Wednesday, December 28, 2016

52 Essays in 2017

VONA sister, Vanessa Martir, has put out the challenge: write 52 essays in a year. That's one essay per week.

So what do I do? I freak out on the inside, get drawn in by the word "challenge", think about what kind of stuff I would write (would it be all the private inside shit put out on display? or would it be cop-out shit?), take a deep breath, and say YES.

As the new year approaches and this one comes to a close, I've been taking inventory of the past 12 months. It's been a year of milestones, dramatic shifts (uh, election), and transformations (hello, yoga teacher training). But I've also taken a look at my writing life thus far. I've come to this decision: this coming year has to be different. I want it to be more intentional. *I* want to be more mindful. In how I live and in how I write. I want to be more mindful in actually writing. I'm always talking about writing and how I should be doing more of it and blah blah blah. The doing somehow doesn't happen as much as I'd like. Yes, living one's life feeds the writing. But one needs to actually also sit down and put the pen to paper and write.

So I'm doing this.

As process. Not as finished product. As journey, not destination.

We'll see where this road takes me.

First essay up on January 1, 2017. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Day After

I have been crying all day.

And it’s not about Hillary losing the election. It’s about who won it. It’s about how too many people lost sight of the big picture. It’s about how these results are setting our country back some fifty, sixty odd years. Maybe more.

And on a personal level, it’s about me feeling unsafe.

It’s about white folks around me –folks I know and don’t know—who DO NOT GET WHY I feel unsafe.

It’ll be okay, they say.
It’s not that bad, they say.
It’ll work out, they say.

They can say this because they’re white. And when you are white, you are safe.

It’s okay. It’ll be alright.

Is it okay for someone to burn down a 111-year-old historically black church in Mississippi and spray paint “Vote Trump” on it?

Is it okay for a man to reach out and grab a woman between the legs or her breasts because he feels like it? To force himself on her because he feels like it? And then for him to admit it? To wave it off as locker room talk?

I’m here to tell you the obvious: it’s not okay.

I have been surrounded by Trump signs on lawns everywhere. There is this town I have to drive through everyday: it is white and affluent and has voted for Trump. This town in the Blue state of New Jersey. While most of those folks are probably well-meaning people, I cannot shake the thought of a certain closed-mindedness that might come with one who supports an open racist and misogynist. The other day, a car in the oncoming traffic lane had a giant sign on its roof. It was the length of the entire car. It said, “Jail Hillary.” Fear gripped me so hard. If that driver thinks that notion is okay, that person does not play by the rules. I felt so unsafe. I have been driving through this particular town with so much anxiety.

I am crying because I am also worried for my daughters’ safety.

Certain boys and men have now gotten a clear message that it’s okay to keep doing what they’re doing – to take what they want from women. Because look, Trump did it and he got elected president! Yeah!


And it’s not going to be “okay” unless white folks help us do the work. I mean really WORK. We people of color have been working for social justice this whole time. Since the beginning of time. Shit just got harder. Real hard.

So take time for self-care. Weep. Mourn. Grieve. Wail. Let it out. All of it.

I even bought mala beads today to create a more concrete sense of safety.

Eat some good comfort food. (I had diner coffee & French toast for dinner.)

Then, wash your face, put on some fresh clothes, and get to work.

As Neil deGrasse Tyson said: “This is the end of nothing. This is the beginning of something new and solemn and so important. You must be part of what comes next.”

Friday, July 8, 2016

What to say? Do Black Lives (really) Matter?

Everyone knows by now that, within 24 hours, two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, have been shot and killed by police officers in Baton Rouge and the St. Paul area, respectively. And if this is news to you, then get on it & read up!

I have spent the last two days trying to process this. I don't even know what to say anymore.
Roxane Gay wrote this in the NYT before Castile was killed.

"I don’t know where we go from here because those of us who recognize the injustice are not the problem. Law enforcement, militarized and indifferent to black lives, is the problem. Law enforcement that sees black people as criminals rather than human beings with full and deserving lives is the problem. A justice system that rarely prosecutes or convicts police officers who kill innocent people in the line of duty is the problem. That this happens so often that resignation or apathy are reasonable responses is the problem."

I have spent the last two days trying to process this.
I have been unable to tear myself away from my Facebook news feed. I keep reading articles, personal essays, watching live feed videos from people in the Black community. I feel grief, outrage, and helplessness. 
I have spent the last two days doing nothing but read about people's grief and rage. I have shed tears at my computer while watching live-feed videos of black women --why is it always the women who must speak? Why the burden put upon them/us?-- and have been turning over all of these things, all of this information in my mind.

I am also mindful of my position as a Filipina. Yes, I am a woman of color, but I am not a black woman who has to teach her children to "comply" with police. I am not a black man who feels danger at the sight of a cop car or an officer in uniform. It is different to be black in this country. I may be marginalized, but I am not black. 

Still, I am an ally. So what can I do?

First, I gave space to my black friends. They are tired. They are tired of grief, of rage. They are exhausted. They want to be left alone. They do not need someone asking them "what can I do?". They need the space to fucking cry. You're all adults. Google it, people.

Second, I have posted to my Facebook page anything and everything that can bring some education and understanding to those "friends" who are clueless. I don't have very many of those... and even if I'm preaching to the choir-- it bears repeating. We need to talk about this. We need to talk about this in the open. To get it out in light so that we can address it, so that maybe we can see something change. There's only so much petitions will do --and please, still keep doing that! And yes, monetary donations to the Black Lives Matter movement or other social justice organizations are helpful. We need money to make the gears turn. But the bottom line out of all of this to talk to one another, to really talk and to actively listen --to really, truly, genuinely LISTEN to what is happening. If you have a platform, use it. Speak out. Say something! And then to take action. No matter how small. It has to start somewhere.

But at some point, I need to leave my computer and live my actual life. I need to feed my family, to take care of them, to play with my kids, to do my best to raise kind and loving human beings. I need to be IN the world, to be present IN it.

And so I leave you with this: don't be afraid to talk about the difficult things. Bring big love and plenty of compassion. Do what you can to make the lives of others just a little bit better, a little bit brighter. Practice self-care. And be IN the world -- don't just watch it go by.


Friday, April 8, 2016

Day Six

Write a poem about food. This could be a poem about a particular food, or about your relationship to food in general. Or it could simply be a poem relating an incident that involves food.

Lilikoi Butter

Oh Lilikoi
How your name
tantalizes my tongue
Your scent
wakes me
to the lush world
outside my lanai
Tastebuds trigger
saliva glands
at mere mention
of you

But to find you
golden, encased
in glass jars!
The creamy spread
of you,
into butter
my morning toast
next to my glass
of lilikoi juice
Truly, I am
in paradise
where a fruit’s passion
into pleasure

Day Five

In honor of my strained shoulder, write a poem with the opposite hand that you write with, or if you're typing, use only one hand to type.

Not Left Behind

This is it!
The moment of truth!
Finally, Lefty 
you can shine
like the hidden gem
I always knew you to be
Go ahead:
shift gears
open doors
and yes! yes!
I will be patient
as you work to learn
the curves and edges
of letters, pen in hand--
as you hunt and peck
on the keyboard
What else can I do?
You are the star!
I rely only on you.
So go ahead!
Seize this moment
in the limelight!
It's only a matter of time
before Righty recovers.

Day Four

Run around your house (or dorm room) and grab 5 items that all begin with the same letter. Write a poem as an ode to one of these items or that includes these items. 


Ode to My Pen

Black ink flows
like rapid rivers
of neurons flashing
electric, chemical thought
tattooing the page

Indelible ink
held in its chamber
until the click
until the tip’s scratch
until the scrawl

Oh my pen
how you save me
from the dark
from the listless pit
of black matter
in my mind
How you save me
by bringing forth
the deepest ember within
and call it
into the light

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Day Three

Write a poem in the form of a fan letter to a celebrity. It could be anyone –living or dead-and needn’t be an actor or singer (though it could be).

Dear Roxane Gay,

How I love your voice: fierce and tender all at once.
your words pour forth like a river,
bearing the bad-ass truth of feminism
and the reality of competitive Scrabble
the scars of sexual trauma scratched into skin
the desire to be, to see
yourself, to be seen
in Miss America
in Vanessa Williams
Beauty. You have shown me beauty
in all the damage, in all the wreckage--
For this, I am ever grateful.