Wednesday, June 27, 2007

getting out

How do you get out with your soul intact, away from your family who maybe loves you but wants something different for you, away from friends who want to sit still, away from mindsets that want to hold you close, close you off, defend shallow thinking, defensiveness.

you can let life happen to you, or you make it your own. please make it your own.

i remember when every sentance I said, I wanted to apologize for. when I thought I was so stupid, and half my struggle was unlearning that. Learning things helped. learning physical things that I could feel confident in - like how to fix broken radiator hoses, how to use a chainsaw. learning history helped, understanding that it was not just me, but a world based on keeping us stupid feeling, keeping us wrapped in a silence of competitiveness and gossip and feeling never enough.

When I was too shy to talk, I used to copy articles I liked, political essays and poetry, and put them into little pamplets with beautiful covers and set up tables at anarchist gatherings, selling pamplets for donation. Sometimes it seemed like there was so much talking and not enough poetry, and no one reading black women's words, and I wanted to change that.

As much as there was too much talk and not enough poetry, I remember how amazing it felt to be around lots of people wanting to change things, lots of people who thought along the same lines as me, and it gave me strength to go back to where ever I was from, where I couldn't find the right people. It gave me hope that I would find them someday.

I remember when I started to take more responsibility for my life - when I saw how my self-hate protected me, kept me from challenging myself in fundamental ways. And I knew I had to take these chances - to learn to say what I thought, to learn to say what I felt, to learn what it was that I thought and felt outside of what I thought I should feel and think because I thought that's what someone else wanted me to feel and think.

if that sounds convoluted, that's because it was. that's how my mind was. how a lot of our minds are.

to take responsibility for yourself. deep self-reflection. deep self-forgiveness. taking on a daily practice of become human and strong and fragile. stop hanging out with people who don't want to go beyond shallowness. start risking real conversations. learn. teach.


"I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood."

- Audre Lorde

read Poetry is Not a Luxury. read it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

old and young punks and activists

My old punk friends complain about feeling alientated at shows, and not knowing how to relate to the fire in young people who are struggling with things we've already come to conclusions about, and complaining about bad tactics of young punks at our small little protests in our small little town. Like there was a Critical Mass bikeride recently, and at the end of it, someone locked themselves to the doors of an abandon Bank of America, and they were shouting out the ways the Bank of America was actively killing the world. My old punk friend left. I mean, I probably would have too. He said there were parents with kids there, there were lots of people who didn't want to get arrested, and it just seemed like how many times do we have to repeat the same tactical mistakes, alienating people, getting arrested.

Yesterday I was talking to Finn and he was saying that the generations in activist circles are so small. Like a couple years brings a whole new generation, and a lot of the people who two years ago were active, now have disapeared, and there's no one to pass down the lessons learned from experience.

I see a lot of my older friends giving up. Losing passion. I hear them say things like "I used to read a lot and now I almost never do." And I think it is so essential that we figure out ways to support eachother in growing older and staying committed. I think it is so important that we continue to challenge ourselves and eachother. I think it is so important that we try and figure out how to pass down our experiences and the lessons we've learned without being condescending, and without telling young people that they shouldn't try things anyway, even if when we did the same things we failed. Sometimes you have to learn things for yourself.

And we need to make more of an effort to talk to talk to young people, like when I heard about that Critical Mass, I was thinking I would have left too, but I probably would have tried to find the people who organized it later, talked with them later in the week, asking them what were their goals with that action, and talking about the importance of letting people who come to a protest know if they're going to do something in an effort to get arrested. Talk about the ideas of symbolic action, media, buliding mass movement, building visability, or small, cohesive groups. Talk with them, instead of saying "this isn't for me anymore".

And I think young people should know that for the most part we are a bunch of babies, scared of their fire and scared of their judgement, and unsure of our place in things anymore. Some of us may be bitter and jaded, but most of us are little fraidy cats and would probably really love to be asked questions about what we experienced, what we learned.

Monday, June 18, 2007


"White anti-racists need to develop their capacity as organizers and step up to help provide leadership in majority white sectors of the movement, rather then critiquing from the sidelines."

catalyst project

Saturday, June 9, 2007

imagine the impossible

"One must have faith of a kind that our history has made nearly inaccessible."
-Ursula Le Guin

"...a whole bunch of us were talking about how we imagine recreating ourselves and our society, and so many said they just couldn't imagine any other way to live..." - excerpt from letter.

Imagine the impossible.

they want us to believe there is no other way to live, that things have always been this way, that there is no way out and no reason to try, no reason to resist. I rememember learning about Paris, 68, when the students took over the university and the workers had a general strike, and the city was shut down, and people talked about what they would want in a post-revolutionary society. On the walls were slogans. It was a time of great slogans. Imagine the Impossible, Make Your Dreams Reality -- Slogans that are these days used for car commercials. But in those days, my parents days (even though my parents were in office buildings and schools and had no involvement in any of this, aside from that my mom read Anis Nin, and my dad loved a history that said white people weren't the first and smartest people on this earth), in those days the slogans meant that plain Marxism wasn't enough anymore. There was something more that movements for social change were going to have to incorporate.

When I was growing up into politics, there was a whole debate about lifestyle anarchism vs social anarchism. (I can't even remember the titles now. Social?? I don't know.) Whatever we were, we hated lifestyle anarchists. We thought focusing on how you lived was a real waste of time and very self-indulgent. I remember one debate we had about Food Not Bombs when that was just starting, and we decided it was more or less just charity, despite it's pretentions of revolutionaryness. We did not live in collective houses because in the 60's people lived in collectives and it turned into such drama and sucked the life out of real social action and organizing. I lived in a little apartment with my dog. I was very lonely.

But there is a thing that is real. My friend Dave said to me the other day -- I know what I want because I have felt it in moments. -- Moments of communication, moments of protest or parade when we move like one being, times of collective decision making when decisions are made with respect and without fighting, moments of creation when true connection is real and present. Living together outside of nuclear family. Building houses together, feeding eachother, dancing. Times when you can see that another world could exist - this is what I ended up liking about lifestyle - trying to figure out a way to live with integrity, how to live in a way that would feed me and ground me and give me inspiration to keep fighting, keep figuring out how to do more outward struggles for social change.

I have a clear utopian vision. Not clear in the details, but clearly I believe that we could have a world without hierarchy and domination. And for me it becomes embodied in the vision of a world without sexual abuse. For someone else maybe it becomes embodied in a world without the torture of animals, or a world without pesticide use, or a world without schools that turn us into robots. A world without racism. A world where culture can flourish without being turned into commodity. A new world. A world we are told we can't imagine -- but we can. Imagine it. Fight for it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


the healing journey as a site of resistance - billie rain

When I was 18, I was transformed by my experiences with a group of young feminists in the punk music scene called riot grrrl. In the summer of 1991 I helped inititate all-girl meetings at a local punk activist house in the DC area, where I grew up. At the meeting I met young women who were motivated and willing to connect on a deeper level and find ways to challenge and heal from the wounds inflicted on our lives by sexism. It was the first time I had met with any group that was willing to talk openly about sexual abuse. At that point, a floodgate opened in me. I began to consciously articulate the sexual abuse I had experienced from infancy. The other women in riot grrrl believed me, supported me, and were outraged at what I had experienced at the hands of my sadistic father. Through riot grrrl, I was able to write and tell my own story, or what I remembered of it at the time.

One point of this healing journey is not just personal, but to use my personal narrative to create a better world. I want my story to be a jumping off point to critically understand what oppression is and how it relates to child abuse. I want you to make a commitment, if you have not already, to take responsibility for the kind of society you really want to live in. Any understanding you come to as a result of my words must push us forward towards concretely and physically transforming society. "A people's revolution that engages the participation of every member of the community, including man, woman, and child, brings about a certain transformation in the participants as a result of this participation" (Guy-Sheftall, 154). I feel that my inner revolution that has manifested itself as healing from child abuse is inherently linked to larger global struggles against oppression.

-billie rain - the healing journey as a site of resistance

Monday, June 4, 2007

if your friends parent died

Things that helped me after my mom died.

There was the crisis time, the time when she was dieing, and then dead. That part I will talk about later. What I want to talk about here is the later time. People forget that it is not a quick recovery. What I am talking about here is 6 months later, a year later, two years later, now.

One of the saddest suckiest things was that no one wanted to talk about it. I don't know what it is that makes people so afraid. Actually, I do kind of know because one of my friends had a parent die recently, and I feel some of the things other people must have felt around me. Like I'll say the wrong thing, or maybe it is not a good time to talk about it, I don't want to pry, I don't want to make her think about it if she doesn't want to.

but the thing I remember is I was always thinking about it. I was afraid to talk about it would be burdening people. I didn't know what to say, where to begin, what was important, what was too much for someone else to hear. I didn't want to talk if someone didn't want to know and I felt like no one really wanted to know.

If you are the friend of someone whos parent has died, try and think of how you can get yourself to a place inside your self where you want to know. try and figure out how to hear about it without it being a burden. Your parents will die someday too. It is part of our existance that is pushed away but so real. It needs space to be seen. It need space to be heard and experienced not just in our isolation.

If it is mothers day or fathers day, aknowledge it. If it is the anniversary of the parents death, remember and say something. If you are hanging out with your friend with a bunch of people and everyone's talking about parents and your friend is quiet, talk with her, later or then. at least tell her that you felt it too, the loss, the uncomfortableness, the empty space, the bitterness.

Make time to ask questions. For me, the first year was so uncomprehendable, and after the year came the time when I was really ready to talk, when I really needed to talk and the truth was, no one remembered. For everyone else, they were glad the crisis was over and they could finally get a break. It was over for them. For me, I needed to start peeling back the sadness and anger. I needed to remember the good things and say them outloud. I needed witness to our history. I needed friends.

Once a roommate out of the blue made breakfest, cleaned the house, got everyone else outside and quiet. He said "I was thinking about your mom when I woke up and I wanted to do something for you."

Once someone said, "I was too afraid to ask you about your mom when you were having such a hard time, and I'm sorry. But I do have so many things I wonder about your relationship with her. I realized I don't know anything about it really. but I'm afraid to ask you questions because I'm afraid it'll be prying." I said it wasn't prying. I said, "what do you want to know?"

There is relief that comes from talking. There is relief that comes from finding out that what may seem like the hugest burden in the world doesn't turn in to a burden for someone else if I say it outloud. Like the details of my moms disintegration. When I got back from the hospital, I tried to tell my one friend, and he said shhh. He was not able to hear. But later, I told someone else and they heard it fine. They let me cry. They were not crushed by it at all.

Around anniversary time, I like it when someone else figures out something for me to do. Not anything too elaborate. It's just that left to myself, I will get angry or disassociated and I will "forget" and try and push it away, and then I'll remember and get sad and angry at myself. I like to be taken to the woods, may be just for an hour or two. Swimming maybe, or where there is something special and beautiful. I like it when someone cooks for me. comes into my room if I am not leaving it. leaves a little note saying something - I am here for you. I will be here all day if you need me. I will be back at 7, I will be in the garden. I am baking you cake, I am thinking about you, I am sad for you I am angry for you I am wishing and thinking and amazed at your survival. I wish I had known her, I wish I had been able to be there to help you. I wish you didn't have to do so much of all of that and all of this alone. I want to figure out how to be a better friend to you, and I am going to figure it out. I am loving you.
Leave me a note if it's ok if I come in.
Circle what you think you might need

for me to come and hold you
for me to stay outside your door but play you some music
for me to play music to you inside your room
for me to ask you questions
for me to just be near and silent
for me to hold your hand while you call your other family
to talk about the rest of the family
to go outside and scream
to go outside and talk about anything but this death
to get away from here
go to a movie
some kind of ceremony
to get the rest of the roommates out of the house
to get the rest of the roommates to stop giving you uncomfortable looks
to get people to stop trying to cheer you up
to tell everyone else that this is the anniversary day
to tell you that all the mixed things you feel are ok
to tell you the things I love about you
to tell you that this is the worst thing you'll ever know
to tell you that I want to know everything. it is not a burden.

circle what you think you might need. or write more. I want to be here for you. I want to be your friend.