Category Archives: community organizing

On Becoming an Ex-Writer: A Personal Essay (part 1 & 2)

Blessed and honored to announce that Part 1 & 2 of my non-fiction essay “On Becoming an Ex-Writer” just went live at Doveglion Press! Many thanks to editors Barbara Jane Reyes and Oscar Bermeo for the shine. Shout out to coming out and coming of age in the golden early 90s in Frisco, writing on walls, bombing partners and falling in love with words, one at a time. Trying to connect the dots before they fade…
Check it out and let me know what you think.


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Filed under 90s hip-hop, blues, childhood memories, community organizing, friends, getting politicized, graffiti, Inspirations, literary universe, origins, poetry, San Francisco

Egypt, Egypt, Egypt (is the place to be) Egypt, Egypt, Egypt

Protesters take part in an anti-Mubarak protest at Tahrir square in Cairo, February 1, 2011. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

*Credit to Marty Aranaydo for getting the title of this blog into my head like a song chorus.
Current location (body): Kitchen table in my apartment, Bloomington, IN watching frozen raindrops grow longer as this ice storm hits.
Current location (mind, spirit): With the millions of people taking over the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez in Egypt as they demand U.S. backed dictator, Hosni Mubarak, step down from his thirty-year rule.

I’ve been watching Al Jazeera English on live stream non-stop since the uprising started and it’s hard to feel like anything else is really as important as this people’s revolution unfurling its banner right in front of our eyes (despite the Egyptian government’s shut down of the internet). I get goosebumps and tears wet my eyes when I see photos of women kissing stoic riot police on the cheek, video footage of thousands of protesters forcing the police to retreat while they take over a bridge that crosses the Nile. Then reports of students, army and other civilians forming a human chain around the National Museum to prevent it from further looting.
This is a revolution being led by young people who have never known anything but dictatorship and by the looks of it, they have everything to teach us about maintaining unity across sectors, holding their ground in the face of concessions and major uncertainty and the ability to practice selfless love as lives are lost and people are injured in the process.
My eyes are almost drunk off scenes of such beautiful movement. It’s hard to reconcile that feeling with the cold, dull and uninspiring environment that surrounds me here in the mid-west. I keep sending prayers to Egypt and posting articles or updates on Facebook for friends who may not know or care so much about what is going on. I came to the mid-west to write, to cop another degree. I hope my writing moves my readers in some way. But for the most part I know this time has been an extravagant gift of solitude, learning and creativity for myself. I don’t have any lofty goals of being the next Jessica Hagedorn or Gloria Anzaldua. I have no doubt my writing will contribute to the long and steady tradition of politically conscious writers. But it will never be sufficient enough in terms of making a contribution towards revolution.
So many things that come to us in this world are signposts and maps to help show us where our own hearts and callings lie in between all those mundane importances like stability and security. The revolution in Egypt shows me in vivid colors how much energy I have to support people’s movements, how much my idea of time best spent is being caught up in a crowd of millions making demands and using my voice. Collective action is the stuff of dreams when it is done right. (I won’t bother talking about the nightmare it can be, too.)
I know that Mubarak is on his way out. I know that it will be because people showed up, took the streets and did not leave until he did. I know that the hard part will only just begin after he has left, but that there will be a whole generation of people forever changed in their understanding of what is possible and their role in it. Just to feel a vibration of that change, a visceral echo of it, out here in the middle of this ice storm is a precious gift.


Filed under Academia, community organizing, Egyptian Revolution, Inspirations, love, mid-west, solidarity

Oakland, birthplace of the Black Panther Party

this work at SOUL has got my gaze returned on movement building and my spirit returned to the gospel of community organizing. it really is the way out of this mess of a world. the world that we want really is in the untwisting and unmangling of the current one. it’s not like i didn’t believe this before. i don’t just want to be an individual artist doin my thing tryin to get mine. i don’t want to look away. i want to know how the peasants in brazil’s countryside take back the land through occupation. i want to understand how the tomato pickers in Florida fought and won against Taco Bell for better wages and conditions. i want to know how South African Freedom Fighters kept their spirits strong during apartheid with the music of their people. i want to honor, shed tears and speak the names of the warriors who have died fighting for this vision of a better world, the ones who never even made it out the prison cell.

we’re going on a self-guided Black Panther Party Tour tomorrow in Oakland. I’ve been preparing the route for the past few days, doing research on significant places in Oakland where the Party left their mark. i’ve always known this place was the birth of the Panthers, but in the past couple days I’ve been hella struck by their legacy and feeling their power. It’s making me look at every block in Oakland again, knowing that this whole city was a war zone between the Panthers and the cops. That on so many blocks, members were murdered, that panthers fired back, that these battles are the realest thing i know of about these streets being our streets beyond a chant at a march or some gang turf bullshit. and then i knew that the panthers had serve the people programs, but i had no idea how many. At least twenty. Free shoes program, free grocery program, optometry, safety for seniors, etc etc.

i’m trippin of the thousands upon thousands of layers that fall upon a land and how a movement of people with a unified vision leave an entirely different kind of layer than anything an individual might. Tomorrow we’ll go to the Alameda County courthouse where the Huey Newton trial took place. We’ll stop by the church where the free breakfast program started. We’ll stop on the block where the youngest panther member, Bobby Hutton was murdered by the police. It makes me hella sad knowing that all these places where we’re going we will not be able to see these things with our eyes. That we’ll be standing in front of vacant lots, slowly gentrified neighborhoods, no evidence of greatness. But I realize that I don’t need eyes to see. That is what blows me away. I am a part of the Panther legacy. The work that I’m doing this summer, the interns in SOUL’s summer school, SOUL as an organization, all of this and more would not be as it is if the Panthers would never have graced and stormed these city blocks, the nation, this world. This is the first time I am properly paying tribute and my heart spills over with love and gratitude.

“Settle your quarre;s, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are dying who could be saved, that generations more will die or live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover your humanity and your love in revolution.” -George Jackson

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Filed under Black Panther Party, community organizing, Oakland, SOUL