Sunken Places

If you've see the movie Get Out, then you know about the "sunken place". The more I've thought and read analysis of what that place represents in the movie, the more I've been thinking about and questioning my own sunken places. I'm of course curious to know what they look like and what ecosystems exist within each one. What enables and sustains their survival? How do they co-exist with our whole, embodied parts of self? Can you live with more than one exist within us simultaneously or is it just one centralized place in our being you are plunged into repeatedly, at various points in our lives? How is it created? Does it form and evolve over time or does instantaneously come into being, fully developed to hold us hostage? Where does it go when we heal/recover/outgrow/are freed from it? 

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 If you think about it, every trauma we experience in this life, has its own sunken place it transports us to upon impact...I even think that perhaps the sunken places that exist inside of us are simply the places that become houses for our former selves, the iterations of self we're forced to leave behind for whatever reason...they could also be where inherited family trauma dwells, couldn't they? 

I have so many questions but am hoping painting through them leads to at least a few answers or starting points. 

Art as Protest: Women's March on Washington

1/21/2017: a beginning and the continuation of making our way down a path already laid out for us in eras past. 

I didn't have it in me to march, but I did have a desire to contribute my work in some way. Thankfully when I offered up "Social Construct", women from around the country responded, and carried it with them as they took to the streets. Some friends even wore the Her Power tee. As I looked at the pictures some posted and sent to me, I felt a sense of relief, humility, and gratitude. It affirmed what I know in my gut to be true: this is how I can effectively resist. This is my role. There will be other ways to be civically engaged, yes, but creating work that forces people to confront themselves and what exists in our society will be my main contribution. More on this later, but for now, some photos, which had me fighting tears as I looked at them all. 

May 1/21/2017 be the beginning of a new wave of resistance. Resist, resist, resist. 

Vermont  

Vermont  

Chicago

Chicago

San Jose

San Jose

D.C. 

D.C. 

D.C.  

D.C.  

D.C.  

D.C.  

For photos from today of marches that took places in cities across the country and around the world, the New York Times has a gallery here

Resistance Soundtrack: Prince's Positivity (Yes)

Since the election I've been having dreams that reflect my angst, fear, anxieties, and frustration over the normalization of hate and brand of populism that's taking over. The dreams are usually centered around my resistance to it, and my desire to find ways to engage in and support resistance efforts to this kind of power. In some of them I am crying, despairing, consumed with a sense of loss, but in most, I am fighting back in some way, even if it's just against my own fears that tell me all is lost. Last night's dream was about exactly that-not giving in to the desire to give up, and holding on.

I woke up from it with the lyrics to Prince's "Positivity" playing in my head.

  "Hold on...to your soul...we gotta long way, to go!"

 "Give up if you want to, and all is lost-Spooky Electric will be your boss..." 

It's been at least a year since I've listened to this track, so I'm sitting here in bed, right now, listening to it and marveling at how Prince's music (a song from the late 80's/early 90's that for me, always helped me in my spiritual life) continues to be relevant to our political and cultural climate.  

Lyrics from the portion that was playing in my dream/head when I woke up...

  "In every man's life there will be a hang-up

A whirlwind designed 2 slow U down

It cuts like a knife and tries 2 get in U

This Spooky Electric sound

Give up if U want 2 and all is lost

Spooky Electric will be your boss"

Call People magazine, Rolling Stone

Call your next of kin, cuz your ass is gone

He's got a 57 mag with the price tag still on the side

Cuzzin' when Spooky say dead, U better say died

Or U can fly high right by Spooky and all that he crawls 4

Spooky and all that he crawls 4

Don't kiss the beast

We need love & honesty, peace & harmony

Positivity

Love & honesty, peace & harmony

I said, hold on 2 your soul, U got a long way 2 go

Sho' nuff, sho' nuff, sho' nuff

Don't kiss the beast

Be superior at least

Hold on 2 your soul, y'all, court, sing

Hold on 2 your soul, we got a long way 2 go

Hold on 2 your soul..."

 

Holding on. 

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#FuckThisShit (Advent Devotional Day 25): Jesus Mary and Joseph

Then: Generations waited for the birth of deliverance.

You were slaughtered by the state.

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Now: Generations are waiting for the birth of deliverance while being slaughtered by the state.  

During this advent season, I've been creating visual responses to the prompts in a devotional called #FuckThisShit, created by pastors Tuhina Rasche and Jason Chesnut.  You can see my responses as well as visuals and writings from other artists, pastors, activists, and believers over on Medium here

Face First

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Step One/The Beginning: Cut down what remains. 

Step Two/The Middle: Clean it up w/a taper & fade + draw a line or two. Take the advice of a friend before moving ahead to Step Three: "Take your time here before you do anything else-settle into this face first." Yea. Ima do that because there are some things about this face and past trauma I've been avoiding dealing with. But Year 34 is dedicated to Dealing With because the stories are ready to be told + healing has said it's time to go another round. So I chopped 3-4 inches off the top last night to show I'm committed to the process and stepping into it *face* first-no more hair to hide behind.

A Rerouted Personal History

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 "A well-documented feature of trauma, one familiar to many, is our inability to articulate what happens to us. Not only do we lose our words, but something happens with our memory as well. During a traumatic incident, our thought processes become scattered and disorganized in such a way that we no longer recognize the memories as belonging to the original event. Instead, fragments of memory, dispersed as images, body sensations, and words, are stored in our unconscious and can become activated later by anything even remotely reminiscent of the original experience. Once they are triggered, it is as if an invisible rewind button has been pressed, causing us to reenact aspects of the original trauma in our day to day lives.

...still, all is not silent: words, images, and impulses that fragment following a traumatic event reemerge to form a secret language of our suffering we carry with us. Nothing is lost. The pieces have just been rerouted." (It Didn't Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End  The Cycle  by Mark Wolynn) 

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Toni Morrison on Trump's America

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"So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenseless as strength. These people are not so much angry as terrified, with the kind of terror that makes knees tremble.

On Election Day, how eagerly so many white voters—both the poorly educated and the well educated—embraced the shame and fear sowed by Donald Trump. The candidate whose company has been sued by the Justice Department for not renting apartments to black people. The candidate who questioned whether Barack Obama was born in the United States, and who seemed to condone the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester at a campaign rally. The candidate who kept black workers off the floors of his casinos. The candidate who is beloved by David Duke and endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.

William Faulkner understood this better than almost any other American writer. In “Absalom, Absalom,” incest is less of a taboo for an upper-class Southern family than acknowledging the one drop of black blood that would clearly soil the family line. Rather than lose its “whiteness” (once again), the family chooses murder." 

Toni Morrison joins 15 other writers (including Junot Diaz) in today's The New Yorker, "Aftermath: 16 New Yorker Writers on Trump's America" 

Core Feelings and Values

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As a Black, cis, Christian, able bodied woman w/a mental illness and neurodivergent Black and Brown children, let me tell you who and what I am for.

Black Lives

Brown Lives

Women & girls

Autistic Lives

Disabled Lives

Muslim Lives

LBGTQ Lives

I will not normalize hate. I will not accept hate. I will not rationalize hate. I will not explain hate away. I will only work to understand it so that I can confront, uproot, and challenge it. I will not call hate or bigotry by another name so that you can feel absolved of your culpability in your complicit support of it. I will not look past your complicit approval of it until you own it for what it is and acknowledge it as such.

I will not normalize racism, xenophobia, homophobia, ableism, or supremacist beliefs. Through my daily interactions, written and visual work, and in raising my children, I will hold the line and express my opposition to all forms of hate that impact the marginalized. My work will continue to be in the service of others, amplifying and centering our experiences, and financially supporting the work being done to combat hate and hold it accountable.

In word and deed, I will deliberately, purposefully, and unapologetically normalize the Other. Fight for the Other. Walk with the Other. Love the Other.

I don't know who you are, where you're from, or what you do or do not believe in. I don't know who you align yourself with politically. I don't know your race. I don't know your gender or orientation. I don't know how you live your life or what work you do. I don't know why you follow me or my work here, but my hope is that we share at least this core value. If you do not, I'm not sorry to say that my work and how I live my life will be uncomfortable for you to encounter. It will not always be easy to digest and it will prick your conscience, and feel abrasive as it rubs up against your worldview and values. My hope is that we can continue to connect and learn from one another, but if you are complicit in supporting and enabling hate, this will not be possible until there is an unlearning, a reckoning, a disengagement or divestment from, an accountability that must take place first before we can move forward together toward reconciliation, healing, respect, and love. If you are not open to that, you are more than free to do as you please and unfollow.

I'll be more than willing to welcome you back if and when you're ready to hold the line with me.

On Anger: Is It Useful?

I woke up Wednesday morning with Nina's voice saying David Nelson's words-"Are you ready to smash things and burn buildings?”-roaring in my ears. The anger I feel in the wake of the results of Tuesday's election has been a slow burn, gaining intensity and becoming a wild flame that spreads from one part of my body to the next, piercing my soul and flooding my consciousness. Throat, vocal chords, chest, heart, lungs, belly, arms, fists and feet, gritted teeth, shallow, heavy breathing. White hot, blinding, searing, causing my teeth to gnash in painful release. It waxes and wanes and fuels as I channel it into being energy that propels me forward. It has me questioning everything, and most of all myself and my work. I express and suppress and filter and compartmentalize so it doesn't cause me to splinter. 

And then I'm asked if I think anger about racism is useful, and if directing it towards those oppression benefits is constructive and I hear Audre's words on the usefulness of anger. And so while I don't have much to say yet about how we move forward, I give anger its space and allow it refine, cleanse the scales from my eyes, and clarify what it needs to within me, so that I can, indeed, move forward...using anger with laser precision in my life to uproot, disrupt, dismantle, confront, and choke out supremacy.

"Anger is an appropriate reaction to racist attitudes, as is fury when the actions arising from those attitudes do not change. To those women here who fear the anger of women of Color more than their own unscrutinized racist attitudes, I ask:  Is the anger of women of Color more threatening than the woman-hatred that tinges all aspects of our lives? It is not the anger of other women that will destroy us but our refusals to stand still, to listen to its rhythms, to learn within it, to move beyond the manner of presentation to the substance, to tap that anger as an important source of empowerment. I cannot hide my anger to spare you guilt, nor hurt feelings, nor answering anger; for to do so insults and trivializes all our efforts. Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness...

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...Every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressions, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being. Focused with precision it can become a powerful source of energy serving progress and change. And when I speak of change, I do not mean a simple switch of positions or a temporary lessening of tensions, nor the ability to smile or feel good. I am speaking of a basic and radical alteration in those assumptions underlining our lives. I have seen situations where white women hear a racist remark, resent what has been said, become filled with fury, and remain silent because they are afraid. That unexpressed anger lies within them like an undetonated device, usually to be hurled at the first woman of Color who talks about racism. But anger expressed and translated into action in the service of our vision af!d our future is a liberating and strengthening act of clarification, for it is in the painful process of this translation that we identify who are our allies with whom we have grave differences, and who are our genuine enemies. Anger is loaded with information and energy. When I speak of women of Color, I do not only mean Black women. The woman of Color who is not Black and who charges me with rendering her invisible by assuming that her struggles with racism are identical with my own has something to tell me that I had better learn from, lest we both waste ourselves fighting the truths between us. If I participate, knowingly or otherwise, in my sister’s oppression and she calls me on it, to answer her anger with my own only blankets the substance of our exchange with reaction. It wastes energy. And yes, it is very difficult to stand still and to listen to another woman’s voice delineate an agony I do not share, or one to which I myself have contributed.

...The angers between women will not kill us if we can articulate them with precision, if we listen to the content of what is said with at least as much intensity as we defend ourselves against the manner of saying. When we turn from anger we turn from insight, saying we will accept only the designs already known, deadly and safely familiar. I have tried to learn my anger’s usefulness to me, as well as its limitations...But the strength of women lies in recognizing differences between us as creative, and in standing to those distortions which we inherited without blame, but which are now ours to alter. The angers of women can transform difference through insight into power. For anger between peers births change, not destruction, and the discomfort and sense of loss it often causes is not fatal, but a sign of growth...

...When women of Color speak out of the anger that laces so many of our contacts with white women, we are often told that we are “creating a mood of hopelessness,” “preventing white women from getting past guilt,” or “standing in the way of trusting communication and action.” All these quotes come directly from letters to me from members of this organization within the last two years. One woman wrote, “Because you are Black and Lesbian, you seem to speak with the moral authority of suffering.” Yes, I am Black and Lesbian, and what you hear in my voice is fury, not suffering. Anger, not moral authority. There is a difference. To turn aside from the anger of Black women with excuses or the pretexts of intimidation is to award no one power - it is merely another way of preserving racial blindness, the power of unaddressed privilege, unbreached, intact. 

Guilt is only another form of objectification. Oppressed peoples are always being asked to stretch a little more, to bridge the gap between blindness and humanity. Black women are expected to use our anger only in the service of other people’s salvation or learning. But that time is over. My anger has meant pain to me but it has also meant survival, and before I give it up I’m going to be sure that there is something at least as powerful to replace it on the road to clarity. What woman here is so enamoured of her own oppression that she cannot see her heelprint upon another woman’s face?  What woman’s terms of oppression have become precious and necessary to her as a ticket into the fold of the righteous, away from the cold winds of self-scrutiny?

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...I am a lesbian woman of Color whose children eat regularly because I work in a university. If their full bellies make me fail to recognize my commonality with a woman of Color whose children do not eat because she cannot find work, or who has no children because her insides are rotted from home abortions and sterilization; if I fail to recognize the lesbian who chooses not to have children, the woman who remains closeted because her homophobic community is her only life support, the woman who chooses silence instead of another death, the woman who is terrified lest my anger trigger the explosion of hers; if I fail to recognize them as other faces of myself, then I am contributing not only to each of their oppressions but also to my own, and the anger which stands between us then must be used for clarity and mutual empowerment, not for evasion by guilt or for further separation. I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own. And I am not free as long as one person of Color remains chained. Nor is anyone of you.

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I speak here as a woman of Color who is not bent upon destruction, but upon survival. No woman is responsible for altering the psyche of her oppressor, even when that psyche is embodied in another woman. I have suckled the wolfs lip of anger and I have used it for illumination, laughter, protection, fire in places where there was no light, no food, no sisters, no quarter. We are not goddesses or matriarchs or edifices of divine forgiveness; we are not fiery fingers of judgment or instruments of flagellation; we are women forced back always upon our woman’s power. We have learned to use anger as we have learned to use the dead flesh of animals, and bruised, battered, and changing, we have survived and grown and, in Angela Wilson’s words, we are moving on. With or without uncolored women. We use whatever strengths we have fought for, including anger, to help define and fashion a world where all our sisters can grow, where our children can love, and where the power of touching and meeting another woman’s difference and wonder will eventually transcend the need for destruction.

For it is not the anger of Black women which is dripping down over this globe like a diseased liquid. It is not my anger that launches rockets, spends over sixty thousand dollars a second on missiles and other agents of war and death, slaughters children in cities, stockpiles nerve gas and chemical bombs, sodomizes our daughters and our earth. It is not the anger of Black women which corrodes into blind, dehumanizing power, bent upon the annihilation of us all unless we meet it with what we have, our power to examine and to redefine the terms upon which we will live and work; our power to envision and to reconstruct, anger by painful anger, stone upon heavy stone, a future of pollinating difference and the earth to support our choices.

We welcome all women who can meet us, face to face, beyond objectification and beyond guilt." (Audre Lorde's "The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism") 

This Woman's Work

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 "So are you concerned about this-the oral stimming, the mouthing of objects-do you want therapists to get him to stop?" "Well, yes I am concerned about it because he's putting things in his mouth that aren't healthy or safe like batteries/charging cables/my rings/his clothing...but I don't want him to stop stimming, no-I don't want him to stop doing something that helps him find comfort and process stimuli (internal or external). I'd much rather focus on helping him find safe things he can chew or mouth on, you know? Like chewy tubes, or some kind of fidget that can help him get the input he's seeking orally. But I don't think this particular stim is one we should work on getting rid of. No."

I spent 2 hours in a room doing this-advocating for my kid, talking, explaining, objectively and constructively fleshing out as accurate of a picture of him, his needs/strengths/abilities/struggles as I could for the intake therapist at Easter Seals. Just like I did last week for an hour with the speech therapist, last month with the team at Kaiser's Autism Center in San Jose during his assessments, and as I've done repeatedly for the last 3 years for Alex. It's a weird balance trying to maintain when you're working to get your kid the help he needs while also making it clear that he is not "broken". It's pushing back at the subtle and overt messaging that there are parts of your kids that need to be fixed by asserting instead that perhaps what needs "fixing" are the classifications of certain behaviors as "typical" (i.e. "good") + a world that isn't inclusive of difference that exists outside of narrow parameters. It's choking back whatever worries/anxieties/fears you have as their parent and steadying your voice so you come across as concerned but informed/proactive/capable. It's ignoring the surprise that starts in their eyes and spreads across their face, alters their body language, and shifts their tone and warmth toward you once they realize the Black woman sitting across from them can talk about things like language development, the vestibular system, primitive reflexes, sensory integration, and varying behavior modalities on a "professional" level. It's verbally adding nuance to the questions that can't be answered with a simple "yes/no/sometimes" or the 2 lines they give you to "explain further". It's smiling and relishing in the moments in between answers when you can elaborate on who your kid really is in spite of what's in the reports and diagnoses.

I've done it so much for all 3 of my kids over the last 3 years I've learned how to talk about them/their needs/their struggles as their mother and advocate simultaneously. I've learned how to detach emotionally and be objective and firm. I've learned to remember what's been said in every evaluation/appointment/therapy session. I've yet to learn how to keep it from exhausting me though. I'm hoping they learn from watching and hearing me do it how to do it for themselves as they grow and navigate the world on their own. 

It's what I wasn't taught how to do by my own parents. Isn't that the goal, ultimately? To do for the next generation what couldn't be done for your own, so that each one becomes more equipped to navigate life and better themselves and world? That's the work we've been asked to do isn't it? It's exhausting work but I choose to believe it's worth it. I do. 

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Unloading

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Haven't been in here for 3 days, (back pain, ugh) but I stepped in today and poured out what I've been carrying, because the studio is the one place that can bear the full weight of it...and me. I stepped in and to the canvas because we can't deal with what we have going on inside of us until we have the courage to face it.

Painting does that for me: gives me the boldness necessary to confront myself with grace, compassion, and honesty. It holds the burdens my arms/heart/mind/soul can't.

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Art as Protest: Leila Weefur's "Dead Nigga Blvd."

This morning while scrolling through Betti Ono Gallery's Facebook feed, I came across the work of stop motion animation artist Leila Weefur. They posted a video of hers called"Dead Nigga Blvd." that is a must see.

 "Dead Nigga Blvd. exists somewhere between life on Earth and the afterlife. Emmett Till, Oscar Grant, and Trayvon Martin dwell in frustration and confusion as they are forced to confront their deaths in the same way we all have confronted their deaths, through a broadcast. These three young men represent only a small percentage of deaths caused by racial injustices but their faces have become iconic in the conversation of American racism." 

You can watch it here:  https://vimeo.com/leilaweefur/deadniggablvd

and also check out her piece titled "To Be Constructed"