(Unedited) A few years ago at a Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed national gathering, I sat in a “circle” with other attendees. I heard a white womon say something like, “All I can do is instill hope…” I was instantly irritated because she was talmbout her work with Black youth, and she made the comment as both a savior and a defeatist.
I was recently looking at the notebook that I was using during this gathering and I’d doodled and written, “Who tha fuqqqqq are you to instill hope in these young people’s lives? You ain’t the great white bearer of hope.”
In this room full of people I responded with something like, “As a therapist and practitioner I strongly believe in hope as action, but fuq hope, as a passive woe is me or woe is them construct. There has to be some tangible actions to disrupt and dismantle structural misdoings…And what is it to instill hope?”
Would this be considered calling someone out or calling them in?
At every PTO gathering, since that one, someone asks if I’m the person who said: “Fuq Hope…” Not only do they inquire if I said it, usually they want to have deep intellectual exchanges about it. Well, how bout this for starters “Fuq Hope,” was not the gem of what I said—sometimes I’m in the mood to engage and other times, I am not.
Nonetheless, in having my response resurface so many times I am even more grounded and understand what I FELT when I heard the womon’s comments. What I felt in my soul is what prompted the response, because my response was very much so about the energy around her words.
It FELT very passive aggressive and reactive. It FELT judgmental. It FELT like she was saying poor little Black children. It FELT loosey goosey and like divestment. It FELT like she was just doing the program with them for her to feel like she’s a martyr. It FELT like a very privileged cop-out in the name of anti-oppressive work. It did NOT feel anti-oppressive; instead, it felt quite stifling. It’s like my evolved understanding of saying that I’m “empowering” someone. Nah. I do NOT empower people, I support them in acquiring the tools for them to empower themselves.
I’ve been reminded of all of this as I’ve been halfway doing this current installment of Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s, 21-Day-Meditation. I have not been consistent in spending time each day with the recordings, meditation and journaling, but the Universe has been faithful in guiding me to “Hope in Uncertain Times” on the Oprah & Deepak’s app. The sessions I’ve listened to have been spot on in engaging hope as action, not as passivity.
Day 16, Oprah shared the words of Dr. Brene Brown, she said, “If you extract your own self-worth from the very people you are helping, then that’s judgment, but if you are helping people with the hope that one day you might need help from them, then that is connection.” I instantly thought of Lilla Watson an aboriginal elder who said, “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
A takeaway from both of these is that anti-oppressive, conscientious and authentic connections are a choice and these choices take intention, effort and work.
Moreover, I think this has all been brewing in alignment with today’s new moon encouraging me to continue where I left off in my previous post. In my previous post I touched on my ever evolving praxis on how I (co)create safe and brave spaces, and delving deeper into what is it to: hold space, bear witness and to be a vessel.
Saturday morning as I was getting my mind right to present/share at, I am Visible, a summit for Black womyn, I was reminded that the Universe has placed all answers within me, and I was reminded that I am a vessel. I’d been asked to set the tone for the event so I composed a performance piece that included singing excerpts of a few of my diddies (wannabe songs…lol lol lol) and sharing some poetic prose that I wrote specific to this day of supporting sistas in being VISIBLE. I’d put the opening piece together, but with my very dense week and prepping for the 2 breakout sessions I was leading, I wasn’t able to really go over what I’d prepared. So, Saturday morning I was ti-red but soon as I woke up God had a message. “You are a vessel.”
I knew that my PowerPoint presentations were engaging so I’d much rather put my PowerPoint on a looped slideshow, instead of saying anything. But God was on her j-o-b. that morning. She reminded me that She gave me these gifts and that She had me. She retold me that I am a vessel. Okay G-G, God’s grace, came thru. She reminded me that it wasn’t about a performance, it was about setting the tone for sistas to feel safe, supported, welcomed, and it was largely about giving Black women even more permission to be ourselves and to be VISIBLE.
My opening and breakout sessions were well received and it soothed my soul seeing the affirming head nods, beautiful smiles, and the clutching of (metaphorical) pearls. Andddddddddd, Gawd stepped in even more by transforming the opening session into a “speak easy.” I’d been told I only had 10 minutes, but really I had 30-40 mins. NO WORRIES, I am the go with the flow queen in these typa situations.
One of the sistas who was moved by what I shared during the opening session asked me, “Well, how do you be you? How do you not be invisible?” Her question led me to open up the floor for “sista talk,” an impromptu sista circle. And wow, sistas shared, soothed, leaned in and listened, and it was clear this space was needed.
Stay inquiring! Stay asking questions, but also ground yourself in your values and in the words of Lisa Nichols, be clear on your no matter what.
This new moon is also about that, being VISIBLE in our truths! What’s your story? What’s the not so pretty parts of your story that you have worked through or continue to work through? How do you share this part of you—do you share it as a victim, or as a survivor who is courageously moving through being victimized? How do you stay grounded while also inspiring others with your story…while also continuing to do your self-work? What’s the art of doing this dance? What seeds are you planting at this new moon?
Courageously moving through life’s ups and downs is a process, not a single ah ha moment.