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.