Empowerment – The Fire Within (A 2013 Throwback)

The following piece was written back in 2013. While 4 years have passed, the underlying message is still quite relevant today.


As members of the LGBT community, it’s sad that we still live in a world that cannot see beyond our sexuality. How appalling is it that the masses fail to realize our worth or accept us wholly and completely? When faced with hatred, discrimination, and stereotypical imagery in media and entertainment, we can’t help but feel a bit of shame, guilt, and anger. So many misconceptions and stigmas continue to cloud judgment, perception, and understanding. But for what? Our sexuality is one of so many parts of who we are. While it doesn’t define us, we can’t ignore it. And it’s obvious that public officials, conservatives, and organizations (that shall remain nameless) are obsessed with our sexuality more than we are.

Did the powers that be, holy rollers, and haters forget that we’re human too? We desire, no, we deserve the same things as our heterosexual brothers and sisters – family, friends, love, happiness, success on our own terms, good health… I could go on, as the list is endless. But you wouldn’t know this reading or viewing some of the media and entertainment created daily. How hypocritical can a society be that prides itself on freedom, but shames, victimizes, vilifies, and silences those who don’t fit the preferred, traditional archetype? We’re well past the time to lift the veil on the alienation and isolation that comes as a result of living in such a heteronormative society. But let us not be defeated.

Validation from the outside world may not come in the time, manner, or fashion we desire it to. However, we shouldn’t let it hinder us from living or having what we want in this life. No matter what the outside world says we must remain steadfast in knowing ourselves and trusting what we believe in. No matter what the world says, we are beautiful in every way. We are not less than. We are warriors.

Sometimes we have to forego or question everything we’ve been taught or led to believe as truth to find out who we really are. There’s so much that we deny ourselves when we feed into to the B.S. aimed at refuting our existence. We have to shut ourselves off from the noise and the hysteria to make way for what’s real – to make way for peace, serenity, and truth. When we’re able to free ourselves individually and collectively – the change we see within and around us will be miraculous.

As Audre Lorde said, “Life is very short and what we have to do must be done in the now.” We cannot wait. While we should celebrate the recent Supreme Court rulings in the DOMA and Prop 8 cases for being a step in the right direction for gay marriage, the movement doesn’t stop there. These rulings should only intensify our fight for justice, equality, and freedom for all. And everything we need for this fight lies within.

The key to finding what’s within, the power within, is loving ourselves. We talk a good game about loving ourselves, but how many of us actually do? How many of us can say we truly love ourselves? It’s impossible for us to love ourselves if we continue to allow internalized hatred to ruin our progress. It’s impossible for us to love ourselves if we continue to tolerate the abuse, ill-treatment, and foolishness we encounter daily.

We must not let fear run our authentic selves away. We must be brazen. Stand up for those who were/are not able to stand up for themselves. Realize that in doing so, we’re empowering ourselves and challenging everyone to (always) strive to be and do better.

When we find the love within, the power is never too far behind. When we find our power… When we realize our power… When we utilize our power, its intensity will inspire action and breed the change we need in our families, communities, and the world.

Ours is a power that not only changes lives, but also saves lives. As James Baldwin said, “The world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.” So let’s find our power and wield it lovingly, strongly, boldly, and unapologetically. It’s our world. Now let the power within—that internal fire—lead the way!

SHOUT

Photo by Philip Montgomery. Courtesy of Wired.

Photo by Philip Montgomery. Courtesy of Wired.

Muted voices
Censored
Stunted
Bombastic power oppressed
Not living up to the dream
For you were scared to utter for fear of retribution,
judgment and ignorance

Silent soldier
You’ve got the ammo but you’re too afraid
to use your commands
The time has come for you to
release the sounds hidden in your glorious voice box
It’s now time to shout

I shout for those that died before their time
Those who fought quietly or were robbed of their chance
to simply speak their freedom
I shout for those who braved the waters
amidst the violent, tireless searches to reinforce
unjust captivity
I shout for all the wrongs my people faced yet still
managed to find the joy, pride, and
dignity to go on

I shout for hope, boundless hope
that there will be a moment, a sustained if not eternal moment
when we can love, honor, and respect each other for the beautiful
beings The Creator made us to be

I shout for the times I hide away from others, even myself
I shout because pain and shame can no longer claim me
I shout because I had no reason not to stand up for myself
I have a purpose, a calling
I have value
And so does my voice

I shout because it’s my right
I shout because it’s my duty
I shout because sometimes I can’t help myself
Sometimes you’ve just got to release the
treasures from within
For if you never uncover them, you’ve robbed
the world of one of its many miracles.

I shout for the same reason I sing—
To be free!

© 2014 BuddahDesmond

From the chapbook, Exotic Shifter.

Let’s Love

Love Selfcare Createherstock 4

Come on, let’s make love until
the moon and sun are emanating from
our cells
Let’s let that love light shine eternally
combating the darkness that once shrouded our joy
Let’s stay in love like Minnie
And don’t let anything get in our way
Let’s be love and love until pain is just a
faint memory
Let’s love like there’s no other
Let’s love cause we don’t know any better
Let’s be love cause like being yourself
it’s the only way
Let’s love cause love is right
Let’s love cause it’s our right
Let’s love cause there’s no such thing
as too much love
now, is there?

© 2015 BuddahDesmond

A Love Junkie Consumed

Image courtesy of KrazyInLove.

Image courtesy of KrazyInLove.

Couldn’t hear the roar—
The crowd was playing call and response with me.
Couldn’t respond to their spirited yet pleading call;
I succumbed to the beat of a percussionist at another show,
worlds away from this one.
Physically present, yet my mind and spirit had shifted elsewhere.

The being had a control of me stronger than a Midnight Magnet.
Otherworldly and unreal this thing was—
Wouldn’t want to be released even if my power could’ve freed me.

That jones ain’t got shit on you.
Make a hit of me.
Take me on tour.
Treat me like your setlist.

Play me out, play me high, play me soft, play me low, play me fast, play me slow—
Play me loud, play me hard, play me all day and all night long—
Just play me.

I’ll be all for you and more.
Just take me and make me anew.
They’ll say without 12 steps you’ll be through.
And again, I’ll say—just take me and make me anew.

Consume me so I can benefit from you.
Consume me so I can benefit from you.
Consume me so I can benefit from you.

Consume me because nothing and no one else will do.

From the chapbook, Exotic Shifter.

© 2014 BuddahDesmond

BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez, A Riveting Documentary about a Literary Lion

 

Image courtesy of Cinema Clock.

Image courtesy of Cinema Clock.

Sonia Sanchez is a lion in literature’s forest. When she writes she roars, and when she sleeps other creatures walk gingerly. ~ Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was spot on when she called Sonia Sanchez “a lion in literature’s forest.” From one literary giant to another, Sanchez is a force of nature. She’s a writer, poet, playwright, professor, and activist. A strong proponent of Black history, literature, and culture, women’s liberation, racial justice, and peace, Sanchez has inspired generations of writers, activists, and academics in the struggle.

If you’ve been following my blog, it’s no secret how much of an influence she’s had on me. So when I found out that the documentary BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez would be screened in DC on the opening night of the African Diaspora International Film Festival (“Where Black Life Matters On The Big Screen!”), I jumped at the opportunity to support it. And I’m so glad I did.

BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez, a riveting documentary by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater, and Sabrina Schmidt Gordon, celebrates Sanchez and her contributions as one of the most influential writers of the Black Arts Movement. It chronicles her life – the personal, professional, and the political. Interwoven throughout the documentary are Sanchez in her element–performing her work with a live jazz band, along with readings and commentary by Amiri Baraka (Rest in Power), Nikki Giovanni, Haki Madhubuti,Ursula Rucker, jessica Care moore, Ruby Dee (Rest in Power), Talib Kweli, and Ayana Mathis, to name a few. Their interpretations of her writing and what she means to the world showcase the tremendous beauty, power, magic, depth, and influence of her work.

One (of several) elements I loved about BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez is that it shows Sanchez–the artist–at work. This level of intimacy is something we don’t often get to see of creatives. Truly a treasure to behold. Leaves one wondering if what she was writing in the documentary ends up in her next volume of poetry. One can hope.

During the Q+A that followed the showing, Sanchez dropped several gems about the struggle and the importance of work. She said, “Nothing changes unless you work… You have to do the work.” This statement is so relevant to issues of personal and societal concern today. Entitlement doesn’t bring change or reward. If you want something in this life, you have to work for it. If it’s something that truly matters, playing your part is essential. Her words serve as a testament to why she and other artists of the Black Arts Movement are so significant. They not only created work that touched the hearts of many, but they also did the work that was critical to changing the world.

And what’s a better way to top off your night by speaking and taking a picture with one of your biggest inspirations?

Me with writer, poet, playwright, professor, and activist, Sonia Sanchez

Me with writer, poet, playwright, professor, and activist, Sonia Sanchez

Thank you Sonia Sanchez for your spirit, strides, and all the blessings you’ve given to the world. You are phenomenal!

If BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez is showing in your town, please go and support it. Also check the listings for your local PBS station, as there may be a showing in the near future.

Personal and educational copies of BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez can be rented or purchased from the California Newsreel site.

The Power of Branding, Storytelling, and Connections: A Blogger Week 2016 Reflection

Image courtesy of Trinity University.

Image courtesy of Trinity University.

For the third year in a row, I had the pleasure of attending Blogger Week. For those who don’t know, Blogger Week is a celebration of multicultural digital media. Through panels, workshops, and other events, Blogger Week provides bloggers, media mavens, journalists, and other professionals with engaging opportunities to learn, share ideas, grow their brand, create partnerships, and build community.

This year’s conference offered priceless insights, strategies, and gems within the areas of social justice / activism, economic justice, marketing, PR, digital messaging, monetization, and issues of self-awareness, identity, and engagement. Common themes that tie many of these areas together include branding, storytelling, and connections (or community building).

Image courtesy of Black Bloggers Connect.

Image courtesy of Black Bloggers Connect.

Authenticity and Building Your Brand


So how do we break free from the noise and distinguish ourselves in the digital space? By being our authentic selves; knowing our audience (and how to effectively reach them); creating original, captivating content; staying consistent; and putting ourselves in positions that will benefit us. You’ve got to do your research. Whatever social media platforms you use, know what strategies work best for connecting with your audience. What works best on Facebook, may not work well on Twitter and Instagram.

Know your worth. Ask for it. And be able to back it up. ~ April Reign

To understand your impact and engagement, analytics are essential. It’s crucial that analytics are reviewed regularly. Once we understand our analytics, we’ll be better equipped to improve and build our brand, grow our audience, and attract other brands we may want to partner with in the future. As we journey on, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of our “WHY.” This will fuel us and keep us motivated during trying times.

Own Your Voice, Tell Your Story

As many of us know, content remains king in the digital space. Nothing emphasizes this point more than the influence of storytelling in digital media. Storytelling allows us to define and own our voices, embrace ourselves wholly and authentically, and connect with others on a deeper level. When done well, storytelling is engaging, inspiring, and influential. Often, storytelling is what drives us to finding or redefining our passion and purpose.

For multicultural bloggers, media mavens, journalists, and others in the digital space, storytelling is nothing new. I have to co-sign with Andrea C. Imafidon of Brown Girl From Boston when she says that, “We have always been a culture of people who have always told stories.” And we have done it quite well.

As noted during her presentation “Tweeting Away Our Blues: How Black Women Use Social Media for Self-Awareness, Activism, and Black Liberation,” Dr. Kelly Macias of Conflict Undone said, “Black women have revolutionized social media and the way it was intended to be used.” Not only have we used digital media to tell our stories, we’ve also used it to construct our identity, build community, and liberate ourselves.

Make a Connection, Build a Community

Speaking of community – community is one of the reasons why I love attending Blogger Week. The Blogger Week UnConference was the first (and remains one of the few) professional development conference I attended that celebrated multicultural digital media. Year after year, I’ve been able to meet, network, and learn from so many digital media professionals at various stages of their digital media journey. There’s a close-knit, family-like atmosphere that makes you feel right at home. You know you’re in good company. And you’ve got a solid support system holding you up.

I leave this conference every year amped and ready to re-up. I’m filled with an arsenal of information that I can use to help better myself and others. I leave knowing that I am not alone, and that we are SO MUCH stronger—together.

Me with author, publisher, and entrepreneur Ni'cola Mitchell

Me with author, publisher, and entrepreneur Ni’cola Mitchell

Major kudos and props to my connections (new and old) from the Blogger Week community: J.A.M. Aiwuyor (Founder & Creative Director of Black Bloggers Connect), Marc Polite, Ni’cola Mitchell, Andrea C. Imafidon, Dr. Kelly Macias, Tara J. Young, Julian Addo, Tyece A. Wilkins, Yvelette Stines, Dominique & David Pressley (Caribbean Soul Trekkers), Chimene WilliamsCharles Martin, and CleverlyChanging.

Much gratitude to J.A.M. Aiwuyor, Black Bloggers Connect, the speakers, the volunteers, and all of the fly attendees for making this another phenomenal Blogger Week. See you next year!

Peace, Love, and Many Blessings!

Inspired 2 Be

Courtesy of The Root & Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

Courtesy of The Root & Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

Those who’ve come b4 me have left me
Inspired 2 be
Just like, just as great, and better
I’m inspired 2 be
By those who’ve raised me
Those who fought 4 me
By those who stand by me
By those who set the example
I’m inspired 2 be
Because a way has been paved 4 me
A way that may not have been
If our ancestors did not fight
2 make a better day
A better nation
A better world
A better way of living
So that we could be free
I’m inspired 2 be the best
I’m inspired 2 be the greatest
I’m inspired 2 be
10 times better than
what the masses expect me 2 be
because I have the blood of gods,
kings, queens, soldiers, warriors, pharaohs,
leaders, activists, slaves,
fighters, mothers and fathers
flowing through me
I have a legacy to live up 2
and people, spirits and most of all, myself
that I cannot let down
There4, I’ve been
Inspired 2 be

© BuddahDesmond

Black Magic

Image courtesy of http://beautifulbrownies.tumblr.com/

Image courtesy of http://beautifulbrownies.tumblr.com/

Blackness in full view
Open and vast
Varied and rich
Not hidden in the cloak of
your lies and shame
Blackness doesn’t need your acceptance
or validation
It just is
As it is
And my, what our blackness is!
Full-bodied power
A vivid cultural mosaic
Intricately woven
Connecting our past, present, and future.

My experiences are too often judged, rarely understood
If I let you tell it –
my story simply wouldn’t be
My existence – my truth –
buried, annihilated
At the other extreme, you’ve tried to tell
my story as if you know me better
than I know myself
Praise to the gods that there never is and there never will be
a substitute for the real thing.

My story – our story –
more hype than virtual reality
Afro-futuristic dreams—
we live them every day
Casting spells before you
can comprehend
#blackgirlmagic
#blackboymagic
Rocking it like no other before, during
or after.

Forever an enigma
Keep ‘em guessing, as Mom always says
And just when they think they’ve figured
you out – flip that shit!

My blackness is unapologetic
Will not turn down
for your comfort
It’s everlasting
Just like the storied journey passed down
from my ancestors
Label it haughty or narcissistic
It’s simply self-love
Black love and BLACK PRIDE.

The strength and resilience
of my blackness is unbreakable
as the blood I share with my brothas and sistas
Forever catching our fires like Sonia
Yielding the fire within
Bringing beauty and beyond to the world
And making history every day
Now, that’s BLACK MAGIC!

© 2016 BuddahDesmond

A Writer’s Joy: A 2015 DC Metro Scholastic Writing Awards Reflection

scholastic_awards_logo_rgb_DS
In March, I was honored to be invited back to recite poems by one of the American Voice nominees, Emily Zhang, at this year’s DC Metro Scholastic Writing Awards. Sponsored by Writopia Lab and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the Scholastic Writing Awards recognize DC Metro Area middle and high school students whose writing has earned Gold Key, Silver Key, Honorable Mention Awards, American Voice nominations, the Busboys & Poets Senior Portfolio Scholarship and the Edward P. Jones Young Writer Award.

You could not help but be affected by the positivity and creative energy in the room. Being amongst so many talented young writers was a joy. I saw myself all over again. Seeing and hearing how much literature, language and writing has inspired these young men and women truly touched me. When you are blessed with the gift of writing, it unites you with such a vast community. A community where we feel deeply connected and happily at home.

Writing gives you the freedom to explore worlds. To change minds. To explore feelings–both familiar and unfamiliar. To get inside the lives of characters and their experiences. To dispel myths. To reflect on social, political, cultural and historical events and the impact they’ve had on generations past and present. Writing gives us the opportunity to make the unknown known. To tell our truth. To cast away our fears and simply live. Writing is everything and more.

The approach, style and genres in which we write may vary. But it’s our love of writing, our foresight, insight, perspective, curiosity…and desire for understanding, respect and freedom for all that brings us together.

Reborn: A Poem

Sadly, today’s the last day of National Poetry Month. I thought I would share a new piece I wrote a few days ago. I know I’ve been missing in action for much of the last few months. Between entering into a Nutrition and Integrative Health Master’s program and starting a new job, I’ve had more than enough to keep me preoccupied. I promise I’ll be back to posting regularly very soon.

Though National Poetry Month is ending, the celebration of poetry doesn’t have to end. Poetry is the language of the people. Even if you’re not an avid poetry reader, I’m sure you’ll find a poem or two that will resonate with you. Given the state of today’s world, poetry can offer us hope, solace and perspective. Poetry ignites the fire within. In the words of Sonia Sanchez, “Catch the fire…and live.”

Reborn

You fall back–
thinking you’ve got broken wings.
They’re only broken if you empower mistakes
and pain from the past to rob you of future’s joy.
You’ll never make it off the ground
running from your history.
Run into it for understanding.
Revisit for healing.
Conquer the aches, soothe the wounds
so you can be one with your spirit
and true destiny.
The internal battle will cease.
Like morning on a crisp spring day–
you’ll be reborn.