I write to you from a place of knowing, aspiration and memory. This moment is so unforgiving, so demanding of our time, our essence and our uncanny ability to pause, feeling and to pause feeling, to stop breathing. It isn’t that we ever stop feeling; it is instead that we birth borders around our truths, dividing the continued pain, anxiety and trauma, that we greet daily, from the their root causes; these people, environments, nations, ways of knowing and systems of power we’ve been born into.
Pause feeling. To do so–to mute ourselves from speaking under the guise of feeling nothing at all–gifts us the comfortable appearance of escape through meritocracy. It is as if sometimes, we work ourselves to death, due to a fragile belief that through work–and the attendant pausing of feeling–we might indeed escape death. We might indeed find a secret portal opened by our evasion of pain; that might free us from the intractable problems we face daily. We imagine a hope beyond the hopes we dare say out loud.
Do not misunderstand me. I’m not writing to dampen hope or foreclose the desire for joy that has often delivered us beyond the deathly dance of limbo(s). There is nothing wrong with looking beyond the beyond, or hoping beyond hope, or speaking beyond the faculties of our tongues. Indeed, this has always been art, power and magic of Black folks. That is Blackness; always being beyond. But working through pain–pretending as we are not being cooked inside out, by those who greet us with false love–is not portal-making. Breathing–with such pain on our pallet–is how we remain in touch with the root causes and ongoing costs of environments and traumas we have been bound to (for the time), as the urgent need and possibilities of another tomorrow.
Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare. ”
When we breathe, Black folks, when we are taking a second, or five, to refuel with the soul purpose of filling and feeling our lungs and self–with no care for additional duties–we remind ourself of our humanity, our ability to pause while feeling, to sit still, fully aware of the chaos around us. Not only does this radical act, assist in the preservation of self, other and collective it disrupts the notion that our selves are beyond the realm of human pain. Just because we are magic; doesn’t mean we should be crucified.
More than anything in this world, you matter. As I say in my book Godless Circumcisions, “Our bodies are worth loving, freely, fiercely and unabashedly. Do not let the media, nor the fear harbored by the unloved and unlearned fool you. Being Black, Brown, Mestiza, Yellow, Mahogany, Colored is no precondition, being BlaQueer or Trans* is no molecular malfunction and being thick, thin, heavy, disabled or positive is no sign of leprosy. Every contour of our existences-the compounded textures of our realities and the flavorful dances of our spirits–are important, no necessary, to the alchemy of universe. We are the salt of the land. If we shall lose our flavor, what then is the fate of the rhythm of the world? Whose spiritual force will the earth quake to? Whose vibe will awaken dormant mountains, waiting to re-fertilize the land? Therefore, do not survive, but strive to thrive, and make peace with your complexities.”
These complexities have allowed us to survive experiences and ideologies that are nothing short of terroristic perversions of the practice of life; these complexities are also a product of these terrors, the internal afterlives of slavery. Yet, here we are, living. There is nothing romantic about the trauma we have and continue to adore. There is nothing to celebrate, in the violent journey we often find ourselves on. But when we breathe, acknowledging who we are, and how we are here, there is nothing short of a revolution at the parting of our lips. There, in that moment we reclaim air stolen on musty ships through the Atlantic. There, in that breathe, we take what was stolen from Eric Garner and Korryn Gaines. There, in that breathe, we re-member, we re-call, all the pieces of us that have been stolen and yet remained. Breathing, is resistance. When you cannot speak, breathe. When no one will listen, breathe. When you cannot think, breathe. When no one will believe you, breathe. When you cannot scream, breathe. When no one sees you, breathe. When you are alone breathe. When you have no space, breathe. Because even in then, when the blows of living overwhelm you, breathing is existence and existence is resistance.
won’t you celebrate with mewhat i have shaped intoa kind of life? i had no model.born in babylonboth nonwhite and womanwhat did i see to be except myself?i made it uphere on this bridge betweenstarshine and clay,my one hand holding tightmy other hand; come celebratewith me that everydaysomething has tried to kill meand has failed.”-Lucille CliftonWon’t You Celebrate With Me, Book of Light