if we build it, we will come

March 9, 2009 § 15 Comments

some days i am so grateful to my writer/activist sisters. all over the world. like i have been feeling all over the map lately. a piece of my brain living in the past. a piece in the future. trying to stay here in the present.

and then i realized that i wasnt all over the map, i was here.  it was just that i didnt have a framework for all of these disparate thoughts and so they felt like they were floating in the ether.  when they are actually quite grounded to the earth.

in other words i read this by bfp who was interviewed by womanist musings.  and i so loved her response.  and then i read fabi’s post.  and i went back and read nadia’s latest work.  and i said: okay, we are okay.  here. and now.

audience: who are we writing to?  who are we writing for?  who are we writing with?

I’m not sure. I think I am blogging not so much to bring attention to women of color, but more instead to build a community and pool resources in a way that centers women of color. For example, I just recently got vegetable seeds in the mail. I think that gardening is such an important skill and so essential to the foundation of any new world–I’ve started blogging about it because I find gardening to be necessary and important, but also because I honestly have no idea how to do much of what I want to do–and I know that for something I haven’t done, there’s twenty people out there who have done it and vise versa. I’m interested in nurturing a space where hard questions like “I live on social security, how do I start a compost pile with no money” can be worked through in creative, loving, community driven ways. Gardening could provide nearly free food for that same woman–free food that is healthy and not covered in contaminates. Why would we deny that woman the right to that food simply because she doesn’t have the same resources others do? I think that the internet can connect that woman to other people that simply got curious and did something to see if they could do it–and it can create a connection between those people that wasn’t there before–all while eventually creating really great tasty free food!

Which is not to say that I think it’s unimportant to bring attention to the concerns of women of color. I think that for other women of color that are using blogging bring attention–they are doing vitally important work–and I think through social networking and other web 2.0 tools, even if white mainstream media isn’t paying attention, *community* members are, and are finding ways to organize around issues and connect organizing strategies from their community to others–which is so important and necessary.

But after all this time, I think I am coming to the realization that it is going to take multiple types of activism to confront such a huge problem–and I prefer at this point in my life, to give my time to something that is much less dependent on ‘bringing attention’ to an issue and finding practical ways to solve every day problems like lack of food, expensive health care, no safe place to walk etc.

i too feel the lure of writing for the ‘mainstream’ (read: white, heteronormative, male, middle-class, able-ist, etc. etc. etc.) and using the mainstream to reach the margins.  but it kind of reminds me of 90s hip hop.

remember?  when hip hop blew up.  and white boys in the suburbs became the primary consumers of a black art form.  and on one hand that was great that artists were able to reach more folks and become financially sustainable and that was supposed to mean that that money would go back into black communities and create a bigger field for more hip hop artists to be sustainable and a greater diversity of voices to be brought up?  umm…that didnt really happen.

what happened instead was that teenage white boys taste dictated the hip hop market.  and so rather than their being a variety of hip hop voices and faces and styles we got: the most trite shite being blasted world wide.  seriously.  hip hop aint dead.  its just been in an abusive relationship for so long that it wishes it were dead.

hip hop was supposed to be bringing a new age of racial understanding…healing the rift…lifting folks out of poverty…basically acting as a vehicle that allowed for whites to see black and brown folk as empathetically human…that didnt happen

and sometimes i feel like we keep buying into the same logic, repeating ourselves over and over again to the same people, and they never get it.  and maybe its because we are going about it the wrong way.

maybe its like when i am drawing from life, if i look directly at my subject, i cant capture the angles and curves.  but if i look at the negative space around my subject.  if i toss my eyes to the side and draw the air, the shadows, the invisible, then my subject comes forth as embodied as well.

i am tired of bringing attention to woc issues.  because underwritten in that is: mainstream attention.  why do i need their attention?  their attention may do more harm than good.  historically has done more harm than good.

i want folks to move out of their privileged positions within the mainstream and towards the margins so that we are all standing in a circle and the center is empty.  and nothing i can say, any of us can say, will make that happen.  folks will have to come to that realization on their own.

the argument that it is in the best interest of folks to move out of the center rings false to most folks because they know they will lose social status when they do so.  because their status (and all the rewards that come with status like money, access, name recognition etc.) is based on them being higher in the hierachy than others.  and once you have to give up that hierachical position then you have to rely on community, sustainability, love, creativity, care-taking, and other processes that arent valued by the mainstream.

the argument that:  you use the mainstream to reach other marginalized folks, still rings a bit false.  because when i see someone who is like me, in the mainstream, that does not convince me to build community on the margins.  that convinces me that i too can join the mainstream.  i end up trying to figure out…oooh, how did she get there, how can i do that too?

and i am not knocking folks.  we all got a hustle.  we all got to eat.  just lets not be confused.

if i am paying attention to the mainstream in the first place, it is because i value it.  like if you are going to use mtv to reach me…then that is because i already value mtv.  and now i value you because you are on mtv and you are like me.  and that just reinforces my value of mtv (and of you).  and i feel like the message that you are bringing: dont value mtv, work in your community instead…isnt as strong than the medium (mtv) through which you are bringing it.

i guess what i am saying is that the medium is the message (to quote a white boy).  the end doesnt justify the means.

i guess what i am saying is that we need to stop perpetuating the myth that if we just educate folks they will see the light.  folks see the light when they start looking for it.  and they start looking for it when they realize that all this social status climbing is an illusion and doesnt make them safer. or stronger.  or more loving.

So, because the New York Times, Democracy Now mind blowing articles on the state of the world not only financially but climately , and everything else around me is yelling economic crisis, and catastrophe, I think it’s time to swing the pendulum to the resiliency of the human spirit while facing adversity. This is when we need to be pulling out the history books and learn more than a thing or two.

Deep breath. This is when community is the only savior. This is when the strength of our ancestors will further solidify our own. This is when the love for something “better” as we redefine better while looking at the rest of the world to measure how we’ve been on the side of exploitation just by the way we’ve lived is the only option. This is when legacy, history, the energy that feeds love, change that we do have, transcends these devastations that every news outlet and those lives abroad that we can’t capture because we live here, yet are getting a taste of it, by joblessness, housing losses, and food shortage – is what will get us through, fiercely.

We are going to be okay. We are going to live differently. Isolation and individualism are not sutainable, even in strong economic times in the US because it has been at the backs of most of the brown world in the South.

Jobs, housing, food – market speculating these basics = failed. . As we begin to enter even more painful terrains – around job losses, losing ones housing, unable to pay for basics – we have to talk, work, and learn a couple things from relational living, local urban gardens, house sharing, squatting, while figuring out what’s the new foundation going to be like for those places we will call home. Engage in discourses as we redefine the way we look at the world, building our contingency plans really with a worldview that considers the world. Let’s start talking.

and when folks do start turning away from the center lets have a community that can embrace them.  hold them.  which means that we need to look at sustainability in a real way.  how we have to be in it for the long haul.  and we have to build something that survives.  past us.

we are ready now. we are ready here.

and if we build it, we will come.


§ 15 Responses to if we build it, we will come

  • nezua says:

    beautiful post. much truth.

  • fabiola says:

    hi, mama.
    I read your post twice, and I have some questions. One for you and in general for us/ bloggers folks writing…
    Are you asking, how did I start writing for community.feministing?
    If you are asking that, here’s my answer to that. (if not, oops) I just did, and not getting paid for it nor am I an “editor” or “contributor”. As you can tell, if you are so inclined to see, my posts there are like talking to an empty echo. Folks don’t really respond. I’m still writing. Not to educate the masses, or anything like that. Just one other persons’ take on the world, there are women of color that read that place too. I really admire Samhita’s work on feministing, and having met her a couple times, took her up on her suggestion that why don’t I try writing on the community.feministing section. No big deal. Again, if you look at the comments, it isn’t’ a big deal at all. The one post that did get quite a number of comments was because I was talking about white feminists, but that’s the only one, really. Everything else is empty.

    What I’ve been used to, which I admit I’ve been really fortunate to have, the “tight knit community of women of color bloggers” in some loose way. Since like 2004 – 2008ish, then when my blog died, I separated, stopped writing, deleted a whole bunch of stuff Samhita approached me use the community.feministing venue a try. There are like 100 community.feministing writers. And I know what not to write about their of course. I know it’s different, the venue is mainstream. It’s huge.

    I think I’m sharing the love in a different space, not necessary that I’m more loving because of it. I was in a place, then when I wasn’t writing at all, and happened to engage with Samhita a couple times. When I did, she referred to trying the community.feministing writing. So I said, okay. Knowing what that’s about, but also aware that there are two people on feministing who I think their writing is fantastic. To be specific, Miriam and Samhita. Also, since I started blogging their, I’ve done like four entries. That’s in three months.

    What does it accomplish? What is blogging at HR accomplishing? Not sure. I like what you have to say about not wanting to highlight women of color issues anywhere…for me, I highlight what I want to talk about, and usually it’s about stuff that directly impact me. When I read other people, that’s pretty much what they are talking about too. I agree, that bringing mainstream attention to our issues might be problematic…

    I think that’s a good question to always have at the forefront, what are we writing about, why? What do we want our media to accomplish, which spaces are using for that…what does that mean in a high trafficked site, but where nobody comments on your stuff? What does that mean on a low traffic site when no one comments on your stuff either? Are comments that important? Dialogue is key, but when no one is saying anything what does that mean?

    What else are we doing outside of writing? What is the mission in our writing? Who are we working with in the communities we belong in? Is our writing helping us and others heal? How do we measure that? Is expression the only thing…if so, why?

  • mama says:

    dear fabi,
    fuck. no. im not asking you about how you got to write for feministing. im sorry if you felt called out. and i hope that you know that if i was trying to call you out, i wouldnt be backpeddling now. dammit! srsly. i feel horrible that you felt you had to defend yourself. frankly, in the past couple of weeks i have been doing research on some of the big feminist blogs (cuz i dont read them) and i understand how the community there works. i think it is one of the cooler concepts ive seen.
    fuck, fuck, fuck. it even crossed my mind for half a second that you might think i was calling you out…but then i just kept writing…
    ok here’s the thing: one woc blogger once said that if she didnt get the level of traffic that she did from links to white feminist sites, her blog would be an echo chamber. that really stuck with me. since i know that i dont get the traffic that she does. and i think that what i do and what i write is relevant. i also know that i have only 24 hours in a day and alot of my time is not spent in promotion, it is spent in thinking through these ideas. and trying to see fresh ways of looking at the world. (not sure if i succeed but you know…)
    now even with me saying that, i know alot of my readers are white. i dont know how many, but i know that when some of them link to me my traffic spikes.
    we are all complicit in this world you know? i mean its all colonized…fuck it.
    i guess what i am trying to say is: 1. i love your writing. and i am glad to know to go to hermana resist and feministing to find it because i missed it. 2. thank you for staying in dialogue with me 3. im not a purist by any means, and so much of this writing is about me (and us) trying to figure out how to live in this world. 4. did i mention that i love your writing?
    god fucking damn. this is one of those times when my intent (show my gratitude to fabi) and my impact (make her feel defensive and critiqued)
    went in completely different directions. and i so apologize for that.
    and all i can say is that when raven’s eye opens up…coming soon! to an internet connection near you!…you will grace us with your presence every once in a while.
    or at least let me post an excerpt of your work every once in a while…
    (oh and i read the one on white feminism a few months ago and it was gorgeous…)

  • mama says:

    @ nezua
    gracias chico…

  • fabiola says:

    oh no no, no need to apologize. I love that you think critically, if you question, by all means, you have a mind of your own! continue please. we’re talking. It got me thinking a lot about blogging. the blogging question always. the writer’s question, you know.
    much love to you.

  • fabiola says:

    i was really tired this morning when I wrote that too..so I apologize for reading into that, that way, let me own up to my own stuff…

  • […] if we build it, we will come […]

  • mama says:


    this evening i reread this piece…and in reading with fresh eyes and i realized that where i had juxtaposed your excerpt in my lil ramblings…well, if i were you i would have felt called out too…it was an entirely reasonable response from you. so i apologize. i really should have paid attention to where i placed your excerpt (that i loved) i have moved it so that the context is more relevant to your piece.
    thanks for being honest with me and asking me if that was what i meant.
    it also shows me that when i excerpt someone else’s words i need to treat that excerpt with a high sense of care. because that is what i would expect from others excerpting my words…especially in terms of context, interpretation, and placement…
    hope you are doing well…and i send you a strong hug…
    peace and love

  • bfp says:

    hey maia–first–thank you SO much for the link–I’ve read this over and over again, picking up new ideas each time I’ve read it.

    second–could I request some help? it is really hard for me to read your site, cuz your font is SO small. Is there some way to increase the size? Either in your web layout itself or some way I can mess with my own computer to get bigger layout?

    When I am typing in my comments, I can see the font fine–but when I click send, it seems to decrease by two or three font sizes!

  • mama says:

    oh. your blog has me thinking all the time. like i am going to plant something. start with one lil pot in this crazy city…
    hmmm…as for the font…ive been thinking about changing the theme for a while…so now i just have more of a push to do just that…
    yay! its like going shopping…
    tell me what you think!

  • bfp says:

    I *love*.

    My eyes relaxed, just like that the second I come over here!!!!

    And, I’m SO looking forward to reading about your one little pot of growth! I want pictures! 🙂

  • mama says:

    i am so sending you pictures…gracias mujer…the real question is what shall i grow?
    i think an herb. something good for the body and the brain.
    and thanks for letting me know about the font. i needed to hear that…

  • bfp says:

    I think an herb would be fabulous too–cuz even if they give up and die after a while, they still smell good and you can cultivate dried up leaves!

    and girl, thanks so much for helping with the font–got me my old grandma eyes, so it’s great to be accommodated!!!! 🙂

  • mama says:

    i just talked to my flatmate who says that you go down to the banks of the nile to buy herbs. so that is what i am doing next week.
    (omf! i am going down to banks of the nile to buy herbs! it is still stunning to me. i wish i could be all blase about the whole nile, africa, pyramid-thing, but i am like a geeky 12 year old inside…)
    and i bet my eyes are worse than yours. my glasses cost more than just about anything else i own!
    will send pics…;)

  • mama says:

    the only reason i can read my own font is because of these over-priced lenses…

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