Teach Me How to SPEAK

Reading anything authored by Audre Lorde means learning, and echoing, a sacred truth we (somehow) already know, hiding within deep chambers we haven’t realized yet. Even Lorde’s Cancer Journals covers a pretty specific topic: a Black, Lesbian Warrior Poet who experiences and survives through the trauma of breast cancer and a mastectomy. But any great author can universalize anything. I don’t have breast cancer, and I am not a Black Woman. But reading her struggle to speak and speaking to survive is the most healing piece of work I can swallow right now. Every word she ever wrote deserves to be mantra-fied. So after narrowing it down, here are three that I need to start living by:

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1. “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less important whether or not I am unafraid. […] As women we were raised to fear.”

2. “But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change, or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence. And that might be coming quickly, now, without regard for whether I had ever spoken what needed to be said, or had only betrayed myself into small silences, while I planned someday to speak, or waited for someone else’s words. And I began to recognize a source of power within myself that comes from the knowledge that while it is most desirable not to be afraid, learning to put fear into perspective gave me great strength. […] My silence has not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.” 

3. What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? Perhaps for some of you here today, I am the face of one of your fears. Because I am woman, because I am Black, because I am lesbian, because I am myself- a Black woman warrior poet doing my work- come to ask you, are you doing yours? […] We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we can work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us. The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.”

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“Are You Indian?”

Two months ago I was attacked by a German Shepherd. She clamped onto my wrist, swung it like a bone, and punctured it in 12 spots. Today I finally went to get physical therapy and left the office feeling more emotionally healed.

When I walked in, I saw a man receiving a hand treatment who I assumed to be Armenian. His accent revealed he was Indian. I was wearing my UC Davis shirt, because it’s large and comfortable and I don’t give a shit about what I look like when I wake up. We all start chatting.

“UC Davis, huh?”
“Yeah, I’ll be moving there next month.”  It still seems very surreal.

The old man began talking about his two daughters and what they’re studying. I told him that my sister is going to a medical school in the Caribbean. He asked me if I was Indian because they do that, too. I said that I’m Armenian.

“Ah, yes, same thing.”

It turns out that both the physical therapist and him live in Glendale, so they have a lot of experience with us.

“Do they think you’re Armenian there?”

“All the time. My name is Saran. They call me Suren. Same thing.”

I thought this was very interesting. So I asked him more questions, like if he would consider Armenians to be Europeans or Mid Easterners.

“You know, they really like to call themselves European. But that is mad! Very mad. They take pride in being Caucasian, but actually, the borders today don’t properly define the region. The Caucasians actually originated in Afghanistan, and the Europeans saw that all the education and universities developed from that region- the Persian Empire, the Ottoman Empire… Armenians also like to say they are the cradle of civilization, but modern cities actually originated elsewhere. Look up the Harappa Civilization. History doesn’t exist, until 2,000 years ago.”

The conversation took a slight turn from geography towards religion, and the physical therapist and I were jotting down some reference notes. I thought this was interesting because on the way to the office I was listening to the Michael Slate Show on KPFK during which he interviewed Pamela J. Olson, a young female author and Stanford graduate who spent two years in Ramallah, Palestine. She published a book called “Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland.” (On a side note, I described Armenia as a “homeless homeland” in my zine.) Although this reminds me of the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, a prison drama that hooked a huge audience predominantly because the main character is a middle-class white girl, and not a poor Black woman/PoC, the way Olson verbally described her experience moved me to fucking tears. So many tears. Even listening to her reaction to the lives of Palestinians enraged me so much. On one hand, as the host was offering a film about a Palestinian family whose son was shot and killed by the Israeli military and used for their target practice, Olson described the inexplainable hospitality of the Palestinians, and how their 2,000 year old olive trees were uprooted from their homes. I instantly tied this back to Armenia, and our trademark hospitality being among the only incentive for tourism, and how my father grew up in a small village called Zeytun (Olive) and how his father witnessed his family slaughtered in that same town. There are only so many headlines and reports you can hear about these things, like destroying Olive trees, but until someone changes that tone or until an outsider recites their personal account, then we can slowly understand the pain and the injustice that’s happening.

“Religion is a pointless thing.” Saran began enlightening me. “It is all the same. There is only one. In India and in the Middle East, we were thriving before Jesus came. And you know the difference between Islam and Christianity? The Prophet Muhammad came hundreds of years after Jesus. Even Armenians had secret caves they prayed inside. Even Indians didn’t worship humans until they made the temples. And Israel and Palestine? This conflict is pointless. It’s been going on since Abraham was alive. His son Ishmael was Muslim, and Ishmael’s cousin Isaac was Jewish. Since, they’ve been cousins fighting for power. And whoever’s in power keeps everybody believing that they are different.”

We are all the same, even though we are born to believe otherwise, through different Gods, different words that define us created by European men, everything is the same.

MY NEW FAV. BAND

MY NEW FAV. BAND

Super hooked on Culture For Pigeon.

So I created a MOG account, just because Spotify banned me from using theirs. I like this site a lot better. My emotions will be fed until they’re not hungry anymore. If that’s the case, is barf artistic expression?

Also, as a sort of significant side note, “Tracy” Wynne Greenwood, is a lesbian feminist video artist. Life = Saved.

Backpacking with a HIJAB 101 – Part I

Tips for Hijabi Backpackers

This Blog Sparkles

I have travelled both as a non-Hijabi and a Hijabi in my life. While most of my solitary travels begin after I started putting on my headscarf, I have learnt many unspoken rules and tips the hard way. So in this attempt to share some of it, I have divided this post into 4 different categories :-

1. Packing the load
2. Outdoor activities
3. Airport Security
4. General tips

1. Packing the load

Packing the load includes picking out the right headscarf to wear, and tips of how to fold them with minimal creases and space consumption. So let’s get to it!

– Know the weather of the destination of travel

Oh boy, did I learn this the hard way. I was in India in August ’11 (in her monsoon season) where I was donning on my favorite thick red Pashmina. Due to the weight, it holds great on…

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Hella Awkward

Tuesday nights, I’m generally sitting somewhere in Los Angeles at Da Poetry Lounge (DPL) where hundreds of poets, poetresses, rappers, musicians and devout listeners congregate to pray amongst commonalities of pain and triumph.

Shit’s pretty serious most of the time. And the place has got some (obvious) rules. Only piss in the toilet hole, not around it. Respect the poets. A great audience makes a great poet. And poets, ya’ll only got three minutes to work it, so edit the epic.

Most slam poets come here to express what oftentimes is silenced and damaged, and with that being said you can guess the ambiance that creeps up. It’s intense. It’s painful. It’s touching. And you listen and you respect the brave voices.

I remember my first time on the mic. I was so horrified that I could feel the pages in my hand shaking so hard that I gave in and stopped repressing it. I stopped in the middle because I couldn’t read the size 8 font or remember how to speak English again. And afterwards I didn’t show my face until I was certain they’d all forgotten it.

So after several weeks, I went back tonight.

The poets were stunning. Each voice was so unique and had something special to say, that they were here, that they’ve overcome something insurmountable and believed in themselves and in their stories and to grow the courage and share them with us.

I was serious. So serious.

And then, a man fresh off the boat from Italy preformed his very own pop song. The crowd roared in laughter and within milliseconds it was socially acceptable to laugh, at or with I couldn’t tell.

But later on in the night, his friend performed.. quite the unusual type to do so at a place like DPL. This guy strutted on the stage with his hiking sandals and an oversized hemp jacket and long blonde hair… I was waiting for what he had to say.

And then he opened his mouth. He straight up sounded like Keaunu Reeves in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. He read his philosophies on the universe and what have you from his phone. And he looked at us all. “Fire.” “Earth.” “Water.” “Universe.” And he paused, and said things with such a distinct pothead accent. “And like, you.” His transitions killed me. I couldn’t hold it in. I’ve never not taken a poet seriously, regardless of their skill levels. But I burst like I was in a third grade classroom, where giggling would buy you detention and a dirty look from the teacher. I looked down at my crossed legs and giggled, and shut my mouth. I prayed it would be over. He read another poem. It intensified. I needed to bust out of the room before I’d get kicked out for being disrespectful. He performed a third poem, which is highly discouraged for time’s sake. This would be my final blow. And thank goodness the DJ, Brotha Gimel, decided his performance was way too long and sounded the warning signal. The poet continued gracefully. Gimel turned up the music and turned off the lights. He walked off the stage, and the EMCEE came on and subtly commented that that shit was kinda damn long. And the folks behind me bumped fists in solidarity and agreed with my rude laughter.

I didn’t know what came over me. I felt super horrible for dissing a poet in a space where their secrets and stories should be respected. But I didn’t even laugh that much at the Laugh Factory last week. I like that I’ve grown a sense of humor, at least.

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