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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DADA’S RETURN–SCORPION: STING

fourI had the great fortune of meeting June Sadler this past summer (2013) in the South Carolina Sea Islands. We met at the Penn Center on St. Helena Island. The Penn Center, the site of one of the first schools for newly freed slaves, has evolved into a gathering place for community organizing, retreats, and renewal. Gantt Cottage, where Martin Luther King, Jr. worked on his “I Have a Dream Speech,” sits just a few yards from Arnett House where we stayed. DowIMG_5162n another path, past a cemetery, down by a dock near water with a view so beautiful it breaks your heart, is a house that was built for Dr. King that he never got to spend time in. You can feel all of this history when you walk on the grounds of the Penn Center, amidst the hundred  year old trees, moss hanging from their branches—all the life and death and  hope.

We were at the Penn Center for a reason. The wonderful and brilliant Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Julia Wallace organized a gathering of twenty-one “self-identified queer, LGBTQ or queer affirming Black people who are committed to fulfilling our freedom legacies in our daily lives and our communities” to honor and celebrate thCombahee_River_Collective_Book_Jackete 150th anniversary of Harriett Tubman’s successful raid on the Combahee River, a raid in which “750 enslaved Africans freed themselves and each other.” The Combahee River Collective, a Black feminist lesbian collective, also takes its name from this uprising.

It was in this transformative liberating space,  on the porch of Arnett House that June told me about her ebook, Dada’s Return–Scorpion: Sting. We talked about Black female superheroes, or the lack thereof. My knowledge of fantasy, sci-fi, comics, and horror is severely limited, but in talking with June I realized just hIMG_4862ow much. I could name maybe one Black female superhero. “There are super powered people in our real history that did good deeds,” says June. “Our legacy is rich with people that stood up for what is right. Harriet Tubman’s story and so many others like her, showed me that everyday people are capable of uncommon feats.”

This brings us to Dada’s Return. June says Dada’s Return has been described as a combination of “Charlie’s Angels, Mission Impossible and the A-Team.” I don’t remember any relationship between two Black women in any of those things, but you can find it in Dada’s Return, along with a woman who’s equipped with scorpion-like skills.  June hopes to eventually turn the series into a graphic novel. It’s a fun read, but it’s also, as June says, necessary: “We have to write our own stories. Why wait for anyone else to do so?”

So meet Dada:  “not your average superhero. Though known to don a pair of lightly tinted glasses, she doesn’t wear a mask or a cape, though she would stand out for having the latest runway look. Dada uses her intuition, her chi strength, and the capabilities of her team to fight crime. She can’t tolerate injustice of any kind, but especially to animals and children. She’s a warrior.”

Who better to interview June about Dada’s Return then Dada her own self. (Interview by June Sadler)

DADA’S RETURN–SCORPION: STING
DADA code name Scorpion is head of a trio of rogue outcasts in a clandestine organization known as the Consortium. After years of being sequestered in a sub-dwelling within the confines of Consortium headquartersJune the author1 unfairly punished for a case gone wrong her time has been spent creating the Burrow. Dada once thought she worked for a group that maintains the balance of good in the world, until she was set up as a scapegoat. A secret mentor on the inside has been steadily supplying her with equipment, gadgets and tools for the Burrow where Dada soon discovers multiple enemies in cahoots against her utilizing Consortium resources to destroy her once and for all.

DADA: Who am I?

JUNE: You are me. At least all of the good things and my interests amplified. You are a conglomeration of African queen, warrior princess and timeless goddess. You are an amalgamation of a zeitgeist of cool class, grand clothing, sleek cars, gotta be there places, exotic food & drinks and million dollar homes. You are a female James Bond. You have the same style and sophistication with a dollop of hip hop. Dada knows the streets and the board room. Like the other members of her team, she is also a genius. You were born to represent a new cultural lifestyle of goodness for the empowered masses.

candace pryor as DadaDADA: Why did you create Dada’s Return?

JUNE: I created this story because I wanted to read a story with an African-American woman that tells the truth of us. I also wanted her to be very unique as an action “shero.” Dada is a double goddess made to reflect our her-story,autonomy, and female sovereignty. I created the story so my nieces and nephews had a story that illustrates the goodness of African-American women as a real legacy. DADA masters kundalini energy/chi, meditation, and anthropomorphism via the scorpion. The story highlights aspects of tales told by griots who illustrated that we are not only part of the Earth and its rhythms, but have the capacity to use that vibration to empower ourselves. In simple terms, its the super hero lying dormant within each of us awoken.

DADA: Who exactly is The Consortium? What do they do and why do I work for them?  candace pryor as Dada2

JUNE: THE CONSORTIUM is a group of wealthy, smart, “do-gooders” that work behind the scene on the world stage to bring justice to criminals way too rich and above the law to ever be punished by conventional courts. They’re economists that have studied capitalism and figured out its weaknesses. They then redistribute wealth so the playing field is evened. They identified you as a student when you attended DIRT ACADEMY. At that time you led a group of teenagers to get back your suite mate’s father, a Pakhan in the Russian mafia that was kidnapped by his own elite group for money and status.

DADA: Yeah, that was a scam called the Trade N Raid. It worked because everyone teamed up. Why did you choose the team I have now?

JUNE: I wanted to showcase knowledge of mind, body and the gifts of spirit. CYPHER represents mastery of communication. She speaks about nine languages and that doesn’t include the computer codes and languages she uses that allow her to open any door or digital lock. Kham is the guru of illusions, infiltrations and cultural immersions. He also trains the team in multiple degrees of mixed martial arts. Once CYPHER opens the door, he tells the team how to blend in. He embodies the character in The Spook Who Sat By The Door. Together, you use intuition, technological skill and disguise to infiltrate nefarious crime organizations.

DADA: Where will we go next?

JUNE: Dada’s Return is the first in a trilogy. The next story, Scorpion: Strike, has the team taking down a human trafficking ring that makes young women fight for sport. It’s the team versus She-Gladiators. Get ready for a lot more action and fighting.

paperback stack

June SadlerJune Sadler is a writer with vision. Inside the creative mind of June Sadler is a place she has designated the BLASH! Universe. BLASH is an acronym standing for Be Like A Super HER(o). In that space, her imagination fuels an expanding star enveloping interactive media. The universe includes documentary films, uplifting imagery, and rhythmic verse bundled in melodies wandering the musical galaxies between soul and hip hop. Laden with memories of childhood cartoons of super-powered characters, June is heavily influenced in her writing by the hero’s pledge to do good. The Scorpion Series is her second internet publication. The premiere e-novella of the series entitled Dada’s Return – Scorpion: Sting is an introduction to Dada’s life of intrigue as a rogue African-American undercover spy. Dada’s clever antics coupled with her teams almost prank like precision is the adventure from your dreams. @iblashu

This Friday, September 13, in Greensboro, NC, June will close out the QPOCC’s (Queer People of Color Collective) Pride Event. As a featured performer, she’ll be performing songs from the soundtrack of Dada’s Return.

above photos: June Sadler; Candace Pryor as Dada

No Country for Black Boys

Instructions for reading a contrapuntal: This poem contains two or more POV’s or melodic lines, which have been combined in such a way that they establish a harmonious relationship (technically, but perhaps conflicting in content), while retaining linear individuality. This poem is to be read as follows: 1) Left column with centered lines 2) Right column with centered lines; and 3) across.
 

by Joy Priest

Joy Priest was born and raised in Louisville, KY. she holds a print journalism degree from the University of Kentucky with a concentration in Creative Writing. She is one of the newest members of the Affrilachian Poets, and has been published in pluck! Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture. She was awarded a fellowship to Callaloo Journal’s 2013 Summer Creative Writing Workshop at Brown University. You can find her on Twitter @Dalai_Mama_  Read about where Joy writes here.