Meditations: Inheriting My Mother’s Garden

There’s only one thing I know how to do when I feel badly – meditate. But it took me years to discover this secret. Years of trauma and meandering in and out of empty wells. When I was younger and attended church with my mother and grandmother I remembered being frightened by the seemingly violent emotion of women in church. They would rock and weep and sob loudly. They would pass out on the floor. Once I saw a large woman “get the Holy Spirit” and she hit her head falling on the alter. No one moved to help her. I grabbed my father’s arm and said “Daddy!! Daddy! That lady!” He looked over lazily and said “Oh. She alright.” I was mad at him for a long time about that and refused to go back to church with him for some weeks. My dad and I were like that: we’d get mad and stop speaking then get over it and go on.

When I saw “The Color Purple” at the movie theatre the first time with Mother and Nanny I didn’t understand Miss Celie and why she talked to God. I didn’t understand the songs in church like “Jesus Is My Friend”. Frankly I always had serious difficulties with Jesus. Well not with Jesus exactly but with Christianity, I never understood. I still don’t despite having a Theology degree from an undergrad Jesuit college. Christianity leaves me cold. I just didn’t get it.

But I had an innate understanding of spirituality, however. Even as a girl I was always happy cobbling together little rituals and prayers that I stole, magpie fashion, from my exposure to other religions. Judaism. Hinduism. Buddhism. Finding yoga and a yogi whose words finally made sense changed my life. My first experiences with meditation were so amazingly successful that I remember feeling suffused with a goodwill and confidence, or perhaps just an old fashioned blessing. Those early meditations carried me through the worst, emptiest, most frightening times of my life. It was the first time in my life I was confronted with human evil. I know nothing of supernatural evil like the Exorcist (and since I get so scared in horror movies that I literally cry tears of fright I hope never to encounter it.) But simple, commonplace human evil is its own terror, the kind that leaves you shivering in the bed in bright daylight fearing what will come next from someone’s spite and general lack of compassion.

Maybe your experience in life is devoid of anything that you would attribute to spiritual resolve. For me I can’t imagine my life without it. I spend a lot of time in meditation asking Why this? or Why that? Technically that is prayer. Meditation is the listening part. Somedays I’m good at calming myself and patiently falling into that Place. Some days though the fear and despair block your attempts. But that’s when you must work hardest.

My favorite thing is when an answer actually comes. Meditation is like going into Bergdorf Goodman as a beggar and having every salesperson from all the high-end boutiques greet you as a queen. “Take this!! And you’ll need this too!!” …”Oh have you seen our newest line? Have some! Oh did you take extras for family and friends? Here!! Here!” (Yes there is probably something wrong with describing my spiritual life in materialistic terms but this is my metaphor. You can go describe yours like Walden Pond or Dover Beach or whatever. My meditation is like Bergdorf Goodman, I say.)

It’s getting amazing answers from the void that are so extraordinary that it sometimes puts me in a good mood for weeks at a time. The other day I had barely been sitting for five minutes when a story idea dropped in my lap beginning, middle and end.
Someone hurt my feelings recently and I’ve spent a lot of time listening for some — what? Wisdom? Answers? Yes. — some explanation. Trying to find a salve for my heart because I feel sad.

I look at myself in the mirror and to see my tiny self. Though my face doesn’t necessarily display my age I know recognize myself as those women from my childhood. The Miss Celies. The emotional crying women in church who held it together all week long until they could make it to Church on Sunday and let their emotions free.
Except that I don’t wait until Sunday. I’ll go meditate two, three, times a day if I can. I keep asking the Universe the same question until I get an answer. In that, my spiritual practices are no different from the way I am in talking to real flesh and blood humans all day long. I like to get RESULTS.

So now I save my emotions and tears and even some joy for entering the Spiritual Bergdorf Goodman of the Universe. Alice Walker’s essay “InvSearch of Our Mother’s Gardens” was probably the most impactful thing I read in college. She talks about the fragile, mental artists who had very little in their material life and such rich emotional artistic and spiritual lives, and I remember recognizing all that she discussed as if it were a future memory. Perhaps I have finally entered that vague future memory at last.

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On Voldemort, Trump and the Beast of Fear: Fighting The Horcruxes of Despair

Ultimately Voldemort was defeated by the underground network, the Order of the Phoenix. We, the resistance, don’t have a Dumbledore because the Democratic Party failed spectacularly. We only have us. Destroy the horcruxes in his cabinet and his appointees. Fight him everywhere everyday.

Voldemort was a powerful dark wizard but the powers of goodness and light overpowered him because of the understanding of love. There is love among the opposition: we love us, them, and our country but we must fight until love defeats hate and darkness.

Fight the powers that be. No justice no peace. The people united will never be defeated.

Voldemort was vile, vindictive, cruel, and soulless. He had immense powers to do irreparable evil and damage but we as a united force can oppose this creature of evil. Voldemort was unnamed by the people who were oppressed known only as He Who Must Not Be Named or You Know Who by those who feared to invoke his power. Dumbledore on the other hand noted that fear of a name only reinforced fear of the dark.

Trump is the darkness. He has invoked fear among us. He has spoken hate and threatened the peace of the innocent. He has said that our undocumented countrymen are rapists and murderers. He has denigrated and assaulted women. He has told “the blacks” that they are jailed and uneducated so what did they have to lose. The LGBT community has been singled out for punishment through conversion therapy. We have so much to lose under a Trump presidency. The vulnerable peoples of this country have reason to fear.

Just as some wizards moved to the Dark Lord there were many others who resisted. We must resist this whitelash. Voldemort in his final battle sneered at the opposition and promised vengeance for their resistance. He mocked Harry Potter as weak but Potter defeated Voldemort with his own wand.

Trump can damage us but he can can damage himself as well. He is responsible for the chaos, the fear, the hopelessness that we feel and like Voldemort it will strip his soul into pieces. As leader of the free world he has invoked the powers of darkness and discontent but that will weigh upon him everyday because the resistance will wear him out. He doesn’t believe that we have power over him to block. his intentions.

So there will be discontent and grief.

There will be grief.

Grieve but resist.

You may suffer but resist.

He talks a good game to invoke this whitelash, but even they are unwitting to their own vulnerability.

Believe in victory and resist.

The victory is ours.

PostScript: I am a well-versed Potterhead. Don’t hate.

The Struggle Epic: Black Women Embracing the Enemy Inside

Artwork by Jnell Jordan

Struggle and poverty are NOT in the black woman’s DNA, they are NOT a part of her lineage or legacy. So why do so many of us AIM to struggle? Is struggle a rite of passage to black womanhood? Why deliberately make your life harder than it needs to be?
Why have children before educating yourself, building critical skills for the marketplace, saving up money and establishing a safe family environment?
Where does this attitude of “we gon’ make it” come from? And why are we keeping this message going?

This morning I came across an excellent question posed by the bloggers of the Facebook salon For Black Women ONLY.

I think that every black woman who is in the process of escape from these demons of tradition is haunted by this question.
Further, I think the “we gon make it ” attitude stems from the fact that so many black women are born into a family and surrounding world of poverty and ignorance that for many the attitude of surviving the Struggle is itself a kind of positive outlook.We see our mothers and sisters and grandmothers struggle under these burdens and considering how little they have, many women often make what seems under those circumstances to be “the best of a bad situation”. They support families after all and on occasion manage to scrimp and save just a little bit of something to have something nice when they can.

My grandmother used to say that some folks don’t know and they don’t know what they don’t know, which I think applies to so many black women in America who are shut out of participation in the American Dream through systematic structures that are designed to keep black women poor, uneducated, unable to access even the meanest of available resources like grocery stores that sell fresh food. When was the last time you saw a Whole Foods in the ghetto? Exactly. NEVER. This is not accidental. Michelle Obama works to fight obesity but why is it a problem? Do these people just sit up and eat like nasty pigs? What is wrong with those people? Well, for one, black neighborhoods do not have access to many of the most basic resources that are taken for granted in better neighborhoods. While there are many and many liquor stores, check cashing and payday loan businesses, pawn shops and mini-mart gas stations full of sugary soda, and junk food you’ll be hard pressed to locate a decent grocery.

On tv black women see sitcoms, dramas, and rom-coms about white people who pursue fulfilling careers and professions that require extensive university education. They live is fabulously plush homes that are large and airy and beautiful in neighborhoods that filled with wealthy, pretty people who own multiple luxury cars. But look at Detroit and Flint Michigan, the Cities that God Left Behind, residents have no clean,running water for weeks since the city cut off water due to financial strain on the city’s empty coffers. Does your city have running water? Don’t worry, that is a rhetorical question.

On television, impoverished black women can witness white men on golf courses discussing their stock portfolios and how they intend to produce more wealth for their personal disposal, and to black women born to ignorance, poor education and poverty it’s as good as watch aliens from another planet. I’m a black woman who is frequently  called “over educated” by other black women who’ve had to labor from young ages without the benefit of being educated at fancy East Coast universities, women who have worked all their life….but don’t you know that even I don’t know many things about how white people obtain their wealth  beyond my understanding of well,  the old boy network, corruption, coded rules to keep out brown folk….

For those black women who don’t know and don’t know that they don’t know they see the Struggle as almost an optimist’s outlook – the glass is half, well not full, but it’s got something in it at least, even if the liquid in there supposed to be water isn’t looking so clear at all… But not knowing also produces the tragedy of merely SURVIVING  which of course is not anything similar to true living. Subsistence level  existence is not equal to thriving.

Furthermore, poor schools, poverty and the absence of  other institutions of human necessity within the  structure of “blackistans” and “chiraqs” – black communities of high violence and low resources – insulated from the rest of civilized America which possess basic necessities such as clean water, grocery stores stocked with healthful food and thriving businesses to serve the communities needs – merely perpetuate this extremely harmful, dangerous existence characterized  by The Struggle that is so vaunted and revered among black women surviving in America.

But The Struggle is also responsible for destroying black women – their health, minds that are troubled by depression and other untreated mental illnesses, their bodies struggling with excessive weight from nutrient poor foods. And, finally when one’s health is gone, the mind under siege, the body suffering, it is only reasonable and tragically logical that the soul itself becomes threatened.

And these are the dangers inherent to the cultural embrace of the very principle of survival that in the end has proved most destructive of all the troubles and struggles facing a woman with black skin within a white world that coldly blames the victim for her inability to thrive beneath the boot of the victimizer.

As I write this, the lyrics to the song Get A Life by Soul II Soul keep running through my mind, the refrain sung by high piping children’s voices ask What’s the Meaning of  Life?:

Dreaming of your goals, ambitions and feeling free

I’m on this mission to achieve

Achieve what? What’s in your minds eye? This is what you believe you should gain
What’s the meaning? What’s the meaning of life? Elevate your mind and free your soul 

So there it is, work it out for yourself. Yeah, be selective, be objective. Be an asset to the collective As you know, you gotta get a life

Subsistence is only the most base level of survival; survival is not thriving; and The Struggle, endurance is merely existing. Our history as black women in America has infused our culture with the belief that black women are the least of these, and we ourselves have reinforced the idea and this anemic spirit of sufferance to our daughters; we have obediently followed the rules of hard labor with a perverse sort of alacrity even competing with one another to prove who can be the strongest, the hardest, the most run down yet still functioning; it is almost a source of shame in the feminine black culture to admit to weakness beneath the burden. The conditions that change at glacial pace have entrapped so many within a sort of volunteer slavery notwithstanding the conditions imposed upon us by a system devoid of compassion which pays only lip service to the ideals of Freedom, Civilization, Equality and Prosperity.

Those who escape do so like our ancestors who coveted freedom so desperately that they ran from their captors fearful yet disdainful at the risks, instinctively understanding that any freedom was superior to the wicked stability of enslavement.

Are we now enslaving ourselves to the principle of Survival and Struggle? And what meaning does life have once one accepts the principle which has been fed to us with our mother’s milk? Is it betrayal to utterly defy and reject the lesson in pursuit of realizing the true nature of our soul’s potential?

Or are betrayal and defiance the only tickets that will gain us passage to a sort of Underground Railroad to a new, fulfilling life of choice, health, opportunity and the tantalizing luxury of possibility, which is only second in by the ultimate goal: the  sumptuous extravagance inherent to the chance of having a Dream, pursuing the Dream of having more…more life, more love, more joy once the shackles of our destructive inheritance have been sundered forever

On Trump

Trump is about to revisit a form of racism on black folks with 19th century realness and our white brothers and sisters have decided that’s perfectly okay. I’m over the delusion that Hillary can save us. Black and brown people are the sacrifical lambs of this election. We’ve been sold down the river again.

I don’t know if I can adequately explain how fearful it is in any era  to be  black or brown. The fear of America is something we live with daily but in my lifetime I’ve never seen such a collective nervous breakdown of the white mind to compare to this. We have always had to fear white people and even with the election of President Obama we’ve seen him accomodate the baser natures of haters over the love and hope of black folks whom he took for granted with shocking ease. The price of this democratic experiment has always been at the expense of every black or brown soul in this country.

For a brief eight years the myth of the post racial era has been the delusion of white liberals to the rage of white conservatives. When George W. Bush won the second time I was in shock but that doesn’t compare to the cold insidious nature of this election. This election was always Hillay’s to lose and with four days to go it appears she’s done it. I was never under illusion that she would be some gift to black folks because even Obama denied us the justice and compassion that was so needed to address the sins of the white fathers and brothers and sisters, but the horror I feel at the likely reign of President Trump is all encompassing.

The dirty secret of race in America is that black folk and brown folk  and white folk have never trusted one another and the proof exists in the superficial fabric deep through to the very soul of this country.

I dont think anyone in my generation has ever seen this kind of rank and overt distuption to the point that a majority of Americans have decided not to even pretend to  respect the polite eyes-averted semblance of mutual peace, that pretense of equality that we rely on to interact with one another.

If you don’t speak out against atrocity then you implicitly support it; if you voted for Trump you explicitly support it. The only power that we have is the power of our voices and the screaming is set to begin. Holla if you hear me and don’t stop. What do you have to lose he asked and the answer was always self evident; the least of the of those losses is that transparent film of (dis)trust because we know where we stand now if we never did: black folks were a subjugated people before and that’s where some feel we belong.

Becoming a Soul Mistress: Black Women on a Journey out of Hell

More Thoughts on the maligned Angry Black Woman: From Self Destructor to Survivor

The next hurdle to be conquered  by  the much maligned  Angry Black Women can only be won by harnessing that passionate energy and directing one’s  intensity for creative and productive purpose. The passion is anger, pain, desperation, the unrequited love that we feel for our families, lovers, our country. Allowed to fester it is our greatest danger, our most dreaded enemy; if it is not re-directed in a positive fashion it can eat you alive. Witness already vulnerable  black women imperil themselves with excessive weight and food addictions, crippling depression and other untreated mental illness, as well as other chronic medical ailments like diabetes, heart disease, pelvic pain. Allowed to turn inward, that passion destroys the Self, and in the meantime it can make everyone around  that woman  miserable as well. 

The grief of watching mothers, sisters, wives, daughters killing themselves slowly by supping on anger is a familiar experience to black men and women.There is a great well of power within black women who are the most expert survivors in American culture. But we are experts in suicidal behavior as well, which is what swallowed pain, anger and despair amounts to. If we look at some of the great icons of black creativity  like  Ntozake Shange, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Iyanla Vanzant, Oprah, Michelle Obama we see women who  have grappled with these issues of self destructiveness in their personal lives, but they have managed to harness some of that energy into positive  creativity via art, writing, spirituality and social outreach. These roads of creativity are the ultimate saviours, saving us from ourselves.

What is the quick and easy way to analyze one’s anger, to change it into productivity?

Is there a formula for this? In short: NO there is no formula, there is no EASY way to positivity and productivity. Many women – myself included – are often taken to the brink of death before they learn that in order to survive the only choice in life is change.

And it is a terrifying journey, that Only Choice/ Change issue. It is a lonely journey. But the spirit improves over time. You develop greater strength, even when  the terrain becomes daunting the deeper you travel into  previously unexplored territory….

We,  the Angry Black Women, are seekers in the quest  for Validation. Acceptance. Success. Creativity. Spirituality. Safety. Security. Unconditional Love.We are seeking Peace. But the Truth that you must contend with before these gifts can ever be attained is that  only YOU are responsible for your own success or failure.

Those virtues are attainable. Yet, no one denies that the road is long and hard. Just the fight for stability in one’s life amidst the struggles with bills, under-employment at low wage jobs, student loans, and family responsibility threaten us with overwhelming despair in the face of one’s fragile and newly formed determination. These challenges are the  mundane  distractions, real and frustrating, difficulties that we all face.

But the first task in developing and strengthening that spiritual determination is a simple one: begin  each day in the soft quiet embrace of meditation. Focus in complete silence and get in touch with one’s soul. In this way you begin to take responsibility for your well being and discover the whys and wherefores of one’s  anger and other emotions as well. This is the essential first step. Prepare to be surprised continuously once you begin this journey. Make room for a new friend in your life; make room for the side of your Self  that you have never seen before.

The holy grail that you seek upon  this visionquest is  Peace. From the outside forces beyond our control. From racism and sexism. From ourselves. And we are seeking the comfort of that Self that we know exists inside though it has hidden itself away in fear.

This is the journey out of hell.

It is travel from the suicidal pact of self  destruction to the ultimate freedom that accompanies self- mastery. Every black woman who has experienced suffering –through racism, sexism, the demons of addiction, and the heartbreaking  routine of inane “work” which provides little income yet still denies one the opportunity of true expression — is on a journey.

Your final destination — like Alice’s trek across Wonderland to the Eighth Square —  ends at the place where you shall be crowned in majesty as the Soul Mistress of power and love that is inside. The gift is the return to Self.

What every black woman seeks is to become the Mistress of her own Fate and  Queen of her Soul.

Deconstructing the Angry Black Woman: Shacondria Unchained

First off let’s place  Anger in it’s proper context. Anger is a vital element and essential stop off point in the journey of self realization. And the journey self realization begins at the subway station where it becomes clear by the merest suspicion that something is wrong – not just in one’s own personal world but in the world  at large that includes all souls. Self realization moves thru many stages no different from  Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s stages of grief. In fact the journey travels  through all of those stages, but has the potential to end with a peaceful and even happy acceptance. But let’s be real: long travels and extended journeys — especially in the economy cabin — are tiring and stressful. Who doesn’t feel some intense emotion on a journey? That’s just human. So let’s first contextualize this discussion by noting that Angry Black Women, so-called, are on a journey and they are in that particular leg of the trip where the travel has become hardest and most unbearable. And that woman who is the strongest of women just can’t  take it anymore.

I was watching Chris Rock’s concert Bigger and Blacker recently on Youtube and reviewing the extreme variety of comments so idiosyncratic of that site when I read the top voted post under one of his routines: “Yes black women have such big ego problems.” This comment  only proved that the commenter totally misunderstood Chris Rock’s routine frankly, but it  seemed to me indicative of  a  common judgement of black women by white Americans who are chief recipients of privilege and entitlement in society. That disdain and dismissal of the black female’s worth and humanity by reducing her personality to a Psychology Lite diagnosis of  “ego problems” is hurtful. Those same judges tend to consistently overlook the fact that black women have historically functioned as the lowest rung of social entities on that ladder of rank and privilege.

According to the social scale of white supremacy a black man will always be beneath all whites, and everyone sits atop the black female. So, yes, in that sense one could say that black women encounter ego problems.

This is communicated in numerous ways and means but black women are never left in the dark regarding the very specific judgements of white counterparts because we are told ever so clearly and succinctly that we do not measure up. Black women in America are non-conformist in their very being. Every black female I know in my generation  (EVERY ONE, ALL) at some point has been told by a white person  “You know you do your job well but some people think you have a chip on your shoulder sweetie”.

Shacondria: Really? Is that what people think? Can you give me their names so I can beat the shit out of them?

*Politrixie stares mournfully across the room at the speaker*

Okay. I didn’t say that nor did anyone else I know. But that is Shacondria over there who just said that, um, violent thing. She doesn’t mean it.

S: Oh yes!! I mean it!! Don’t tell me what I mean to say!!

*le sigh*

Let’s talk about Shacondria. You won’t know about her because I don’t see her so often anymore. But there was a time when Shacondria and I were really tight.  I mean, I know her as well as I know myself–

S: You are a simple, silly bitch. I am yourself, idiot!!

Shacondria is my evilene ego-trippin Angry Black Woman self. My other personality. I knew if I tried to discuss this subject that she might hear me …but I thought she was sleep and maybe I’d get away with it. And I admit that she – um, we  have some legitimate issues. It’s cool. I’m open. I know there’s work that me and Shacondria need.

But the bottom line is that  she doesn’t need is to be continually told by entitled white male kingpins of our society about how she could more effectively go about slinking beneath the oppressive weight of every superior individual’s criticisms in order to conform to the black female Miss Celie- stereotype. I mean maybe one day the time will come when we can have that conversation as whites and blacks but right now we’re still in the stage where folks need to do some seriously listening and learning and understanding.

And, lord, let’s don’t even get on the topic about how the paler nation transmits its disapproval of her name. Respectable Negro types too. People don’t even pretend to try to address her courteously.

Leave it to the black woman’s oracle Alice Walker to discuss the truth in her seminal essay “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens” in which she identifies the stereotypical roles of black women from  the “mule of the world” to Sapphira to Evilene. Is there any other race that is granted so many rich, complex but negative stereotypes? I don’t know. I think black women have a serious lead in the race. Black women are maybe just coming into their own where they can be seen as individuals of high capability and promise. We’re maybe beginning to stop being mules in the eyes of the Man. But not quite.

So before those of you related to the Man go to judging maybe try a little compassion first. Here let me help–

The thing that takes Shacondria all the way there is the arbitrary method that white folks go about identifying their bete noir, the Angry Black Woman. It makes no damn sense. Because first and foremost they go after her face.  Everyone has a face and every face has its  expressions. For some reason that I have never understood a black woman’s blank straight-mouth face is always interpreted as a mean face or a sad face. I mean, maybe inside that woman does feel that way but Bitchy Resting Face is a thing now as I have heard but that doesn’t mean that one should treat a woman bitchily. That’s not nice, now is it?

People get in your face and say dumb shit like “SMILE!!” It’s startling to be thinking about your laundry when some stranger foists their own unfamiliar visage in yours and shouts something so inane. It is such a harsh and deeply unfair criticism to be picked on for how you look, and black women are always being told their hair is too nappy, their asses too big,  lips too full. We have never been able to conform to bodily stereotypes and then you go and tell me my face is unsatisfactory?

Sometimes people are sincerely  inquiring  if you’re alright, sure, I know. But  I’ve never understood the perception. Why is the straight face, the I’m-just-minding-my own-business-face on black women so threatening to some whites?

Don’t you think it’s hurtful to be told so in so many different and vividly expressive ways?

Perhaps black women just don’t tend to look dewy, doe eyed as a rule. I don’t know. But nothing makes one more self conscious than to be told that your Minding-My-Own-Business Face is intimidating. How would you feel if that continually happened to you?

Because it’s happened countless times to Shacondria. I know she feels self-conscious. Because she’s so often told that she just doesn’t conform; she can never quite pull off the trick of invisibility – and she tries so hard.

S: So don’t fucking look at my face. Fuck you.

ME: SHACONDRIA!! STOP IT!!!

S: Don’t tell me to stop, you silly-ass bitch!! I’m not stopping nuthin!! Fuck them people!! I do my work. Pay me and let me go the fuck home. I hate them crazy ass white people!!

ME: Okay but you’re not helping this situation and I’m trying to explain why–

S: Fuck helping!! I don’t feel like helping nobody!! Somebody need to help me!! Help me pay this goddamn rent and —

ME: Okay see that’s exactly what people don’t understand. You’re shouting and cursing. You’re way up in my face, girl. Back up. And why are you so mean ALL THE TIME. Nobody can say a damn word to you without you rolling your eyes and–

S: See!! That ain’t even true. I don’t act that way. Why do people get to lie on me and when I say something to defend myself I get called a hater and shit?

It ain’t fair! Those white people who say that shit are crazy. Crazy and mean because that’s essentially what racism and sexism is about at the end of the day! But I’m the one with a problem?!Excuse me for living! OOH!! Makes me so mad!

I don’t act that way because my mother raised me with manners! So why don’t I deserve to be treated with manners?! Them white people got your head fucked up, girl. I do my job. I do my job well. I don’t bother nobody. I mind my own business and do what I’m told.

Then people get in my face and talk about “You got a CHIP on your shoulder” What the fuck does that even mean? How about this you white muthaf—

ME: Whoa!! whoa!! CHILL OUT!! SHACONDRIA!! You need to calm down!!

S: I need to whup your ass is what!! Up taking up for the Man are you? Why don’t you and Don Lemon hook up!!

*dead silence, hateful glare from Shacondria to Politrixie, heat radiating in increasing temperature. Danger!! Danger!!*

*looking warily at Shacondria, moving far away, looks at audience*

Anyway. Look here’s what you’ve got to understand: Shacondria is angry. She is alright? You don’t know her life but she’s had a hard time. Yes that’s no excuse to be mean and angry. But what you’re not considering is that Shacondria has no one but herself. She is alone in the world. She can’t lean on anyone. There’s no one there to lean on. She pays her own bills – on time.  She works hard and responsibly.

But she is naked and vulnerable in the world to all the worst hates and judgments, and these are powerful forces that work upon our souls. We are shaped by the worlds we live in: if Shacondria is so intimidating yet she is the least powerful of all those who number the social classes, what does that say about how we treat those who most need protection?

So do a lot of people but they don’t act that way. You’re right. But you know Shacondria isn’t STUPID. Calling her names and judging her and refusing to try to get to know the person in that brown skin behind Bitchy Resting Face only means that you have already invalidated her and demeaned her as a human being. You made an assumption about her without knowing. She’s smart. I mean, deeply intelligent. She’s not  the “mule of the world” but she isn’t unaware of that her condition in this life amounts to that at times. Shacondria  knows what you think about her. She knows that you are judging her. That you feel threatened enough to not bother to try to humanize her by understanding her.

I used to be her. She used to be really un-self aware. But now she isn’t and that’s why she’s angry. She knows that there are so many things wrong in the world and that in a wrong world no one is more vulnerable to mistreatment than the least of these, of whom black women prominently number. You think that because Oprah has a network and Michelle wears pretty dresses in the White House that discrimination is dead.

See that’s what I’m trying to tell you.

Shacondria knows that isn’t true.

She knows that for every beloved mainstream token that white America chooses to adopt, it merely hides the millions of unnoticed, unloved, unheard black women like her. And while the favored black representative lives well and parties well and becomes the face of the Black Woman, she is breaking her back everyday. The Special Ones merely distract from and obscure the condition of the Dispossessed classes who struggle daily without making the damnedest stride ahead. And no one cares.

Shacondria knows a lot of things. She’s probably the most insightful individual in American culture among the myriad vegetables in the Salad Bowl. Cuz that’s another thing this ain’t no Melting Pot. Unless you want to say that maybe other folk melt and blend in the cauldron and Shacondria and women like her are the charcoal. Do you see what I’m saying?  Bet you never thought about where the fire came from to make the heat for that chemical melting process.

Well it’s us in the fire, and for sure the Native Americans can’t even give off enough proper fuel anymore there’s so few of them left.  Poor folks of all colors. The Dispossessed classes defy color and they provide the fuel, and do the burning in the fire beneath the Melting Pot.  Shacondria belongs to the Dispossessed, and she knows it.

No, it is not cynicism. She knows that in her lifetime this will not change. Deep intuitive analysis that penetrates the very soul of our nation is located in the Dispossessed which you would know had you ever truly listened and tried to understand. It is a heavy load, a heavy burden to know that you can attend the barbecue as long as you burn and don’t eat. It’s a heavy load  on her back, that knowledge, and it is painful. And there just ain’t no medicine for that kind of pain, outside of freedom. Freedom from the chains that bind the Dispossessed to the burden. And there isn’t going to be any freedom for Shacondria until we listen and learn and change.

You remember that tale of the Lion with the thorn in his paw? Yeah. Pain makes you angry. Sure does. Shacondria wants to know when someone plans to come along and take the thorn out of her paw. The load from her back. She’s been waiting a long time. She tried to call out for help and no one listens. The doctor is not in. He has left the building.

She’s not so bad at all when she’s not hurting. You’d be surprised if you got to know her. She’s funny!! And so smart!! She can sing and dance and Paula Deen wish she could cook like Shacondria. She–

S: Fuck that bitch!! I can make my own Soul Food.

ME: Girl I’m not telling you again!!  And  stop with the cursing! Damn! They already think all of us are ghetto trash as it is and you are making it worse.
*mumbles* Crazy bitch.
*loudly*   I ain’t afraid of you so stop acting up.  I will put you out!! Now shut up.

*Shacondria begins taking off her jewelry, pulling her hair back. Grabs the vaseline to grease her face. Cracks her knuckles. She’s preparing to fight Politrixie. *

*Politrixie looks on warily as Shacondria performs the necessary reverse toilet. Prepares to bolt*

ME: Look I got to deal with something just now.I’ll be back later. This girl is trippin…

*sets out at a dead run*

                                 **************************************
TEXT: Um, check it out. I can’t talk just now because Shacondria knocked me in my mouth for calling her a bitch. But I didn’t finish what I was saying. I’ll come finish our talk — you know, like, after my face unswells. But don’t be mad at her. I love her. She is me.  I know her heart. But I mean, straight up, she needs some counseling for real. 
~Politrixie :@ mwa! 

Of Incense, Herb and Smoky New York Nostalgia: A Memoir of the Great Weed Drought of 1998

Okay I probably should have more shame than to post about how enjoyable the newest Hot Pockets commercial is with Snoop Lion  and Bow Wow especially since I would never eat Hot Pockets ever but the truth it is mad funny!! Now I never have had a Hot Pocket and what’s more I never want one. In my youth I baked for jovial companionship’s sake and surely with as much frequency as my peers and there was gorging upon junk food before during and afterward of course but–

Well, allow me to amend that statement for clarity and fact.

I cannot make the claim that I baked with as much frequency as my jovial companions because my peers, who were primarily my two house mates in the apartment we shared off-campus, stayed lit ALL DAY, ERRY DAY without fail. They managed a continuity of herb induced mellowness, a state of being that required rigorous discipline upon their part which worked according to a strict schedule and brooked no deviation from its religious practice. That is, until the Great Herb Drought of ’97…ah, I tell you young uns out here you don’t know nothin’ until you survive a Drought, dear god. But I shan’t think those bad ole days….

Our apartment was smoky basement den of herb and incense though we kept a very neat home that also benefited from excellent fresh air cross currents of the open windows and fans. If you were a fellow traveler, a Smoker-Toker-Stoner of similar religious devotion then the atmosphere was quite pleasant. But we could be driven to a furious panic and maniacal fits of house cleansing over drive for days prior to parental visits, attempting to make the quarters look and smell less…. HERBAL …..and incense overwhelmed.

One Friday evening my housemate Jackson warned me that he was going to pick up his sister, who was visiting for the weekend, and that he’d be returning in 20 to 30 minutes. Being more than lightly toasted already from God’s greatest and grandest plant I seated myself down at the kitchen table to sort out the seeds and stems from the dime bags I had purchased earlier that day. I was peaceably sorting — alas, forgetting Jackson’smarihuanagirl3 warning that he was returning directly with his older sister. Thus, I was caught out in the shameful act as I sat at the old, beat down wooden kitchen table cutting up a large fragrant pile of herb with a credit card. Oh! Naturally I had enough class to feel embarrassed but also felt the special  resentment a host feels   against non-toker guests: take your delicate sensibilities to somebody else’s sober house for the weekend!!

That kind of stress only causes a stoner to feel greater reliance on the holy nerve easing weedplant; after all no one wants to feel uncomfortable in their own home. It was merely the True Plant of the Lord that I was tending but I felt at that moment like Tony Montana when he was face full in the pile of  coca. All I needed was to stand and an say “Ju wanna fuck wit me?! Hey! Ju fucking wit the best okay? You fucking cock-a-roaches!”  

But that would have been a lie which would only have poorly concealed my mortification and disgrace. We were stoners but we entertained frequently and tried to present a true cozy, homely homeyness to our humble abode. Yet the truth remained that I was a weakling and poorly respected among my friends of higher tolerance and more manly consumption. While still but an innocent my dear friends pressed blunts upon me despite my feeble refusals (“Smoke this shit girl!!”) only to repay their generosity/peer pressure (?) nearly instantly with my snores; inevitably in those early months following  my herbal initiation I could be relied upon to pass out after only a few puffs off a blunt.

The Bronx has changed certainly since I was there but during my hay-days (high-daze?) in the 90s  we were cursed to have to put up with a foul low quality weed sold in our neighborhood that blessed you with a wicked burn in the throat which was increased ten fold by blunts which are harsh at the best of times. It was without doubt or competition the crappiest weed in New York City. It was poor, poor, wack ass weed however, I allow that it did get you high, I must say.

Visitors from other boroughs – let alone out of towners – were consistently appalled at our Bronx herb. It wasn’t that we were too stupid to know good quality from shit but we were prisoners of our borough, loyal to our hood. We were college kids sure, but if it was good enough for the fine residents of the Bronx and our neighbors who surrounded us, then we chose to accept it as good enough for ourselves. Yet  these babyish, spoiled guests had the nerve and ill-manners to complain.  One can only smoke what can be procured, is this not so? And for the gargantuan and constant supply required to keep me and my housemates blunted it was simply an impracticality to go vision-questing and tromping, daily or even weekly, into other distant, unknown boroughs for such a household necessity and staple every bit as critical as bread or milk. 

Henceforth, we became strong as a result of the trials endured by smoking the Bronx weed. We were soldiers living side by side with the People of the Bronx as People of the Bronx, and we smoked what they smoked, what smoke our hometown provided. Yes this is THE BRONX, fool!! Don’t come up in our house, in our hood, talking bout our shitty weed!! We knew it was shitty weed, and we acknowledged the inferiority of the seedy, stemmy, bullshit throat burning, headache causing, crusty poor ass buds we smoked.  Nonetheless, we felt that it was ill befitting the manners and etiquette of guest-friendship to criticize our hospitality. since naturally hospitality demanded that we offer guests a share of  smoke if we ourselves chose to partake in front of them.

 However, as time passed, a certain Realness settled over the household presently and we three determined that hospitality did not, in fact, demand that we share with each and every guest during each and every visit. Lo, we did discern with startling clarity that some visitors verily abused our kindliness, hospitality and spirit of generosity. Thence, we became wise from that which we did smoke, and so, shared no longer. 

Truly the Herb blesses its true and faithful adherents with powerful wisdom and keen saavy. Blessed be the name of that Plant.

Furthermore, it was just plain insulting to have our cordial generosity disrespected so arrogantly by moochers. Yes, the herb was shitty, but it was our herb and only we had right to  insult its quality here in our home. Indeed, do get thyself the fuck away from our bong and out of our house!!

Some guests, foul folk ill-deserving of the guestly manner by which we assiduously treated them, invariably departed with certain of our most cherished and important belongings. Thieves. Our joint roller was stolen about three different times. Three different joint rollers. People are so trifling. Once, we had a party and naturally uninvited guests from our rival clique showed up. Unknown Assailants managed to find their way into one of the bedrooms and rifled through our belongings precisely in order to rob our joint roller. We never understood that. A joint roller costs like seven dollars including taxes. Go to the head-shop and get your own you thieving bastards!

So after every party hosted for the  winsome enjoyment and pleasure of our guests, still afterwards, we three had to tromp down to the Village – again – to purchase a new joint roller again. The fucking thing never failed to disappear in a crowded house. Who can you trust?! We trusted in only ourselves. Sadness and grief over the beloved joint roller endowed our bond of friendship  with unbreakable fortitude.

That is until Mayor Rudolf Giuliani started to crack down on the street weed dealers in the summer of ’97 or ’98. My memory fails me as to which summer precisely (unsurprisingly) that the Great Drought began– but it is certain that the first act of aggression and hostility began when Giuliani sent his band of thugs and  Brown Shirts – also known as NYPD –  to persecute the street level weed merchants, runners and other peeps of the Plant. This was the beginning of the drought on the streets that eventually became deeply serious in its effects upon my household and in many other New York City households as well.

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Artwork by Mcfreshcreates

 

You cannot even understand the severity and the sufferings of this time period. All of New York City was effected. At times I feared for my friends’ sanity as the nightmare of withdrawl began to set in, rear its ugly head and take hold with a ferocity that was unimaginably harsh but especially so upon those like my housemates who had been accustomed to maintaining a continuous high broken with only rare visits to the flat garish surfaces of reality and sobriety during the early days of yore, in which there was plentiful living off the fat of the land . 

As the days stretched out and my housemates’ precious stash became more depleted tempers flared at the slightest annoyances: “Turn that damn Wyclef album down!! I’m fucking tired of hearing “Guantanamera”! Don’t play that shit no more!! I hate Wyclef! I hate Guantanmera!! I hate you!! Arrrghh!” 

The anguished attacks  by my loved ones, my usually mellow friends who were full of cheer and good humor, became standard operating procedure around the house in the days of drought. Ah! the golden days of plenty had wound to a shocking halt. The days of lean and mean had arrived.  And once upon a time “Guantanamera” had been everything. 

There was no weed to be found in the Bronx. Or, anywhere for that matter, and the search to locate a mere dime bag was fraught with paranoia and true danger as well.  Only with much perseverance, frantic worry and dedicated search and seeking did the guys return one day after several hours  of searching the streets of the Bronx for the elusive herb. David and Jackson, my roommates, were deeply effected by the circumstances that forced their lifestyle to become temporarily disrupted. And David, who lived joyfully off Hot Pockets, was becoming despondent. Jackson had become agitated and  aggravation bedeviled him; in this state it was interesting to glimpse the possible motivations for our smoking habits beyond the simple enjoyable escapist possibilities. Finally, after a week of trailing out deep into the Bronx streets, they found a 300-pound dealer ,who went by the name Jello, who could be found lurking in the darkest, most shadowy apartment block doorways beyond Webster Avenue. 

Jello sold huge, fat 20-bags of surprisingly good weed, much better than our usual stuff. Of course his gimmick was to get new clients used to his unusually fat 20 bags, and then to slowly decrease the size and amount after clients became established loyal customers. And, since Jello’s competition was negligible due to NYPDs aggressive street raids , it was up to Jello to set his own price-versus-quantity and quality standards. Nevertheless, Jackson and David cared little  now for the standards of old because this was a Time of Drought.

Drought is a serious time when no laughter is allowed or heard; indeed, nothing is funny at all, ever in drought. There were only serious, hushed talks  to which I was not privy, nor invited to join. Drought shows men  and women what they are made of. Merely the suffering alone , the inability to get what one wants and needs is enough to break the weak down utterly. Because I lived with them I knew how deeply effected my housemates were, and even though my consumption was well below theirs even I began began to feel  anxiety at the lack of our beloved herb as that hot, hot summer wearily drudged on.

Each day they ventured out to hunt during the worst days of the Drought, to seek out some weed, any weed. Looking at me as they exited the house to conduct their dark business  their eyes grimly set and hardened, like menfolk taking up the mantle of Adam’s sin which condemned all mankind to work by the sweat of his brow and to consume  dust forevermore.

“You can’t come,” they said, passing me in the kitchen, voices on edge. 

I didn’t argue. Truth was, I had absolutely no intention of rolling out across the Bronx streets with two white boys in a desperate search for reefer: nothing could have ensured failure more absolutely than my presence among theirs. David was the grunge rock guy of our group and Jackson, the neat attractive gay man who easily passed for straight whose manner was chill enough that he still earned mad respect from all the black weed dealers in the neighborhood, some of whom had signaled more than casual  interest in him. 

They’d tramp home each day after  searching in the terrible heat of July that summer, sometimes bringing green gold with them. Sometimes empty handed and hangdog, like men seeking slave-wage day-labor only to be refused, shamefaced and demoralized returning home to the womenfolk empty-handed once again. 

Jackson  was practically a Master Chef by sophomore year and he made incredibly elaborate and delicious meals. And , often  hungry, this arrangement  was more than satisfactory. I probably haven’t eaten so healthy or so deliciously since I moved away from our little off campus household. However David still drew sustenance from herb and Hot Pockets which I just couldn’t understand. Seemingly,  most of the  males who partake of herb swear by the glory of Hot Pockets. I’m not disrespecting  or judging (well, only a little) but I shall continue to abstain (from Hot Pockets, I mean. What good can come from abstaining from herb, I ask you?)

So, you see when I saw the Hot Pockets  commercial it unleashed a treasure trove of vivid memory and nostalgia for the days of my Bronx life during those college years when I fancied myself a grown -up but in reality I know now that we all were merely kids, lucky and blessed enough to be able to attend school away from home in one of the most majestic cities in the world.

I assure you, dear Reader, that I am not presently baked though I cannot deny a wistful fondness that has arisen as I write this; it would not be an unwelcome state, not at all. Still, I merely wished to transcribe a detailed, accurate account of a little known chapter in the history of my merriest days, to create a portrait of those balmy precious summer days in the quaint 1990s. Let this be a memoir of my bohemian years in New York City living a student’s life replete with friendship and occasional study, mellowly drifting afloat on a cloud of incense and herb .