On black love

I have never realized how much I depend on him. My partner is away.  It is day 5. Twenty-eight days to go.

My sister has come by to help with dinner and bedtime. She feeds the toddler, helps him wash up, pjs, reads some books, goodnight, no you can’t sleep in mommy’s bed, goodnight. I nurse the infant to sleep, burped, bathed, changed, burped again.  I will come back later to check if toddler has fallen asleep/ sticks around to chat. I am exhausted.

Finally, I sit on the balcony. There is still much to do. But I can’t. I am done. Exhausted. I watch the clouds race across the moon…the sun sets. Twenty. Eight. Days. 672 hours until he is home.

I don’t remember ever falling in love. Was there a moment when I suddenly found myself (falling) in love. Our love is something that grew, that just…came to be…in the background of a friendship. There were times when it felt like we might not make it. But at some point, I just felt it. A sense, a presence, so familiar, it must have always been there. A love. Our love.

By the time I realize I am in love, it feels so familiar. Like family. Like home. Like we have made it.

It feels like I am unable to function without him. Not only is he currently the sole income-earner (I’m a grad student on parental leave), but he does a LOT around the house – including most of the cooking, groceries, laundry. We are fortunate. We have been able to build a beautiful life together. We spend most of the day together with both of our children. We do a lot of our work from home, and he does most of his after the rest of us are asleep. He is our rock.

I love him because he is everything that a black man should be. His strength and resilience are the first things that I noticed. Well, after his tattoos of course. The first long conversation we had on the phone we talked about everything that mattered. Our past, our goals, kids, religion, family, regrets, hopes. I knew then.

I can’t imagine doing this without him. I can barely imagine getting through the next four weeks. Spending the days with our children…all day, every day…will be hard. But spending the days withOUT him? (Just breathe).

 

Immigrant

I am an immigrant.

My parents were refugees, fleeing a civil war in which my father fought. I was born along the way, on the journey from there to here. From the motherland, the land of origins. A warm country, noble, enduring, steady. To here. An unpredictable place, a cold country built on stolen land by a nation of people who still struggle to acknowledge their place in history as oppressors. Colonizers.

Immigrant. A person living in a foreign land.

Foreign. Not your own.

That is what we are. Never belonging, always searching for a place that fits just right. Looking for a space that is ours.

My children are the first generation born on this soil. What does it mean? For me, as a mother. For them, as black children. Immigration amplifies the generation gap. Will it affect my ability to understand my children? To prepare them sufficiently for what they will face, to overcome life’s challenges. Will they find a place to settle?

Or will they roam, like we do, searching for a place that fits just  right. Looking for a space that is ours.

Seeking a home of our own.

Black feminism and more on Beyonce

In the weeks since Beyonce’s visual album Lemonade was released there has been a lot of discussion, judgement and dialogue about its strengths, merits, message, imagery and intention. Critiques and praise have been given by a diverse range of individuals including celebrities, scholars, journalists and academics. Whether or not you are a fan of the album you can not deny that it has sparked a conversation and made an impact.

Personally I continue to read, watch, listen and meditate and my opinion of the album is still developing. I see much to be praised – the centering of black female bodies is one example – and also some things which I might critique – such as the lack of intersectional representation. However, if there is one thing which I am most excited about it is this: Lemonade has created SPACE for all of us to engage in meaningful dialogue about black/intersectional feminism and has included voices in this conversation which usually do not get heard.

Conversations about feminism are usually centered on experiences of white women, and the voices that get centered are often those same women. Now that we are finally having a conversation that is centered on black women we are able to focus on the voices and experiences of women of colour and to me THAT is a wonderful shift, one which has been a long time coming, and which I hope will allow us to dig deeper. Here is some of the commentary around the album which I have found especially interesting:

Melissa Harris-Perry in Elle Magazine

bell hooks’ critique

commentary on the critique by bell hooks

Ijeoma Oluo in The Guardian

Evelyn from the Internets video response

 

I would love to hear your thoughts, and if you have any other articles worth reading please feel free to share in the comments.

Initial thoughts re: Beyoncé’s Lemonade

A few years ago I was co-hosting a weekend retreat for a group of black womyn. At some point in the evening we were drinking wine, listening to music and chatting when someone brought up Beyoncé. I remember remarking that although I love dancing to her music when I’m out at a club or party, I wasn’t a fan of her music in particular, mainly because I prefer to listen to music that is consciously trying to say something about the state of the world. One of the participants disagreed with me, arguing that she didn’t see anything wrong with a musician who wants to sing about her personal experiences and that not everyone has to make music that is political. I agreed, but told her while musicians have every right to choose what type of music they make, I also have a right to listen to the music which speaks to me.

Fast forward a few years and I was sitting in front of the tv watching the 2016 superbowl with my sister-in-law and my partner, when Beyoncé debuted Formation. As soon as I saw the back-up dancers and Queen Bey in their black, militaristic outfits I got chills. My first thought was that the outfits reminded me of Michael Jackson’s epic superbowl performance in the 90s. I had already heard the song (which had debuted the night before) and my sister-in-law and I excitedly watched to see if they would censor some of the language (specifically the word “negroes”). When the performance was over we were both grinning and started talking excitedly. We realized that we had just witnessed what felt like a turning point in Beyoncé’s music career. After decades of singing about love and relationships, she had finally made a song which we recognized as completely pro-black and pro-feminine, and we were ecstatic.

Then yesterday I got four text messages from my sister-in-law in quick succession. “I don’t know if you have seen it yet…”, “since you liked Formation I think you’ll like this even more…”, and finally a link to watch Lemonade, Beyoncé’s newly released video album. I told my partner, and we agreed that we would watch it after the kids were asleep. And we did. All 65 minutes of glorious, pro-black, pro-womyn/feminine fabulousness. I was mesmerized from the first minute, taking note of every detail possible…what did the tattoo on that womyn’s shoulder say? what kind of trees are those interspersed throughout? the titles/words during the transitions (intuition, denial, anger, apathy, and so on…). Occasionally one of us would comment on something  such as the beat sampled from an old song, or the images of the many young black lives lost too soon. For the first few songs I thought the album was about her relationship with her husband, but soon began to see, hear and FEEL something more, something deeper. By the time we got to “forgiveness, reconciliation, resurrection” I knew that Beyoncé had captured so much more than her own experiences. I recognized something in the message that was meant for black womyn like myself. My partner on the other hand became perplexed, he told me at the end of the video that he felt like he “had been lead somewhere and then left to figure it out”. I realized that he was looking for a resolution, a nice clean ending that explained what it all meant. And after some reflection I realized that is why this video spoke to me.

Because my existence as a black womyn in a world where the black womyn is “the most disrespected person” can not be tied up in a nice clean story. Our stories are nuanced, complex, and intertwined. We can not be expressed in words, or through music. Our essence can not be captured by the media portrayals of black womyn which often depict us as one dimensional. By speaking and sharing her truth, without worrying about whether (white) people would get it, Beyoncé had managed to weave an intricate story, one of betrayal, hurt, anger, sadness, loneliness, strength, confidence, growth, feminine energy, birth, love, rebirth, reconciliation, forgiveness, family, intergenerational trauma, pain, and freedom. A story told by a black womyn, with the help of other black womyn, for black womyn.

I know that there will be a lot of dialogue about the album. I have already seen the media portray it as the story of an angry black womyn scorned. On CNN this morning they were discussing it in a two minute clip that included the scene where Beyoncé is smashing cars with a bat while a fireball explodes in the background. It did not surprise me that they chose to focus on the scenes from “Anger”. It did not surprise me that they gave airtime to some tweets by (one of) the side chicks that is thought to be referenced in the song. That they reduced this one hour album to the story of Beyoncé and Jay-Z and their marital strife demonstrates how womyn’s agency and experience is erased as we are reduced to being wives and mothers. That they failed to mention any of the pro-black feminine imagery (the video features black feminine folks, with almost no white people, and no men in the entire 65 minutes) demonstrates the way that black agency is ignored and our attempts to tell our own stories ignored and erased. As someone who is repeatedly called an angry black womyn I was not surprised to see mainstream media interpreting this album in such a manner. And it really doesn’t matter, because I know that there is so much that they are missing and because I know that the point is not what they think of it. I know what I see when I watch this one hour long tribute to the resiliency, power and truth of the black feminine experience. I look forward to watching it again and again to absorb the story and message which Beyoncé has created for black womyn like myself, without needing to explain it or share it. Because this is our story, and we are not here for anyone else’s viewing pleasure. After decades of following Beyoncé’s career develop I feel honoured to be occupying this space with her. This is one album and one artist that speaks to me, and I can’t wait to see where she takes us next.

Welcome

After many years of toying with the idea of starting a blog I have finally decided to just put myself out there and see how things go. As someone who tends to over think things I have found many reasons and excuses to delay this, but the time has finally come to start writing and sharing. I don’t know whether anyone will ever read this, but I know that I have something(s) to say. That is why I am starting this blog.

I struggled with naming the blog, mainly because I struggle to identify myself. Who am I? What do I want to say? I am still working on answering these questions, and will likely continue to do so as this blog moves forward. In the meantime here is an attempt to give you a brief overview of what those answers currently look like.

Who I am is something that constantly changes and evolves but where I stand in life now is at the intersection of motherhood and my other identities. I am, have always been and will always be, black. Similarly, I have always sought to change the wrongs around me and to leave the world a better place then it was when I entered. Thus, black and activist are identities which I believe have played a central role in my life. I am also a woman, and more recently, a mother. I navigate the world through these identities, and the world helps shape how I identify myself.

What I have to say is grounded in my everyday experiences as this black woman/mother, and the social spaces that I occupy. I live in city a which prides itself on being the most multicultural in the world. I see things happening around me daily which impact my heart, my being and my soul, and I wish to share my personal thoughts on these experiences. I hope that someone will find something I have to say helpful, or inspiring, or thought-provoking. But more importantly, I hope to chronicle my own thoughts in  an effort to create a space to work through some of the most challenging aspects of parenting, living and being which I encounter daily. I also strive to create an inclusive and safe space for others who like me, find themselves navigating a complex world which looks to place us in certain boxes and judge us accordingly.

I thank you for reading this and welcome you to blacktivist mommy. I look forward to seeing where this goes.