The Blood of Our People

Deaf and blind, we cannot see or hear the breeze

from the dead who run past and collapse as

a spattered breath on the ground.

When I close my eyes I see blood and bullets.

But it’s not my blood. And they are my bullets.

Black skin and kinky hair lay on pavement

and over leather car seats with nothing left to give

but raised hands, clenched teeth, and the sways

and hums of chained ancestors from hidden burial mounds.

Our ears are ringing from the pounding bullets leaving

chambers and ripping through skin and bones that we

can’t hear the moaning and the crying from the grave,

families left to release their relatives’ spirits to be with the

generations of ancestors entombed in the ground of our

forefathers who separated and divided the liberties of men.

So, we listen with our blood. Lift our spirits to the sky.

Gather at the city’s farthest edge. Remember history

that began before the beginning of every moment

and reclaim what is ours, the blood of our people.

This morning I wanted to write about The Camp. But how can I? All I can think about are the children that I played with and hugged and cared for and that 1 out of 3 of them will end up in prison. How many more of them will be shot or will shoot? All I can see are the videos of men shot and killed by police.

We must rethink how we see ourselves, our people, our history. We must see our people as precious, beloved, full of dignity. We must see our history as working to deprive our people from what is theirs, their divine images. Their beautiful bodies. Their eternal spirits.


Beyond The Body: Women Just Want The Patriarchy

LOL. No they don’t.

Ya’ll. I’ve received so much encouragement and support from so many women and men about my Beyond The Body book series. It really has been an honor to talk about feminism here in this space and on Facebook with you all. Several of you have messaged me with gratitude and thanks for expressing things that you have been unable to express or illuminating something you’ve never thought before and I am just so glad to open up this conversation with you and be an encouragement to you. Feminism really is an amazing movement to help bond women and men together and dismantle systems of oppression. So, THANK YOU for reading!

But then sometimes I get other types of messages from (mostly) men complaining about my feminism. I received one such email from a guy who I’m not close with or who I even respect, but with whom I’ve known for a few years. It went something to the effect of “blah, blah, blah, your feminist blog really has me concerned. Please read this article because it really seems as though you’re villainizing patriarchy.” LOL. Silly. I AM villainizing patriarchy. I will also add that this man copied my husband on the email to make sure that we’re all on the same page and to make known that he is talking to me with my husband’s knowledge and approval.

No, I’m not even kidding. Can we all talk about this article? It’s from The Federalist, which should tip us off that this should be really good, and it is titled “What Women Really Want Is The Patriarchy.” LOL. Every time I write it I laugh. Maybe to keep from throwing up, but really because it is just that funny. It is so antiquated, foolish, and just plain old wrong that I’m not going to entertain this article with any in-depth intellectual criticism. It just doesn’t deserve it. Where I’d like to pause and focus is on its author. Nicole Russell. This poor woman has lost all of herself to this deeply harmful and oppressive system and she has no idea which way is up.  She believes that what women want are rough around the edges macho men who don’t believe that rape is really a thing and who take what’s theres and don’t ask questions. Well, Nicole, you can thank a feminist who worked and fought really hard for you to get your words published in the male dominated media. It wasn’t very long ago that even your flattering words about patriarchy weren’t worth anything and were scoffed at as being a trifle and a menial frivolity that wasted your mind. You know, thinking was once a man’s thing. Lastly, I’d like to point out that contrary to Nicole’s argument I am married to a feminist husband and we have a wonderful, loving, respectful, and existing marriage. Every time he denies himself to support and lift me up I want to jump his sexy bones. And when I see him with our daughter showing her how to love and be loved by men in a way that doesn’t oppress or suppress her I am so proud and full of respect for him. That’s the world that we are creating for our children. One that frees women and men from oppressive and harmful stereotypes and roles. One that helps to preserve marriages and families.

I don’t have much else to say about her or her article or even the man who sent it me. But this is my answer. My very public answer that I didn’t ask my husband’s permission to write or publish.

A Day At Home In Norfolk

In the morning I will sit here
in my dinning room
next to my lukewarm cup of coffee
reading news of more shootings
and violence in my city gone mad with
gun lust and apartheid.
I am at home.
In the labor of my garden that will last
longer than the lives of our youth,
I will go on a harvest plucking
fruit from the vine to ripen in
the poisoned air. We will feast
while the rest starve.
Needing entertainment, I will pack up
my children and drive them through
the city’s labyrinth of our self-esteem
passing coffee and biscuit shops, sold out
for a higher economy of redevelopment,
while avoiding those streets where poverty
is laid to rest. God rest their souls.
In the evening, the Lafayette will be calm and wide
with bridges stretching their arms as friends
in a close embrace, hiding crabbers on her banks.
They will laugh and tell stories with fish guts under
their nails next to no fishing, crabbing, or loitering signs
as I pass over them on my way home to
tuck in my children and kiss them good night
before more gunshots ring out putting us
to sleep safe in our beds, bodies in the street.
I am at home.

Living Minimally: What’s The Point?

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Have you all heard of the minimalist movement? The tiny house movement?  They’re both so interesting and appealing to me. When I see people living so simply, minimally, so tiny, it reminds me of when I was a kid playing with my Polly Pocket dolls and how everything miniature just felt so much more magical, sentimental and inviting. I really admire people who can give up so much and be so happy (if not cramped)!

In 2012, my husband and I bought our first house. It’s nearly a hundred years old and has so much charm and character. When we first saw it and walked through its halls we knew we would put in an offer. It was advertised as being 1900 square feet but when we moved in, our furniture did not fit. We had to give away quite a few pieces. It wasn’t until we installed our HVAC system that we figured out that it was actually 1500 square feet. In 1920, when the house was built, they included the unfinished basement in the square footage. Well, we don’t live down there so we don’t include that as living space in 2016. Anyways, boring house details aside, when we bought this house, we immediately had to downsize and realized that we weren’t going to grow into this house. We would have to shrink into it. With 5 people living in 1500 square feet, we have about 300 sq. ft. per person. For upper middle-class American standards, that’s pretty small.

But that brings me to my point. Upper middle-class American standards.

Most of the world lives in very small, minimalist spaces, and usually not by choice. Right here in my own city, the average house price is $140,000. But that’s on the side of town that I wouldn’t choose to live in. The houses are sometimes very small, in disrepair, and the schools and neighborhoods are often unsafe and violent. Many of these “tiny houses” are public, low income townhouses. The families that live in these “tiny houses” may not be able to afford closets full of clothes, the newest technologies, and rooms full of toys for their kids. And so they live minimally. They live tiny. Sometimes hungry. But more often than not, they are still  happy. But I can guarantee that this is not the minimal, tiny living that the movement had in mind.

My family chose to live across town for $100,000 more. We can afford a safe neighborhood. My children are surrounded by books, technologies, and resources to help them succeed in school. They have parents (me and Jason) who read to them, do their homework with them, volunteer at their school, spend quality time with them; all things that cultivate and help ensure academic success. All because we can afford to. And we can afford to choose to live minimally if we want. We can choose to downsize. To not spend money on cable, food, toys, clothes, and activities. And we have access to resources that teach us and encourage us to spend quality time with our children. We don’t live in a generational cycle of forced “tiny living.” We live in a generational cycle of economic health, education, and choices. That’s what the minimalist and tiny house movement misses. It misses the choices that people  who are privileged have.

My question to minimalists and people who live and aspire to live tiny is this: What is the point? I would like to aspire to have less things, to teach my children to live counter culturally by not wanting more for the sake of having more. But to what end? I think that the minimalist and tiny house movements are on to something. I think that it is a worthwhile cause. Upper middle class American culture does live too big and consume too much. But when we work to give up so much, what do we exchange? What do we do with the extra money? The extra time? Do we then spend it with the poor? Do we help those who have no choice but to live minimally and tiny?

Tiny living can be something amazing. It can free us up to give hugely. To make new friendships. To spread out our resources. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Beyond The Body: My Trouble With Abortion

Feminism is for Everbody
bell hooks

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I have to be upfront and honest with you. Abortion is the issue in feminism that I struggle with the most and it’s very difficult to have a conversation about it in our social climate. Either you are a baby murderer if you sympathize with the pro-choice crowd or you are a fundamentalist anti-feminist Christian if you sympathize with the anti-choice crowd.  The binary is blinding and makes me run from confrontation and avoid the conversation all together. Which just isn’t productive or helpful. There’s room for me at this table. From the outset of this conversation I will reject extreme binaries; I do not believe that this issue should be as polarizing as it is and that it has several answers, but even more importantly, it often has no answers. Where there is no room at this table are for people who will not entertain that perhaps they are wrong and will not consider other’s opinions, experiences, or answers. I haven’t brewed enough coffee for you and quite honestly, I have no desire to hear what you think of my uterus, my sex, or my babies. For the sake of transparency I will say from the outset that I am pro-choice. I know that claiming that identity immediately isolates many of you in this conversation, however I think that owning our beliefs and opinions and pinpointing their existence on the spectrum of identity is important. So, with that, onward.

bell hooks is extremely helpful in her chapter “Our Bodies, Ourselves: Reproductive Rights.” She explains that abortion rights were never meant to be front and center in the feminist movement: reproductive rights were. As she explains in the first chapters, the mass media has had a tremendous negative affect on feminism. It is not in any way intellectual nor does it seek to understand what feminism is or believes. Because it is historically very conservative, anti-intellectual, and dominated by white conservative males, the mass media has latched on to abortion as the sole reproductive issue for the feminist movement, and it simply is not. Radical feminism, again, does not simply want to change the patriarchal system, it wants to completely get rid of it. That means that abortion cannot be at the center of the reproductive rights conversation. It means that access to preventative health care, safe contraceptives, menstrual hygiene products, sex education, and knowledge about the risk of unnecessary cesarean sections and hysterectomies are the bread and butter of reproductive rights. When radical feminism is actually allowed to speak, all of these issues then become centralized in the conversation about women’s reproductive rights, women take control of their bodies from the male dominated media and healthcare field, and lo and behold the need for abortions would diminish. Isn’t that something?   That’s why the attacks on Planned Parenthood infuriate me. Abortions are such a small percentage of what their clinics do. They provide necessary services, often for free, to women who lack the class privileges to gain access to them. In this radical feminist paradigm of reproductive rights, women have so many choices concerning their bodies. It’s rarely a choice between receiving an abortion or not. But that’s where the media, the church, and conservative feminist thinkers have latched on.

So then, where do I struggle with abortion? I struggle with its violence. I struggle with its marginalization of children. I struggle with understanding why we scientifically frame this conversation around the conception of life’s beginnings. I believe that it is manipulative and violent to frame the conversation around if life takes place at conception or birth. Is it a baby or a fetus? Does it deserve rights or not? And if it does have rights, do they trump the rights of the mother? What rights do we have over our own bodies? What rights do we have over other’s bodies, both a woman’s and a fetus’s? See how complicated it gets? See how choosing a concrete answer can be manipulative and harmful either way? Because here’s the rub: I don’t believe there is an answer. I don’t know if life begins at the moment of conception. I don’t know if we have a moral responsibility to protect unborn babies or fetuses. I simply don’t know.  But what I do know is that men have historically attempted to control women’s bodies and sexuality and we must frame the conversation around that truth. This is about life but it is also about control. Pushing aside the concerns that women, like me, have about the violence of abortions, concerns about safety and invasiveness, concerns about marginalizing and framing pregnancies and children as being “unwanted” are dangerous as well.

Toni Morrison has said that, “everywhere, everywhere, children are the scorned people of the earth.” And we must be careful how we talk about children and pregnancies. As many unwanted pregnancies there are, there are even more unwanted children. We cannot divorce children and pregnancies. We cannot divorce humanity and life from conception. When women are shamed for being sexual and becoming pregnant, that’s when children become so unwanted and scorned. In that way, we cannot divorce patriarchy’s affects on violence against children.  Children are so unwanted and scorned because patriarchy has shamed women’s sexuality and bodies that create children. Because women’s sex and pregnancy often are shamed, so too are the birthed children. That’s why I believe that abortion is a violent and defensive reaction against patriarchy. Patriarchy says that sex, pregnancy, and children are shameful, are less than, and unwanted and abortion is then the answer to that shame. We see this most apparently in cases of pregnancy in rape. The violence of rape is a direct result and symptom of patriarchy and abortion is then the response to that patriarchy. It is simply not enough to defensively react against rape with abortion; we must actively work against violence against women, rape culture, and patriarchy. Abortion should absolutely be a right for women who want to have control over their own bodies, however I believe that answering patriarchy’s imposed shame on women should be a call do what radical feminism has always done: to dismantle patriarchy, not simply react against it.

I’ll close by saying that feminism has worked to help oppressed children since it inception. Patriarchy has worked to harm children. Patriarchy works to control women, their bodies and children. It says that the sole purpose of a woman is to make and have babies, only under male control. Materially disadvantaged women and their children are hurt most in patriarchy. When organizations like Planned Parenthood are banned, the women are not given access to necessary reproductive services and healthcare and the resulting children are born into a cycle of having limited or no access to social mobility. That’s what patriarchy does and what it is responsible for. That’s why we must not simply react against it but actively work to dismantle it. So, yes. I’m pro-choice. But I’m more importantly anti-patriarchy. That’s how it will be dismantled.




Orlando Rising

In the garden, I sit and watch my hens peck and scratch at the dirt looking for worms and bugs. A breakfast to turn their yolks a bright rich orange. Leaning against a fence post, the leaves in the tree above shade my face. A cool shadow protecting against sun rays and heat. Cucumber vines curl as tendrils around wire and wood, climbing up a ladder of grace, yellow flowers opening up to bees. Deathly is the bloom that pushes out fruit toward ripening in time, falling to the ground alone, rotting, nourishing its grave. A staccato of rain on the earth, bullets piercing the ground, into a stream of blood of homage and sorrow. Surrounded by sleep, the earth is a tomb but cannot keep bones resting. The motion of earth’s turn toward blooming and dying, heavy seeds sit as headstones marking resurrection, moving death towards new life in the sun’s heat. I imagine you free of weapons and hates and the enmity of beasts where mortality does not weigh heavy on your blood-soaked roots and men renew their abuse with their bullets and fears. Birth of rising, the morning lights a brightness on the world perfect as breath. A luminous gathering. Newly risen, a green vine, a yellow flower, in the sun. Grown out of death’s deep darkness from brown earth, in a lighted country, waking to a new freedom that cannot be taken by man.

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Beyond The Body: Feminism Is For Everybody Part 2

“Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.”

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-bell hooks

So many people have no idea what feminism is. Most of what people believe it to be is what they have learned by word of mouth, the mainstream media, their old racist uncle, or Beyonce (who’s feminism, by the way, has recently exploded in a very real and important way). When our culture is dominated by white capitalist patriarchy, it’s no wonder then that popular beliefs about feminism are negative. Most of the important feminist theory that has been written exists in the academy where it has, as she suggests, become depoliticized and fallen subject to patriarchal academic jargon – it’s only audience is an academic one because, really, in all honesty, they’re the only ones that can read and interpret it. Feminism has had a very important and necessary role in academia in order to legitimize it as a theoretical movement and advance its critical thought, but it required feminist thinkers to adopt patriarchal practices of holding up a veil of exclusion where only the smartest of the smart, the often white elite, could have access to, read, and understand it.

What bell hooks is doing in this book is plucking feminism out of the academic cloud and bringing it back down to earth for us: everyday lay people. She’s laying out a very general history of feminism that is mostly based on her experience with it in the 70’s and 80’s when it began to explode on the scene in academia while she was in college. Can you imagine having the experience with feminism as she does? To see it emerge in the university classroom for the first time? To have old white male professor’s syllabi being challenged for the first time for only including old white male’s for their students to read. It must have been super charged with energy and excitement to see these establishments change.

Where I will stop and critique this book for a moment, because it feels super awkward to even begin to critique the brilliant bell hooks, is that she falls short on a lot of the important history and theorization of feminism at the expense of bringing the book’s language to ground level. I would like to see a more complex and nuanced definition of sexism. She says over and over that feminism’s job is not to solely bring equality for women in the work place and in other social spaces, or to fight for gender-justice, but to confront our own sexist thoughts and behavior first and then move to dismantle sexism and oppression across class, sex, and race. But I kept waiting for her to explain what exactly sexism is. Do you know what it is? Could you identify sexism if you were to see it or experience it? Would you be able to take a look at yourself, your beliefs, and your actions and pinpoint how you have accepted and perpetrate sexism against men and other women? This is where I would like for us to begin. In order to begin this journey of understanding, believing, and accepting feminist thoughts, we must confront the ways that we have dominated and exploited other women.

If I may, I’d like to offer us a definition of sexism: it’s any type of prejudice, stereotype, or discrimination that is based on gender and leads to exclusion, exploitation, domination, and oppression. As you can imagine, this is mostly acted out against women, but be sure to understand that sexism can absolutely harm men and can be perpetrated by women. hooks suggests that more conservative reformist feminist thinkers have only chosen to emphasize gender equality – women should have the same equal rights as men. But that is not what revolutionary feminist thinkers had in mind. Feminism is not interested in merely creating equality. Actually, feminism does not necessarily believe in equality. Men and women are different, actually everyone is different! We all exist in different classes, races, geographies, ages, cultures, and genders. So equality is almost futile. What revolutionary feminism wants is to “transform [the existing patriarchal system] to bring an end to patriarchy and sexism.” In other words, feminism wants to end the exclusion, exploitation, domination, and oppression of people based on the prejudices, stereotypes, and discrimination based on gender. That’s a much more powerful action than merely seeking for more women in the work place and equal pay. In revolutionary feminism, that will be addressed and fixed and MORE. Maybe the difficult part in this feminist paradigm is that we can’t even imagine a world where patriarchy and sexism don’t exist, so how can we work for an end to it? It is possible, but first we must begin the difficult work of looking inside ourselves and confront the ways that we have internalized sexism and have exploited other women. Ugh. Do we want to even go there? To look inside and see how desperately sexism has infected our own beliefs and practices? Maybe it is easier to just demand equality- we wouldn’t have to do the ugly work of realizing how we are complicit in this system.


  1. How have you dominated and exploited other women? In what ways do you accept and believe sexist beliefs and practices?
  2. How have you been dominated and exploited by other women? Describe the ways in which you notice other women adopting sexist thinking and behavior or being at war and in competition with each other?
  3. Talk about how you reacted to hooks’ assertion that feminism is not an identity but is a political movement? She says that many assume that you can be a feminist without fundamentally challenging and changing themselves or the culture. How do you need to be changed? How do you see our culture needing to change?
  4. Finally, what moved you the most in these chapters? Where did you find yourself being challenged, confused, angry, or excited? Explain your response to what you have read.