my mural of a diamond

March 3, 2009 § 2 Comments


from nadia., we live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in downtown cairo.  the closest we get to dirt and leaves are the potted plants on the balcony.  so i am end up sinking into blogs lately (do you ever do that just sink into a blog and read it for hours?) that celebrate the earth, green growing things, leaves, trees, etc.  like this blog called: diy winterdreams.

2. recently she had a post on atc’s artist trading cards.  which is a movement/style that i learned about back in 2004 from my friend cami.  and i always meant to join.  somehow.  but i end up getting distracted by life.  so now four and a half years later…i am thinking about trying to take my lil art journal pages and moving them towards atc’s.

even though this one is traded: i love it.  sew.

but this one is available.  somedays it is how i feel. blue tree

and these trees as well: spiral garden

3. this morning i had a dream that i was painting this gorgeous mural on a wall of our apartment.

4.  and when i woke up, i wondered what is this whole, me, painting a mural in my dream about?  because i dont want to paint a mural, ive got way too much to do right now.

and i realized that i have been told that i was white-identified since i was 3 years old (well, that is the first time i remember it…).  i guess it comes from growing up in a black culturalist home but going to predominantly white schools and living in a predominantly white neighborhood (over the decades it has diversified tremendously).  having this ‘white’ accent…so that folks think i am white when they hear me on the phone and then are shocked when they meet me for the first time.  this phone-thing happens so often that i now make it a habit to tell folks i am black on the phone to save them (and me) the embarrasment upon meeting.

and who first told me i was white-identified (you hang out with those white girls too much)…my parents.  and why do i so easily flow in and out of white culture?  because that is how they brought me up.  it was expected that i would assimilate to a politically conservative white culture outside of my home (i went to a school that didnt even celebrate martin luther king jr day and taught that black skin was maybe a curse from god…) and then be strongly black-identified, proud when i got home–read malcolm x autobiography, color purple, and they came before columbus–before i was 13 because my dad gave me a monthly black studies reading list.

talk about a brain fuck.

so i got used to be the you act white/you always talking about being black–that girl.  thats me.

so i have tried.  i have.  over the past week.  to drop the term token.

but this christmas.  habibi (who is white…) and aza and i went to his family to celebrate the whole baby jesus thing.  and this was my first year hanging out with his fam on christmas.  and i get tapped on the shoulder to read this poem by maya angelou that celebrates winter.  usually they read christmas stories, but this year it has been decided that they want to be more inclusive.  and since i am a performance poet.  i should be the one who reads the maya angelou poem.

and i agree. cause i know it is done with the best of intentions.  and this is my family.  too.  wasp.  and my daughters family.

and then habibi says well, lets each of us read a few lines and then pass the book to the next person so everyone is included in the reading.  and i am grateful for the suggestion.  cause i had thought of that lil amendment but i was honestly afraid to say anything because it might be taken as angry, or contradictory, or not willing to be part of the family.  and frankly its only for a day.

and even though i promised myself that i would be myself in this family.  with all of my contradictory blackness.  it just gets exhausting dealing with all the indirect anger, and side-comments, and apologies that just make shit worse.  and so i have broken my promise to myself.

and i hate for my daughter to see me like that.

i used to see my mother like that.  and my dad.  and then at home they would make jokes about it.  token.  and they claimed it.  and it was ours.  cause they were teaching me that slavery aint over just because mr. lincoln fought a war.

and there is privilege in that.  lots.  my white voice gets me places that other voices arent welcomed.  and my daughters light skin will get her into places that i wont be necessarily welcomed to follow.

so what else can i do but write from a heart that already knows it is going to be broken?

what else can i do but speak my truth even though it is difficult for those i love and admire to hear?

i mean, that white family of mine, reads my blog.  they read this.  and they aint always happy about what i have to say.  especially about them.

and so there is alot i dont say.  because negotiating the fall-out is exhausting and i need to save my energy and work on creating a world that is worthy of my daughter to live in.

and i cant promise myself that i wont keep my mouth shut when i know it is better to speak.  cause even if my silence wont protect me…sometimes i just cant find the exact words to say.

if you (or i) do work, no matter how good or justice-oriented or whateva, and you have a louder voice than others, that you, personally state is directly correlated to your connection with people more privileged than you.  if your louder voice as a woman of color is because of and sustained by white hegemony, then what is the appropriate word to use to describe your relationship within whiteness?

because we need a word that describes that relationship or else we wont talk about it.  we dont talk about it now.

and whatever word that is used cannot be a euphemism.  it must have negative connotations, be a bit perjorative, because the word is describing how privilege functions.  and when we are describing privilege we must acknowledge in our language and our actions that privilege, based on the kyriarchy, is evil.  harmful. destructive to the creation of communities that support and sustain a moral liberation.

how do i within my communities talk about mine and others privilege that is based on our relationships to white supremacy?

and this is why i am getting tired of the word: privilege.  it sounds too nice.  the word doesnt connote the evil, demonic consequences.

and when i hear someone tell me that they have worked really hard.  and that is why they have achieved the success that they have.  its like yes, you did work really hard to buy that diamond.  or to get him to buy you that diamond.  but it is still a blood diamond.  protestant work ethic or no.  does not change what a diamond is.  where it came from.  and who died or was raped so that you can wear it.

that is what a diamond is right?  a token. of affection.

5. and i guess if my dream mural could speak for itself that is what it would say.


§ 2 Responses to my mural of a diamond

  • Amapola says:

    if your louder voice as a woman of color is because of and sustained by white hegemony, then what is the appropriate word to use to describe your relationship within whiteness?

    i relate to this so much, and don’t really feel like i know how to talk about it. i pass as white and am perceived as white by most people–i get *so* excited when people recognize me as a WOC (instead of the usual “exotic white”) without my having to say so, & the inevitable questions and explanations that follow that. between class privilege and educational privilege, i was raised in a predominantly white environment. even when we lived overseas, i was still the gringa & always would be, no matter how good my spanish. and then, my iranian family insists they are white– i am the only one in my immediate family who identifies as a POC.

    so my voice is louder. even announcing myself as a woman of color doesn’t change the way people react to me, doesn’t change the light skinned privilege, doesn’t change that i know the rules, can navigate white spaces easily, no matter how uncomfortable they make me sometimes.

    & i have so little idea what to do with that.

    and i cant promise myself that i wont keep my mouth shut when i know it is better to speak. cause even if my silence wont protect me…sometimes i just cant find the exact words to say.

    like today when a friend described my partner and i both as “exotic” — by which she meant beautiful. like… so many things that are way more consequential than that.

    i don’t really know what i want to say about this, only that i’m glad someone is talking about it.

  • Lisa Winter says:

    thanks for checking out my blog, would love to see you join illustrated atcs and swap cards with us. be wary though, it’s tremendously addictive getting beautiful art in the mail.

    i think a mural would be a wonderful thing, i’d love to try one out. the thought of something that big is intimidating though.

    like always, I enjoy reading your blog posts. thanks for sharing

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You are currently reading my mural of a diamond at guerrilla mama medicine.


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