Saturday, March 20, 2010

Come Back Queens

(This image reminds me that spring follows summer like joy cometh in the morning. Once again Chicago weather has betrayed me. It has gone from temperatures in the 70s to snow outside my window! Lord, save me from the cold! lol)

Strands of a song came to me today, "Something inside so strong - I know that I can make it. Something inside so bold - I know that I can make it." I remember other black women teaching me this song when I did not know it and then my singing it. These women and I were from the National Black Women's Health Project. Our mantra was, "Black and Female - I Know the Reality." The reality was that many of us we were "sick and tired of being sick and tired" and that many of us had suffered from being strong black women taking on life, often by ourselves and that some of us had been deeply wounded in the process of trying to get grown and happy in America. We were reminded by Lillie Allen that we all started out loving, zestful human beings who had lost our way in the maze of negative images and stereotypes heaped upon us. We learned and were reminded by hearing our stories that society had systematically imposed all kinds of -isms that assailed us from all sides, sometimes all at once. But together we could hold each other and love each other into wellness and release the traumas that our bodies held that were making us sick and killing some of us, while many of us died. Billye Avery told us her story. So we learned to tell our stories and spoke our truths amidst tears with babies sleeping in back rooms while hands and arms held us and reminded us that they we were good enough just as we were and that we deserved happiness and that we deserved the best that life could offer. And these hands and words helped many of us to walk through the terror of our lives to get to the other side of the joy waiting for us. These circles of sisters made all the difference for some of us. I know they did for me and my daughters (and I hope for my son). These circles did not cost anything other than our time and our commitment to ourselves.

We were Come Back Queens! Many of us came back from the brink of despair and disaster. Women talked about abusive relationships - of intrusive procedures that sterilized some and took liberties with our bodies. We talked of children born of rapes and loveless relationships and love gone bad! We talked about the staying power of big mama's love or deceased parents who we regretted not hearing the words and not saying them, "I love you." We talked about dying loves and death a lot. We talked and cried about weak women, ourselves and others and powerful women, ourselves and others. We laughed until we cried and we cried until we laughed. And many of us got to the other side of poor choices and seemingly no choices, of life gone bad, and we took back our lives, and we healed. Many of us went on to do meaningful things with our lives and to teach other women (our daughters and friends) how to vomit up their lives into the loving arms of sisters that were not afraid of the messiness or disgusted with the mess that we had become when we gave away our lives and our power. They let us cry and flail so that we might reclaim our power and know that we could survive the nightmares and terrors and speak the unspeakable and that the ghosts could be put to rest. And when needed we could confront the walking wounded still in our lives - still betraying us and our children's innocence and still living the lies we had believed that they would never do it again and no they did not touch our daughters and sons in secret ways and in sacred places.

We are the Come Back Queens that stepped onto the ships to save our people as they were being taken away. I am personally tired of the argument about who took us (Africans who sold them or whites who stole them). We know no Africans owned those ships. But like Pearl Cleage, I would have liked to have been one of the ones to have turned back the ships - to have swam out and garnered the strength to shout, "jump while you can before it is too late and the water too deep and wounds fatal. I would have liked to have climbed onto those ships with spears and shields demanding my brothers and sisters and burning the ship rather than seeing it sail off never to see my kin again.

But Pearl, we cannot go back and turn those ships around. We cannot prevent the carnage of the Middle Passage. But we can now step down off the auction blocks. We can stop killing each other. We can choose who will touch our bodies and whose children we will birth. We can choose to whom we shake what mama gave us. We can choose choose not to separate our sexuality and spirituality. We can take off our shackles and chains my sisters for we are the Come Back Queens!

We came back when we were not even supposed to survive. We were brought here from diverse tribes and languages and customs and we survived not knowing what had happened to us or to our loved ones who we never saw again. We were brought here grieving that we were torn from and generations later we have made lives for ourselves in a strange land that has become ours. We have learned to sing our songs in a strange land that is now our own. It is flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones. Yet, our songs have become strange and the land familiar. How have we come to this point? A point where internalized oppression might accomplish what racism and slavery were never able to accomplish. Slavery never anniliated or defeated us. But is it possible that our internalized oppression can take us out?

Last night I went to the DuSable Museum to hear author, Tom Burrell talk about his latest book, Are You Brainwashed? The Marketing of Black Inferiority 21st Century Style. Go to It is not a new theme. It is very old and one that each generation of blacks grapples with as the evidence that we are loosing the battle The growing materialism of our people in the face of too little saving and investing demonstrate that we are loosing the battle. I could launch the familiar litany of indicators that we are loosing the battle. Instead, Remember! Lest we forget in the madness and in the distractions that we are the Come Back Queens.

We made a way out of no way! We gathered our senses and rallied, we loved our way through trauma and drama even when it did not look like and feel like love. It was in our DNA and we were acting on instinctive loving that allowed us to survive and begin to thrive.

Let us tell that story! Let us rejoice and be glad for this day. One more day above ground to get it right. One more day above ground to create and build communities of healing and liberation!

Question - What in your life have you come back from that you have not even acknowledged yourself? Gently name that memory and thank Spirit that you survived and promise yourself to love and allow yourself to be loved and celebrate your life today with one other somebody that appreciates you!

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

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