On Surviving

IMG_6777A week ago today, I was in the hospital having surgery for thyroid cancer. It had taken a long time to get to this point where the anesthesiologist was suddenly saying, “So I’m going to put the oxygen mask on you now.”

Today is my father’s birthday. I had the surgery three days after the two-year anniversary of his death.

I thought I would have to wait until this past Monday to find out the results of the pathology report, the results that would tell me whether or not I did in fact have cancer, and whether or not I would have to do radiation to kill any remaining cancerous cells. The doctor called me last Friday and let me know what they found was indeed cancerous, but they caught it in time and it was small enough so I don’t have to do radiation.

I thought I would write something longer about all of this, but each time I try to write I only get to one or two possible sentences:

The first doctor tells me my neck is enlarged.

When the doctor inserts the needle for the biopsy….

And then nothing but the blank page and I get tired just thinking about the journey that led to the first incision. Clearly, it’s still too soon.

All I can say today is how thankful I am for this life, for my family, for my mother who has been praying for me constantly, for my niece who sent me a handwritten card complete with all of her perfect misspellings that had me in tears: “I relly, relly, relly hope you fell better. Is Uncle Jango crying?” for all the love I have in my life, for my partner (correct spelling, Django) who is everything.

Today, my great aunt on the Jamaican side of the family enlisted a small group of family and friends to conduct a thinking Reiki for me and my husband. Auntie Glo is in her nineties and still teaches yoga. I don’t know how anyone is supposed to say “no” to Auntie Glo. In an email she explains what a thinking Reiki means: “As with practicing Reiki, you all know that in the thinking Reiki we each focus our thoughts on the receiver, [Me], and her present issues, and on Django and the calls on his energies to help her to heal. The meditation helps each of us to keep our thinking focused. Each of us writes in our own way and so we might make the meditation practice around the process of creating a piece of writing –a poem, a blessing a bouquet of healing thoughts, etc.  This is an individual effort and it is up to you whether or not you care to share it.”

So from 3:00 to 3:30 this afternoon, family and friends sent healing energy from Jamaica, Canada, D.C., California.

Such a simple, loving gift: Today, we are all going to think about you at the same time.

I don’t know anything about Reiki, but I figured if people were sending healing thoughts my way, the least I could do was try to be open. At 3:00, I followed Auntie Glo’s detailed instructions that came after her initial explanation. I thought about the past couple of years. I thought about what it means to grieve—a person, or a piece of one’s own body, how it can feel the same. I thought about hospitals and doctors and needles and fear. And I began to release all of it.From my journal: I release each pound of fury. I release each dying cell. I release each memory of death, each death of memory. I release… I release…I release…

If only it was this easy, but it’s a start.

In the past couple of years, I’ve learned more about the thyroid than I care to know. I never knew how important it is, and I had no idea how prevalent thyroid cancer is among women. 2013 estimates: “About 60,220 new cases of thyroid cancer (45,310 in women, and 14,910 in men)” From another article:  “African-Americans have fewer incidences of thyroid cancer but are typically diagnosed at a more advanced stage.” As I searched for the voices of women of color who have had thyroid cancer, I found very little. I needed and still need to hear our voices because we’re already fighting so much.

IMG_6781And I’m thankful for Black women, like Audre Lorde and dream hampton, whose words have kept me steady.

“We are learning by heart what has never been taught.” Audre Lorde

Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs is doing a resurrection of Audre Lorde. Today, I happened to  listen to Lex read from Lorde’s poem “Call.”

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Around 4:00 a.m. on Sunday, five days after the surgery, the power went out in our house. This was the result of an ice storm that hit mid-Michigan. I’m from California. I’ve never been in an ice storm. It’s devastatingly beautiful. The trees encased in ice become weighted down. I forget what an inch of ice is supposed to feel like on a live wire—someone told me the other day but I forgot. It’s a lot, hundreds of pounds maybe. We stayed in our house the first couple of days without power, our conversations interrupted by the breaking of branches of old trees in our front and back yard. It’s hard to describe this sound. The same friend who told me about the weight of ice described it as a “pop and a hiss.” It’s devastating, pieces of trees that have spent so many years forming gone in an instant. But in true Midwest form, my neighbor says, ”Oh, they’ll regenerate.” Because that’s what happens. Life goes on.

IMG_6853It’s also beautiful. When I see all of these plants encased in ice it almost makes me believe we can preserve things. Maybe come spring everything will be okay. Like a dork, I think of Han Solo frozen just waiting to be melted. Of course, that’s not how it works. Plants and people die. But life still goes on. People do live on inside us. I believe in body memory, in what gets passed down from one generation to the next. Blood and breath. If we’re lucky, we might even have their words, like the index cards my father used to mail me with rhyming poems and short notes I thought were so silly then, but which now hang above my writing desk at home.

“Daughters who don’t return phone calls never grow up to be writers.”

Even now in Michigan, many remain without power. We had to leave our house because it was too cold for me to continue the recovery I needed to do. We have the means to be in a hotel room. It’s not the Christmas I thought we would have, but I’m here, we’re here together, and we continue to receive healing light and love from friends and family. It’s more than enough. It will always be more than enough.

Earlier today I read from my friend Allison Green’s lovely post “Ornaments.” These lines hit home: “Deterioration means more to me at fifty than it did at thirty… I’m more fragile than I used to be, too, but I’m still here.”

Amen, Ashé, and to all the Black and White Santas and Baby Jesuses everywhere.

As they say in Jamaica, Happy Christmas.IMG_6832Rae Paris

Justice for Renisha McBride December 17

RALLY FOR RENISHA McBRIDE2

The message below is from the The Renisha McBride Committee of the Sankofa Graduate Association:

Dear All:

I hope you’re well on this snowy day.  Again, thank you for attending and supporting the Justice for Renisha McBride Community Forum on November 21st.

We’ve been in contact with Rev. Dr. Bland at Liberty Temple Baptist Church in Detroit regarding a community action planning meeting and rally scheduled for December 17th (please note the date change), the day before Ted Wafer’s arraignment.

Location:

Liberty Temple Baptist Church
17188 Greenfield Rd
Detroit, MI 48235

The events are as follows:

  • 3:30 pm Community Action Planning Meeting and Light Meal
    • Please let us know if you plan to attend.
    • This is a meeting to create an action plan to support Renisha’s family and the Detroit community.
  • 6:30 pm  Vigil and Rally for Renisha McBride
    • This is for the General Public’s attendance

While we are unable to secure a van for this trip, we encourage you to carpool, reach out to friends, and attend.  The MSU community cares, is willing to advocate for justice, and is ready to mobilize.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Tiffany Caesar of The Renisha McBride Committee (832) 373-0374/caesart1@msu.edu.

In Solidarity,

The Renisha McBride Committee of the Sankofa Graduate Association

Remember Why We’re Here: Renisha McBride

IMG_6256We were just here in September. We were here this past summer. We were here in some February not too long ago. We were here in 2010. We’ve been here so many times. We’re tired and sad and angry. The truth we know: We are never not here in this place where people devalue and criminalize Black bodies. If we do a roll call of the dead, how many names?

Inherently Valuable

We know the script. People are already arguing about details: her precious body dumped from somewhere else, her precious body found on the porch, shot in the back of the head, shot in the face, reason for the car accident, time in between the car accident and her arrival on the murderer’s front porch, shooting the gun an act of self-defense, an accident.

One fact: Renisha McBride, a nineteen-year-old, unarmed Black woman, someone’s daughter, someone’s niece, someone’s friend, is dead.

What we know: Stand your ground=Black death.

What we don’t know: the name of Renisha’s murderer. Theodore Wafer.

Who is Killing us

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IMG_6264Who do we create sacred spaces for? Who gets to know what justice feels like? Who gets to be remembered? Who do we love?

Renisha McBride.

Last night dream hampton asked us to remember why we were here, gathered in front of the Dearborn Heights Police Station. She asked us to raise our voices and speak Renisha McBride’s name. Remember why we’re here, she said.

IMG_6266Afterward, dream said, “I just wanted to come together. Our humanity is at stake.”

reject pedestals

We’re not waiting for recognition. We know the truth. We’ve always known it. We learned it from people who loved us enough to arm us for this world, people who taught us the difference between paranoia and protection. We are not paranoid. Let me say it again: We are not paranoid. We are prepared. We are at war.  “Shaming is one of the deepest tools of imperialist White capitalist patriarchy.” The assault on our bodies, minds, and hearts has always been. We learned the truth from our mothers, from other Black women, and our Other Mothers who were sometimes men, who showed us we are never not here.

toni morrisonThe truth has never stopped us from hoping, fighting, laughing, from living our lives with loving resistance. We know us. We been knowing us. We keep on knowing and knowing and loving, even as we mourn again.

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Many Voices

A note from the talented and dedicated Katina Parker: “In honor of National Coming Out Day, a video series that I’ve created on behalf of Many Voices, a Black Church Movement for Gay & Transgender Justice. Thank you for sharing your story, Bishop Tonyia Rawls. Laila Nur, thank you for creating such beautiful music to support the video. Thanks also to Julia Roxanne Wallace, Leslie Esih Oliver and Ai Elo for production support.”

Katina tells me this is 1 of 6 videos being released in the next few weeks. In honor of this day, give yourself the gift of listening to Bishop Tonyia Rawls speak truth to power. And the music by Laila Nur will roll you over.

A Statement of Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism

feministsfightingtransphobia

We are proud to present a collective statement that is, to our knowledge (and we would love to be wrong about this) the first of its kind.  In this post you’ll find a statement of feminist solidarity with trans* rights, signed by feminists/womanists from all over the world.  It is currently signed by 790 individuals and 60 organizations from 41 countries.

The statement can be found here in English. It is also available in French, Hungarian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian and Serbo-Croatian.

The complete list of individual signatories is available here, or alphabetically or by country. The signatory list of organisations and groups is available here. We would love it if you signed it too. You can either use this form, or email us, or post a comment on this post or on the statement.

Our continued thanks to everyone for your support.

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“Justice for Black Life is Justice for Humanity”

So heartened to read this. Thanks to Steve Biko (@BIKOINC) for posting. Please visit The Black Youth Project’s site to read the rest of the necessary, powerful statement:

100 Young Black Activists
The work of The Black Youth Project (BYP) is based on three basic concepts: knowledge, voice, and action.

KNOWLEDGE: We are committed to producing research about the ideas, attitudes, decision making, and lived experiences of black youth, especially as it relates to their political and civic engagement.

VOICE: Unlike any other organization, we amplify the perspectives of young black people daily without censorship or control. We have built a space on the Internet where black youth can speak for themselves about the issues that concern them.

ACTION: Informed with culturally-specific knowledge, we will work to mobilize black youth and their allies to make positive change and build the world within which they want to live.

BlackYouthProject.com is a diverse online resource, divided into three main subsites: BYP BLOG, BYP RESEARCH, and BYP ACTION.

Nothing about this Verdict Says Justice, Honor, or Peace

Poem about Police Violence by June Jordan

Tell me something
what you think would happen if
everytime they kill a black boy
then we kill a cop
everytime they kill a black man
then we kill a cop

 
you think the accident rate would lower subsequently?
sometimes the feeling like amaze me baby
comes back to my mouth and I am quiet
like Olympian pools from the running
mountainous snows under the sun

 
sometimes thinking about the 12th House of the Cosmos
or the way your ear ensnares the tip
of my tongue or signs that I have never seen
like DANGER WOMEN WORKING

 
I lose consciousness of ugly bestial rapid
and repetitive affront as when they tell me
18 cops in order to subdue one man
18 strangled him to death in the ensuing scuffle
(don’t you idolize the diction of the powerful: subdue
and scuffle my oh my) and that the murder
that the killing of Arthur Miller on a Brooklyn
street was just a “justifiable accident” again
(Again)

 
People been having accidents all over the globe
so long like that I reckon that the only
suitable insurance is a gun
I’m saying war is not to understand or rerun
war is to be fought and won

 
sometimes the feeling like amaze me baby
blots it out/the bestial but
not too often tell me something
what you think would happen if
everytime they kill a black boy
then we kill a cop

 
everytime they kill a black man
then we kill a cop

 
you think the accident rate would lower subsequently