Slap of a backhand
Striking five cords
Strong as a fist
Thank you for writing with such a remarkable question. I keep coming back to it uncertain of how to best respond. What I realized in searching for the answer (which I promise I have been actively doing) is, there are parts of me that always feel unsafe. I am a, 33 year old, white, working class, fat, queer, female identified, femme, touring artist, who survived multiple traumas. Many of those identities lend to constant triggers and oppressions while others lend to passability and privilege. I can also say I am currently far more aware of my varying levels of safety and what informs how safe or unsafe I feel at any given time than I have ever been in my life. Being in awareness about the relationship between my identities, history, society, and how they inform each other for better or worse has lent to investing in a life practice that feels safer and more possible every day.
Given my history of trauma and survival specifically as a working class female, when I want to feel safe my mind first goes to practices rooted in shame and self-injury that have manifested into a lot of very destructive behaviors. I am consciously working every day (sometimes every moment) toward shifting my core beliefs and practices to ones that are rooted in empowerment and deviate from those addictive and self-destructive behaviors. When I am completely honest with myself I have to honor that internal dialogue, which often times is more recognizable as struggle, will exist as a part of my growth for the rest of my life.
As I write this I want to recognize that at this very moment I am sitting in a corner of the Rayburn Building at our nations capital on a computer operating from the belief that no one is going to remove me from this space. I have no reason to be in this building other than the fact that it is cold outside and I needed somewhere to go that offered a warm cup of coffee and some relief from the wind and snow. As I walked through security then down the halls reading door signs naming comities and people who’s jobs are to facilitate national change, not one person gave me a second glance or questioned why I was here or where I needed to go. I cannot help but wonder what would be different if any part of my identity presented as something less “Safe”. What if I was a masculine presenting queer as apposed to a fat femme? What if I were a latino woman or a black man as apposed to a white female? What if my working class upbringing did not ladder me into helping raise rich people’s children? Which is to say what if I wore clothes solely purchased with the money I make existing as my most authentic self? What if a tooth was missing in the front of my mouth rather than the back? What if I was a working class anything other than fat, white, female? My understanding of the complexities that help me feel safe and or unsafe are growing with my analysis of our culture and the ways in which it chameleons from home, to church, to business, to town, to city, to state, to region, to country, each holding multifaceted communities and identities within. Each identity holding its own historical oppressions and privileges that simultaneously silence and empower.
In the past 5 years I have been actively engaging and building in community that is invested in figuring out how the telescoping lens of our life experience helps and hinders actualizing all that is possible in our current and future lives. By that I mean through collective conversations we examine the identities that make up our individual lenses, unpack triggers to past experiences (as they come up) in relationship with those identities while recognizing/taking note of what behaviors we practice in response to those triggers. The mantra we have taken on in this practice is “I am perfect whole and complete, exactly as I am and exactly as I am not”. We say this with an understanding and compassion for our enculturated self hate.
Through the process of listening we honor that judgment is something engrained in our cultural practice that does not serve anyone for the better. We do our best to recognize when it shows up and attempts to drive any given experience. We then invite judgment to open the door to all that we may not know or see in the choices we are making. Through sharing our experiences and vulnerabilities in a community that is rooted in honoring our humanity, we see and are seen which is an investment in the evolution of individual identity acting in partnership with the growth of our expanding community and culture.
I hope my response is coming across as clear. This is the first time I have braved communicating this practice in writing. I want to take a breath for a moment and recognize with you the fears and stories that move through me as I share my perspective. In sharing this I have to honor the voices that tell me I am stupid, uneducated, uninformed, out of pocket and not clear. They also tell me I am elitist, privileged and condescending. Those voices are a chatterbox of self-hating oppressive fear mongers that challenge everything I move toward and through. In community I have learned those are my internalized narratives. When I name them and consider them as choices as apposed to definitives they no longer hold the same level of power. From that point on I am in a position to name anything as possible, to consider any moment as an experience unique of any other moment. There is so much freedom and liberation from trauma in this practice. There is also freedom and liberation in understanding the ways in which I have been encultured to judge and hate every identity in our culture.
To bring it back, this response is an articulated journey of where my mind goes when I am learning what it means to want to feel safe. To want to feel safe is first to recognize that some part of every person constantly feels unsafe. It is to name that and work toward an understanding of what informs that belief, work in community to dismantle the broken cultural house we live in and BELIEVE that it can and will be different. In order to move through this world in love and possibility, I HAVE to BELIEVE and WORK toward the world being safe not just for myself but everyone.
The Too Much by Christa Bell
“If 48 hours later was too soon for you to be in my mouth, you shouldn’t have been there”
I am taking a leap and writing to ask for some much needed HELP from my friends.
Next week I fly into Minneapolis to compete with 72 of the top female spoken artists in the world in the 2013 Women of the World Poetry Slam. This is an amazing opportunity not only to have my voice heard but also to share space with a community that prioritizes empowering voice as a means to create social change. It is my heaven really!!!
While participating in this event is a powerful experience it is also very expensive (It will cost about $1,000 to go). That is money I alone do not have.
Please help me by going to my website and purchasing my NEW CHAPBOOK “Chariot of Undoing”. The money raised will help cover the costs for travel, food and shelter in Minneapolis.
Thank you in advance for helping to make this possible for me.
After a year and a half of writing I excited to say I have a new collection of poems. The chapbook is called “Chariot of Undoing”. It is available for purchase on my website http://www.denisejollyspoken.com/#!merch
Oh goodness…. releasing new work always makes me so excited and nervous. I hope you enjoy.
Kathleen Hanna talking about Zines and Blogging
“You had an idea, you wrote it down that night”
“The Zines were supposed to be historical”
There is so much freedom in the way she explains the process of a Zine.
Oh my gosh I have so much new reading to do! Thank you Judith for sharing such amazing books and foxy art! #dorothyallison #poetsagainstrape #leahpesakushner #sinisterwisdom #community #feminist #gift
#allaboutlove #bellhooks #feminist #chosenfamily #hero (Taken with Instagram)
#bellhooks #allaboutlove #feminist #hero #realhearttalk (Taken with Instagram)
#womeninmedia #socialvilence #bellhooks #hero #feminist (Taken with Instagram)
#allaboutlove #bellhooks #feminist #hero #loverevolution (Taken with Instagram)
Body, I see you
Landing on an orange peel sunrise
Skin, rose hewed alabaster
Wearing all that thick and juicy
Ass shake and swagger
Move like living is what you were built for
Let love fuck the hate back out of you
Shake the sweat on your skin beyond morning
It is fall outside
The world is still burning
Crumbling into mulching ash
Survival is to rise up from
It is not a sole reason for living
A while back a man cornered me after a show and told me I should feel ashamed for whatever happened in my life that lead me to talk about bodies the way I do. This poem is a response to him and anyone else who questions the way I speak about bodies. (Please note it is an off mic quiet recording) Please share far and wide! Hope you enjoy:)
Eve Ensler: Suddenly, my body