have been struggling within my own space. Since my breakup a year ago with my daughter’s father, I struggled financially that constantly left me questioning where my family will be each month. Now as I gain stability I’m adjusting to how to have a functional and comfortable space for a toddler and school aged child. This episode like the previous connect with me on levels that I am actively trying to unlock within myself that leaves me amazed each time. Lauren’s work with partynoire as a yoga instructor grounded in spiritual awareness and Deun’s creative works rooted deeply in spiritual gratitude strengthens me daily to continue on with my current collaborative projects with H.E.A.L and Black Magnolias.

If you have not listened to Black Girls in Om, I very much suggest that you give them a listen!

*The top two that I have on repeat currently are episode #29 and #18 (Five Challenges in Creative Entrepreneurship) and strongly advise all black women and femmes listen to #1, #13, #27 and of course the latest #30 .

On and On an’ On and On: Afro Spiritualism and black millennials

In the January Vogue Erykah Badu will be unleashing a spread that has been long fermenting among black millennials – return to Afro Spiritualism.

In the article released before the hard print, Erykah is photographed kneeling in front of her altar that is covered in crystals, gems, and idols. Her face is serene as her eyes are focused on the crystal she is holding in her hands- looking at this I can feel the connection between the two and her Goddess presence.

There is a meme of this picture sparking a conversation among Afro spiritualist Practicers, that after this January release there will be a wave of crystal toting black magic girls dabbling in spiritual practices making it 2018’s first pop culture trend. The cynical tones about this are concerning since as we all know that have a spiritual practice- that there is enough space for all who want to explore and experience new ways of connecting and spiritual awareness.

There is enough crystals, sage, palo santo, candles and rituals for every black person that’s ready to begin their spiritual practice with it. This is not an erasure of those of us who have been on this journey for a bit longer, more so highlighting that we here and are growing in numbers.

I see this more as an introduction to those who have maybe not been exposed to it or seen it presented in this way, a way that they now feel is something they can actually participate in.

It wasn’t until this past year that I began learning and incorporating more practices that center my ancestry, heightening my own appreciation of myself and my own journey. Learning more about spirituality outside of religion opened worlds of consciousness and connections that I had no idea I had been blind to.

There is a mythology in the black community about African Spiritualism – mostly stemming from Christian religions- that it is “demonic” or carries negative/ dangerous powers. I know this to be true because from my religious upbringing I was taught to never experiment with any of this. For a long time I had harbored feelings of fear and curiosity towards it, until I began to find out Afro Spiritualism truth. It journeyed over the Atlantic in Slave Ships practiced, taught, and preserved by generation to generation to find me here- the power, love, and connection felt from that can’t be compared.

Afro-Spiritualism has always been around, ready to reveal itself to those who are ready to experience it. I hope this spread does inspire people to not only talk about spiritualism but, also experience it in a beneficial way.

Cover art :Erykah Badu at home in Dallas, Texas

Photographed by Mark Borthwick, Vogue, January 2018

BOLD Journey to Durham: lessons on Black Love & Healing for Liberation

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.

Lady Entrepreneurs: Produced By Girls – Zine 1 (Review)

I was overly excited to read this Zine by looked at it alone. The classic black and white marble composition notebook cover felt nostalgic to adolescence: the way it would become decorated with amateur graffiti, magazine cut outs of favorite celebrities and teen heartthrobs glued onto the few empty spaces. Also, 3D Glasses were included to be used on certain pages! 

This zine featured 5 talented young women of color, that were pictured on the cover in the cut out form.  

Each page reflects the personality of the young woman it shared itself with in a magazine cut collage form. 

The first page featuring Megan Harris- model, artist, graphic designer and part owner of Beatnik Parlor Ice Cream , is covered in a variety of ice cream cones, palm trees and California vibes reflecting Megan’s hometown. Megan is pictured in the lower corner with thick coiled shoulder length hair looking directly into the camera. Megan’s story was deeply inspiring for myself personally with her being just two years older than myself. At 26 she has left her hometown in Sacramento to NYC to further her career. 

Her advice for to aspiring entrepreneurs was simplistic which made it seem even more achievable for myself and all who read. 
On the back of Megan’s page is a goals worksheet for the reader to list what goals they have for themselves and business! 

Annabel’s page is covered with a variety of foods as well as pictures of her food truck/ mobile kitchen. Anabel is pictured in the lower corner, a beautiful young girl smiling holding a toddler in her arms. 

One of the impressive things about Anabel is that age of eight years old she has already created a delicious diverse menu that feeds many in the DMV area. Her words echo the importance of seeing women and girl bosses, starting as young as herself, proving anything is possible. 

Alias Kadir’s page background is decorated with large frosted green grapes and light pastel colors. Alias is pictured in the corner with shoulder length curly hair looking away from the camera over her shoulder. This seventeen year old explains how she found comfort in music. Alias also included how she is looking for queer artist and artist of color’s work that she wants to share via her platform. This is also something near and dear to my heart, the inclusion of queer and all artist of color is needed, our work is truly unique and needs more visibility. 

Essence Hayes’ name is spelled out in bold red block letters. Across the back of her page is a city’s outline with building lit up a night sky . By her name and along the bottom of the page are some of her pins. Essence is pictured at the bottom of the page looking directly into the camera. Essence is a painter and jewelry maker that came up with Coloring Pins, a collection of pins that are inspired by black hair styles. Looking at these pins give a more nostalgic feelings as it showcases classic black hair styles as Bantu knots and braids. 

Essence describes her journey to get her business to where it is today. From her set backs and obstacles, Essence continued on pursing her vision and has no intentions of stopping now. 

The last lady entrepreneur in this issue is Eli. Using the 3D glasses given at the front of the zine you can see the overlapping red and blue clustered pictures of Eli come to life. Eli’s outlook on art medium and Philosophy was both refreshing and left me excited to see what she will accomplish artisticly. 

On the next page PBG has an important reminder that the reader can see with the 3D glasses. The last two pages are interactive for the readers encouraging the reader to bring their ideas to life.  

After reading this Zine I felt revitalize to continue the work that I’ve been doing : with writing, with organizing and modeling .

What was most inspirational about these young women is how at their age they have envisioned their dreams and brought them to life. To find out how they succeed and overcame their adversity, read this Zine ! 
Also show support to these wonderful women by following their social media accounts and their work. 

Their presence in their fields are needed, let’s make sure it can remain. 

 Reclaiming My Time 

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.

*Please read the rest of  Just Resisting’s Post and if in the Buffalo area be sure to check out JR’s Political Education Kickoff!on the 21st!