A Lyft Ride

As I type this, I’m sitting in SFO’s decidedly trendy food court. All the food stands selling the normal organic fare are drawn closed. It’s 10:16pm and my flight leaves at midnight. I would normally appreciate the calmness that this lends but I am not present enough in this moment to enjoy it. My mind is still on the ride I took get here sitting in the back seat of a black female Lyft driver’s car. 20 miles, 30 minutes.

Her and I.

I and her.

We fell into an easy familiarity that unacquainted black folks can sometimes cultivate without effort. No doubt, I reminded her of people she knew just as much as she reminded me of some of my sisters, aunts and friends. Our conversation ebbed and flowed naturally. Where our voices trailed off Michael Jackson’s picked up, carrying us with him. Our talk wove between our hometowns, lives and dreams. Later, it would dawn on me that we didn’t have the option to talk about our lives without also having to talk about racism. When I told her I was originally from Florida she told me she always wanted to live there but was afraid about being black there. I wondered if she was thinking about Trayvon or Jordan Davis or Rosewood or Overtown like I was. I had personal stories I could share but I didn’t think she needed them. She was black like me after all. I was sure she has her own. And sure enough, she told me stories of white and Asian passengers she’s picked up in San Francisco. The ones who’d talked down to her and the ones who’d talked crazy to her and the ones who’d left terrible comments in her review section. I wondered if we’ve both have experienced a lifetime of microaggressions, where does that leave us? How do we heal it in ourselves? And how do we heal each other?

As I listened to her speak, the only thing I could think to do was listen. Truly listen and be present with her in that car in hopes of sharing at least a sliver of her burden. I don’t for a second think that this will be enough to heal her or my own wounds but I do believe that it’s a start.

“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

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Putting some Act into my Activism

The struggle is real and happening now. It’s about demilitarizing the police, raising the minimum wage, ensuring that women, trans women of color in particular, are free to walk down the street with fearing for their lives and bodies, it’s about truly ending colonialism throughout the world. It’s about confronting past injustices and genocides and the intergenerational trauma that’s bleeds out from them.

Up until recently, I thought that me living my truth as a queer, black, non-male in America was radical and political enough, thanks. Which isn’t to say that I’ve done nothing. I’ve cold called hundreds of Asian and Muslim Americans to remind and encourage them to vote, I’ve gone door to door in conservative subdivisions and trailer parks on behalf of an openly gay candidate, I marched in Orlando pride years ago in support of a black politician running for Florida senate. I’ve sat across from former drug dealers, pimps, rapist, and people who have killed people (intentionally and not) and provided help with navigating a post incarceration life.

The problem is, at the time when I was doing these things, I considered my engagement and activism to be extras like little donations you give to feel better about yourself. I did not see that this work and other work like acts of civil disobedience are critical to my continued existence and the quality of life of future generations of people like me, people who are marginalized in their societies due their race, class, gender, religion, sex or ability.

I no longer have delusions about activism being optional for me. Not when so many in this country, including those in power think people in my community deserve to die for stealing candy or “talking back”, not when I have to do safety checks on those I love because one of the few safe spaces we have was attacked, not when there’s hundreds if not thousands of women and girls of color going missing without any media notice, not when the bodies of young children are washing ashore of some of the wealthiest countries in the world. It’s not a world I want to live in and it’s not a world I can mentally or physically survive in.

I recently attended a direct action training that was put on by the East Bay Meditation Center and taught by Buddhist Peace Fellows. An older black woman shared that it’s time for white people to grow up and deal with what she’s been dealing with since she was 4. It struck me because I realized yes they need to grow up and also -it’s time for me to step up.

A Poem

The Past
Fire burns flesh,
Rope breaks bones,
Strange fruit
My ancestors,
Dancing in the soft breeze,
over a white crowd
that’s very much at ease

The Present
Blue on black,
Black on ground,
Covered in blood,
Crying,
Gasping,
Dying,
Splayed
and displayed
across front pages
and homepages.

The Difference
The medium

The Difference
The year

The Difference
Is none

The Names
Of so many
Eric Garner,
Walter Scott
Alton Sterling,
Philando Castile,
Laquan McDonald,
Tamir Rice,
So many more
Add it all up
there’s footage for days.

So much evidence
So little justice

Questions
Why aren’t white deaths replayed on the evening news?
And what is about black lives that make our deaths go down so smooth?