I’m sharing what connects me to others, stories that are close(st) to home –  the realities not only of bredrin and dadas on the continent, en in the diaspora, but all our living relatives…sharing moments of silence, deep breaths, cleansing tears, communion with loved ones and prayers for forgiveness for  those who saw David Kato as an enemy….forgive us (Great) Mother, for those sins we know and don’t know about, and those we are yet to commit…bless wale wanaospread upendo in abundance….ase….

 

From Gay Uganda – http://gayuganda.blogspot.com/2011/01/kato-david-kisule.html

I am in shock.

Literal shock. Just heard that one of our members, a prominent gay activist, an out and out man, who has been at the forefront of the gay rights movement in Uganda, David Kato Kisule was murdered. Dead, a blunt instrument to the skull.

Dead. In Lugazi Hospital at the moment.

What to do? Shock. Shock, shock.

So, I write, to try and express that which I feel. But, what can words express?

Kato. A disturbed friend. One of our very special brand of radical activists. He used to say that he was one of the very ‘out’ if not the first out gay man in Uganda.

And, yes, he was one of the people whose photo appeared in the Rolling Stone, one of the three plaintiffs who sued, and won the court case.

Yes, I am paranoid. I wonder whether it had any bearing. Whether that had bearing….!

Impossible, most likely, to prove cause and effect. We just don’t know. And, we are most likely to strike out in our grief at the nearest enemy.

But, is it a coincidence?

Gosh.

——-

Shock indeed.

Just settled down. Apart from trying to inform lots of other people who have already received the news. I have to settle down, get some rest, and then prepare for work tomorrow. Cannot just bounce off just like that.

But, I need to settle down. The shock, the realisation of all the things we fear, and brush off, and hope never ever to face. But, one of our own is gone.

Gone in a violent way. Gone, for reasons that I am as yet to know, or figure out… Oh gosh.

—-

More settled now, but no less shocked. That is what it does to you, a sudden death like this.

David was apparently killed in his home, by a person or persons unknown. Yes, there is a suspect, or suspects. Problem with investigations in Uganda is the fact that what is not verified will always remain in the realms of conjecture.

What remains is that we have lost one of our most prominent firebrands. Indeed, he was on the front page of the Rolling Stone with Bishop Ssenyonjo. Remember, the one with the caption to ‘Hang Them’.

And yes, he was one of the three who sued the Rolling Pebble, and won.

 

[I,s.i.s note: and for those us still living…..]

A LITANY FOR SURVIVAL

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
futures
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive

– Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn

Ase, Ase, Ase…….


K is for….[revised excerpts from The Woman’s Encyclop(a)edia of Myths and Secrets]

The Shrine of the sacred stone in Mecca, dedicated to the pre-islamic Goddess Manat, Al-Lat (Allah), en Al-Uzza, the ‘Old Womban’ worshipped by Mohammed’s tribesfolk the Koreshites.

The stone was also called Kubaba, Kuba or Kube (not so randomly connected to Kobe), and has been linked with the name of Cybele (Kybela), the Great Mother of the God/desse/s.

The stone bear the emblem of the yoni, like the Black Stone worshipped by votaries of Artemis.

Now, through the syncretism of afreekan and arabic religions, it is regarded as the holy center of Islam, and it’s feminine symbol has been submerged within palimpsests of patriarchal histories, though priest/esse/s of the Kaaba are still known as Sons and Daughters of the Old Woman.

 

[I,S.I.S prayer:

I give thanks for yesterday, today and tomorrow…..

give thanks for all the love and resources shared not only here in

[dis’ (almost) world wide matrix of the] internet, but in ‘real’ time,

with rebuilding sustainable villages in diverse communities and spaces.

Bless my family, friends, and enemies, and I pray not to have enemies… Bless all our living relatives…

I give thanks for the positive resistance, transformation, and renewal in 2010, and the exciting (not-so) new possibilities of 2011…

Nashukuru Mama Afreeka na dunia, nashukuru orisha…..

[I give thanks for the guidance of our ancestors, give thanks to the orishas… ]

Bless the motherless and fatherless, bless those sick in hospital, Bless those who spread positivity in abundance… Bless our youth, elders, en those who are yet to come, and I pray that we continue to come into our right destinies. I pray for forgiveness…for health, long life, happiness and prosperity not only for myself, but others….. Bless dis earth o…..ase, ase……. ]

As years of (pan) Afreekan renaissance go, werd on the ground, and the love spreading in abundance are clear signs that big tings’ been going on in the past years, en the fiya dis time is in our quest to share resources with folks we love, respekt and admire so, for our cherished collectives….these are the contexts and storyboards of the q_t werd….

(Is) Kenya’s new port the end of lamu’s cultural heritage? http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/69659

Indigenus encounters diaspora hadithi

Pan-afrikan postcards

Of living legends

Na nia yetu

we need to complicate the dominant discourse on martin luther king……

3 years after the watts rebellion, en exactly 1 year after MLK gave his well known speech at the Riverside church in New York, he was assassinated……..

empathetically we might ask ourselves why the dream speech has overshadowed in popular discourse, all the more complex analyses he attempted to present en for example, in the riverside speech…….

he said…my experience in the ghettoes of the north over the last 3 years, especially over the last 3 summers, as I have walked among the desperate, rejected en angry young men, I have told them that Moltov cocktails en rifles would not solve their problems, I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion, while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through non-violent action,

but they asked, en rightfully so, what about vietnam?

they asked if our nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence, to solve it’s problems, to bring (home) to bring about the changes it wanted…

their questions hit home en I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettoes without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,
my own government.

for the sake of these boys,
for the sake of this government,
for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence,
I cannot be silent…

en so this was the King we were mourning, en we knew that he was considered a menace to the government, although now ofcourse he is the perhaps the most important figure in the pantheon of U.S Democracy, and as we know is praised by Progressives and Conservatives alike….

and so we decided to declare a day of mourning in Los Angeles, on April 5th….
en we had the audacity to declare a day of mourning for the entire city, en we took ourselves seriously….

without fanie lou hamer, barack obama is inconceivable, en I rarely hear that historical memory evoked in connection with what is seen as an uprecedented presidential election campaign…

but fanie lou hamer was not so much an exceptional individual, as she was a womyn who was willing to take the risk of becoming an agent en envoy of her people, en she was organically connected to all of those people who constituted the  freedom movement, many of whom ofcourse she did not know….

….need to think about what it means to build community, en how community nourishes the individual, perhaps more than the individual nourishes the community, certain insights, certain imaginations, certain aspirations en dreams elude individuals, but arise out of the ties that bind people to each other, the ties and relations that create community.

en so I like to use the term communities of struggle, or,  communities of resistance, not so much to refer to a group of individuals who bring their own individual capacities together to create a collective, I’d like to use these terms to point to something that is qualitatively different from the individual, a collective capacity that is so much more than the sum of individual capacities.

these communities of struggle produce collective subjects, the sense of community includes those whom we do not personally know, those who do not necessarily inhabit our physical communities, those who don’t necessarily live in the U.S, those who are barred from citizenship, undocumented immigrants for example…..aboriginal people, who still suffer….our community should embrace all of these peoples….

(see also the case of Ayiti, Cuba, DRC en Iraq….)

(on) communities empowering each other…..for their own needs…and why, we are the ones we’re looking for 🙂

 

the practice: of sistas in solidarity

It’s a question I’ve faced almost all my life, what does ‘our’ being in solidarity mean?  

When I was a pikney, I had many ‘girlfriends’ and the truth is, still, boys felt safer. That is until I hit my teenage years, en became a ‘cute ting’ to be chased, then, I ran the other way….until, I succumbed to the nebulous pressure of ‘fitting in’, got myself one of ‘them’ (aka. a Boyfriend) at 16 (en experimented with a few others) till I came to terms with the reality that I LOVE my brothers, just not ‘that’ way….still, somewhere along the way of (re) discovery, I found that the ones I was actually scared of (rejecting me) the most, were my sistas (that’s my coming out story in 6 lines)

As the years went by, I struggled to find my place in loving communities, to situate my/self in ‘Babylon’, en be the “best that I could be “……a FUNdamental part of that was re-connecting with (my) sistas, en (re) building nurturing relationships with afrikan womyn.  The truth is, those relationships were few, but in between dem, my mama, en other inspirational womyn of colour, I DID reclaim many parts of myself, it was easier for me to love my/self, my ‘rebel’ ways, my dreams, my weaknesses and un/acknowledged strengths, when I could see all of them, en then some, reflected in those around me.

As the years went by, I also settled into ‘activism’ for & with/in queer & Trans communities, en it was within these contexts where I fought many of my battles. Looking back now, I see more clearly the confluence of ‘first-world’ & middle class privilege, and, the marginalisation of afrikan womyn that ultimately left me yearning for ‘much more’…so much so that I eventually went back home, to the continent, for a year (en a moon)

I went back home because I felt that I wasn’t meaningfully involved in the struggle for the liberation of Afrikan peoples, I felt that despite all my community work, my efforts weren’t tangibly contributing to the freedom of my brothers en sistas back at home….I was worried, then, that I might have become complacent en comfortable with the ‘good’ living here in Canada, en I didn’t want to forget all the dreams that I immigrated here with. I went back because I was homesick, the truth is that as much as Tdot is my ‘new’ home, my heart is in (East) Afrika but…I’m in another place, which is here, en the point of this story is to ask for answers that I no longer have, at least not in practice.

You see, at the beginning of last year, as lives tend to (r) evolve, mine came full circle, and I started volunteering with the only registered queer womyn’s organisation in Nairobi (maybe even in the country at the time, I can’t say I know conclusively because this kinda work is understandably mostly under the radar). I felt it was fitting, and the best way I could give back as for all intents and purposes, somewhere along my way, I had become a professional queer (a term that I no longer identify with for personal/political reasons).

At the time I was officially involved with 2 organisations, which jus’ happened to have the same acronyms, en black queer womyn in leadership positions, though they also each had (seemingly) radically different missions.  This is relevant only because THIS is what this post is about, our efforts, sacrifices, failures and successes at working together, for you see, as much as I’m still involved with both of these organisations, I’m not ‘working’ with either.  The truth is, only one of these organisations ever ‘paid’ me, en even the honorariums I received, for 4 months, were way below a living wage…..the bigger point is, my activism wasn’t (technically) sustainable  for 2 years, yet I survived en transformed through  the support, love and good will of (mostly) sistas…..

2009, was definitive as the year that (a few) sistas saved me, en the year that ‘I tried’ to save others en learnt that you can only (start with) save(ing) yourself.  For all my big dreams, I over/reached and lost perspective (all the betta to find the right path, I pray)….but what does getting ‘lost’ mean exactly?

For me, it meant taking on way more than I could handle en breaking promises….. like when I came back here in time for “Pride”,  it was with the purpose of planning and fundraising for THREE  programs to be implemented in Kenya & Uganda. All, but one, of these projects were based on programs that had been running successfully in Canada for many years, and that I had been involved with as a participant and as a support worker…….programs like T.E.A.C.H (Teens Educating and confronting Homophobia) with Planned Parenthood of Toronto  & QYDVP (Queer Youth Digital Video Project) with the Inside Out film festival, and the last program (to be), a womyn’s circle for healing and self recovery, which was the closest to my heart, came from a place of over/standing the need to address the abuse within our lives and work on rebuilding healthy, loving sustainable relationships.

It has been a year since I started working on those programs; yet, today I seem farther away from implementing them than I ever did, because the truth is, that I haven’t been able to put this together all on my own, and despite the support that many have expressed for programs such as this, when it comes down to it, the nitty-gritty of proposal writing and curriculum building and volunteer recruitement and organising fundraisers, well…..to put it simply many more have had their own stuff to sort out…….yet it’s not as simple as ‘too few doing the work’……..the bigger point is that there are many more who’re not only doing what they can, but making huge sacrifices to serve community….the bigger point is also that the ‘few’ of us trying are having trouble finding each other and working together, and that we keep crossing so many lines between the  practise and the preach…..

The best place to start is with me of course, here’s a (seemingly) clear-cut example: a sista lent me money to buy the ticket that got me back to Toronto (in time for Pride)…I ain’t finished paying her  back yet, and in essence, I fucked her over…..that definitely ain’t no kind of feminism but, in my defence, as I decided to stay on in Toronto, and went back to school, I gave much of my time to matters to do with queer/trans rights in East Afrika, because I felt that I had to start from where I was, and that this WAS  the greater good.

And, I focused on raising awareness within communities here because I thought that these were the likeliest places for queer & trans Afrikans to get recognition and the support we sorely need. I focused on utilising grassroots networks because I thought that this was the most revolutionary way for us to build solidarity amongst diverse communities and movements.

 I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but it was definitely safer than trying to do the same in East Afrika, and at least here there were some of the very sistas who’d inspired me to do what I could for queer/trans Afrikan communities in the first place……yet, the reality was that almost everyone was focused on, (rightfully so?) sustaining their lives in Canada and rebuilding communities in dis’ here place.

As the moons went, and the scope of the work I’d laid out for myself became clearer, I dropped one program…..Anti-Oppression 101 workshops (the goal had been to train youth to facilitate workshops challenging homophobia and educating communities about the intersections of our diversity & oppressions) the truth is, I only stopped working on it, after my ‘colleagues’ weren’t willing to help put it together, because, as a couple of the women in leadership positions expressed, there didn’t seem to be any interest for it. That said, every organisation that is part of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya has pointed out the need to re/educate the public & change prevailing social attitudes……

The bigger point though is that through all these how-to’s & what’s, I still didn’t take the biggest lesson, of sustaining activism, to heart, and the truth is, I just don’t know how to sustain it without first actually getting ‘paid’ for it…en herein lies the trickiest part.

It’s (like) a catch 22…I’ve been able to work for 2 years through the support and solidarity of (a few) sistas, yet I cannot continue to work on the issues that I believe must be addressed because there jus’ hasn’t been enough support…….even though I know IT’S there…..numerous conversations with mentors & sistas have affirmed that what I/we are trying to do is necessary…that, as queer/trans womyn of Afrikan descent we know best what our needs are……and that we gotta use whatever resources we got, but……it seems that we ain’t get alot…..and ‘the funders’ will make all the difference for us.

Last year, I gained new perspectives on the unhealthy competition that is fostered for too few resources within civil society…..I saw many different flavours of the shadiness of career activism, and I gotta admit that I burnt out, en let my idealism get the better of me…..now, there’s a phrase that a sista kept drumming into me, years before, that I’m trying to live by…..’this ain’t a free show’…..for me that means that even though I may not use the master’s tools to dismantle the house, I still gotta make sure that I can pay the rent to keep a roof over my head, buy food to keep me going through the days……en be careful about WHO  I let INTO  my house……

Last year was a roller coaster of emotions, trials en lessons in organising within (queer/trans) Afrikan communities. I have been guilty of the sins of self-righteousness, flakiness, mis-directed anger & selfishness. According to some, it’s debatable, whether I should be even commended for trying….but there’s no mistaking that I DID try…..and that I, as many others do, need help in ensuring that my/our energies don’t go to waste, en that I/we don’t burn out from exhaustion, neglect or petty politics.

The truth is, that’s what our terrain (of organising) looks like…. conflicted, contested & dominated by the women that ‘have most’.  I have worked directly with only a very small number of sistas….en, judging by my experiences in just the TWO organisations that I’m involved with, we seem to be our own biggest enemy at times…..in one organisation, I/we have to battle class politics & conservative agendas….in the other organisation, I/we have to battle with staying true to our mission & sustaining our lives while remaining grassroots. In both of those organisations, there are womyn that I love, respect and admire for all the efforts and sacrifices they’ve made to not only keep the organisations alive but ensure that they thrive……but…….particularly within these organisations, there is a schism between how things are presented  and how agendas are determined.

And outside of these organisations, there are the many other sistas who I’ve shared with…who empathise, and wanna do something…but……..when it comes down to it…..even my ‘partner’ can’t seem to offer much more than ‘moral’ support….because… she got her own shit to take care of……..en, in Babylon, we ain’t really taught to be our sister’s keeper, let alone our brother’s…..but isn’t that the only way we can continue? Does it really come down to the American World Jewish Service, Astraea, Ford Foundation, HIVOS , Mama Cash or the growing litany of funders?

Then again, there’s always the few stars, a few sistas who not only hear you, but tell you that what you want is (not) exactly what they want, but they’ve been looking for you for as long as you’ve been looking for them, those who share everything that they can, en promise that somehow you’re going to figure this ish out, together….by any means necessary 🙂 sometimes it really only jus takes ONE  person, and many times even a few people is not enough

This ain’t no ‘po-is-me/us’ story…….en there ain’t no ending either…….it’s jus what I said it was, questions…..about how to work on our own unity first….and how exactly to build this solidarity? I, for one, need all the guidance I can get

I share this because, as Audre Lorde said, our silence will not protect us.

And, I, for one, intend on not just surviving, but thriving, and the only way I can do that is to speak MY  truth……..about the joys of sistahood, and the pain of betrayal….

this ain’t ‘preaching’ or ‘best practices’…but ‘sharing’ my journey so that I/we can continue to grow…..and continue finding the answers that I/we need.

To be continued……

So Evans Lysacek @ 24,  became the first American man, to win figure skating gold in 22 years, finishing with 257.67 points at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum, 4 days ago.

He also ended the streak of Russian gold medalists since Brian Boitano’s win in Calgary.

 Evgeny Pluschenko @ 27, ‘the- come-back kid’ who came out of retirement last year, finished with 256.36 points, (even though) he had a ‘technically’ difficult more program, which included a quadruple……

En had this to say to Rossiya  2 channel…..

“I am very upset that I could not win the gold. But, in general, I’m satisfied with my performance today. I’m glad that I was able to execute a quadruple jump with good quality. Unfortunately, skating is moving backwards. The man who became the Olympic champion didn’t do a quadruple jump. He just does not know how to do it. All sports are progressing. In swimming, athletes swim faster every year, new records are set in speed skating all the time. But we degrade. One has to understand that a quadruple jump is more difficult at least physically, since it accounts for some time to recover, and this affects the continuation of the program……………”  

“They are turning men’s figure skating into some kind of ice dancing,” he added.

Of course he, and many others, had a lot more to say on the matter, but the point of this (post) is….. does it really matter? They skated, many more continue to compete, and the Olympics will be over soon….I would love to see a total tally of the amount consumers and the government spent on the whole debacle…

And then I’d love to see the same amount given back as reparations to Ayiti and all Afrikan peoples, starting with those on the continent……a token for black history month…..how bout jus that, to start?

This story is, another eulogy, for the author of Eugene Onegin, another ‘dark’ Russian…..who, according to some, should have really named his poem, Tatiana…….

a symbol of the past, fitting for the present, of one born to a throne…….

misbegotten, like (some of) Pushkin’s (great) grand father(s)…….

“Perhaps Pushkin would even have done better to call his poem Tatiana and not Onyegin, for she is indubitably the chief character,” observed Fyodor Dostoevsky in a eulogy to his venerated (aristocratic) literary predecessor.

This story, which begins in Leningrad (aka. St. Petersburg), is a journey to the countryside:

The westernised aristocratic Onegin is not raised, he is constructed in a foreign mold.

His life of debauchery is like that of a puppet whose strings are pulled by autocratic fiat.

He serves his maker as a courtier would; he is a Western decoration.

But the tale begins with his sense of anomie and a concomitant desire to leave the city to claim an estate left to him by a recently deceased relative.

In the country Onegin stands apart, a bored observer – a parasite as he had been in the capital.

Soon, however, Onegin meets a neighbour, the youth Lenskii, fresh from his studies in Germany and filled with romantic yearning….Lenskii’s quest for fusion with nature and with woman, intellectualised though it be and limited by his claim to poetic genius, threatens the cold detachment of the hero, who is no more able to befriend than love…..

“But friendship, as between our heroes, /can’t really be: for we’ve outgrown/old prejudice; all men are zeros, /the units are ours alone. /Napoleon’s our sole inspiration.”

But this is a different kind of Eugene Onegin…..where Tatiana is

(what she is, was, en always will be…..)

the soul of (the) rod en narod….

she is ‘whole’,

tsel’naia.

“Tatiana ( profoundly Russian being, / herself not knowing how or why)/ in Russian winters thrilled at seeing/the cold perfection of the sky.”

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHjvG-nEEfo]

So this lil’ bird flew (on) across the skies, moving east with the winds…. this time s/he had a package, a gift for a (lil) family of nomadic berbers, fresh from a black oven, in a hut on chicken feet, deep in a forest somewhere to the east of Kiev…….

 ….in a different kind of world…….. 

Uznik

 

I sit behind bars in the dankest of blocks.
A captive young eagle, the king of the hawks,
My sorry companion here, lifting his wings,
Pecks bloody food by the sill, pecks and flings,

And looks out the window, away, away off,
As if he, with me, fell to thinking one thought.
He summons me now with his look and his cry,
And wants to speak plainly, aloud: “Let us fly!

“We’re free birds in truth; it is time, brother, time!
To go, where o’er clouds, the high mountains are white,
To go, where the sea realm’s as blue as the sky,
To go, where the wind alone wanders… and I!”