Sunday, December 18, 2011


Just wanted to share this that was also reblogged by witchsistah and theoceanandthesky.
*Trigger warning, writing about sexual assault.

This so fully captures what my personal experience of being sexually assaulted late last year as well as the ensuing court case and to be honest also the years of sexual violence I have experienced prior to that. It meant so much to me to read this, cause it can be so difficult to find language to speak to the paralyzing experience I still have when faced with sexual violence. It is difficult to feel entitled to protect my body, to deny others access when my whole life I have been taught that my body is not my own. It is difficult to explain to people who don't live it, that saying no is an enormous privilege.

I still think about how to be nice even when my physical body is being threatened, but I am getting better at not giving two fucks. I would also add as layer, the experience of being a womyn of colour, or in my case as a Black womyn, and worrying about whether people will think I'm a 'bitch' and therefore use the 'angry black womyn' trope to discredit me. I appreciate Malcom X's sentiments in this case, “I have no mercy or compassion in me for a society that will crush people, and then penalize them for not being able to stand up under the weight.”

So what everyone is saying that I need to respond sweetly when someone yells misogynist comments or grabs at me or disregards my constant pleas to leave me alone and then I get blamed for being the cause of the very violence that is being perpetrated against me. Umm, no.

This in part is why I reappropriate words like bitch and cunt. Bitch has been used to dismiss the experiences of violence that we have had, to act like we are entirely unreasonable for being angry when we are being deprived of basic human rights. If you run into me in the streets, I won't have a smile, cause I am protecting myself against racism, misogyny, if I am on a bike, a violent car culture and now, it is also cold.

But when I look across the street and I lock eyes with the adorbs Queer & Trans POC that resist by existing in glitter, bow ties, swagga that won't quit - I remember our resilience. I know we ain't got a choice, but babies you do it with such style, such grace.
Thanks for keeping me whole.

“TW FOR RAPE If we teach women that there are only certain ways they may acceptably behave, we should not be surprised when they behave in those ways.

And we should not be surprised when they behave these ways during attempted or completed rapes. Women who are taught not to speak up too loudly or too forcefully or too adamantly or too demandingly are not going to shout “NO” at the top of their goddamn lungs just because some guy is getting uncomfortably close.

Women who are taught not to keep arguing are not going to keep saying “NO.” Women who are taught that their needs and desires are not to be trusted, are fickle and wrong and are not to be interpreted by the woman herself, are not going to know how to argue with “but you liked kissing, I just thought…”

Women who are taught that physical confrontations make them look crazy will not start hitting, kicking, and screaming until it’s too late, if they do at all.

Women who are taught that a display of their emotional state will have them labeled hysterical and crazy (which is how their perception of events will be discounted) will not be willing to run from a room disheveled and screaming and crying.

Women who are taught that certain established boundaries are frowned upon as too rigid and unnecessary are going to find themselves in situations that move further faster before they realize that their first impression was right, and they are in a dangerous room with a dangerous person.

Women who are taught that refusing to flirt back results in an immediately hostile environment will continue to unwillingly and unhappily flirt with somebody who is invading their space and giving them creep alerts.

People wonder why women don’t “fight back,” but they don’t wonder about it when women back down in arguments, are interrupted, purposefully lower and modulate their voices to express less emotion, make obvious signals that they are uninterested in conversation or being in closer physical proximity and are ignored. They don’t wonder about all those daily social interactions in which women are quieter, ignored, or invisible, because those social interactions seem normal. They seem normal to women, and they seem normal to men, because we were all raised in the same cultural pond, drinking the same Kool-Aid.

And then, all of a sudden, when women are raped, all these natural and invisible social interactions become evidence that the woman wasn’t truly raped. Because she didn’t fight back, or yell loudly, or run, or kick, or punch. She let him into her room when it was obvious what he wanted. She flirted with him, she kissed him. She stopped saying no, after a while. ”

— Harriet J on Another post about rape (via archenemies) Oh my god, this. All of this. (via one-bite-at-a-time)

Monday, November 21, 2011

In Praise Of The Vulnerable Femme: The Redux

My breasts sag.

They are small, soft,
Easily laying against my chest
Falling off to the sides
Across them light lines that weave stories like rivers flowing downward to the earth.

I have practiced exactly one thousand positions, casually cupping them, shrouding them
Your eyes averted, kissing around them
You pretend my breasts don’t sag
I pretend my breasts don’t sag
We pretend our breasts don’t sag, pretend our bellies are flat, pretend our hearts do not hurt.

And I want to say that there is power in our softness, in our vulnerability. When I see us in mirrors, biting lips and furrowing brows, I want to drop to my knees womyn and tell you that we are perfection. But we stand in this all together, carrying with us the whispers and shouts of a glossy photoshopped world that tries to will us into non-existence with size 00's and I see you worry that my gaze comes with a judgement but I promise you it doesn't. (And to be clear no shade to my slender sisters, I simply believe that you/we should all get a real number)

Dorothy Allison says “Femme girls dance on razors every day of our lives, and some days it is only bravado that keeps us upright." And womyn I see you, I see you in your fierceness, your anger and your insecurity and I love you in all of it.

I love the many expression of femme-ness, love the subtly and directness in our sexuality, love the war paint, love us knee deep in the swamp and wide eyed in my arms. I love it when you tell me what to do and love it equally when you have no idea.
I want to shield us from the whole world beautifulbrokengorgeous as we are. I think that your round bellies are so sexy, the way you wrap your tight curls/locks/braids/crown is artful and commanding and when you say something crass/brilliant/provocative/brave I.melt.every.single.time.

And I can't fit it all in here, nor will I try, but I promise to tell you all that I love you more. Proudly declare it and treat you preciously.
In this patriarchal, racist, mind fuck of a world we are both what is desired and defiled, vessels of power and of shame. A world often surprised by our intelligence and dismayed by our independence.

But babes we are oh so hard on the world, can't help but turn heads and drop jaws. Can't help but free minds and steal hearts. We are scientists and sex workers and when we find each other and find ourselves in each other, I know I am watching god.

And it is oh so hard to love without conditions, to love with the urgency that we deserve, and in defiance of all that opposes blackgirllove.

For the moments we forget, for the moments we can’t find the joy in our arms curve, the blessings in our fat thighs, the bliss in our sagging breasts.
For those moments,
I want to remind us that we are never too much and always enough.
Explosions of stardust
Bodies of pure worship
Magnificent in our ugly
Eternal in our darkness

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ancestor Worshipping: T Dot Renaissnce Style

"I walk here because you walked first,"

Since my grandmother passed, I talk to her all the time. In a very real way, since she outgrew her physical body, her fyre has been liberated into the universe surrounding me always. I have come to understand my actions as offerings I give her on the alter that is the life she gifted me with. Knowing this, it has made me more conscious of my actions and their significance backwards (into her arms), forwards (to my babies) and side to side (my community).

But in my experience, in our families, the cycle of hurt, trauma and violence can often mean that love skips a generation. This can look like 'bad parents', 'great grandparents', like endless Aunties and 2 Moms, even 3. This happens in a whole other sorts of ways too, this is not 'the' solitary experience, but one of the experiences that resonates for Folks of Colour. All too often because of slavery, residential schools, wars, silence, our parents didn't learn how to parent because they never enjoyed such a privilege. And at the same time, we also had elders that could turn $20 into 2 weeks of food, that made birthdays feel like national holidays, moved us across oceans and helped us do our homework. 

As children of the diaspora, we also learned how to craft new families, seek our villages in the cities and the hoods. Elders, parents, caregivers can look very different for us.

And it is here is where this idea sprung up. At this intersection between elders and ancestry, at the point between worship and honour and at the place between love and gratitude, we birthed our 'Elder's Dinner'.

For the past year, I have been meeting as part of the T-Dot Renaissance Collective. We are a group of emerging and interdisciplinary artists, working and rooted in Toronto. Emerging from the successful staging of Amanda Parris’s theatrical production, 32C, and her motha luvin incomparable Artistic Direction we have converged to tell a single shared story through different mediums. We will be having our first-ever collective art installation exploring diasporic journeys, from December 3-4th, 2011 at Loft 404 (located at 404-263 Adelaide St. West). 

And as I met with some of the members of the Audio and Visual Group, Keisha-Monique, Logik Donaldson and Alix Mukonambi, the idea came that we should host a dinner. A dinner for our elders, a dinner where we cook for them and sit with them and ask them questions and hear stories across diasporas, across, decades and oceans, across Ackee & Saltfish and Ugali.

Through all they have done and lived, do they know, I mean really know that they are not alone? And not just as a Black womyn or as a Red womyn, do they get to sit in the collective experience as a Womyn as Men and People of Colour and feel affirmed in knowing that in pain, imperfections, the brilliantbrokenblessed parenting, they cleared space for us to have a resistance? They have given birth to Activists, Artists, Cultural Curators, Fathers, Life Givers? They gave birth to us.

Do you remember when we were little and our elders (parents, caregivers, chosen family) may have suggested that you have a playdate with someone. Maybe because you both like to jump rope, you were both 8 or maybe just cause they wanted to have some adult conversation for an hour...this is not a grown-up play date. Not for the faint of heart, but for the exact opposite.
Welcome to the renaissance.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Learning To Love In The Dark

As I young girl growing up among mostly white people and mostly rich, racist white people. I was left with a long legacy of internalized racism. I think that is why I am so vocal about it, because I know how powerful and destructive the tools of colonialism are. Whether they are movies or Christianity. Anything can and is used as a tool to keep up oppressed, and we must be ever vigilant, because they work. And I want us to be free.

One of the ways I am working to decolonize my spirit, is by loving myself and loving my and our blackness. It has put me in a time in my life where my relationships with Black and Brown Womyn are my priority, to love them and give them my best and that includes myself. Because for a long time, I wasn't very good to myself. And whether it was because at 15, when my boyfriend's mother told me that she was pleased I was not one of those immigrants who were destroying her white middle class neighbourhood. In order not to believe I could be as bad as she described, I instead chose to pretend that I was outside of that. As a mixed race girl, it is one of the 'privileges' that we enjoy, we are able to reject Blackness. White plantation owners would do the paper bag test to us and not our darker skinned sisters, this meant that we had the option of social mobility, even if it was only out of a strategy of divide and conquer, letting a few of us through so we could oppress each other. As Keisha-Monique says, "the most powerful tool of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed".

As someone who has dated a lot of white folks or folks with white privilege and now in a relationship with not only someone who is descriptively Black, but someone who is politically Black American, I am confronting other remnants of that internalized racism, some white guilt I was holding on to, some body issues, so much in fact. And inspired by this radical (remembering that radical means from the roots;) process of loving and healing, is this piece I performed at Leah Lakshmi Piepzna- Samarasinha's launch of the most important and beautiful Love Cake. There are two pieces I perform in this, the first one is a version of a poem I submitted to Soy Forde's Creative Commess Blog Carnival, check out her blog here.

I try to remind myself that there is no purity in any of it, decolonization, even liberation are processes we move in and out of, ebb and flow, live and learn in. There is no inauthenticity in any of it, through it all we Black and Brown, this too is a part of our experience. There is so much nuance, degree in all of it. It's why I love it when we tell our stories, all of them.

Friday, September 16, 2011


To all the survivors, you beauties made of stardust out there, again I open this post with a trigger warning. I will be talking about sexual assault and know that you don't have to read this if you don't want to.
I decided to press charges.
I learned this morning that the white man who sexually assaulted me on November 4th, 2010 for over an hour was just found not guilty and acquitted of all charges.
On August 16th, I testified in court against this man to a white judge. This person was represented by a white man who cross-examined me for over 7 hours. The court reporter another white man, flipped through a catalogue and highlighted things that he would like to purchase in the future and was visibly bored as I choked on tears, words and visions of a night I did not want to remember.
The lawyer who defended him did everything that he could to malign my character, to degrade and dehumanize me, even to go as far as calling me a circus freak at one point.
I was lucky to have family in the while I sat there staring out across at Babylon.
These people with a comfortable stride, with smiles on their faces, the lawyer, this attacker – I could see in their eyes the hatred, the complete disdain for life that led to the middle passage, that perpetuates a prision industrial complex that feeds on the souls of folks of colour, that drives a genocide of First Nations and indigenous peoples around the world.
There was no plea I could make, no logic, no reason that this little Nigger Grrl could create. Not even the truth in all of its rough, raw and shameful entirety was sufficient. Not even the fact that I had nothing to gain from this process and so much to lose. 

Throughout this whole process, the responsibility, the work has been left with me and my folks. Queer and trans folks, young people, people of colour, cash poor, we are used to the tragedies, the late night calls, the never ending battles and the lawyer - well he drove home in his Lexus.
The work of trying to forget what happened in order to cope, the work of rehearsed remembering in order to hold him accountable, the work of walking out of the courtroom on a ‘break’ only to be expected to share the same space with him and his conspirators. The work of being okay of making it through each day and of reconciling my years of surviving sexual violence prior to that. This is our work.

And through all this, I know that I am not alone and in many ways I am privileged to have a community of people who have shared experiences, who have brilliant wisdom and the capacity to support me while they make it through everyday.

And when I think of the mass injustice faced by Womyn Of Colour the world over, I am enraged and I need you all to be too.
I think about the 11 year old girl gang raped by 18 men in Texas, who didn’t tell a soul, and the way it came to light was because it was videotaped and put on facebook.

I think about Assata Shakur and Angela Davis.

I think about the Toronto Police officer who gave us the key to avoid sexual assault and rape – just stop dressing like sluts.

I think about the 'Highway of Tears'.

I think about hundreds of women I have met who abound with stories of injustice and deal with the internalized sexism that persuades us that we have no one to blame but ourselves.

I am furious.

This is not over.

And in the illustrious words of a sister of mine,
“we are bigger than this system, we are bigger than it all”

I am not going down without a fight.
We are proud, resilient and free.

And I am not going to pour my energies into people into a system who deny our existence, who deny a system designed to oppress us.

I am determined to love my community even more fiercely, to nurture and feed myself and each other, and to remind us in the face of everything that we see that we are magnificent and abundant.

But today, I rest.
In Love & Solidarity

Sunday, June 12, 2011

In Praise Of The Vulnerable Femme

My breasts sag.
I don't need to be reassured that they don't, nor do I need to be told that I am still pretty anyway or that it doesn't matter because breasts are meant to feed babies.
The reason I don't need any of those things is that I love that my breasts sag. I haven't always, I have had partners who promised me that once I had 'their' babies that they would gladly buy me breast implants. I have had my breasts ignored outright in sex despite the fact that I see the goddess herself when my breasts are being worshiped, I have had sales associates in bra stores advise me strongly to get something with more support that keep my girls up high.

The thing is, sometimes I wear my hair up and sometimes I wear it down and I wanna wear my tits in the exact same way.

Sistas it is hard, I ain't gon' front, but the self-consciousness is exhausting because in truth I have so much else that I need/want/love to do. And I hate the shame game. As a womynist, there is often the projection and the self-perception that you have it all together or that you don't have permission from anyone to do anything but be secure and powerful. And I want to say that there is power in our softness, in our vulnerability. When I see us in mirrors, biting lips and furrowing brows, I want to drop to my knees womyn and tell you that you are perfection. But we stand in this all together, carrying with us the whispers and shouts of a glossy photoshopped world that tries to will us into non-existence with size 00's and I see you worry that my gaze comes with a judgement but I promise you it doesn't. (And to be clear no shade to my slender sisters, I simply believe that you/we should all get a real number)
Dorothy Allison says “Femme girls dance on razors every day of our lives, and some days it is only bravado that keeps us upright." And womyn I see you, I see you in your fierceness, your anger and your insecurity and I love you in all of it.
I love the many expression of femme-ness, love the subtly and directness in our sexuality, love the war paint, love you knee deep in the swamp and wide eyed in my arms. I love it when you tell me what to do and love it equally when you have no idea.
I want to shield us from the whole world beautifulbrokengorgeous (thank you Leah) as we are. I think that your round bellies are so sexy, the way you wrap your tight curls/locks/braids/crown is artful and commanding and when you say something crass/brilliant/provocative/silly I.melt.every.single.time.

And I can't fit it all in here, nor will I try, but I promise to tell you all that I love you more. Proudly declare it and treat you preciously. The world is oh so hard on us, we are pursued by men, women and other genders who can love us and demean us in the same breath. Who are surprised by our intelligence and dismayed by our independence.

But babes we are oh so hard on the world, can't help but turn heads and drop jaws. Can't help but free minds and steal hearts. We are scientists and sex workers and when we find each other and find ourselves in each other, each time I am sure the stars align.

And so I am grateful that you have shown me how to love myself, how to forgive myself and how to push myself.

And with those gifts diosas, I will love my saggy breasts and love yours too.

Our Call To Revolution

It has been very hard for me to write this, my head is full of voices, parallel thoughts, ideas and emotions churning tumultuously to the point that I just want to turn it off.

But there also is a feeling of urgency and a desire to communicate this and a profound fear of what happens when we as oppressed peoples speak our truths.

At an event today held by Felicia Mings, we watched a documentary about Patrice Lumumba. He was the first Prime Minister of the Congo after they 'gained their independence from Belgium' (for any First Nations folks, folks from the Caribbean, South or Central America or from Africa, you probably know first hand why there are quotations marks around that heavily loaded statement). He like so many who came before him and after him, he like the Mohawk of Kanesetake or the people of Haiti had the audacity to speak the truth. He denounced the atrocities of a country who built themselves on the backs and bathed in the blood of the People of The Congo. A country that instituted policies where Black Africans not meeting their quotas around the production of rubber would have their limbs chopped off. He would not stand idly by while Belgium attempted to rewrite history with themselves as humanitarians, as stewards of civilizations and with the Congolese people as 'incapable savages' unable to govern themselves as individuals much less their massive country. And for this and in his attempt to salvage an unsalvageable, inherently oppressive regime, a regime destined to crumble - not because the People Of The Congo failed it, but because it failed them; he was brutally murdered.

Can we blame these leaders who attempt to work within these systems and who are then made martyrs by the colonial powers? We may know that 'master's tools cannot dismantle the master's house', but there is no purity in this system, we do what we can. There is no outside, we are survivors, perpetuators and perpetrators at various times in various spaces and perhaps all at once.

But that isn't the point.

I watched X-Men Origins today with Nabil. (Promise no spoliers) And one of things that the movie explored was the complexity between Professor X's approach to activism and Magnetos. Professor X was definitely on the "Forgive them father, for they not know what they do" tip. He preached understanding, forgiveness, non-violent action and faith. But what the movie also shared was some internalized self-hatred and a desire to make himself and all mutants invaluable to the humans in the hopes that they would accept them. Whereas Magneto, a Holocaust survivor had suffered directly at the hands of 'men doing their jobs' and had no reason to trust humanity, believing that if they had to make themselves useful in order to be accepted, the moment they were deemed no longer immediately useful, that they would be exterminated.

Nabil and I thought about the way that Malcolm X was demonized for being unwilling to trust a group of people who hadn't yet shown themselves to be trustworthy, but Martin Luther King believed that someone had to trust first, had to forgive first, had to love first and he was asking us as the truly powerful ones to do that.

When I first started doing this work, although I didn't know it at the time, I did it in part because I wanted to be accepted by White people, by Straight people. I wanted people to acknowledge me as smart and valuable. I want to be invaluable and I thought that would grant me safety, it would protect me and allow me to protect others like me. I wanted to be recognized as equal and I would sit in workshops while people said horrible things and I would understand and absorb. I would put myself aside while listening to homophobic and racist things and I would remember the context of the situation that we were in and I would forgive, and I would explain, and I would love.

Now a decade later,
1. I have learned that 'forgiveness' cannot and should not happen without accountability. The order may change but they both must be present.
2. I learned that no one can grant me equality, acceptance. I know that even if they gave these things out, you couldn't pay me to take it from the powers that be. And here I am paraphrasing what Alexis has said, 'we are not valuable because of what we produce, what we create, who we entertain, or how well we pretend to be happy'. I am valuable as I am a child of the universe, no less than the sun or stars themselves.
3. I have learned that there is no I, there is a we and the change that we are manifesting today, is not the change I was fighting for then.

Today I am profoundly disappointed in the non-profit industrial complex that I am part of in Toronto. I am tired of being funded to provide the social services our government is meant to provide, to provide the education that our school system is meant to provide, to act as a consolation prize to a system that is/has failed us and has gleefully lied in our faces the entire time.

I am insulted by the 'core service review' being conducted by the Ford Government; by a process that asks people if they would;

a) Like to privatize hydro
b) Want to keep it public
c) Don't care as long as the service is good!

And in a society where it is painfully cool not to care, where the voices of people who know better are routinely ignored in favour of the people who have the most money - this 'review' process is a joke. It is a tokenizing process where we will fight and watch as our essential services are turned over to institutions that not only can't run at a deficit like the government can, but in fact their primary purpose to continue in perpetuity to increase profits and at the end of it all, we will be told that in fact we were consulted.

I am angry at a system that sets us up to fail, invests money into a sector without supporting the development of real skills, pushes us beyond all reasonable capacity so we don't even have the mental space to innovate and then blames us when we haven't met our three year plan. And despite their inability to morph into successful social enterprises, expects us to do so while solving poverty, racism and making a series of documentaries and 'zines about it without owning any resource that we can leverage.

I am outraged at a government and a country that has never been able to hold itself accountable for the injustices of residential schools, for Japanese internment camps, and an education system that effectively ignores all of the work made by people of colour historically both their forced and voluntary contributions all while defending their 'lily white' reputations as peace keepers on the global stage.

There is a quote "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us." And I say fuck that, fuck a system that tells me that darkness is something I should be afraid of. And in fact we know that we are powerful beyond measure, and we are not afraid of this, but the colonizers, the appropriators, it is them who are afraid, who teach us to be afraid of our colours, of the Red, Yellow, Brown & Black, of the boundlessness of our Genders, and our Sexuality. They teach us to devalue our roles as farmers, as stewards of the land, of the knowledge that is indigenous to our people all so they can take it from us.

A small example: urban sprawl. Cash-poor, POC, Queer & Trans folks are all encouraged to move to the cities for the jobs and the liberalism and the everything. And we do, we come in droves because in the rurals, we have watched the lands become factory farms, and in our home countries we have been persecuted and in our islands we have watched slavery morph into indentured servitude and yet again into sweat shops. Meanwhile they move to the country and buy cottages, and they move to Trinidad and they buy the beach I played on as a child and we live in apartments the size of closets, and freezing cold basements and on the corner of King & Dufferin.

I could go on. We all could. And you know who I am speaking about when I say we.

And we are demanding (and I say we because this is built on conversations and experiences I have had with so many of you) is a change. And we have been demanding a change historically, consistently, fearlessly.

But my question is about now and here in Toronto, what are our demands? And family, can we come together at the same table and make that list with the knowledge that we have the power in numbers, in knowledge, in culture, in creativity, in innovation?

What would it look like if all of us non-profits and community organizations united and demanded funding for capital, for buildings, for infrastructure and to not just to be exploited through project funding? We need to have resources in order to leverage, in order to sustain this work that in truth needs to be done by millions.

What if we refused to be young leaders, refused to be picked off and groomed and fawned at? Instead we chose to leave no one behind and everytime we are individually invited to any table, we consulted with our community before and after to ensure that all of our interests being met. And if they weren't, then we would not go, because our precious energy is meant to be used somewhere else.

What if we practiced community accountability? If we didn't kick out of members but instead held them and ourselves accountable for the mistakes that we made and we did so out of love and not shame.

What if we demanded the education that we are entitled to? What if we went back to our high schools, elementary schools and the school board and demanded to learn about Audre Lorde, and your Granny, and the battle of Tecumseh and wouldn't leave until they taught us and all of the other kids?

No one should do it alone, that is how we become martyrs.
My question, family, is 'How do we do this together?'

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


It has taken me a long time to write this and I thought perhaps it was because I was so frustrated, angry or disappointed by it.

But what I have learned during this most affirming time in North Carolina, that in fact I was deeply hurt. My feelings, my heart and my spirit were assaulted during that experience. And it could have been avoided, it could have even transformed in real time. But the folks in charge wouldn’t allow it, despite the surging of energy in the room. I felt tokenized, exploited and silenced, so I left early and didn’t return – until now.

But I want to, I need to write about this because I want to warn us all, to affirm us all, and to remind us to trust our intuition, and to conserve our energy in order to nourish ourselves and our communities.

That is the thing with oppression, it is violent and violence hurts. But unlike a hit to the face, which can be treated directly, with intention. You can ice that until the swelling goes down. Oppressive violence, whether it is overt, subtle or systemic doesn’t operate in isolation, it becomes chronic, exists across centuries and can seed itself on our insides active or dormant, lodged in our subconscious. It is a parasite. You may not even notice that it is there at first. It may have already had time to multiply inside you, trick your body and brain to believe that it is supposed to be there. That its presence is somehow normal. It may have you doubting yourself, your very right to exist - but my folks it is real. 

I have had many elders in my journey recount that prior to segregation, at least you know what was good. You knew that the government didn’t believe you were human. But now, they want us to believe that it is somehow a post-racial time, that all these experiences are things of the past, figments of our overactive, understimulated imaginations. And that all the power lies in you. If you fail or succeed, it based on your own individual efforts.

This is not true.

The workshop I attended was around ‘walking out’ of systems or structures that are failing, recognizing that although there can be no purity in a walk out because we are all still part of a larger system that is inherently fucked up, it is still possible to resist and challenge/change parts of it.
The first question we were asked was around courage, and where do we need courage. And I sat with it for a minute and realized the question itself was seated with so much privilege. In my communities, courage is not the question. For my genderqueer siblings who have to go to public bathrooms every day, for all the survivors of war and refugee camps who have to sit through another obnoxious air show, for all the First Nations folks who have to listen to one more O Canada, for all the nannies and caregivers who raise another one of their children only to have to exit through the ‘help’ door – courage is not the question.

We have courage and lots of it.

We keep going in the face of a system that criminalizes us, erases our histories, denies us access to basic civil liberties. And we still create culture wildly, irreverently. We still raise beautiful children into strong and resilient adults, we still learn and share our stories. We scare the shit out of the folks at the ‘top’ and still are the source of most if not all of the innovation in this world and we watch as our ideas are appropriated again and again. Watered down and whitewashed out. I look across the frontlines and see our bodies littered there, from Tecumseh to the Black Panthers, I need a damn good reason to continue sending our bodies out there.

The question for us isn’t courage and maybe it is for other folks. Do you have the courage to take a $30,000 pay cut, do you have the courage to check the racist things your family says, do you have the courage to seek justice?

The question for me is this;

Why are we going to work so hard to affirm the youth in our communities to remember their brilliance if you are still going to racially profile and deport them? 

Why am I going to praise the beauty of gender diversity if you are still going to watch while others call them deviants in the street? 

Why am I going to make another incandescent mural to affirm hope if you are going to murder one of our participants?

My question is; what is the work that you are willing to do? What power are you going to give up?

My challenge to you is to put your money where your mouth is.

Are you willing to give reparations and not charity?
Are you willing to fight for affordable housing not because you need it, but because we need it?

Are you willing to show solidarity and not sympathy?

Do you recognize that all of our liberation is wrapped up in each other and that you don’t need to save us, you need to save yourselves.

The conversation continued and a model was shown to us that proposed that belief systems come into existence, as they peak, then people begin recognize that it is flawed and they and others work together to hospice the old system, and create something new from the old one.

And even in the way it was framed, we were asked to just accept it as a pattern that has been noticed across the world and not to criticize it. Now I have seen this model before, and I had the same criticisms then as I had in that moment even though I was asked to silence them in order to participate in an education system that was denying that I exist.

If we fill this model with people, what it looks like is this.

1. Cash poor and racialized people are at the bottom and have been for a while. They have always known that the system doesn’t work. It was built on their backs whether through the trans atlantic slave trade or through the prison industrial complex or through the non-profit industrial complex.

2. Middle-class folks ride that line. The system was designed to keep them placated and at first things are good and then they get better. But somewhere along the peak, things aren’t as good as it seems, the quality of life might decrease, they might finally hear the folks on the bottom, they may even feel responsible.

3. At the top are the rich, the ones who making away like bandits, who ultimately need to quell the dissent to maintain their raping and pillaging. They figure out how to package, propagandize and institutionalize the new system these ‘edgewalkers’ ‘create’ so that ultimately the status quo doesn’t change.

Now this is just my idea and I welcome other ways of reading this model. But the way it is presented is inherently oppressive because it assumes that all things/experiences/people are equal and that simply isn’t true. It is very similar to the same primary fallacy with economics, the assumption that resources are infinite and that profit can grow forever is akin to the primacy fallacy that plagues this model – that somehow race, class, gender – one’s social location doesn’t matter. And I hate to break it to y’all but in this day and age, it is impossible to have any meaningful dialogue without acknowledging that.

Environmental movements are meaningless without conversations around environmental racism, just as state and foundation sponsored anti-violence initiatives are irrelevant without criticism of state sanctioned violence.

We need to recognize that we have different work to do. While we are figuring out how to heal, how to live away from the edge of subsistence, how to learn to love ourselves and each other – those who enjoy vertical mobility need to step down from the seats in government and ensure that the people most directly impacted by policy are in fact the decision makers, they need to learn and study the real histories of the people in the world, they need to give money back – money made through plantations, slavery and fucked up foreign policy.

But a start to all of this, is to have the courage to step aside so there is finally room for all of us.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

For Femmes Of Colour Who Rose Too Early & Set Too Soon

This is some real hard talks and for all my sistren who have lived through or who are living through sexual violence, be careful with yourself. You don't have to read this to prove anything to yourself or others. You are magnificent as you are.

I, like many of the femmes of colour in my life, regardless of sexual orientation, have experienced sexual violence at the hands of strangers, friends, family even lovers. Hell the media and the government actively participate in this shit as well, even knowledge masquerading as 'science' (psychology today, I am looking squarely at you) are to blame. It requires courage to as the brilliant Arti Metha says to walk out with, "me and my slutty thigh high sparkly fishnets against the world".

Over the course of my life this violence has come in the form of caregivers, street harassment, and at the hands of partners both male and female. I was introduced to sex and sexual desire at a very young age, and let me be specific, I was introduced to being 'sexually desired' at a profoundly wrong age. I felt deep, gut wrenching shame, responsibility and oh so much guilt. I was sure that people could see it written all over me. I begged and pleaded to what I understood God to be, to have me forget. To wipe away the memories, the sounds, the dreams, the flashbacks and start me all over again.

I think something very different happens to girls know sex too soon.
Girls who come to know that sex is a currency and we are in a recession.
Girls who don't yet know the context, that we come from a history where sex workers were priestesses and now our bodies are regularly dismembered and commodified. We are blamed and branded as we tap into a power stemming as far back as time immemorial. And my sistren, I want to remind us that we remain both beautiful and priceless no matter how many people we sleep with, no matter what happens to our sex.
In this patriarchal, racist, mind fuck of a world we are both what is desired and defiled, vessels of power and of shame.

And there I was trying to walk that impossibly fine line between Madonna and whore. Completely inexperienced, but with a body that clearly said otherwise and I had no allies. Had no mentors, had no women I could ask to provide me with guidance as I wandered, or rather strutted.

And then we are told that this is what makes us special. And at first it feels like it, and even when it doesn't it still is the only place where women are truly 'validated'. We can be smart, athletic, creative, but we all are required to still be attractive. And being this exceptional, holds in betwixt the fingers of its' mysticism the promise of love, attention, adoration, but mostly the promise of a promise. The promise of something more.

I find myself searching the eyes of each person I meet and asking the following questions:
“Could you love me?”
“Would you hurt me?
“Do you want to fuck me?”
“And how would I know the difference?”
I imagine that it must be so freeing, so beautiful to look into someone’s eyes for the first time and see eyes, and feel nervous and curious, maybe some butterflies, some deep in the chest, down in the belly welling up of something. I wonder what it must be like not to need to know the answer to these questions, not to have your survival depend on knowing whether someone’s desire to fuck will overwhelm their desire to protect you from harm, on knowing what you must exploit, what you must manipulate in order to get space in the midst of this.
We girls of the fatherless tribe, girls of the motherless tribe we work in trade.
And I have done it too - for love, support, to build family and to find freedom.
And I have no regrets.
Not one.
We glorify men as pimps and hustlers, but I want to shout out to all the womyn doing what they have to do to survive, all the womyn doing what they have to do to thrive. To the video girls, and the trans womyn, the sex workers and the dancers. Our society gives us few options and we are still able to leverage these experiences into book deals, professional dance careers and Masters degrees in physics.
And I want to say, it's not enough to tell us to keep being strong and keep on hustlin. We actually need work, commitment for others to challenge this culture and transform the dialogue. And I want to give props to those of you who do it. Those of you who sit with us and devise plans for us to come home safely, those who tell us that we are are your heros, those who check their brethren when they spit whack 'game' to a sister - because it isn't a game.
This is our lives.
And these are our bodies.
And even if we like sex that is rough or that explores rape fantasies, even if we love or have deep appreciation for masculine energy regardless of the body that it comes in - the fact of the matter is that the consent is what turns us on. We are giving permission to ourselves to be submissive and this in fact is a reclaiming of our bodies in a culture that decries that it is our 'no's' that mean 'yes'. It is possible to protest misogyny with my legs spread wide open and I am going to just that.

And as much as wish I didn't have to say this, we have to say this.

Don't rape us.
Don't shout slurs at us on the streets.
Don't act with ownership over our bodies.
Don't police our bodies and that includes how we dress, how we fuck and how we birth.
Yes means yes. That's it.
Don't drug us, slip things in our drinks, wait until we are drunk - these things are not consent.
We are not responsible for getting you off, or tempting you or in general for your lack of self control.

We are children of the universe no less than the sun or stars.
It's time you all acted like it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


The silence and the noise between us is deafening and defining us
As we speak and mouth words of sorrow and promises, things far too delicate to share.
We instead stick to the profane
Eroding each other's heart
Happy to feel the soft, warm spot
Where we can again lay our weary heads