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.

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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! 

PJ – This Is What It Looks Like [Video]

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Having a rough week? Maybe even a rough month? PJ’s recent release This Is What It Looks Like is what you need to power through. Soulful vocals coupled with visuals reminiscent of Carrie Mae Weems’s Kitchen Table Series serve as a powerful reminder that though we all must face obstacles in life, we still find a way to persevere. Even more so, we’re stronger, kinder, and wiser because of it. A gentle prompt that we are the masters of our future, even when it seems we have lost control.

Check out the powerful video here.

Follow PJ on IG and subscribe to her YouTube channel for more sounds to make your day.

BuffaLowe Wants to Know: Where the Haters At? [Opinion Piece]

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  In order for a candidate to become president they must have an overwhelming support of the citizens, right? They would at least need more people who want to see them in power than those who would rather they fail. I mean… isn’t that the whole reason why we’re urged to vote? Told our voices matter and all the other propaganda? The 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama (yes, girl I said President present tense because he’s still my President FOH) had an attendance record of more than 1.8 million according to CNN politics.

    So where are all the self-hating bigots who voted for Captain Cheezit? They have no problem sitting behind a camera and spewing messages of hate, or even attacking defenseless POC for no justifiable reason, but very few showed up to support the man THEY deemed fit to be in power. When listening to Trump’s inauguration speech the reason becomes a bit clearer. At least to me. His speech was littered with the uses of ‘i’ and ‘me’ as opposed to ‘us’ and ‘we’. ‘I can fix these problems’ and ‘I am the answer’.

    So maybe Trump’s followers didn’t show because their lazy asses felt their task was done. They screamed hate to the heavens and their Gods have responded. So all that’s left for them to do is sit back and let havoc wreck itself. Even so, We the People should see this as an opening. Our support of love is far greater than their message of hate. The power rests in our hands and it’s up to us to use it to rectify the problems that have plagued America since it’s founding. Let’s make it right one step at a time! This is our call to action.

    In the mean time in-between time, check out this article with more photos showing the recent inauguration’s lack of attendees.

#AroundBuffaLowe: Drea D’Nur – Spirit of Nina [FEB 24]

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Visual Artists. Jewelers. Sculptors. Illustrators. Now is your chance to showcase your talent. Drea Dnur is looking for new and possibly undiscovered artists to showcase their skills for the Spirit of Nina Art Exhibition at Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, New York. Don’t waste time doubting yourself and miss this opportunity. Show the world what you have to offer and make a change for the better. Let your creativity flow! Want in? E-mail Drea at DreaDnur@me.com for more information. And may the odds ever be in your favor.

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Join Drea D’Nur in celebrating Nina’s Birthday 2 days before the Kleinhans Show! She will have a special 1-day exhibit and Drea will be screening ‘The Spirit of Nina In Buffalo’ Mini-Documentary as well!  FREE and open to the public! Special thanks to Burchfield Penney Art Center and Buff State’s EOP for sponsoring this celebration!

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Flagrant City Spotlight: Convos w/ Friends by Produced By Girls [SHORT FILM]

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Nowadays it seems more and more people are discovering they suffer from depression. Though it may seem common, it doesn’t make the condition any easier to deal with and power through. Creatives, innovators and visionaries always seem to be victims of depression, and most use the void as a means of inspiration. This is precisely what Elyse Fox has done in her short film entitled ‘Convos with Friends’. In the film, Fox shows how friendship, music, and travel aide her in fighting her demons so she can continue to bring necessary art to her viewers.

You can watch the short film below.

Conversations with Friends. from Elyse Fox on Vimeo.

And read a few words from the creator herself below:

“New year, cooler tings! Thank you all for viewing/sharing #ConvosWithFriends. We’re so excited about the conversation the film has ignited. With the release of the film many amazing women have been reaching out for advice/answers regarding life, womanhood, depression (etc) We want to create a place where we can discuss freely and anonymously. PBG presents ‘Sad Girls Club’ email sgc@producedbygirls.com to chat with us XO<3″

Don’t forget to follow her on IG

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