Multicultural Graduation 2017

As always, things are wild in my life right now—I had a super busy week, presented a poster at my university’s Undergraduate Research Symposium, and then got horribly ill and missed almost an entire week of classes. More about that in my upcoming June GHDR Review Post, though; this post is about something else that happened in among all of that.

So, at the recommendation of a friend, I was invited to apply to be a student speaker for this year’s PSU Multicultural Graduation. The theme of this year’s graduation event is From Resilience to Revolution, something I definitely feel qualified to speak on. I wrote a speech, recorded myself reading it, and sent in the application, but in the end I wasn’t chosen. The student who was chosen is a brilliant young man doing very important research, and I am as excited for him as I am disappointed not to be chosen. But I decided to share the speech I would have given with all of you. So, without further ado, here it is:

 

I’d like to start by reading a poem I wrote in honor of my mother.

Forever Rising

Work-weary women
stand in the doorways
of sleeping children’s bedrooms
        watching
smiles faint on their lips
pride-full and wondering
    I made this
    with my bare hands
    I cradled this life into being
ain’t that a heck of a thing?

See, our mamas taught us well
these single women working
for our best possible future
        always
looking to tomorrow
where there may yet be nourishment
    bread for hungry mouths
    books for hungry minds
    labour transformed by love
to sustain life.

And we came up
protected by ancestors
these warrior women’s work
        & sacrifice
paved our way towards freedom
so now we come to a place
where we must also take up
this precious mantle
    the latest generation
    preparing to push the next
    towards the mountaintop.

Hello, my name is Tessara Dudley, I am so grateful to be speaking to you tonight. And I want to say this: we made it; because of our parents, our aunties and uncles, our friends, cousins, partners, mentors, our own indomitable spirits, we are here. Tonight, we stand at the end of one road, preparing to embark on a whole new journey. Some of us, myself included, never thought we would reach this moment. This place, this institution, was not meant for us, but we have taken it and made it ours. We have carved out this beautiful space, together. We are making room for justice through our very presence.

For some of us, it’s been a hard road. We’ve been challenged, not by new knowledge and robust intellectual debate, but by the pressures of systemic discrimination and inequity. Some of us have faced microaggressions, struggled to feed ourselves and our families, or experienced loss of health and happiness. It has taken hard work, but we are here celebrating together. Our ability to find and build community is among our greatest strengths.

2 years ago, I didn’t know if I would make it to graduation. After the police violence in Ferguson, I stressed myself sick, swinging between 3 and 13 hours of sleep a night, going and going until I couldn’t anymore. My professors were very understanding, and I got through fall term with Bs, but I spent a month seriously thinking of dropping out. I kept hearing the criticism of academics and academia: we’re too isolated, we don’t do anything to make our communities better, our work isn’t connected to the “real” world. As I saw images of children and disabled people being tear-gassed, it became harder and harder to feel like my work here mattered. I had a deep internal crisis that year. Two things kept me going: the love of my family and friends, and the amazing, affirming support of my professors. Without my professors in Black Studies and the advocacy of the Disability Resource Center, I wouldn’t be on this stage today and, again, I’m so thankful for the collective work that has gotten me here.

Together, we have persevered, and we are not conquered. But is survival enough? What of those who could not be here tonight to cross this stage and be honored by this loving community? What of those who follow us? We are resilient, but there’s more to life than pushing through adversity. How do we build on the work of those who came before us? How do we push our communities into creating a truly equitable society? How do we live our authentic truths in a world that tells people who look like us they have no worth?

We have built a vibrant, inclusive community, but we need to keep pressing outward. There are so many people who want to be here and are prevented by institutional barriers. Racism, gender bias, disablism, classism, documentation requirements, and other barriers keep out students who could benefit from post-secondary education, students who could use that education to benefit their communities, and whose experiences and perspectives would greatly benefit this university. Instead of scarcity, we can adopt an attitude of abundance: our accomplishments are not diminished by the expansion of this space, but are instead enhanced.

If I had left back in 2014, I know I wouldn’t be on the path I’m on now. I wouldn’t have been able to take the history class that busted my world open, and I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to spend a wonderful semester at the University of Ghana, and I wouldn’t have been chosen for this year’s McNair Scholar cohort. I wouldn’t now be preparing to go to grad school, or following my dream of becoming a teacher and researcher. Without the strength and courage I found through this community, I wouldn’t be whole.

No matter where we go after this night, it is time to take this same spirit into our workplaces, our community organizations, and our future academic departments. Wherever we go, we can bring revolutionary insight and bold action. We can press the edges further and further outwards. We can enlarge the circle to make room for the voices being left out.

To revolutionize the world, we cannot let fear stand in our way. Change is hard, and sometimes it’s scary, but as Audre Lorde said, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” Being afraid and doing what must be done anyway is the bravest act of all.

None of us are free until we are all free. Our communities are not whole until we all are present, able to be our whole selves and build the future together.

Thank you.

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: December Check-In & Year-End Review

Here ends my second year of Groundhog Day Resolutions. I feel like I’ve learned so much and done so much this year! In 3 days, I’ll be hopping on a plane to return to the US, and I’ll admit that I’m nowhere near ready. I wish so much I could stay here in Ghana. At the same time, I am very ready to finish my last three terms as a PSU undergrad, and graduate.

Three terms, what? Yep, I’m doing summer, too, because of some really amazing, brilliant news: I was chosen for the 2016 cohort of the McNair Scholars Program! Over the next two terms, I’ll learn skills and make connections that will help me get into a good graduate program and succeed in whatever program I go to. Over summer, I’ll complete a research project and write a journal article to submit for publication. I’m so relieved I got in, and so excited to start!

Getting into the McNair program makes going back a little less scary, and I’m looking forward to seeing and hugging so many people that I’ve missed the last few months. I also look forward to a more varied diet (lots of gluten here, not a lot of gluten-free), though I will miss fresh mango and pineapple.

I didn’t get to travel after my exams, because I couldn’t get the funds together. I also missed my last payment for my payment plan, and now have a registration hold and $100 late fee. If you can help me cover this last $341 of my tuition and fees, and pay for food and toiletries here and during my travels, please donate on Crowdrise.

The review is below the cut.

 

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Tessara’s 2016 Top Ten Recommended Reads

I like books. If you follow this blog, you know that. (Also, if you follow me on Tumblr or Instagram, or if you spend any amount of time with me in person.) Since the holidays are coming up, I wanted to share a list of 10 books (okay, 11) I read this year that I recommend. Many of them are poetry books, but there’s memoir, fiction, and history in here, too.

Do yourself a favor and pick these up. If you’ll be travelling to visit folks, these would make great plane, bus, or train reading. Is there a reader in your life that you’re shopping for? These would also make great gifts. I’m just saying you should buy, beg, or borrow these books. You won’t regret it.

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program, and I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

 

1. March Book 1 & Book 2 by John Lewis

These are scary, comforting, thrilling, painful, and so much. John Lewis’s graphic memoir trilogy is a love letter to the Civil Rights Movement, a reflection on the youth of a lifelong activist and advocate. Though I haven’t read the 3rd one yet, I am fully confident that it would also belong on this list. Recommended for organizers, graphic art fans, students of history, memoir lovers, and people who need a little strength in their lives today. Get them at Amazon: March: Book One & March: Book Two

2. The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat

This novel in stories circles around the titular character, each chapter told by a different character in his community. This book encompasses the terror of Haiti under Papa Doc Duvalier and the uncertainty of a New York Haitian neighborhood. The threads of shared experience bind the characters together: 1960s Haiti echoes in their lives, even (perhaps especially) those who seek to escape it the most. A brilliant read. Recommended for immigrants, the children of immigrants, diasporan people, and anyone looking for a deep read. Buy the book here: The Dew Breaker

3. After by Fatimah Asghar

My GoodReads Review: Asghar plays with space and form in ways that challenge the reader. Some pieces are physically difficult to decipher, structure lending itself to complex meanings and resisting the simple. Many of the poems are hard to read in content rather than form, and the combination of pieces works well. The occasional levity, such as that created by “Medusa Apologizes” rounds out this thoughtful, lovingly produced collection. Definitely recommended! Recommended for survivors, victims, heartbroken lovers, and resilient women.

4. to love as aswang by Barbara Jane Reyes

This collection of poems is beautiful and painful. Drawing on community experiences, cultural history, and myths, Reyes examines and affirms the lives of Filipina Americans, refusing to shy away from the painful even as she embraces the beautiful. Though the foundations are sometimes horrifying, the concept one takes away is resistance, a history of struggle and strength embodied every day. Recommended for Pinay, feminists, new Americans, survivors, and defiantly monstrous women.

5. The Gunnywolf by Megan Snyder-Camp

I reviewed this, along with Snyder-Camp’s other 2016 release, Wintering, for Mom Egg Review—click here to read that review. The Gunnywolf uses the mythical figure of the gunnywolf to reflect on race in the United States, and the author’s own place in racial justice movements of today. Recommended for poets, fans of folk tales, white allies, and anyone feeling out a new existence in a post-Ferguson world. Snag a copy: The Gunnywolf

6. Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire

Beyonce loves Warsan Shire, and you should too. This is an amazing and heartfelt collection of poems, definitely among the best I’ve read this year. Recommended for poets, immigrants, the children of immigrants, and lovers of beautiful difficult things. Buy a copy here: Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth (Mouthmark)

7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

This was a hard read, but a very important one. HeLa cells have been at the heart of much scientific progress, but this book tells the little-known story of the woman behind the cells. The author takes us through the struggles of a family and the medical community that has so often failed them, managing nevertheless to highlight the humanity of both. Recommended for scientists, activists, fans of memoir and history, and anyone willing to look unflinchingly at the legacy of scientific racism. Get a copy: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

8. My People Are Rising: Memoir of a Black Panther Party Captain by Aaron Dixon

This was a really interesting read. I met Aaron Dixon in 2013 when he came to speak at my university about his time organizing with the Panthers. He was a really calm presence, and a sweet and humble guy. His memoir is a great read, and really gives insight to the history of the Party. Recommended for revolutionaries, memoir fans, BPP fans, and readers interested in US organizing history. Pick up a copy here: My People Are Rising: Memoir of a Black Panther Party Captain

9. [insert] boy by Danez Smith

My GoodReads Review: Dang. DANG. Recommended for Black folks, poets, poetry fans, QTPOC. Get it at Amazon: [insert] boy (Kate Tufts Discovery Award)

10. The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss

I’m actually still reading this one, but it’s been great so far. I’m about 2/3 of the way through it. It’s fun and funny, while also being very informative—I’m not really a scholar of European history, and reading this has actually filled in some gaps for me regarding French history. Recommended for the lay historian, Francophiles, literature nerds, and anyone who loves adventure stories. Pick it up here: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: September Check-In

Several days late, but only because the internet in the student housing I’m staying at completely stopped working last week. I bit the bullet and bought a personal wifi router, which includes free Facebook and Youtube until mid-October, and free internet between midnight and 5am, for about $30 USD.

I’m still raising funds (you can donate on Crowdrise or Patreon), to cover the gap between my financial aid and my program costs (including food, toiletries, and $1,023 in tuition and fees). I would much appreciate your support.

I’ve gotten a flurry of acceptances for poetry I’ve written, as a result of submitting a bunch of work in July. I’ve got poems in the latest issues of Words Dance and Wordgathering, and I’ve had a piece accepted for an upcoming anthology by Zoetic Press, and another by Hermeneutic Chaos. So, that’s all felt pretty nice.

I’m pretty well settled in here, and dealing with the ups and downs of life. I’ve also been grappling with my own loner tendencies and my course load. More details are in the review post, which is below the cut.

 

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: August Check-In

A day late, but full of good news and excitement! Despite my fears and stress, everything’s falling into place for my trip, and I’m feeling so excited and thankful and blessed. I’m still raising funds (you can support me on Crowdrise or Patreon, if you have cash to spare), but I’m now officially days out. Lovely friends have been housing me and helping me out, and I wouldn’t be 2 days from departure without y’all — thanks so much for all the love and support, really.

This month once again has no tracker photos, because those have basically fallen by the wayside with most of my stuff in storage and living out of backpacks. This month’s review is below the cut.

 

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: July Check-In

Still fundraising for my trip (you can support me here), and prepping for that — just about a month left before I go. I am now homeless, staying with friends and living out of a duffel and backpack, which is making everything a bit harder and more complicated. This post is, as usual, late, but on purpose this time, because I wanted to finish up some work before I posted. (More on that below!)

I’ve also been struggling a lot with the recent highly publicized shootings of unarmed/unresisting Black people. I am well aware these happen all the time — US police are on pace to kill one unarmed Black person a day in 2016 — but if I let myself marinate in Black death all the time, I wouldn’t be able to function. Sad to say, but wilfully ignoring the violence is better for my health on the average day. I set aside time to do what work I can in the struggle for justice, including on the Fists Up OR/WA Facebook page, and try not to feel too guilty the rest of the time.

No GHDR Tracker Photos this time — moving has done a number on me and my organization. Should be back next month, though. Review below the cut.

 

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Trees of Reverie June 2016 Readathon Day 5

Day Five, Wednesday, June 29:

(All times are Brisbane local time)

This is the Day 5 Update post for the June 2016 Trees of Reverie Read-a-thon.

My To-Be-Read List:

  1. Wintering by Megan Snyder-Camp — FINISHED! 72 pages, 4 stars
  2. The Gunnywolf by Megan Snyder-Camp — FINISHED! 76 pages, 4 stars — ran through this one in an hour or two; the initial response is positive, but more detail will have to wait for a second read-through of both books and writing the review for publication.
  3. [insert] boy by Danez Smith — FINISHED! 116 pages, 5 Stars
  4. Time on Two Crosses: the Collected Writing of Bayard Rustin by Don Wiese [ed.] (Current page: 47 of 365; change: 28 pages)
  5. UNeducation, Vol 1: A Residential School Graphic Novel by Jason EagleSpeaker (Current page: 28 of 99)
  6. Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
  7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Current page: 68 of 391)
  8. The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss
  9. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (Current page: 391 of 1225; change: 36 pages)

Sped through The Gunnywolf. Planning to go back for a second, closer read of this one and Wintering, since I need to write a review of them together. Read some of Time on Two Crosses, between packing boxes and running errands. Really feeling the time crunch to July 1st, but reading is a good relaxation, and I think I need that.

 

To see all Read-a-thon posts, go here.

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Trees of Reverie June 2016 Readathon Days 3 and 4: Spine Poem and Quotes

Day Three, Monday, June 27 & Day Four, Tuesday, June 28:

(All times are Brisbane local time)

This is the Day 3 and Day 4 Challenges post for the June 2016 Trees of Reverie Read-a-thon.

 

Day 3: Spine poem! This is always my favorite challenge, basically.

She flees Wildwood
Little Red in the City
Half Magic

among The Oathbound
seeking Asylum

A Reckless Beauty
she Sees the Water Rise
The Sparkle in the Grit
The Secret School

Of Two Minds
calls Necessary Fire
against The Witches and wolves
A Monstrous Regiment
their Blood and Chocolate
The Silver Kiss
The “Comforts” of Home

“I Feel This
Truth
by Shackle and Sword
by Lion’s Blood
by That Hideous Strength
I will build Brave
a New World”

2016-06-27 21.22.32 HDR

Here’s audio of me reading this poem.

 

Day 4: Quotes

This is possibly my favorite set of lines in Hamilton, sung by Aaron Burr: “I am the one thing in life I can control / I am inimitable / I am an original / I’m not falling behind or running late / I’m not standing still / I am lying in wait!”

I love this, and have considered getting some kind of tattoo related to it. I even made a gif of the lines.

I love Hamilton, but sometimes Burr just gives me all of the feelings.

 

My To-Be-Read List:

  1. Wintering by Megan Snyder-Camp — FINISHED! 72 pages, 4 stars — Liked it. Still have to read the second book, and then I can start on the review, but that means I probably won’t share much detail here or on Goodreads, until that review is published.
  2. The Gunnywolf by Megan Snyder-Camp
  3. [insert] boy by Danez Smith — FINISHED! 116 pages, 5 Stars
  4. Time on Two Crosses: the Collected Writing of Bayard Rustin by Don Wiese [ed.] (Current page: 27 of 365; change: 8 pages)
  5. UNeducation, Vol 1: A Residential School Graphic Novel by Jason EagleSpeaker (Current page: 28 of 99)
  6. Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
  7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Current page: 68 of 391)
  8. The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss
  9. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (Current page: 391 of 1225; change: 36 pages)

Spent a lot of Day 3 cleaning and sorting things and getting ready to move out of my apartment, but I took a lunch break to make a yummy smoothie and read the rest of Wintering, which I finished. Then went back to sorting, and put on the Alexander Hamilton audiobook, which I have been listening to while doing work that requires my hands. It’s pretty funny, and I spend a lot of time saying things like “well, of course he did,” and “Alexander, no!” and “seriously?! wow, okay…” (Which is how I read books, so at least I’m consistent.) Read a bit of Time on Two Crosses during my dinner break, and got through the section about the Freedom Rides, thankfully. Day 4 was about running errands, making calls, and providing emotional support, and I didn’t get much time to sit down and read. But I’m about to start The Gunnywolf, and (based on her other book) I’m looking forward to reading it.

 

To see all Read-a-thon posts, go here.

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Trees of Reverie June 2016 Readathon Day 2: Recommendation

Day Two, Sunday, June 26:

(All times are Brisbane local time)

This is the Day 2 Challenge post for the June 2016 Trees of Reverie Read-a-thon.

 

Book Rec ToR Readathon June 2016 Day 2

If you liked… Jericho Brown’s The New Testament, consider… Danez Smith’s Black Movie. Both books reflect on Black boyhood and queer Black manhood, what it is to exist as a queer Black man in the US. Where Jericho Brown riffs on the Christian Bible and religion, Danez Smith uses the lens of films and popular media. There’s tribute, joy, pain, elegy, honor, and celebration. These books are hard and present and also alive and wondering, hoping and imagining. These books are wishes and dreams and tears and so much more, and if you enjoyed Jericho Brown, he wrote a glowing endorsement on Danez Smith’s newest book, [insert] boy, so you better pick up some Danez Smith and read.

For a preview, here’s a video of them performing “Dear White America,” one of the poems in Black Movie.

 

My To-Be-Read List:

  1. Wintering by Megan Snyder-Camp (Current page: 20 of 72) — Reading this and the next book in order to write a review for publication. Interesting read, so far…
  2. The Gunnywolf by Megan Snyder-Camp
  3. [insert] boy by Danez Smith — FINISHED! 116 pages, 5 Stars — Will hopefully post a longer review than what I currently have on Goodreads, which just reads “Dang. DANG.” Need to sit with this one a little longer before I have fleshed out comments.
  4. Time on Two Crosses: the Collected Writing of Bayard Rustin by Don Wiese [ed.] (Current page: 19 of 365)
  5. UNeducation, Vol 1: A Residential School Graphic Novel by Jason EagleSpeaker (Current page: 28 of 99)
  6. Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
  7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Current page: 68 of 391)
  8. The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss
  9. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (Current page: 355 of 1225)

Didn’t do much reading today, since I spent most of the day running errands. I’m about to be homeless on July 1st, so that took priority, and then I spent a few hours announcing during a live broadcast for a Black community celebration here in town, which was loads of fun! About to settle in to read before bed

 

To see all Read-a-thon posts, go here.

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: June Check-In

Better late than never, eh? I have been so busy and stressed that this is the first time I’ve really had time and energy to work on this post. It was meant to go up on the 6th, of course, but that was finals week, and I had to crank out three papers, give a presentation in Spanish, and take a final exam — everything else was put on the backburner. Since then I’ve been frantically trying to get things together for my trip to Ghana. There’s so much for this trip I didn’t even think about. I’m giving myself serious adulting points for all of this — it’s a lot of work! Below are May’s points, and the Review post is below the cut.

 

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: May Check-In

I’ve been very frazzled this past month: there has been a lot of violence and unsafety in my community, which has gotten to the point that my doctor and I are talking about me going on anxiety meds. I’m having trouble getting restful sleep, which impacts my concentration, anxiety, chemical sensitivity, and pain levels. I’m tired all the time, and I’ve been really scattered and clumsy. For example, I managed to drop and break my phone rushing to catch the bus to school on Monday of this week, and that really feels like it encapsulates so much of my experiences this past month.

I can live without a phone, but I use it to track and manage my health, so I’d prefer not to, if possible. Unfortunately, I don’t have the money to get it fixed right now, but it’s been shedding glass shards in my purse and cutting up my palms, so leaving it broken isn’t going to work out. I’m trying to do some creative thinking about how to solve that problem.

I’m still using the GHDR Tracker form, and it’s really helping to motivate me. Dave made some updates to the Tracker form; I used the new version for two weeks, but found that the reduced number of bubbles irked me (I missed out on some points because I maxed out levels a few times) and that I really relied on the central task list to help me stay focused, so I switched back to the previous version. Below are April’s points, and the Review post is below the cut.

2016-04-04 01.09.02 HDR 2016-04-11 00.23.44 HDR 2016-04-26 14.44.20 HDR 2016-04-26 14.43.58 HDR 2016-05-02 02.46.20 HDR

 

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: April Check-In

Since my last post, a term of school has ended and another has started. I’m mostly recovered from “the Glutening” (which I just realized I never made a post about here, so y’all still probably don’t have any idea what I’m talking about), but I’ve managed to have a bunch of other problems, so my health is definitely still an issue.

I’m still using Dave Seah’s GHDR Tracker Form, and I made a customized points rubric for my own use, which made it a lot easier to determine how much I’m getting done. Previously I was eyeballing the somewhat abstract (for my own purposes) rubric that Dave made and haphazardly assigning points to things, with almost no standardization from day to day. I’m having a slight problem with maxing out some of the points levels some days, so I may have to sit down and think more about it. Anyway, here’s the points for March (I apologize for the wall of text):

2016-03-07 02.25.16 HDR 2016-03-14 00.17.28 HDR 2016-03-21 12.38.52 HDR 2016-03-28 01.05.06 HDR 2016-04-04 01.09.01 HDR

Tracking my effort in this way has revealed some interesting things to me. Mainly, some of the days I feel the worst about my ability to get things done are the days with the highest points. I think this is probably because self care and self love are one of my goal areas, so the days I feel least productive, I am taking care of my body or mental health, but my guilt about taking time off to do so means that physical downtime is often used to do things on my computer that I’ve been putting off, such as respond to emails or make graphics in Photoshop or make lesson plans, and so on.

For example, the week of the 21st, I came down with a sinus infection on Monday (somewhat conveniently, as it was the start of my woefully short spring break), and felt miserable on Tuesday, but also managed to do some graphics work and promotion for the poetry workshops I’m running this month, and finish applications for various components of study abroad; my points for the day came out to 63. The week of the 28th was the first week of classes, and the first week I used my custom rubric (though the sheet still shows the old one). On Wednesday of that week, I found an Islamophobic poster on campus that really rattled me. I pulled it down, and then had a panic attack. Despite knowing I should stay home, I went back to campus in the morning, because I didn’t want to miss Spanish (still my worst class), and proceeded to have possibly the worst panic attack I’ve ever had — I spent two hours squeezed into a corner in the Queer Resource Center’s back office, crying and obsessively watching the office door, until a friend brought me a tranquilizer, and I was able to function more normally; I have 80 points for that Thursday, some of which are for taking care of myself and some of which are for getting other homework done and sending emails and talking to school staff about the poster. I’m not sure exactly what this means about me — and it’s important to note that last week I was unusually productive, because it was the first week of classes, so I had a lot to be doing — but I’m going to keep tracking things and adjust my rubric as needed. If nothing else, tracking what I’m doing has helped me be more compassionate to myself in some ways, which is totally worth it.

 

Anyway, this month’s resolution review is below the cut:

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A Benediction for the End of 2015

I was recently invited to read at the second Grief Rites reading, for the Holiday Edition. As you may know, my father died on Thanksgiving when I was eight years old; I had originally planned to write a new poem about him to read there. But, as happens sometimes, it really wasn’t coming together. Instead, I read a selection of poems written around the holidays last year, and two new pieces written this holiday season. (You can read two of them online, one here and the other here.)

All of the poems I read explicitly address how I feel as a Black person living in America, a country — as I say in my poem “Colonize(d)” — “that would rather see me / shot in the face.” Of the poems I read, one memorializes the 16th St Baptist Church bombing, one memorializes the murder of Michael Brown, and the remaining three deal with the stress of protesting and racial justice work, and the pain of justice denied. They are heavy pieces, and I hesitated to read them.

Some readings, I leave the most radical or race-specific poems out if I am unsure of the crowd, because I have anxiety and chronic pain; baring my soul is hard enough without someone trying to argue with me, a depressingly common occurrence. This time, I read without censoring myself.

During the break, a white woman I’d never met came up to me. She began by telling me what I read really resonated with her, BUT… As it turns out, she was raised in Alabama, and the Alabama of my poem doesn’t exist any more. She insisted that everyone knew better now, that when she was growing up, no one would have done something so awful. She told me that her parents taught her that skin color doesn’t matter, that so long as a person was willing to work hard they would succeed. I pointed out the high rates of police violence against Black people, and she talked around that, reiterating that Alabama wasn’t like that any more, and then tried to say that as women, she and I face the same barriers in corporate America. I cited the racialized gender wage gap, and she said “Not in Dallas.”

She left to visit the bathroom, and then returned to assert that we shouldn’t focus on race, and that we just need to work hard; if we just work hard, we can succeed. She commended me on being strong, utterly missing the point of my poem, “Too Strong,” which is that having to bear up under the pressure of violence and discrimination is exhausting and demoralizing. When she finally went back to the bar, I hid in the bathroom for 10 minutes trying not to have a panic attack, and missed two of the other readers.

While this woman was doing her utmost to convince me I was wrong about the existence of racism, a wonderful friend of mine tried repeatedly to interrupt her, to get her to consider that I might not be open to this conversation, or that it might be painful to me. By the end of the night, I was so tense and overstimulated that I suffered severe migraine symptoms and passed out for 15 hours. When I woke up, I discovered that my contributor copies of Minerva Rising‘s latest issue, Sparrow’s Trill: Writers respond to the Charleston Shooting had arrived in the mail. Two of my poems are included in this special edition: “Placeholder for Home” and “My Black.”

Holding a copy in my hands, I feel so many feelings. This is the first time my poetry has been published outside my own press in half a dozen years, and it makes me feel validated. It reminds me that rejections are a part of the process, that my work can find a home. It reminds me that others are feeling what I’m feeling, struggling as I am struggling. It reminds me that even those who are not feeling what I am can empathize. It reminds me why I struggle. It reminds me why I sometimes feel burnt out.

When I finished work on After Ferguson, In Solidarity, one of our contributors asked me if we would do another anthology for Charleston. I said no; it took 9 months to get AFIS out, and I honestly needed a bit of a break. I started my press in order to put out AFIS, but I hadn’t reckoned with how hard it would be: soliciting submissions from folks, picking which pieces to include, chasing contributors down to get contracts signed, creating a coherent flow, getting the cover art done, fundraising, and more. I learned a lot, most of it the hard way, and I don’t regret it, but I’m also glad I didn’t try to do it again right away. Since I didn’t, I’m glad that Minerva Rising created this special issue, and I’m proud to be included in it.

I want to thank everyone who expressed to me at the Grief Rites reading that they appreciated my work. I hold onto that when I feel the urge to silence my voice, to be jaded and avoidant. The fatigue and frustration can be overwhelming, but that doesn’t mean my voice must be silenced; I have a community to hold me. I don’t have to do all the work myself.

So, for us all, I wish healing and comfort in the new year. I wish peace and joy and strength. I wish us loving community and found family. I wish us support in creative endeavors, and success in our work. I wish us a better world.

Happy holidays, everyone — I’ll see you on the other side!

Trees of Reverie Readathon: Bookish Challenge #3

Existentialism

The wretched of the Earth are killing — rage — ending — racism
like Greek Tragedies
from a mouthful of forevers, Lucy asks ‘Ain’t I a woman?’

Black women and their
feminism: the bones, the breaking, the balm
scars / stars

she’s crossing the mangrove, seeking the will to change
says ‘men (masculinity) and love are fantasy;
the dragon can’t dance’

says ‘I’m all about love — new visions — the other side,
but where we stand, class matters’

 

photo of a large number of books spread out on a black velveteen cloak
16 books used in the creation of this time’s spine poem — click the photo to check out poems by other participants in the October 2015 Trees of Reverie Readathon.

The books:

  • Existentialism by Robert Solomon
  • The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon
  • Killing Rage: Ending Racism by bell hooks
  • Greek Tragedies by David Grene and Richmond Lattimore (eds.)
  • Mouthful of Forevers by Clementine von Radics
  • Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid
  • Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks
  • The Bones, the Breaking, the Balm by Dominique Christina
  • Scars/Stars by Walidah Imarisha
  • Crossing the Mangrove by Maryse Condé
  • The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks
  • Fantasy by Jacqueline Furby and Claire Hines
  • The Dragon Can’t Dance by Earl Lovelace
  • All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks
  • The Other Side by Julia Alvarez
  • Where We Stand: Class Matters by bell hooks

There’s an alternate view of the books on my Instagram, and you can listen to me reading the poem on Soundcloud.

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Trees of Reverie July 2015 Readathon Day 4: Recommended Read

Day Four, Tuesday, July 14:

(All times are Brisbane local time)

I am participating in the July 2015 Trees of Reverie Read-a-thon. This is the Day 4 Challenge post.

Challenge:

If I could share and recommend only ONE book/series that I’ve read so far in 2015…

Oh, my! Just one? How do I even choose?! This is such a hard question…

Ugh. Okay, If I have to pick just one of the books I’ve read this year, I’m going to have to go with— Wow, this is hard…

Alright, I pick:

Mouthful of Forevers by Clementine Von Radics. I was invited to read my poetry at a reading she was also a part of, and though I got a bit lost and was late, I loved what I heard of hers, and after the event we swapped a copy of our own book for the other’s. I didn’t get to read it until a week later, though, when I devoured this book over the course of a flight from Oregon to Alaska for a debate tournament, and I made my teammates read my favorites, and gesticulated a bunch and was very, very excited.

(Warning for profanity.) Continue reading “Trees of Reverie July 2015 Readathon Day 4: Recommended Read”