26 October 2008

i was asked what kind of revolutions i believe in

my revolutions?
pens that heal with words of love
for community

jolt life to a halt
quintessential question is
"what are you doing?"

trajectory of our world
where do we end up?

plan for the future
plant gardens in empty lots

paying homage to
abandoned child (hood dreams)
how could we forget?

name the secret truths
they're no more real than me
even when they hurt

tears. freedom to feel
compassion: "suffering with"
laughter lives here now

choose your family
offer self for scrutiny
belonging at last

recreate moments
we wish would last forever
if we don't, who will?

then what's important?
strip off the unessential
move gently in love

a new world order
welcomes the tired and poor
calls us daughters/sons

"personal bubbles"
walls of insecurity
flawed nomenclature

destructive patterns
of generational sin
"none of the above"

reaching out for you
knowing your warmth is comfort

living and dying
solitary existence
find another way

unless i believe in a
new revolution.

19 June 2008

i dont usually like haikus...

children's hungry cries
i listen; i hear them, lord
let me be the bread

::courtesy of a fierce woman who read in honor of june jordan::

/yes, i have a new hero.

04 May 2008

that "girl in a shabby green coat on a railway station platform"

i'm having one of those weeks where i forget to breathe, or maybe i'm just so over inundated with information that it doesn't matter whether oxygen gets to my brain anyways because it's running at full capacity and will return after these messages...

as i'm working through the anxiety of having 2 months left at oasis before actually going to morocco with the peace corps (and still deciding whether two years is a long time or not), we're choosing an issue for the summer leadership institute group to tackle and we want to cover something that has a tangible goal, possibly connected to a bigger campaign so the girls can learn about advocacy and see how their voice fits into the bigger picture of a screwed up society at large.
in order to do this, we've been talking with other youth organizations about their current campaigns.
of course they're all connected and trying to make some movement around huge social illnesses, but we're a small group of young people who have an 8 week intensive program where we want to cover systems of oppression and apply those learnings to an action item.
i'm gonna break it down, partially because the issues are apalling but also because some of these folks are doing amazing work, but ALSO because there's an action item for you voters registered in california to keep in mind for the november (and june for SF) ballot. bear with me...

so coleman advocates is a huge organizing/activism group in the city that does alot of stuff around the city budget because they don't get any city funding, so they can cause a ruckus every year around this time when the budget is being figured out.
aside from the fact that our wonderful mayor is trying to subsidize luxury condos going into the bayview, we have a HUGE deficit because he raised salaries for firemen and policemen, not surprisingly his biggest fan base.
on top of that, the honorable and compassionate state of california has decided to cut education yet again, (finally, making california 50th in the nation when it comes to spending resources on education) and that will affect SF to the tune of $40million next year.
[to give you a sense of what that looks like, a couple years back, they closed 4 schools in the district and they saved $2million. $40mil is the equivalent of closing all >90 schools in the district for a month.]
so one /could/ totally call me out and say that i'm running away from this work because holding down programs in what looks like a good 3-5years of deficit does NOT invoke warm fuzzies in my heart.

coleman (who i believe has been around for some 30 years) did some restructuring and has decided to focus on two campaigns, affordable housing and closing the achievement gap.
san francisco has the largest achievement gap (measured, i believe by STAR testing) by race when compared to the seven largest school districts in california. (read: whites and asian, wasteland, blacks, latinos, pacific islanders)
yes, 30 african american males graduated from high school in the school district last year.
(and yes, i've lost count of the young men - brothers, cousins, uncles, friends - just in the lives of the young women we serve who experienced violent deaths in the last year, much less the young women we work with who suffer from varying forms of PTSD as a result.)
so the school board just agreed to pass a resolution submitted by coleman to commit to closing the achievement gap and have 60% of all students in all racial groups proficient by 2011. kinda hot, yeah?

closely connected, but taking a different angle is HOMEY, who is finishing up their campaign to stop the gang injunctions, which pretty much put people who are affiliated in gangs under house arrest because they are not allowed on certain streets or neighborhoods. the police apparently believe that telling rival gangs to keep apart in this manner will stop crime and fighting, all while conveniently keeping fathers, brothers, uncles, and sons from getting to work or being able to go to the store. brilliant, really.

however, the more horrifying issue and pretty much the impetus for this email is a statewide initiative going on the november ballot that had me in tears and pretty much still has my blood boiling.
the "safe neighborhoods act: protect crime victims, stop gangs and thugs" or "runner initiative" will:
~ commit $1billion the first year to prisons and $20billion more over the next 40 years (because that's such a great use of our resources when education is booming...)
~ charge youth 14 year and up as adults (for "gang" related crimes)
~ mandate annual criminal background checks for people in public housing
~ prohibiting bail to illegal immigrants with "gang crimes" and having the INS deport them
and then some... so pretty much targeting young people, folks in public housing, and illegal immigrants in one neat package under the guise of "gang prevention" and /not/ spending on social services of any kind.
aside from the fact that prisons are the biggest gang producing institution in the state, this is probably a really sound plan. i'm sure lots of intensive completely unbiased thought went into it's creation.

so what YOU can do:
~ vote in november and tell Runner that we dont want his racist laws.
~ vote in june (in SF) and tell Lennar that no, we will not subsidize your luxury condos in the bayview and yes, you should be building affordable housing in the bayview comma. (lennar has stated that if that initiative passes, they will pull out as contractors entirely because they dont want anything to do with affordable housing.)
AND if you're feeling especially saucy,
~ check out groups like Critical Resistance, POWER, HOMEY, Ella Baker Center, etc etc etc and get involved or support the cause. they're good peoples.

let me know if you have any questions or need to talk about systems of oppression.
you can have a cookie.

and this week's strip is exactly how i feel today: http://www.asofterworld.com/

/activists are squishy and they smell funny, i dont like them at all.

ps. i could use a hug.

30 April 2008

in the city i love

Do you see what I see?
You’re 35 miles away and I can barely hear
your voice; the sky is a splitting image of the melting
polar ice caps brilliant and dynamic clouds creeping
across the expanse, and the moon. Oh, the moon shines
through like an under water window into a secret
world of light, tucked away because we cannot bear
its radiance yet die without it’s light. Look closely, focus
on its allure and welcome how its ferocity helps us
momentarily forget the thoughts and fears that surface
when we’re subjects to the darkness. The moon takes away
our need to dream because light makes fantasy obsolete.

Do you see what I see?
You’re a lifetime and three months away even
as your brilliant blue eyes look back at me from
your framed smiling image by my bed; I exhale
as these mechanical stairs carry me up to
a city that chills through the bone and smells like
home: a potent concoction of dog urine and fresh
rain asserting itself from beneath
a neglectful attempt to coat the street
in chemical soap. As I avert my eyes from
the hollow faces that feign confrontational indifference but
secretly beg to be called by name, tacky bright colors
hide the scars that run so deep converging with
underground rivers of ancestral blood
and fecal matter. Like skeletal hands reaching out
from the heart of this forbidden city, towers
of glass and steel shift like a hologram
with each step – revealing its existential crisis
of whether it provides structural support or arbitrary
frills for this haunted place. Perfectly fitting form
and function – a domineering force of
authoritative pretension. Were you deceived
into believing this city would let you be
whatever you wanted? Who you really are
when no one else would? When
all other love proved conditional?
These streets are not paved with
those precious metals our ancestors died
to mine. These concrete fortresses are illusions that
manufacture inadequate substitutes for safety. I was told
of this feeling called excitement, triggered
by bustling crowds and neon glows, but
my anxiety rises as the misleading proximity
of poverty to luxury seem to hint that
no one cares either way.

Do you see what I see?
Your lean growing figure fits
awkwardly in my embrace; but you live in
an alternate universe somehow tangent
to my reality where my assets are your
deficits and your wisdom goes unheard or heeded
because your words bear such weight that they
drop into the uncharted territories of the yet
unexplored oblivion even before the moment they
leave the vast expanse of your colorfully
charged intellectual cavity. A radiant beauty
unabashed but silenced by neglect. Shining through
the wear and tear of the spiteful words and cruel
eyes that form a barrage of devastating antagonism
we’ve learned no defense for. You cross out
what could have been a timid assertion of
an unacceptable, undermined, potentially disastrous
identity. I trip on my thoughts and choke on my
words, incapable to carve out an adequate space for you to fill.

09 December 2007

a good day

I say a silent prayer to calm my anxieties and brace

myself for the hour ahead. I am greeted by a whirlwind

of hair and smiles, a couple decibels above

my comfort zone. We’re here to make “safe

girl space” but I can’t seem to intercept

every biting word that pierces these hearts.

We’re here to offer what the city calls “tools

of empowerment” and “youth development,” but

secretly, I call it love. We don’t fit in with the harsh

discipline of your school day. The disconnect is too abrupt;

the chasm too incomprehensible. I’m building a bridge

for you, but you tell me you can’t see. Why can’t you see?

When all I see is darkness, how do I know not to run from the blinding light?

I once heard a joke that all who survive adolescence have

an overabundance of material to inspire quality

creative writing. But it’s not funny anymore when your survival

is uncertain. I loathe to do it, but I challenge myself to recall

those years when the world stopped with a single word

from this week’s best friend and started with the subtle hint of

a smile from tomorrow’s new crush. I long to hold you all in

a human embrace and take you away to castles in

clouds, but your young hearts are already skeptical of

the dreams I hold up to your eyes as they roll.

When all other hands come close to strike my raw and bleeding
corpse, where do I learn that your hand offers salve and gifts?

“I am not the enemy.” I am an insufficient human

band-aid on a festering wound with no distinct beginning

or end. A strong silent friend helped me step out

of my brokenness. I gave myself a voice by being

heard. I gave myself a choice by naming

my wounds – making them real, but no more or less

real than me. I am here to listen. To search through this tangled

mass and get a little closer to finding you. Who are you? Will you tell me?

I only hear my name when I’m being told to shut up; how do I know that you’re asking for my voice? Where do I find this voice that speaks my truth and makes my choices?

I’m diving in, but there’s no such thing as swimming. I wonder

if that means we all drown together or if desperate treading is

the technicality that redeems. But everyday, I come back fighting

the sinking weight in my soul; getting angrier and angrier with

whoever is throwing these babies in the river. The questions outweigh

the answers, so we explore further, deeper, longer…

If we come out limbs intact, it was a good day.

If you are here to help me, why do I still only see
bleeding hearts dragged through broken glass everywhere I turn?

20 November 2007

no, you're rubber and i'm glue...

Trapped within these walls of (scar)

tissue and pulsing contaminated fluid, I



push myself out of this barely breathing corpse.

Repulsed by layers of obesity marinated

in rejection, disgusted by misshapen and stunted

limbs shriveled under cruel judgmental eyes, I

search rabidly for a voice disconnected from

these corroded lungs and these broken vocal

chords crushed with negativity and un-free speech.

My soul, rejecting her lot, seeking to build a more

“perfect” palace and take up residence, commands



purging – calls it growing pains because

beauty hurts.

I reach for a “self” outside of this decaying cadaver but



closer is derailed by tangents

questioning the existential possibility of this reality

to distract from the deep restrained pools of

unreleased tears that drown my soul as she

impatiently awaits her moment of escape from

this grotesque prison of flesh.

I lift my head long enough to learn that the source

of my decomposition is external; in my haste

I’ve somehow placed unwarranted blame and

punished an innocent bystander for

uncontrollable disfigurement.



deep into myself, denying any ties

to this broken and listless shell, forcing the limits of

how far one can hide. Misled by the uncommon

calm of this amniotic sac-like darkness, I relax and

explore the unspoken longings of my heart.

27 September 2007

and for better or worse, this is week two.

I speak with my clenched fists aimed precisely
at your nose
because it is the only way to ensure pre-emptive
protection from potential blows;
in the blurred lines between fear and respect, I lose
my ability to express this thing called love,
I am told that power is won and nothing
is worth earning if it is easily taken or lost.

I refute with my fingers entwined
in my predator’s hair
because forcing the antagonist into submission is the only way
to mask my shame;
in the whirling fury of rabid eyes and gnashing teeth, I forget
my need for acceptance or affirmation,
I am told that building “street cred” is more valuable than
an “education” in the life chosen for me.

I cry out with the flaunting of my curves and
the flirting of my dance
because the catcalls, whistles, and lewd comments communicate
that people are looking at me;
in my coy glance I hide the tears that
spring up from the well of my brokenness,
I am told that no one will care enough to desire a closer look.

I scream to be heard over the aching drone of
everyone else’s complaints
because your sorrows are not tied to mine and
I am alone in this plight;
in the clear echoes that resonate from
the overtones of my piercing wail, I wish someone would teach me
how we are all connected and tell me I can choose to belong -
I am told I am a leader only of the miscreants and the degenerate weak lot.

I spit biting words like knives or heat seeking missiles
locked onto your deepest insecurities
because making a scene means personal attention when
I haven’t yet learned to share;
in the confusing height of intervention, I silently hope I didn’t
share my dark secrets with you when we were friends last week,
I am told that “words can never hurt me” but I wonder
if “frustration” at your cruel remarks is a part of that paradigm.

I speak with my fists.
Why is no one listening?