sidewalk stories, an excerpt of life in new orleans & dignity in process
August 14, 2015, 10:54 pm
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i waited on the corner unsure if i was in the right place. a young family of three- a mother, a daughter and an observant baby- waited next to me; all of them had beautiful eyes. i balanced the tripod between my legs and let my head swivel attentively towards canal st careful to not let my doubt of place show in my face lest it invite the bad luck of naive travelers.

“you take pictures?.” it was definitely as much a question as a statement from the young mother as she readjusted the baby in her arms and the purse caught in her elbow.

as i looked at her i was suddenly caught in some form of past life nostalgia, and i saw her humid perm donned by a wide rim hat, her upper body caught in an unseasonable jacket, her legs covered by dense skirt and her heels slightly elevated in clunkily curving boots, all of another time period. in her reflection i looked little different, though i wore pleated pants and my arms carried no baby but the complicated mechanisms of a daguerrotype.

“i do.” i blinked and suddenly felt the weight of my backpack against the bare skin my new locally purchased sundress exposed, and the stick of my soles against the flat sandals on my feet.

her black t-shirt soaked up the sun and again i wondered why anyone in this city wore black in august.

“You do portraits?” this time the question complete.

i smiled, and perhaps, never said anything more honestly, “i do, and i wish i could take yours right now, but unfortunately i don’t have my camera with me; just the tripod.”

more than i wished to take her picture, i wished to show her the dignity of the space she occupied on the corner abreast the monument to simon bolivar.

“how much you charge for a portrait?” fully a question, but this one heavier, somehow laden with expectations.

“i wouldn’t charge you anything; i’m working on a project.”

“you should, you gotta make that money.”

i laughed, and sighed, “true story.” i didn’t want it to be but it was. “i’d still take your picture for free; you all have such beautiful eyes!”

the little girl with her had been moving towards me with the complete lack of subtlety special to small children. i smiled at her and she smiled back.

“i can do this,” and she snapped her fingers. i started to snap with her and oozed the honey charm i save for little persons in this world, “that’s amazing! you must be very smart to be able to use your body like that.” she danced in receipt of the praise and a few of the flourescent red hot cheeto crumbs that had been stubbornly adorning her cheek fell away.

“do you know how to make a beat? i bet you’d be great at it because you’re already so good at snapping.”

she looked a little confused, and glanced back at her mother to make sure we were still in the realm of safe conversation. her mother was engaged with the rta helpline and trying to figure out if she was on the right corner. i began to do a simple pat-pat-clap with my hands against my thighs.

i intoned the pattern for her and she followed along until she felt profficient, then jogged over to her mother, ” i can make a beat!” and showed off her new skill.

“that’s nice baby, but we gotta go ‘cross the street; they changed up the bus and didn’t tell nobody.” i asked if she knew if that was for my bus too, and she said yes, come with me, and so we set out together for rampart st.

as in oakland, new orleans is undergoing gentrification and the signs are every where. the renaming of neighborhoods, the literal tearing out of the streets to lay new ones, easier ones for the feet of the new, desireable residents, to cross from one side of the tracks to the other.

she bemoaned this as our cluster moved to the bus stop.

“i’ve got to get to her school for the back-to-school night, and now they done changed up the bus and made me late! they already changing everything, the least they could do is tell you what you need to know so you can still get around. lord, i need a cigarette.”

we’d made it to the bus stop, an actual bus stop with benches, and sat down in the crowd of other people, mostly black, who were waiting on public transportation. there was another little girl there that my newly minted beat machine started to play with.

“lord, i just really need a cigarette, would you mind holding her for a second while i have a smoke? i try not to smoke around the baby.”

“i’d be glad to,” and i was as i did. although i was nervous, i was also too surprised and too in love with the trust she was offering me to say no. the baby barely fussed as she was transferred into the crook of my arm. we took a minute to get used to each other, and once our breathing synced she fell right asleep.

i watched her and the street and my heart as it swooned.


What Does Dignity Mean to You?
August 13, 2015, 4:31 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Dignity is the process
of walking through the world with
wounds and scars around your shoulders
like a cloak; it is the claiming &
the telling of your narrative, the story
that gives rhythm to your walk. Dignity
is the tears you shed from your tender
heartedness & the help you refuse when
you know it will be of no assistance,
when this becomes the air you breathe
you live in Dignity. It is the choosing
of your environment to suit you like
a Sunday hat & the friends you keep
that help you stay fly; knowing something
someone else does not & no humility about
the work you put into being in that position.
Somewhat frightening, it is only by choice
that you become lover, friend, accomplice,
ally or enemy.

5:21pm- Today, you are winning
August 13, 2015, 4:25 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

From hard truth to gentle acceptance

you have come full circle. You know,

even against your wanting sometimes

that you will persevere and lose nothing

of your magic in the testing. No Sookie,

but faierie you are and your light will not

wane so long as you continue to shine it

in your darkest hours. You cannot take the past

with you, and need not for you already carry

the world within your heart and it is prone

to breaking under pressure; what you will

carry are the lessons, the love & the strength

you gain with good words & deeds. More

than all those things are the visions &

the memories & the feelings. Who you are

today cannot live for you tomorrow so I will

give you what I can, already practicing &

putting your mind into motion.


Remember what it feels like to be recognized

& know when you are not.


Remember what it feels like to be held

while falling.


Remember that truth is relative & therefore

your kin to be kept close.


Remember that magic is real.


Remember that inter-connection

requires inner-connection.


Remember, listen, affirm, respond to

& accept your best efforts.


Remember, period

Continue reading

Reading Between the Lines
August 12, 2015, 1:22 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m a words person. I always have been and I can’t imagine being anything else. I taught myself to read when I was 2 years old; as the youngest in my family I was livid to have everyone around me engaged in this thing I felt excluded from. I don’t remember what the first book was, in fact I don’t remember doing this. As far as my memory is concerned I was born reading. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve also been editing.

Excerpt from Paula Gidding’s, When and Where I Enter: Her life paralleled with Mary Church Terrell’s in many ways. The two women were born a year apart, and both were daughters of former slaves. Their fathers were sons of their masters, both were men who filled their daughters with racial pride- and the spirit of defiance. 

My Edits: Her life paralleled with Mary Church Terrell’s in many ways. The two women were born a year apart, and both were daughters of formerly enslaved people. Their fathers were sons of their slavers; both were men who filled their daughters with racial pride- and the spirit of defiance.

My first editing experience came from inside of my own brain. As I developed as a reader I was as constantly puzzled to find the absence of she/hers in what I was reading, as I was to find the lack of we,ours. Whenever someone was talking about people as a whole they always referenced men, and this made no sense to me. “Time waits for no man,” I’d read and then ask myself, “But I have a vagina, so will time wait for me?

The Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, …

My Edits: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among People, …

So as I read I would re-write the story I was being told; I would read-write what made sense to me. So whenever I encountered “man” holding space as an indicator of all human beings, I’d replace that word in my brain with “people”; I’d simply tell the truth.

As I continue to develop as a person, this skill becomes ever more necessary. The subtleties of erasure demand my intellectual vigilance. I still edit what I read internally, and it is exhausting to be in this process of constant re-affirmation of not only my existence and truth, but sanity. And I can’t stop, I won’t stop, because this clarity is actively a matter of life and death.

For when we are consuming media telling us that the White residents of New Orleans were resourceful survivors, while the Black ones opportunistic thieves securing food stuffs for their survival, we are dealing with the literal definitions, the constructs and parameters, of reality.

People often ask what they can do to become better allies, more resilient fighters, how to maintain their grasp on what’s real in the midst of so much gaslighting. This is one of my ways. For as it goes below so it goes above, and I’m not done. My editing has become more sophisticated as my understanding has; the edits I make today are not the same ones I made a decade, or two, ago. This is proper as the only sustainable truth is change and I push myself to be that, the change, for the world I believe deserves to exist.

My Edits: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all beings are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Beings, …

my people
July 18, 2015, 5:39 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

to be sensitive is to live from ones senses,

so when they tell you you’re too sensitive,

what they’re really telling you is that

you’re too alive, that your heartbeat is too

strong for them to feel strong next to,

and they need to feel strong, they need

to feel Something! because they Aren’t

sensitive, because if they were they’d be

fine with the life beating inside of you,

better than fine, they’d enjoy a dance

with it, maybe a tango, maybe a two step,

either way they would move because the life

inside of them would at least bow to greet you.

An Open Letter to my Assailant, Once Known as Friend
June 27, 2015, 8:53 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


I cannot imagine a more mundane way to begin this expression. It has been almost 13 years since the night that you violated significantly more than the body I know as my home; you violated my trust, the sacred grace extended to you from one being to another. It has done damage to extents that my mind cannot conceive of, but then again, the dimensions this damage exists in is the not the territory of the mind, but of the heart, soul, spirit, whatever word you might wish to use to indicate the essential magic of creation, of Being. The antithesis of this, the violation of your own body’s creative forces to reach out in violence to mine- burning my skin with your seeds- is what hurts the most, the poison spread of some pain you could not contend with and in your defeat to accept it succeeded only in scarring me with it.

I am prideful, something you might know from having once worn the mantle of friend, and as such I am loathe to admit the amount of sorrow, pain, grief, torment, terror and abject despair that has been the physiological reaction of my system to your action. I have wished you were dead more times than I would ever care to remember. I hate it wishing such a thing. I hate even more knowing you are alive in the world somewhere; and that’s why I’m writing this now: you are not only alive in the world some-where, you are alive in Oakland, in my community, something that has only recently been revealed to me.

I read your staff bio, the one where you are celebrated in the place that gave you access to me, an access you abused, and got chills thinking you were around other young women now the same age as I was then, only now you’re not an awkward teenager, you’re an adult with authority. I now know Hell. I cannot imagine what might make you return, here, there. I have to wonder if it is an act of repentance or of indulgence, a return to restore or to ravage. I cannot know and this is what the pain feeds on, not knowing if you ever believed you did anything wrong that night, not knowing if you are out there, here, even now, doing it again. I want to hope that you are not but, unfortunately, that part of me died on your parent’s couch when you shoved your dick in my mouth, when not even my teeth got through to some kind of goodness in you.

I want to blame you, as an individual, but then I would not be being very fair to myself; it is not who I am to be so short-sighted. You are a product, no less than I, of a world that has little love of brown girls. You knew it and I knew it, the equation I’d have to compute of the costs vs. the benefits of calling the police to the Berkeley hills where you, a white appearing, cis, male would be in the company of me, an obviously black, gender ambivalent person, both incredibly drunk and under scrutiny. The costs vs. the benefits of bringing the school we both attended and where you are now employed into it as a space of homogenous privilege which I no longer occupied and only ever tenuously “belonged”, a feeling of mine you knew all too well as someone with whom I’d shared my reality with.

You are a product of internalized hate & disgust, of fear and violence; and you are no victim. YOU ARE ACCOUNTABLE. It was your choice to act as violence; and you are no victim. YOU ARE ACCOUNTABLE. It was your choice to act as you did, no one else’s; I need you to know that. I need you to know that I know what you’re up against and I know that you failed to be better than it. YOU ARE ACCOUNTABLE. I know your shame, and self-loathing, and confusion, and anger, and frailty, and fear; I know all of these things because I am human and a loving enough one to understand you as such, despite the evidence to the contrary. This does nothing to change the fact that YOU ARE ACCOUNTABLE for supplying me with that evidence.

At home that night I cried. I cried more than I think I’ve ever cried for anything, the deaths of friends, the witnessing of tragedy. I cried for my dreams of loving relationship, cried for the desperate desire I had to step out of my skin so I could clean it thoroughly before using it again, cried for the years of recovery I knew would come, cried for all the people who knew my pain because it was theirs too. And I cried for you. Cried for the part of you that had been so disfigured, so tortured and devoid of life that you would do what you did. I didn’t believe and still do not believe that anyone would act as such without unfathomable destruction having visited their Being. I cried because although I was hurt I was alive, and you were not, and until that point you had been someone I cared about and so I mourned YOU, mourned and dirged for the death of humanity in you.

When I stopped crying I didn’t cry again for a very long time, a very long time. See, you aren’t special, the poison you carry doesn’t care about its host, it cares only about itself. I was infected by it and the love in me began to isolate and freeze, my compassion congealing as all my internal efforts went into the maintenance of a failing empire of innocence that was no longer viable. I could no longer enjoy intimacy as it seemed merely a tool for hunters to find their prey.  I could no longer relax in friendship for what does it mean when its terms can be violated without a backwards glance? I could no longer enjoy transparency because that poison is everywhere and I am wise enough to know it would take any chance it could to attack me again, to rally its forces from both inside and out in the form of victim blaming, character inquisition, and the destruction of my privacy.

My pride again wants me to say that these things are all past tense, but that would not be truthful, just like saying anything other than both that I was attracted to you and wasn’t interested in sexual contact with you because I was in a relationship and would have been out of integrity with my beliefs in human loyalty. The truth is that I still struggle almost every day to feel the things that froze in me; its hard, harder than you will ever be. You’re not the only sick person in the world, most of us are too well adjusted to this sick society and I have many places in myself that need care and attention for healing. What I hope is that you are more like me than my brain wants to consider in being that you have done your work because I’ve sure as shit done mine.

There are no methods for quantifying the amount of effort I’ve put into healing. None. The human mind is conditioned to not consider things of such an infinite nature, it is conditioned to stop at what it can control. The time, the money, the energy, the faith, none of these things can be quantified for easy containment within the consciousness of another, and ultimately, at least as far as the purposes of this expression are concerned, that fact is irrelevant; what is is that I’ve done it. And this is where and what I will leave you with, a question: what have You done?

It’s an inquiry of many dimensions and stands on its own three feet in all of them, what have YOU done? Past: what do you understand of the impacts of sexually assaulting a friend, a human, a creation of God? Present: what are you doing now; denying from it, avoiding it, owning it, working for peace? Future: what have you done to do better, to Be better? My own masochism and never ending desire for understanding and truth in the human experience feeds a morbid curiosity to want to know how you would answer these questions were we face to face. Another me knows we might not be face to face for long for I’d be liable to rip yours off and offer it to maggots in a gesture of radical solidarity. It is better this way, to use words to cut away whatever remaining karmic bonds that may tie us, that have brought the ghost named You back into my awareness.

In the present-progressive I know you, or better said your intent, as instrument, unintentional ally, shadow which illuminates my brilliance. As a force in my world you are held as deadness, an expired thing, no longer of service, somatic rot that will continue to be broken down and re-purposed. You, person- presumably-, do not exist. What avatar of yours I encountered and felt feelings for as a young person has been deleted; I will be no horcrux for the lost pieces of your soul. The most I can offer- and I must offer something for we live in a cause and effect universe, and for there to be no return of impact is to violate the laws of Nature- is Nothing, absolutely No-Thing-ness.

I will not pity, scorn, violate, accept, condemn, or consider you, or even the idea of you. You will be no thing deserving of any energies from me; you Are no thing deserving of any energies from me. You never were. “Oh, but obviously you’re angry to say such things!” you might retort; and oh yes, I am. But my anger isn’t for you, it’s for me for having ever cast my pearls before swine.

Here, now, is where I leave you to find fecundity in the shit pile you know as Self.


not all people
April 10, 2015, 10:32 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

not all people have the courage to do what’s asked of them,

not all people speak when they see suffering,

not all people speak when they are experiencing suffering.

not all people laugh with abandon, not all people can

breathe in the safety of their homes. not all people eat

healthy foods, not all people have supermarkets in their

neighborhods. not all people cry when they see someone

hurt, not all people try to help. not all people hear guns

shot as they fall asleep, not all people have seen

the ocean. not all people can read these words, not all

people can hear the music. not all people sleep under

covers, not all people leave the place they are born. not

all people succeed, not all people know humility, not all people

care if you live or if you die. not all people want the worst for you,

not all people can add numbers in their head. not all people can

hold you in their arms, not all people can swim. not all people know

what they know, not all people are ignorant. not all people are sinners,

not all people are worshipers, not all people know right from wrong,

not all people believe in dualism.

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