Our Glass Full of Power

“Women have been driven mad, “gaslighted,” for centuries by the refutation of our experience and our instincts in a culture which validates only male experience. The truth of our bodies and our minds has been mystified to us. We therefore have a primary obligation to each other: not to undermine each other’s sense of reality for the sake of expediency; not to gaslight each other.
 Women have often felt insane when cleaving to the truth of our experience. Our future depends on the sanity of each of us, and we have a profound stake, beyond the personal, in the project of describing our reality as candidly and fully as we can to each other.
 When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her.” -Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence

So before I even begin let me backup (those of you out there who are experienced readers of mine may know by now that I like to provide as much context as possible for/with my words + time). In the past week:

  1. the US+ celebrated Mother’s Day, while I quietly mourned the lack of my own Mom, who died 16 years ago. Every Mother’s Day I am reminded of the Life experience that, bar none, I am the Most sad to Never have: giving birth with the assistance and presence of my beloved mother.
Mom (R, in dress) dances with a friend on her 30th birthday while my little sister watches.

I was not alone in feeling lonely that day, however…

“There is a huge mom shaped hole in my heart that can never be filled and I don’t think it ever should.”

2. a Facebook friend of mine committed suicide, this artsy, witchy woman, with whom I have far too much in common:

3. I got unceremoniously uninvited by my sister from my (first, female) cousin’s law school graduation in Chicago, due to the fact that my abusive father — who is unrelated to my cousin by blood — will be there, and no one is willing to ask him to either A) not come or B) not talk or interact with me during the graduation day.

4. It was the four month “anniversary” of my relationship and the first time my boyfriend and I realized exactly how long we’ve been dating. Romantico! But not too much so.

The week before last (perhaps all the weeks before in this year) have not been much less emotionally charged and eventful.

For example, the weekend right after 4/20 — when my boyfriend tried to make some money to get his car out of hock by selling homemade cannabis candy at Dolores Park but then he got jacked at the end of the day by a gang-banger whose territory it was— the world saw the release of cultural tsunamis (both released on HBO, which is somehow becoming the world’s cultural tsunami HQ…), one (Game of Thrones’ season 6 premiere) predicted, the other — Beyonce’s visual album, Lemonade — a serendipitous bombshell surprise.

Alas, I experienced some serious FOMO (for the first time in my life, perhaps) that Saturday and then again Sunday night as I was stranded in Stockton at my boyfriend’s grandma’s house with no cable TV. At 97 years of age, however, with her nearly nonstop family storytelling, I can say that she gave HBO a run for its money in entertainment value. In fact, Grandma wins because she stockpiles her own homemade cookies and gives them out liberally to visitors like myself!

But I still had LTE or 4G or whatever on my iPhone so I could still see on social media and from my cousin messaging me that I was missing something incredibly MAJOR. By the time I got back home on Monday morning I had already scrolled past well over a dozen headlines for articles about Lemonade. Those titles and superlative phrases indicated that “Lemonade” would be nothing less than a video valentine to the very video artist creative dynamic struggling yet strong black woman soul within me, with an extra spicy shout-out to the Texan buried somewhere next to the skeleton of my daddy issues hidden in my childhood spent in extreme transitions…

THANK YOU Beyonce for creating art that holds space for this important deep dark nearly taboo conversation and discussion of our most secret fears… our most earnest desires, all of which seem to orbit our families and our homelands, be they hometowns or whole countries. I am saying thank you again because I felt the gratitude as soon as I heard it, it was love at first sight to be sure, with me and lemonade. Bey and I share too many roots for that not to be the case. We dropped out of the same high school for the arts, we both have domineering father figures from whom we’ve chosen to distance ourselves, for our health and well-being first and foremost but also by burning that bridge the better to fuel our skyrocket to success and albeit tentative (more on that later) satisfaction. …

We are trolled by the ODDEST of bitter critics: our “auntie” bells… who while we could never take for granted the struggles they have witnessed, endured, and shared the fruits of with us, remain so bent out of shape by the machine of the system they infiltrated that sometimes what they have to offer is useless to us, almost violent, hate, unprocessed bile or with sugar added but not only not healthy, not even drinkable, unlike lemonade.

“In this fictive world, black female emotional pain can be exposed and revealed. It can be given voice: this is a vital and essential stage of freedom struggle, but it does not bring exploitation and domination to an end. …
It is only as black women and all women resist patriarchal romanticization of domination in relationships can a healthy self-love emerge that allows every black female, and all females, to refuse to be a victim. Ultimately Lemonade glamorizes a world of gendered cultural paradox and contradiction. It does not resolve.”

… Or does it bell hooks? … (I’ll come back to that)

Lemonade reminds me of the little black girl (with the Big) magic of Bee Sweet, the organic beverage created to save bees, from the enterprising mind of a 9 year old black girl: Mikaila, who by age 11 has sold her ecological sustainable, honey sweetened trademarked lemonade for millions of dollars worth of national distribution rights at Whole Foods! Very sweet and nurturing, too…

“Lemonade” reminds me of the lavender lemonade summer I had living with a most female family of family friends, who are white, because my father had physically attacked and abused me back in the suburb of Houston (Bey’s hometown!) where he lived (until recently when he got evicted after the foreclosure of his house). That lavender lemonade was positively addictive! So sweet, a bit sour too, tart, and soothing, floral. Nice. One tall glass tasted like a whole spa day’s worth of pampering. The mom of the family and I loved it and couldn’t make enough. The daughters got lavendered-out and started to make fun of us. But it was good fun.

The lemonade this Quench Wench B serves up does indeed “resolve” — just like lemonade slakes thirst, and can even help save a winged sweet species from endangerment or extinction (note that!)— in the sense of dissolving tension, releasing burdens, speaking (singing, shouting, shushing) truth to intimate power.

… No matter how hard women in relationships with patriarchal men work for change, forgive, and reconcile, men must do the work of inner and outer transformation if emotional violence against black females is to end. We see no hint of this in Lemonade. If change is not mutual then black female emotional hurt can be voiced, but the reality of men inflicting emotional pain will still continue (can we really trust the caring images of Jay Z which conclude this narrative).

I have to agree with bell hooks at first. Although I still disagree with all of the ricockulously unnecessary shade she keeps throwing at Bey — even clawing at her marriage like a tabloid reporter! How does bell think this whole Tidal-Beyonce semi-exclusive release maneuver works? What does she think “’Cause We Slay” refers to? There are actually several hints of the arrival of the next revolution in Lemonade.

Actually Auntie bell misses the entire boat when Beyonce gets “violent” … reminding us, just like a great auntie, that violence is not the answer. Oh really? Thanks for letting us know!

Let me break it down for you or your generation, Prof.: it’s stage-violence! You know, like, performance art? The slaying is symbolic and of the male ego! Beyonce is playing Oshun; she and her dancers are the Igbo Landing…(if you don’t what that is please look it up). And most thrilling of all to me (although I wonder still if you’re aware of it yet B?) she is Kali — the dark goddess of blackness and destroyer of all egos in the ancient Hindu faith. My chosen goddess.

Kali is my chosen goddess but in equal truth (to my heart) she chose me as her devotee when she witnessed and intervened in my life, through its sudden tragedy, through my loss, but also born from within out of my fierce passion, my characteristic combativeness.

“Lemonade” reminds me of my dad, bittersweetly. He likes his tart that way, though. Lemonade used to be his favorite drink, as he’s never in my lifetime drank alcohol (gave him headaches), but in his age he’s started drinking Arnold Palmer’s, half lemonade half ice tea, a lot more sugar. It’s not good for his blood pressure. But he DGAF. Just like he DGAF about his health, mental health, or health/care in general, home, his home, having a home, keeping a home, caring for a home, taking care of a house, cleaning house, running a household, making a home, providing a home…

… Any of that; he does not care. All of which I resent him for. He started this family. So he should take responsibility for it. If he cares so much about what other people think, about appearances, about money and making it, and thinking ahead of the curve of outside of the box then he should try this: prioritizing care!

Hard questions in the air like floating stones… about what it means / about violence / about family and what it means to be there for each other / for one another, to hold space, to respect, to reach out, to speak up, to be responsible or accountable, to act, in the face of extreme loss, violence, ambiguity? about the relative value of being woman or man / masculinity and femininity

Questioning Fathers: Our Fathers, Fatherhood, and Patriarchy

Beyonce’s Lemonade and Daddy Lessons = the central song on the album, which like the album, if not all about [marriage, her father, her husband, etc.], certainly and fearlessly combats, even wages creatively fueled war against patriarchy, unfaithful men, and cycles of violence. Cycles of violence in the family as well as within this country, the US, which I believe could be one important reason why “Daddy Lessons” is a country song— Beyonce’s first to the public to date and a total slam-dunk. It’s minor inflected melody sounds good like: Damn! She’s from Texas; of course Bey can belt a country tune like nobody’s business that simply takes our breath away!! Duh! The tune still gives me chills every time I hear it.

“With his right hand on his rifle / he swore it on the Bible — My daddy said, shoot — My daddy said, shoot — 
When trouble comes around / and men like me come to town / my daddy said, shoot—”

What does it mean now that we’re ready — because we must overthrow it — him — them — the patriarchy, our abusers, and oppressors…? Must we use their methods? Ala Zeus with Chronos, must we kill and use violence? Must we use this gun we’ve inherited, his weapon to “slay” …?

How do we slay — how do we end these cycles of violence? How should we deal with masculinity — and the status quo of male hegemony — after knowing … knowing our worth, the values of valuing the feminine, the worth of women worldwide, the worth of ourselves, as individuals, as women, as human… having even experienced the divine feminine, perhaps — what to do in this world then?

Yes, “Daddy” and the powers that be tell us to shoot — to be violent, to hit that, hit back, hit it or quit it, to spank or be spanked, and that winning = dominance. Dogs are proof of man’s innate desire to dominate, and of Nature’s kindness/compassion and/or or occasional willingness to submit. Her equanimity to see the values in both dominance and submission. Just as She values both masculine and feminine, violence and nonviolence, spirituality and sexuality, as she tolerates health and habits, social and solitary, and life and death, of course, all in balance…

Daddy said shoot — but we may finally have learned better. … Can we avoid our (abusive) father (figures)s altogether? (PS who wants to just eradicate fatherhood? … Because it seems like enough people, frustrated daughters and long term boyfriends notably among them, kinda secretly do!)

Pressures of money, worth, values, earning, work.. as definition of masculinity and necessary for survival, plus relationships and the unpredictability of human feelings …make it easy enough to see why so many men think it the simplest solution to try to seek control of every aspect of life and the world around it as much as possible. Yet control + relationships = oppression! Thus the historical oppression of women and children and domestic workers who are often people of marginalized cultures. Then add to that, that:

Control + work/value = (guess what… wait for it…) Oppression! again. And there you have the male hegemonic white supremacist patriarchal society we all know and endure for unknown reasons (of oppression) for so long.

Power and the Inefficacy of Violence

“Parents think it works. And they think it works because it gets an immediate reaction out of the child. Immediately the child cries.”
“The parent goes ‘Aha! they understood that I am mad.’ That’s gratifying to the parent, so the parent is rewarded by getting this reaction out of the child.”

Is violence really about control or anger? Maybe anger is really about control. And violence is just its worst expression… Or are anger and violence more about dominance than actual control? Dominance vs. control — what’s the difference? Can there be — is there finally another way — other possibilities — for how to live and how to fight!? How to defend ourselves and our rights?

What about the “Mother’s Way”? For one example. What does she do? How does she behave? What did she do? What has she done? What does she want? But then at times upon examination we find her ways — gasp! — lacking too! Hence, why: “This ain’t Yo Mama’s Civil Rights Movement” and “This Ain’t Yo Momma’s Feminism!”

Supportive — even albeit whether willing or unwilling of the father’s abusive regime — silence will not save us. Violence is futile. But nonviolence is false. Dominance and dominion surely suck, but Passivity is surely no better! Aggression is bad. Passive aggression is just as bad, in my opinion, and from any ethical standpoint. Neutrality is nonexistent.

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” -Elie Wiesel , Nobel Prize speech

But let me reiterate:

Violence is ultimately futile. Only use violence when the situation is futile, useless, done, when you truly DGAF — including what the consequences will be.

Nonviolence, however is a lie. Don’t preach against violence. That’s like preaching against an emotion, like grief or frustration. It may be very Buddhist but it isn’t very practical nor even really popular. Why not? Because violence is in the spectrum of human nature. We’re all bound to feel it at some points in our lifetime. Instead of preaching against violence or in general saying, negatively, what not to do, just try to help!

Try to help in the most desperate of situations, if you truly want to be nonviolent. If you want to be nonviolent: adopt a child. Care for the child into adulthood, for life. (Lives of service are the best spent lives on this earth. Everyone knows that. Deep down.) …

At the edge there is the revolution — springing forth from the radical the roots and the radius… = 6 inches = intimate space? = 6 º of separation … = the order of operations?!

The line between addicted and not is parallel to the line between violence and nonviolence… and just as thin (if not thinner?!). This is perhaps no coincidence — why? Because loath though we are to admit it, both violence and addiction are part of the natural spectrum of human nature. In fact virtually every single human being will experience both in a lifetime. We must deal with them. Both. Separately and, often, together, unfortunately.

Addiction is a social construct. Addiction is internalized violence. Yet I’ve learned more about myself through experiments with drugs probably than by most other means. (Because using drugs and feeling high do not define addiction. Other people do! Authorities. Power.)

With the “highly” notable exception of relationships. Of all kinds. With these the more the, well the more interactions the more I learn.

So, just as the truly nonviolent actions are antidotes to violence and thus vital and wise assistance in the most desperate of situations — so too is the antidote to addiction indeed healthy relationships — of all kinds — but I’ll go even further to say it’s friendship.s. Because only connection, the understanding and reciprocal love of friendship can heal the pain — whatever underlying pain — as well as any addiction seems to end hurt, be it addictive substance or habit. Only friends can make one feel that one belongs — to life — as much as being high feels at home.

For precious + treacherous, that is life… as I know it.

… To truly be free, we must choose beyond simply surviving adversity, we must dare to create lives of sustained optimal well-being and joy. In that world, the making and drinking of lemonade will be a fresh and zestful delight, a real life mixture of the bitter and the sweet, and not a measure of our capacity to endure pain, but rather a celebration of our moving beyond pain.”

What is the difference Auntie bell / Dr. hooks? yes of course men have to do their own work and we cannot put up with their abusive/oppressive/patriarchal dirt anymore. however her unillustrated ideal distinction b/w endured pain and “moving beyond pain” remains lost on me. that is what Bey is doing! DUH. like, for what we have agency over this is the best anyone has to offer: creative process!

“We will not know our own injustice if we cannot imagine justice. We will not be free if we do not imagine freedom. We cannot demand that anyone try to attain justice and freedom who has not had a chance to imagine them as attainable.” -Ursula K. Leguin

And by now of course, another week has passed, during which I added to and edited this essay, and now this has happened in US:

Another young black woman like myself has died in police custody (ie been killed by cops) in the suburban Houston, Texas vicinity that I knew all too well: (to repeat) where I partially grew up, where Beyonce comes from, where dad attacked me, where Sandra Bland was killed by cops in the same county, where I penned this, passionately last summer:

oh and there was this, too:

which reminds me of the fact that This has happened this year, as well!:

The pervasive violence against black women MUST END NOW!!!! Whether the perpetrators are black or white men, as the likely cases are, or institutions! it is our solemn work to destroy misogynoir before it maims or kills another one of us. We do not have the time to waste on petty bickering back and forth with our aunts or any other haters! Seriously. We need to do our work — our creative life giving work! — creatively, individually, collectively, lovingly, from within, radically going out into the world… Caring, cooperating, criticizing, completing, but NOT (never!) COMPETING!

Competition — whether to be holier, higher, sexier, smarter, orrrr (importantly) more feminist than thou — does us all, and those engaging it, particularly — a grave disservice. Whether you’re woke yet to that or not! That alarm, bell, has rung. So pay attention! Watch your words. Listen to your heart. And stay active in this struggle.

Characteristically, I conclude this post with many links to other info and resources I recommend all my readers to look into. Uncharacteristically, my last words here will not be my own. I would like to thank Fire Angelou for this magic spell for all of us when the glass of lemonade is drunk / half empty…

“We are expected to appropriately respond to an inappropriate system. But, we are human. No, we are not always happy. Some of us do yoga or reiki to get balance. Some of us pray to Osun, Jesus or Allah. Some of us just wyle the fuck out. All of which are reasonable responses to racism and sexism. … We cannot forget to love Black women and their pain. Black women are the microcosm into the american consciousness. Our love is informed by historical trauma, our pleasure by pain, our joy by despair.”
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