Friday, December 29, 2017

closing lists

I have not failed, though it has been a year of steps backward.  There has been movement, and progress, but it has been hard to feel positive and uplifting in a Trump presidency.  Everyday is a barrage of terrible news, be it fake or too true, and I know many comrades who have found peace and joy in turning off the news.  I can't shut out the world and live in a place of ignorance, though, so I try to be conscious of the time I spend on social media, and save things to read/process in rare moments of quiet.  Right now, Sali is sleeping, Nas is playing a math game (thanks Amy and Mani!) and I am getting a few moments with minimal noise to consider my coordinates.

As with everything these days, I think in lists.  Lists are linear expressions of what I want to achieve, and though I always fall short from completing them, they give me order in the chaos that is this world.  Lists are ways of organizing, planning, which gives me a temporary and oh so fleeting sense of control.  I was a control freak, but in order to survive toddlers, I have relinquished control, myself, my dignity, but not my passion.  Passion I keep in a special reserve, because somethin' has to power this train.

Here are my end of year lists, to set goals for myself and set intentions into the universe.  Because nothing is in my control except my actions and my attitude! (Lynn Malinoff voice)  But at least I can still pretend.

Places I Want To Travel in 2018
- Dakar, Senegal
- Detroit, Michigan
- all 5 boroughs
- somewhere old and beloved
- somewhere new and adventurous
- to an ocean and a lake

Experiences I Want My Kids to Have
- camping in the woods
- gathering kindling for a fire
- catching fireflies
- reading in low light, secretly
- helping people less fortunate
- feeling loved by new friends
- the joy of seeing family

Skills I Want to Learn
- keeping bees
- growing root vegetables and a kitchen herb garden
- digital resumes
- 5 new kinds of circles to keep
- how to perfect a centerpiece

Saturday, September 23, 2017

On gentrification and moving

We are moving again.  I am waiting for the chill of fall to finally find us, but global warming and disastrous weather is keeping the afternoons hot and the evenings only marginally bearable.  As we search for our next home and engage in the vulnerable process of displaying our financial information for brokers and agents across the city to see, gentrification is on my mind.  My husband has lived in our area for almost 20 years, and each time we move, he comments on how we are being pushed further and further south.  The line he used to say was "too far south" has now become the northernmost line of our search area, for the budget we have set for ourselves.

However, we are privileged enough to have requirements for our move - 1st floor, backyard for the kids, recently renovated or new build, near a higher rated public school, with in-building laundry.   We are negotiating, deciding what of our "must haves" are really not musts, and which are non-negotiable (sadly, I see laundromats in my future).  When I'm not obsessively combing rental listing sites, I have been lost in the history of how I have chosen apartments over the years and how what matters now is not nearly the same as when I was in my 20's.

Combing real estate ads and seeing Craigslist still has disclaimers about discriminatory housing, I'm also thinking hard about credit, and how credit has been this manufactured currency to de-racialize the housing search, but maintain segregation in neighborhoods, and thus in schools.  If a landlord is looking at my struggle to pay student loans reliably and makes a decision about me based on that, despite being an adult who has been living in paying rent consistently in NYC for almost 20 years, it will impact where my children are able to go to school and the quality of education that they receive.  I believe in public schools and sending my kids to diverse schools, where they learn about many cultures, faiths and ways of life, but I will fight hard for my kids to go to the best school I can.

Gentrification is a tricky thing, though, because while Mulay has lived here for decades, while I traversed the boroughs in a 4 year cycle, I am a midwest transplant who has only lived in Jersey for a few years.  I try my best to engage myself in the community, but working in the Bronx and being connected to community there, I am often a homebody here.  I frequent parks, have a library card, shop only local businesses & farmers markets, and try to avoid the chain stores, I vote in local elections; I try to make my politics evident in my daily dealings with where I live, but I am still a gentrifier.  This is true when I lived in East Williamsburg, in the South Bronx, Harlem and here in Jersey City.

This year, we are discussing whiteness and privilege as part of PD at work, and I am thinking about the fragility of whiteness lately - how easily we crumble in the face of hardship.  I am a walking hyperbole, and am always lamenting my struggles.  As I think realistically about this move that must happen within the next few weeks, I want to be grateful for where I am in life instead of lamenting and calling myself a mess.   Life can be messy, especially with kids, but I've been struggling to write about my trivial issues, when others are suffering the massive losses of hurricanes and earthquakes.  I feel that even though we must move ourselves, what's more important is reaching out to see what we can do to help those in our community and afar who have lost much more.  So I've been breaking out of my rental research in order to consider what we can give, and how we can let go as we consider our new space.

We've got this; we are a formidable team.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

KKK Rally at City Hall, 1996

It was 1996, 2 days after my 16th birthday, and I wanted to celebrate getting my driver’s license by going to the anti-racist counter protest to a KKK rally that was happening at City Hall in Ann Arbor.  I remember being appalled that the KKK existed in Michigan, as we learned about the organization in such a past tense, that I was sure they had been abolished and were only ever in the South.  Marion Evashevski, my history teacher, asked me to look up local KKK chapters and I learned that many of them existed in Michigan as close-by as Howell, only 30 minutes away from the liberal college town that I grew up in, and were thriving, even into the 1990s. I was blown away.  

My memory of the day is incomplete, so I only have fragments to offer of the day, like apparitions that pass through the open doorways of my memory.  My mom didn’t want me to go, but she was afraid of Take Back the Night and every other rally I wanted to go to, and all of those were peaceful.  I knew that I had to be there, because I wanted to show the KKK that their hatred was not welcome here, or anywhere.   I have no recollection of who I was with, but remember talking to Ilana and Tonya about going and there were lots of folks who were meeting up at school and walking over.  I remember marching along 5th Street, toward the police station, and peering through the trees to see Klan members in hoods standing on the roof of City Hall, and tall fences guarding the rally from the massive protest forming around it.  I couldn’t believe that the police were protecting them!  I was angry.  

We were chanting, we were trying to disrupt their rally to make sure no one could hear their message of hate.  I remember hearing a murmur through the crowd and people yelling, “There’s a Klan member down here” and seeing a commotion, I remember crowds rushing together and then the tear gas went up into the sky.  We covered our mouths, eyes and retreated - it wasn’t until I saw this photo in the Ann Arbor News the next day that I learned about a hero named Keshia Thomas who was 18 years old and went to Huron.

I didn’t know Keshia, but I admired her so much for running into the fire - and acting to save someone who didn’t even value her life.  In a moment when she could’ve run away from the situation, like I did, she used her body to protect the Klan member who was wearing a confederate flag and escaping from the angry mob of protesters.  Hate begets hate, but Keshia acted with love, with humanity, and this photo crystalizes a moment in my brain when I became an anti-racist, and adopted a passion for love being the vehicle that decimates hatred.  I have been writing and thinking about race ever since.  I teach about it in every single class.  I navigate it every day in my family and at my job, as a white educator in the Bronx.  

See, the thing about racism in the U.S. is that we think about it only in extremes.  We think of the South as racist and the North as liberators, when the truth is that racism and white supremacy is woven into the founding documents of our country, even and especially in the North, where it’s just more covert and hidden in coded legal language.  We think about the KKK and other white nationalist terrorist groups as racist, but do not see our own families, law enforcement, teachers, doctors, lawyers and government officials as racist.  We don’t see our books as racist, or what we teach our children in school (and at home).  We have “othered” racism to not see it in ourselves and the things we love, but it is present in every one of us.  My work as an anti-racist is to consciously resist the society I live in, which constantly inundates and reinforces racist tropes, in everything from TV shows to mass media to my beloved hip-hop.  

A white nationalist terrorist group in Charlottesville, Virginia, held a rally on Friday and there are many cultural conversations about this on the interwebs now, and many people who have more eloquently spoken about this than me.  White folks seem to be horrified that the Klan is still so active, and doesn’t realize that they are the only terrorist group that has survived, precisely because they are upholding the legacy of our country. It has never been the land of the free or the home of the brave, and what white supremacists are fighting for is a time when this fiction of their superiority was more prevalent.

I have been obsessed with police response to the rally, as I was back when I was 16, and thinking about the police protecting hatred and violent individuals, which is what our police force is set up to do - protect white supremacy, which is the law of our land, though more covertly than ever before does it reign supreme.  Michelle Alexander speaks so clearly in The New Jim Crow about the colorblinding of drug laws in the 80’s, to remove racialized language from the laws, even though the impact of those laws was to target and incarcerate people of color from its inception.   In Ferguson, peaceful protest brought out riot gear and the National Guard.  In Charlottesville, armed with weapons and torches, beating and brutalizing anti-racist protestors, killing 3 people, there was no riot gear, tear gas or rubber bullets.  White supremacists made it out of there unscathed, and they always will in a country that protects their hate speech.  This is white privilege, in its disgusting glory.  

We need to fight back. Now, the fight I’m talking about has a peculiar location - the kitchen table - but as always, I am discussing the way that we truly change people’s minds, through conversation and education.  These conversations need to begin in our everyday lives in order to leave racism behind.  Race talk is for us, not only for black folks.  People of color have been fighting back for centuries, but if we truly wish to end racial domination in the United States, it needs to be us white people, who are reflecting on ourselves and our history, who are having the difficult conversations online and in person with family members, colleagues, our children and closest friends.  We need to stand up to bigotry and call it out when we see it, every time we see it, in all white spaces as well as standing up for people of color.  We need to listen and honor the lives and experience of people of color, who have been experiencing violence and covert oppression all along, while we have claimed that we “no longer see race” and render their experiences invisible.  

There is a way that white folks want to consistently  center themselves and their experiences in conversations of race, and we need to tread carefully - because we need to simultaneously make it our business to teach ourselves and our own people about interlocking systems of oppression and domination that our country was founded upon, while also knowing that we are allies in this struggle, and don’t feel directly the wounds of racism in the same way as our black and brown friends.  It is our job to listen to their stories, hear their words, and prioritize their relative safety and comfort, even and especially if it makes things uncomfortable for us.  

Last, and most importantly, this includes me.  I cannot sit here at my desk, writing about all of these things that others should do without also putting in the work, every single day, reflecting on my racial experiences and microaggressions within and outside of my family and friend groups.  This is hard work, and I am far from an expert, but I offer some small actions that every single human being can take to help finally defeat white supremacy in our country.  Please read, please write your stories down, please journal and discuss and dissect.  Look at your circles of friends and analyze how diverse they are.  Set out to get to know your new neighbors from Iran, and learn about their lives.  Invite new people over for coffee.  Stand up for strangers on the street who are being harassed for their ethnicity, for their religion. However it is that you can show your allyship, do that and more.  

Need some resources to get started???  I got you, stay tuned.  Thank you for beginning and continuing the conversation.  We are the change we’ve been looking for.  

Yours in solidarity,


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Larger than Life

I am not the heaviest I have ever been, but I am close to my largest weight as an adult.  Always told "you have such a pretty face" and the rest was left silent, but the elephant in the room was me.  I don't struggle with my weight, though.  The world I live in struggles with my weight and while I'm getting older and worried about diabetes, my heart and weight on my joints, I generally eat pretty healthy, drink lots of water and am either commuting via public transit and walking at least an hour a day, or active with  my 2 and 4 year olds.  Most days, I collapse exhausted into bed from a day of chasing my daughter, playing sports with my son, and keeping these two active kids engaged with movement.  We have dance parties and walks to the park, I chase them down city blocks, through playgrounds and the green meadows of Lincoln Park with regularity. I live in my active wear.

I have no excuses for not losing "the baby weight" after Sali was born, except that I haven't been alone in 3 years and when the fuck am I going to lift weights and be able to lay on the floor for core work?   Doing so in my household is an invitation for both kids to climb me and begin wrestling with various limbs of mine, assuming that this was why I lowered myself to the floor on a yoga mat.  This summer, I have chosen sleeping in instead of getting up early to work out, and I don't doubt that choice for a second.  Why do moms have to feel pressured to "get their bodies back" so quickly?   I've never had a small pre-baby body, so the horror that many smaller women have about being 200 lbs is my everyday, for most of my life, and my life at that weight was pretty rad.  Why does our society not honor the scars of motherhood and mom bodies like other cultures do?  Why is our fatphobia so intense?

I also remember how great I feel after working out, and miss the solitary time to listen to a playlist and push my body's physical limits.  I grew up an athlete, and still run around after children, but I miss the calculated practice of breathing, moving and working out particular muscles to assist my growth.  I have friends who continue to work out, train, dance, practice jiu jitsu and capoeira, go to classes, even teach fitness classes while parenting, so I know it's possible, but my desire to work out is not linked to a desire to lose weight, rather to gain energy, strength, and endurance.

It has taken me a long time to get to love my post-children body.  It has taken conscious resistance to dieting, business cards given to me by plastic surgeons, others body shaming me in public, loudly talking badly about my body within earshot or saying I shouldn't have foods I love.  After Beyonce posted her announcement of her twins on Instagram last week, a mom group I'm a part of analyzed her belly in the photo, and mused about whether or not she had surgery, or the image was photo-shopped.  I said that the photo was fierce, and lamented that she didn't use the moment to share the realness of motherhood and how it changes your body, but her body is her livelihood in a way mine is not.  She is a billionaire, and I am not.  Surgery may be an investment for her brand, while it is not true of my lifestyle.  I also will not judge the choices that another woman makes about her body, as I hope they would leave me to captain mine.

In this country, it is frustrating to live the reality of a larger self for logistical reasons (not finding the right size, not fitting into "regular" store clothes, not fitting seat belts, assumptions of poor health, assumptions of being dirty), but this is not something new for me - I've been obese all of my life.  I learned a long, long time ago that being happy with myself as I am is the only way to be, instead of looking for all of the ways that I should change myself.   My weight has fluctuated between 175 and 275 pounds, and I feel comfortable and beautiful in my skin at the larger end of that range, because it looks proportionate on my frame. In my husband's culture, losing weight significantly is a sign of illness, not an accomplishment, as it is seen here in the U.S. Outside of whiteness, curves are beautiful, are natural and are desired.  Outside of patriarchal capitalism, we don't need to buy products that make us more beautiful, thinner, to please the male gaze.  The exercise industry is just as guilty as cosmetics in contributing to the idea that you need their product to be beautiful.  Sufi mystic poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī once said, "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.  I'll meet you there." So while you may look at me and think "oh, she's struggling with her weight", I am feeling myself.  You can't match this shine.

So, while ya'll might be chasing B's flat stomach and starting surgery funds, I'll be over here eating all the dishes my husband makes and dessert, living in the moment, trying to be active, healthy and taking self-care seriously.  I'll be reading, writing,  walking, playing 25 sports a day with my son and daughter.  As a working mom, educator, writer, thinker, wife, daughter and friend, I have a lot more to worry about than your struggles with my weight.  When you're ready, come meet me out in the field beyond white beauty standards, capitalism and insecurity, in the place of truth and love.  We have cake. :)

Monday, July 10, 2017

semblance of a summer

Summer is a luxury I was afforded as a kid.  We got to go "up north" (as we say in Michigan) every summer, to stay with my grandparents in their home.  They are Finnish and now I remember the details of their home with precision, because it is no longer there.  Cedar log-cabin feel on the inside with a huge loft where we all slept together.  Dad snoring but getting up early, mom dreaming but getting up later, me rambling late down the carpeted stairs to the kitchen table in the morning, glancing out toward the lake to gauge the weather.  "How's the water today?" we would ask grandma, who we know had gotten up at 6 to go down to the dock to take the temperature.  "Cold.  72." she'd say, and banter about what she was going to make for dinner, in between bites of toast and coffee in ceramic dishes.

Everything about the house was so Finnish, quaint, and wonderful.   The wooden ducks that looked out the bay window on the south side, the huge picture windows overlooking the lake.  Their overstuffed furniture and doilies on end tables.  How long I sat on the couch and stared vacantly out those windows my whole childhood.  How the presence of the lake was calming, even if storms rained down on the waters.   The obvious sauna in the guest bathroom, and my obsession with the stove when I was younger, and with watching the temperature rise as we poured water on the coals.   The Kalevala out and open on the end table, portraits of dad, Jude and Dave everywhere in their hockey and band uniforms, 70's hairstyles poppin'.  Pasties in the oven, grandpa reminding us not to only drink half a can of pop and leave it out there unfinished. Promising to be careful and save the petoskey stones we found.  Then, getting our suits on and being in the water all day, swimming, lounging, rock-collecting, finding crayfish and minnows, playing catch, napping in the sun, making up games in the water, calling up Kim and Leijona and seeing what mild trouble we could concoct, reading at the picnic table in the sun.

We went to see the house when my family went up north this summer, and the family who bought it from my grandparents promised they weren't tearing the house down, but did exactly that, and rebuilt it to fit their family's summer memories.  The garage was the same:  country blue and yellow, where we'd stumble out to get more pop from the fridge, and grandpa would be puttering with a lawnmower or filling a birdfeeder, fixing a bike or listening to talk radio.  Grandma's garden was long gone, but I remember picking snap peas and weeding with her, this memory visible in the grass as we stopped the car in disbelief.

I am blessed to have these memories.  I want the same for generations of kids, I want the same for all kids.  For summer to mean time, sun, water, recreation and imagination, with the occasional meal urged in by moms, with the occasional layer of sunscreen applied.

But summer in many parts of America has long meant violence.  To my students, it is time for fights, for parties that end in gunfire, arrests, police surveillance, intoxication, rape and death.  The kind of summer that I had each summer is not a reality for so many children.  Going to camp is not a reality. Summer sports on organized teams is not a reality.  My summers are white privilege, crystalized and idyllic in their blissful ignorance of hot, city summers.  There is lots of idle time spent on stoops, sports played at the park, swimming pools, local beaches if your parents can afford to take you somewhere, lots of TV, social media, lots of repetitive days in the park with the same neighborhood kids.  There is also a lot happening, cookouts, block parties, stoop parties, dominoes on the corner with the viejos, bodega parties, tons of free events in the city if you have the subway fare.  I love New York City in the summer, but it is hot and sticky, and the heat can be oppressive, and maddening, and when combined with alcohol, violence-inducing.

I don't want to romanticize this violence, and my intent is not to bring pity upon my students, who love their summer freedom of riding bikes and splashing in opened fire hydrants just as much as I loved playing in the lake all day.  It is to recognize that certain things I love and remember are the products of privilege in this country, when they should be accessible to all people, in an allegedly free country.   While I do have to fear my husband being pulled over with a busted tail light and the encounter that could ensue with a police officer in Michigan or New Jersey, I certainly didn't grow up with the knowledge or fear that police violence spikes in the summer.   I am constantly aware of these things now, and also remember being in the streets of New York with a wallet in the air after Amadou Diallo was killed.   As a white person, I have made a choice to open my eyes and bear witness to America as segregated still, because I have witnessed the duality of existence in this country.  From something as simple as childhood summers, the glaring differences in race and class are crystal clear.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

DiaryLand circa 1998

Trips home to Michigan are always filled with rushes of memory, and different selves inside of me crash like waves on a beach I'll never see until my kids are grown.  Sometimes I'm bitter that I haven't been able to have a proper vacation since before getting married and having kids in that magical all-for-one year of 2012.  AFTER happily ever after often isn't very happy, at least while toddlers reign supreme.

Trips home cause me to meditate on home and what it means.  My family is important to me, but there is a fracture in my family fibula, and I now have two families - the Diops and the Fardigs. What happens when the wants and needs of one directly compete with the wants and needs of the other? Where do  my loyalties lie?  I've said since I was 18 that I'm lucky to feel like I have home in 2 places but what happens when my tribes are warring and I am throwing up white flags with every breath?

I am severely depressed.  This has not been diagnosed by anyone but how I feel in my life.  I am functional, able to go to work, able to care for myself and my children, but I constantly feel overwhelmed, anxious and have to break most social plans because I just can't make myself leave the house.   I don't talk about this, and I'm uninterested in medicating myself.  What I'm interested in is advocating for myself and what I need, even if I'm seen as selfish.  What I'm interested in is teaching young ladies at school that they CAN have a career, a family and a marriage AND not lose themselves in the process, but I'm struggling to model that.

Self-care is so elusive, is ludicrous and non-existent for moms.  I try to creep in small moments of gentle, failed care. Painting my nails when one of them naps, and always smudging them because someone asks for a snack while they are still wet.  A trip upstate to see a dear friend from college and her daughter, which results in tears, snot and our kids spitting and screaming at each other.  Relaxing to be there, until the tantrums start.  So many walls scrawled in crayons that I've removed a full layer of paint from scrubbing.  Comet cleaner sprinkled all over my bathroom, again.  I am chasing a clean home with two toddlers, fuck a manicure.  I am chasing an afternoon without shrill screams. I am told to treasure every moment and I regularly lock myself in the bathroom to breathe.

Depression is not seeing your closest friends in almost a year.  Depression is trying to take care of yourself and your home, and failing better every single week.  Depression is remembering to shower on the weekend.  Depression is fooling everyone at work.  Depression is my husband asking me to get up and make the kids something to eat, for once.  Depression is what I cover. Depression is being forever grateful for what I have, and still being sad.  Depression is distance from my family. Depression is listening to the same song over and over again.  Depression is "what's wrong, mommy?"  Depression is yelling because you just want to be alone, and can't.

I will be fine.  It is almost summer and I can find time to reflect and reckon and regain what I need. But I need to mark this moment.  Dear diary with no audience, life is exhausting.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

breaking dishes

we break all of the good china
in this house, because our "good plates"
are the ones we dine on every night.
tomorrow is not promised.

i get mad at you when you break them.
but you are a master at mixing flavors,
not mindful of the cost of dinner plates
that are more expensive than they should be.

we pull the covers off of autographed copies
of books I've held dear for decades,
we write on the walls with crayon, marker and pen.
we do not live life lightly.

there are days that I cry about the loss
of material things, because I was taught
to take care of the nice china.
but my parents kept it in a cabinet, gathering dust.

we choose to serve food on it everyday,
relishing in the garlic, turmeric and red pepper flakes
that season your latest creation.
and that is the difference
between our generations.

we know the future doesn't hold promise,
and live as if tomorrow will not come,
even though we're preparing our children
to be the brightest future we've ever had.

you were optimistic about the future
enough that you could afford a second set
of plates that were for looking
and not touching.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

How far backward to "greatness"?

It's been 8 days since NMPOTUS (Not MY President of the US) took office and he's already banned refugees and LEGAL resident aliens from 7 countries who are predominantly Muslim.  He's written executive orders to push the DAPL and Keystone XL pipelines into construction, and there is evidence that he has shares and will directly profit from these orders.  Betsy DeVos's hearing about her nomination for Secretary of Education is on Tuesday the 31st, after she's decimated Detroit Public Schools with her voucher "school of choice" approach to charter, private and parochial schools.   We all know that school of choice equals legalized segregation of schools.   He's pulled out of TPP, put gag orders on National Parks, the EPA and FDA, tried to defund NGOs who even mention abortion abroad and Planned Parenthood at home, as well as announced his plans to begin construction on "the wall" between the US and Mexico.

I have to ask, have we teleported back to the 1930s?  How far back do we have to reach to remind ourselves that America was never great?  We have almost always been on the wrong side of history, unless we ourselves are writing the historic account.  We are victors because we are tyrants, like every imperialistic empire.  We learn too late and decimate human beings and ways of life different from our white, Christian, capitalist, patriarchial societal norms.  Many of my friends are protesting the most recent stripping of human rights at JFK airport right now, as Border Patrol illegally detains refugees who have gone through the vetting and proper channels to be here in the U.S. today.

Today, it may be refugees and nationals from 7 countries in the middle East and Eastern Africa, but next month it could be Western Africa.  We could go visit our family in Senegal and my husband, despite having his green card, could be told that he cannot enter the U.S. again.  This can't happen to "anyone", because there is a specific, racialized "immigrant" who is brown, who is Muslim, who is female or not gender conforming, who is queer, who is educated.  This is what fascism feels like.  Being all of those identities at once magnifies one's experience of why America isn't great at all, but a place of perceived freedom.

My greatest fear is being paralyzed in the face of danger, of making a wrong choice that puts people I love in danger.  I was so upset about not getting to go to the Womens' March last week, but I struggle with bringing my kids into protest situations, which may not always be safe, depending on police response.  So, while people are headed to JFK to protest, I am doing the everyday things with greater intention.  Self-care is revolutionary, too.  I cook food for my family, give Sali a steam bath to help clear her sinuses.  I also realize that in raising these defiant, fierce spirits, we are also teaching the next generation of fighters against injustice.

I have to raise my children to fight.  They must lead themselves to safety, possibly in a literal sense.  We may need to go off the grid sooner than we thought, because we're on track to end human civilization in my lifetime.

Greed over human life will be what ends us.  From cures to cancer to organized extermination through the drug war, fast food and factory farming, mass incarceration, guns in the hoods, gang violence.  If we kill each other, they win.  We buy their products, worship them for being rich.  We stay poor, they build their wealth off of us and live in fear of our power if we were ever to unite.

Our speak UP last week was wonderful and inspiring, but one week later, I am already weary.  I have withdrawn on weekends to heal, and to rest for the long fight we have ahead of us.  See you in the streets, and on the playgrounds.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Meditating On Our Movement

I have been re-posting, writing about and including this quote everywhere lately: “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late.” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King is someone whose writing I return to over and over again, because it is lyrically powerful in addition to its uplifting message of strength and unity. He was targeted because his message was ultimately too powerful, and was begin to assist in the integration of minds, hearts and spirits of white and black people in America. While Malcolm X's message was one feared by many white Americans because it emphasized the strength and unity of black people, King's audience was broadened with his calculated approach of non-violence. His message was sanitized after his death, and every year when we pause to celebrate his glorious impact, I also want to remember "Letter from A Birmingham Jail" and his later writing, which sought to understand the very root of violence as a response to being treated inhumanely, for hundreds of years.

As we work in United Playaz, we often talk about how some of the problems we see in our society, police brutality, sexism, racism, domestic violence, rape -- that these are too large for us to tackle in a small Bronx classroom. I sense your cynicism and you call me cheesy because I still believe in the change we can each activate within our own lives. I am not naive enough to believe that personal change is enough, though. Systemic racism must end. Mass incarceration and criminalization of young, black and brown people must end. Materialism and greed for more than we need. Dropping bombs on people who look different from us, because we fear their way of life. All of these things must be left behind when WE take over.

So, after the election, I asked you to write about where you were. You complained, told me that this was the worst part of this class. I asked you to vision, to think about the kind of future you'd like to see. I asked you to write what you wanted for our future. You told me that no one was listening anyway, that things wouldn't change in the hood, no matter who was president. But we have to speak anyway, have to act anyway. Your community is listening, and wants to hear what you have to say. We might not close Rikers Island (yet), but we can make moves toward building a world in which we are valued, our ideas are heard, and we can impact how our community looks and feels.

So I ask you, as we celebrate the progress that Dr. King helped to make in this country, but as we look around and see that racism is still alive, well and gaining more steam than it's had since the 1950's, how do we move? Let's speak UP on Friday, and take the words we share as a first step in our movement.

In solidarity,


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

ny state of (new jersey) mind

inside the parentheses is where home lives.  squeezed between a larger purpose, being a parent was not what i thought was my destiny, and i am still learning how to do it.  i have uncovered a well of anger, and the tantrums that come with toddlers also occur in parents.  i don't want to adult, some days.  i don't want to take care of others.  i want to sulk, brood, read buffy the vampire slayer comic books and drink coffee, watch criminal minds, write things, read more things, listen to wu tang, relax.

but new york is my heart, specifically. <3 a="" again.="" all="" always="" am="" and="" are="" arms="" balancing="" be="" between="" bronx.="" buy="" capitalize="" children="" community="" commute="" for="" have="" here.="" here="" hold.="" home="" hope="" i="" imagine="" in="" interstate="" is="" life="" love="" my="" nbsp="" of="" p="" raise="" scale="" someday="" that="" the="" this="" to="" traveling="" two="" within="">how do i balance hectic, frenetic and deeply emotional work with two-tantruming toddlers?  plus my own need to exorcise bad energy?  i'm not even doing any of them well.  so, i've had to withdraw, in many ways.  moving so far from my community has meant an implosion of my ability to always be there, but becoming a mom hasn't impeded me, it's transportation.

new jersey has a hold on me.  more space to roam with rambunctious curls, the possibility of yards and parks where we can wear these spirits out.  i do need to exercise more this year, but i am so, so tired.  i am exhausted with the sadness lifted from someone else's shoulders, sagging under its own weight.  i am spiritually exhausted, and done with this commute.  though i am a lover of public transit, i am meditating on the need for a car.  nam myoho renge kyo.

i enter this year in a positive, hopeful place (despite the impending doom of the world), but i recognize the need to withdraw and meditate. be quiet, listen, rest and recharge.  isn't this what winter is for?  you'll find me balancing between the waves, neither yin nor yang, but building a plan and a path for spring.  i withdraw now to reconnect soon.   love u.