xoxo, the freak show
I’ve been so busy with school and all 5 of my jobs lately that a little R& R or boys & Boone were long overdue. It feels good to see all my old friends, just party and bullshit. Matt is a non-stop riot!! This is pre- our rendition of Kid Frost’s “La Raza”
TaShy is 9 years old. She loves playing video games, being loud, and trying to convince me to make her coffee. Her sister, MaShari, is 14. MaShari is a freshman in high school but reads at the equivalent of a 6th grader. They come up to our apartment and hang out, do homework and chill. Other then deciding on my outfit, trying to help MaShari with writing/reading comprehension is the most challenging part of my day. She gets frustrated very easily, throws her pencil, covers her face and says she can’t do it. She says she is stupid and is embarrassed.
She is not stupid. She is smart, pretty and kind.
What we say to people matters. The little, joking, spiteful remarks we mutter when angry,
yeah they matter.
Especially to children.
I hate that she covers her face. I am constantly pulling her hands away and re-adjusting her focus. She needs to hear that she is intelligent and she needs to believe it.
I repeat, you give up on yourself WAY before anyone else gives up on you.
I am not annoyed when she mispells a word, it doesnt bother me at all. she is annoyed, she gets frustrated and discourgaes herself. It is no surprise, we are usually our biggest problem.
And we are our greatest solution.
I hate that the girls mom smokes cigarettes in the house. That their dad yells and calls them stupid, dumbass motherfuckers. I hate that MaShari covers her face in front of me. But more than anything I hate that this is not uncommon. That this is a reality for many children, and a reflection of a deeper issue.
Life is not about trying to change the world and fix every social injustice. Your life is about being real to the people that God has placed in it, about loving and being loved by those people. It’s about understanding your specific, unique role in this amazingly fucked up, heartbreaking world.
You do what you can.
“you give up on yourself before anyone gives up on you”
Be about it.
Maybe I am too hard on people, but I feel like that’s what distinguishes leadership from duty. I think people need others to hold them accountable for their actions, their dreams. What good is an aspiration, a plan, if you do not put it into action?
To continue my ramble, I get really annoyed when people cannot communicate effectively, especially in a professional or educational setting. If you cannot speak for 2 minutes straight without using the term “like” over 50 times, there might be something wrong with you. Or if you are in a leadership position and cannot speak to an audience of 20 people without constantly shuffling/crossing your feet, frantically readjusting your pants, and playing with objects in the room…. maybe you shouldn’t be in a leadership position.
I think we really take for granted good communicators when we see them.
I spoke on a panel tonight about social justice and activism. One of the questions was about balancing school and social change. This was my response: get a planner.
Honestly, its about prioritizing. If you really care about something, you will make time for it. It’s about re-organizing your life so that your time commitments align with your passions. It’s not that hard. Yeah it might mean not playing video games till 2 in the morning, but when you genuinly care about something, you make time for it. But first, you need to get really honest with yourself about what you actually care about. People for some annoying reason, seem to think that because I value education and community, that they need to claim the same. Just because I am into something, does not mean I expect you to be. Actually, I would rather you not bullshit me. I’m not impressed. I appreciate honesty more than anything. And in the end, your actions will prove your convictions.
Doing something > talking about it
Have you ever read Tuesday with Morrie? If not, you should, its a fabulous little book full of hope and the strength of the human spirit.
Since Mia was 10 or 11 I have initiated “Tuesdays with Mia”. . . our special day to hang out, make art, get coffee, walk and talk, just time to be together. It was a day we both looked forward to and would make plans in advanced in our excitement. Home-made baking, nature adventures, t-shirt designs, stenciling, you name it we tried it! I remember picking her up from elementary school (faking doctor visits to get her out early) going to middle school performances, watching her get ready for dances,facepainting at her birthday party, getting the first call when she had her period (sorry mi-mi haha), getting that call when she wanted to plot her run-away at 12. Being there through it all meant a lot to me. Mia was such a precious, impressionable little girl.
Mia is 14 now, halfway through her first year in high school. She texts me in the morning,
“happy tuesday sister, love & miss you”
and to me, that is priceless.
It doesn’t take massive social change or policy implementation to influence people’s lives. It’s a daily choice, of deciding to make time for people and letting them know that they are valuable. And to think that after all these years, she hasn’t forgotten what we built together, is a beautiful thing.
when two violins are placed in a room
if a chord on one violin is struck
the other violin will sound the note
if this is your definition of hope
this is for you
the ones who know how powerful we are
who know we can sound the music in the people around us
simply by playing our own strings
for the ones who sing life into broken wings
open their chests and offer their breath
as wind on a still day when nothing seems to be moving
spare those intent on proving god is dead
for you when your fingers are red
from clutching your heart
so it will beat faster
for the time you mastered the art of giving yourself for the sake of someone else
for the ones who have felt what it is to crush the lies
and lift truth so high the steeples bow to the sky
this is for you
this is also for the people who wake early to watch flowers bloom
who notice the moon at noon on a day when the world
has slapped them in the face with its lack of light
for the mothers who feed their children first
and thirst for nothing when they’re full
this is for women
and for the men who taught me only women bleed with the moon
but there are men who cry when women bleed
men who bleed from women’s wounds
and this is for that moon
on the nights she seems hung by a noose
for the people who cut her loose
and for the people still waiting for the rope to burn
about to learn they have scissors in their hands
this is for the man who showed me
the hardest thing about having nothing
is having nothing to give
who said the only reason to live is to give ourselves away
so this is for the day we’ll quit or jobs and work for something real
we’ll feel for sunshine in the shadows
look for sunrays in the shade
this is for the people who rattle the cage that slave wage built
and for the ones who didn’t know the filth until tonight
but right now are beginning songs that sound something like
people turning their porch lights on and calling the homeless back home
this is for all the shit we own
and for the day we’ll learn how much we have
when we learn to give that shit away
this is for doubt becoming faith
for falling from grace and climbing back up
for trading our silver platters for something that matters
like the gold that shines from our hands when we hold each other
this is for the grandmother who walked a thousand miles on broken glass
to find that single patch of grass to plant a family tree
where the fruit would grow to laugh
for the ones who know the math of war
has always been subtraction
so they live like an action of addition
for you when you give like every star is wishing on you
and for the people still wishing on stars
this is for you too
this is for the times you went through hell so someone else wouldn’t have to
for the time you taught a 14 year old girl she was powerful
this is for the time you taught a 14 year old boy he was beautiful
for the radical anarchist asking a republican to dance
cause what’s the chance of everyone moving from right to left
if the only moves they see are NBC and CBS
this is for the no becoming yes
for scars becoming breath
for saying i love you to people who will never say it to us
for scraping away the rust and remembering how to shine
for the dime you gave away when you didn’t have a penny
for the many beautiful things we do
for every song we’ve ever sung
for refusing to believe in miracles
because miracles are the impossible coming true
and everything is possible
this is for the possibility that guides us
and for the possibilities still waiting to sing
and spread their wings inside us
cause tonight saturn is on his knees
proposing with all of his ten thousand rings
that whatever song we’ve been singing we sing even more
the world needs us right now more than it ever has before
pull all your strings
play every chord
if you’re writing letters to the prisoners
start tearing down the bars
if you’re handing our flashlights in the dark
start handing our stars
never go a second hushing the percussion of your heart
play like you know the clouds have left too many people cold and broken
and you’re their last chance for sun
play like there’s no time for hoping brighter days will come
play like the apocalypse is only 4…3…2
but you have a drum in your chest that could save us
you have a song like a breath that could raise us
like the sunrise into a dark sky that cries to be blue
play like you know we won’t survive if you don’t
but we will if you do
play like saturn is on his knees
proposing with all of his ten thousand rings
that we give every single breath
this is for saying–yes
this is for saying–yes
“At the end of the day, what really matters is whether or not you can say you were proud of who you were that day, and if the people you love are happy and healthy.”
I hope this letter finds you well and at peace. I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. It’s only been three months since I moved out here to Berkeley but in many ways I feel like such a different person, a better person. I feel like I am realizing who God created me to be, and finally stepping into it. I have to tell you how much you have been a part of my life, of my journey. We always talk and laugh about those days when I was that awkward shy girl standing in your kitchen dressed in all black for lack of knowing a better color scheme- lack of knowing herself better. I love you because I feel like you knew the journey I had in front of me, and made me feel like I was always going to be okay. I have always felt that God was going to bless me, I just had no idea it would be through someone like you. Knowing that you loved and believed in me gave me the foundation I needed as a woman to step into my greatness, the Lord’s greatness. You have a way of making people feel so special and valued- I remember how excited you would get over every little make-shift art or poem I would create, keeping and praising it like I was going to be a famous artist lol. You were the only person who was so persistent in obtaining a copy of my Europe book. that was big to me. Thank you for your support and love through all the years, through all the bullshit. You are one of the only people who can really tell me the truth about myself, even when I don’t want to hear it. But I know that you are always coming from a place of love, and I appreciate that. I appreciate you more than I will ever be able to express to you. Every phone call, every text, every little gift and time spent with me, you are such a thoughtful, beautiful woman of God and I couldn’t imagine my life without you.
all my love,