I Am the Broom

Image Credit: OrishaImage.com


Something that I notice as I navigate online spaces that are dedicated to anti-racism work with white people is that in the ones that seem to have the largest followings and support there is a foundational sentiment of kindness and sometimes even an expression of loving acceptance for the white people in those spaces. The PoC who moderate and manage these spaces seem to have oceans of patience and compassionate engagement and support for all of the people who come into their groups, including the white people, who tend to be predominately white women.

Understand that I am not criticizing these platforms or the PoC who so skillfully administer them. I am in awe of the grace with which they answer their callings and I have the good sense to respect what they have achieved. I am making an observation and a recognition that for me, it is too exhausting and stressful to muster up the patience and kindness to interact with most white people as they unpack their own internalized white supremacy.  I say  “most” because I have chosen to keep working with the small in-person group of white women where I live. So far, there is a light of progress that I can see in the work we are doing together.

Maybe, I am too old to handle the stressors anymore. Maybe, I am too broken and too damaged to find white people deserving of anything from me except deep watchfulness and mistrust. Maybe, I’m fresh out of fucks to give about whether or not white people will ever be able to hear and listen to me. Maybe, my plate has been filled with holding on to my own humanity and holding space for the humanity of Black Folx and there is no room to hold the concerns of white people too. I believe in my Ancestors’ Old Ways. I experience Creation as interdependent and connected at the most minute level. That means that I understand that as humans we are all One. That does not entitle you to do me harm. I’m not here for that. So, to me, white people are like an autoimmune disorder in the Great Web. They are unpredictable, attack their own parts, and destroy everything in the process.

I hold a space in me for the potential of white people to see our One-ness and stop fucking things up. I hold space and hope that collectively they will figure out how to heal themselves so they can stop dealing death, but I can’t love them as fellow human beings when they are trying to kill me off. I am no martyr and sometimes love really truly isn’t enough. I am one imperfect and fatally flawed human being.

It would be easy to put this in the file marked, “too damned tired to care one way or the other.” I need to parse this out, though. There is a smoldering rage that lives within me. A rage born from having awakened to all that has been taken from us collectively and individually. The words and stories I unfold in my writing are hard-edged, unapologetic, and blunt. They tell the reality of my lived experience. It would be easy to mistake them for unbridled and undirected fury. I can see how simple it is to misconstrue my stories as nothing more than spiteful vitriol. White people, and many Black people are not ok with Black Womxn expressing anything other than tractable submission or stoic perseverance. Submissiveness, disguised as rational and calm behavior, means that we are under control, even if that control is self-imposed. The “strong Black woman” trope ensures our compliance with silencing as well as makes sure that the systems of oppression and its agents gain the most unchallenged benefits from our labor because as “strong Black women” we are always on the grind, too busy, too over-worked, too stressed, too everything to speak up about injustice.

I’ve been following the commotion in the wake of Erykha Badu’s comments about Hitler. Hari Ziyad wrote an insightful article for Black Youth Project where he speaks of the shaded and subtle lens that we have learned to look through so that we can survive living with our oppressors. This sentence in particular hit home:

Black people are forced to live with our tormentors and their legacy every day. Nuancing their violence is the only thing that keeps many “well-meaning” white racists from waking up with their throats slit tomorrow.

This is serious. Read this quote. Read it again. Again. Do you understand what he is saying? I am still thinking it through, still recognizing that I have and continue to section and set aside the “un-goodness” of white people in order that I can continue to stay out of the gaol or worse. Make no mistake. Without this ability to filter, to cover and reshape the violence done to me by individual white people and the collective participants in white supremacy, I would be in a very bad place in my life if I were to even be alive. Jail would be the least egregious of the possible outcomes. Understand that I am not an aberration. There are plenty more like me. They may not express themselves out loud as I do. They may be keeping their heads down and doing what they need to keep breathing. For some of us, breaking the silence is what we need to do in order to keep breathing. So when you read what I write and feel like I’m attacking you, ask why you think I’m talking to you specifically. Ask yourself why it is that my story somehow became about you.

My stories also tell of my triumph over the sheer magnitude of damage that one Black womxn experiences in 64 years. I say this understanding that life in a Black body in amerika is a life of continual assault. I am not here to brain dump or flip the script and become the oppressor of white people.  Those are exercises in wheel-spinning. They get me nowhere. They do nothing to dismantle the systems of white supremacy and they do nothing to get white people to do the work they need to do. My purpose is to hold space for transformation and healing through the authenticity of my life and my words. I honor this writing as a sacred task so my stories include, if you are listening and not reacting, examples of how I have thrived and lived my best life and continue to do so. Some of my posts contain images of my original art. Some contain my poetry.  I have a page on my site dedicated to documenting Sun Daughters Retreat, a healing space for Black Womxn that I have been creating and planning for over a year with Black Womxn artists, healers, and entrepreneurs.

I know exactly what I am about and who I am now. My rage is a righteous storm and I bow in acceptance to be Oya’s Broom in these pages. If you are reacting to my words with hurt, defensiveness, uncomfortableness or anger, don’t worry. It’s your white comfort being swept from under you. My anger is blue flame and honed over a lifetime. My anger exists in service to my people whom I love more deeply than even they know. I will apologize to no one for the anger in my words. I am not sorry for using any means necessary to break the bars of my prisons and be free. I will never be sorry for not centering whiteness.


For the Young

“…the elasticity of the dead” ~Sonia Sanchez
My eyes hold oceans
of all that never wanted light
Behold star systems in the
Bent backs and dirt-caked nails
of new hobos on Fawcett hill
The warped curl of corpses
on MLK clutches my back
Clenches my hands
Twists my gut
I am tired of holding
A belly full of sorrow
The young have the fire now
I am only fuel
Burn the words of
My life to light your
Take my stories
And of them
Make bread to
feed your souls
For the long road
My stories are all
I have now
And they are rich
And thick with
mistakes missteps and false moves
Yet there is beauty
In chaos and lessons
To lift your feet one more time
To give you laughter one more time
To gift you cleansing tears one more time
Take my stories
Mix them in the spirit bowl
That holds your own
Watch them rise
To hold us all in
The hands of those
Who go before us
Take my stories
And fight on.
                             Gaian Bird

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