Bibliotherapy: Anger

It started with Jericho Brown’s reading at Northwestern a few weeks back. Someone asked about Brown’s relationship with the church. I don’t remember the question but I remember thinking she wanted him to reference a tension between sexuality and religion. Whatever the prompt, he responded:

If God is everywhere then why would I be the exception? If God is everywhere then I have to allow God through me and to see God in others… There is no separation between God and me… I am capable of creation in my own sphere.

I immediately thought of the chaos of my own spiritual life. As he spoke, I felt an urgent need for its order, for the sake of my creativity and my being.

Not long after Brown’s reading, I picked up Kiese Laymon’s book of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. It’s been on my to-read list since I read the eponymous essay. Laymon is an excellent thinker and writer. I want to be an excellent thinker and writer. It turns out I very much needed to read this at this time. I’ve been in too many spaces lately where people are unsure of my anger. People who live in black or female bodies who doubt when I say this is a thing that is both political and inherited.

In Laymon’s collection, he talks quite a bit about love, and anger and reckoning our worst selves with our best ones. It’s a confrontation from the very first page:

One cold night in New York, someone I loved told me that I was precisely the kind of human being I claimed to despise. I defended myself against responsibility, as American monsters and American murderers tend to do, and I tried to make this person feel absolutely worthless, confused, and malignant as I was. Later that night, I couldn’t sleep, and for the first time in my life, I wrote the sentence, “I’ve been slowly killing myself and others close to me.”

It’s the type of writing that lets you know you are seen but it’s not going to do the work for you.

So now I’m reading Taming the Tiger Within: Meditations on Transforming Difficult Emotions by Thích Nhất Hạnh. A therapist recommended this as one way to address my anger. I’ve been taking notes as I read the meditations. I’m doubtful. How can I take care of my anger as I would a baby if I’m so wary of motherhood, or rather of giving so much time to anything outside of my indulgences?

bell hooks provides some encouragement to keep trying. In her interview with George Yancy she talks about the necessity of a spiritual practice:

Feminism does not ground me. It is the discipline that comes from spiritual practice that is the foundation of my life. If we talk about what a disciplined writer I have been and hope to continue to be, that discipline starts with a spiritual practice. It’s just every day, every day, every day.

In other words: I’m woke so any sense of stability has long been disrupted. If I practice it with discipline, spirituality can be a grounding experience.

 

 

 

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Best Decisions of the Week (art finds for Jan 12 – Jan 17)

A spin-off of my web finds.

1.

On Thursday, I went to see ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’. Given who’s been hyping the film, I was pretty ambivalent about seeing it. (I wish I could remember at what point VICE put a bad taste in my mouth).

It turned out to be a good decision, maybe even the best decision of 2015 so far. I’m looking forward to the release of the soundtrack and to seeing the film again. I also kinda want to be a vampire superhero.

Equally important to my desire for vampirehood is that the film pushes me to be a better writer, to be more imaginative, to commit to producing fantastic work that is uniquely me.

A thing that caught my eye before I made the decision to watch the film, the director Ana Lily Amirpour talking about the usefulness of film school:

 I think film school is a tool, and a tool by itself is useless. A tool needs many other things in order for it to have a purpose, it’s there to create something else. There are so many tools. You can watch movies, you can read scripts from your favorite movies, watch bonus features of your favorite directors and see how they do things, get a camera and try filming things, you can travel the world, read books, listen to music. Use everything and anything to put yourself in the place where you feel creative and fascinated by what you’re doing and by life. Films really are about living life, and that part doesn’t happen inside a film school.

2.

An essay by Troy L. Wiggins on being a black expat in Korea. Something about the “bitter expat” was triggering. I’ve been thinking a lot about my most recent trip to Ghana. It was the first time I ventured into the expat community. It can be pretty horrifying. At some point my thoughts should become an essay or a blog.

3.

A major reason for my most recent trip to Ghana was for family but a small part was for a relationship that dissolved months before. Here is something I don’t feel that I can properly articulate: my last relationship was, in part, a search for home/belonging to Ghana. In an interview with BOMB magazine, Maryse Condé said this of her marriages:

The first time I was married to an African, a man from Guinea, and there was a confusion for me between the man and the country behind him. Because Guinea was the first African country to say No! to General DeGaulle, the first African country to take independence in the French-speaking arena. So I confused a man, love, and marriage with making the revolution. Of course, the marriage did not work at all. It was a failure, and we divorced a few years after. So I was already conscious that marriage is an individual matter—only two persons are concerned, and there is no question of putting on the shoulders of the man you are going to marry all your idealistic views about your country, about your cause. I became very wary of that kind of confusion. So when I met Richard, I was already informed of the mistake I could make. But it was difficult for a politically minded person to pay attention to a white man. For me, he belonged to the enemy, and moreover, I had four children from my first marriage. For them, it was completely impossible to have a white man for a stepdaddy; that is why we refused to marry. We lived together. After having lived together for 12 years we had to accept that we were in love, seriously, and we had to follow the consequences.

While that was personally triggering, the entire interview is worth the read. Maryse Condé is fascinating. Disappointingly, I haven’t given her work any time at all. In a few months, I’ll be reading Condé’s novel ‘Segu’ with my book club.

4.

I really love The Brother Moves On. I ripped this live performance from Youtube and it’s one of maybe 10 tracks that I’ve got on my phone. This week, I gave some time to a few TBMO tracks that I hadn’t before, including these:


5.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around this TNI interview with The Jeane Dixon Effect but I really like the sound of the line bolded below:

Sometimes it’s not the other person bothering you; it’s the relationship with the other person itself. I’m thinking here about when you happen to be totally in love with some so-called straight dude as long as it’s just y’all two in the one on one, fucking and playing basketball. But then maybe you’re not so excited about relating to this third thing, which is to say the relationship you make beyond your closed engagement, and you don’t like the social means or ends of what you produce together. Sometimes relating back to that thing can be a deal breaker for people.

I chuckled the first time I read it then went back a few times like how did those words come together? why do they sound so good to me? (probably: hooked with “y’all” –> the sound of “in the” makes “one on one” so much more intimate –> “fucking and playing basketball”: two things I have little to no interest in but I like their seeming randomness).

that’s all i got.

Event Recap: Ghana Must Go at Shacks & Shanties

IMG_1322It was maybe a few years ago that I first learned the name of these bags that I had seen often in my childhood home. I was reading a post on a blog from Oroma Elewa. I was immediately confused as to her naming of the bag — Ghana Must Go. Reading the Google search results for the term infuriated me. How could a traumatic event such as the mass expulsion of immigrants be trivialized so? Last year, was probably the first time I heard my mother use the phrase. We were in standing in her friend’s kitchen in a suburb of Accra. She pointed at stack of empty bags and asked me to hand her a Ghana Must Go bag. When I asked her why she would use that term, she said it’s no different from Black people using the N-word. As writer invested in migration, identity, and postmemory, it was a bit disturbing to hear but my mother’s language is not reflective of all Ghanaians, of course. I’ve heard that some reference the bag with a phrase that means “A White man has died.” Needless to say, I was intrigued when I heard that a Nigerian-American artist (Abbéy Odunlami) created an installation and performance inspired by the Ghana Must Go bags as part of the Shacks & Shanties Project. My recap follows:

Abbéy Odunlami‘s performance at Shacks & Shanties was, according to an attendee, much different from his other performance pieces. On a wooden platform situated in front of the shack (the physical structure for the installations in the Shacks & Shanties Project), Odunlami, sat at a small white table with his laptop in front of him. Instead of seeking an active participation from the audience during the performance, he read an essay that was interluded with tracks he played from his laptop. The effect — at least in the eyes of Faheem Majeed, organizer of Shacks & Shanties — was newscaster-like. Even so the performance was engaging (check the guy holding his chin in the picture below).

For Odunlami’s installation, entitled “Ghana Must Go!” he covered the shack with the plaid plastic material that is used to make Ghana Must Go bags. Inside the shack, were stuffed Ghana Must Go bags. On top of a plastic US postal service container sat a red boom box. A track (comprised of six individual tracks that Odunlami layered on each other) emulated the sounds of a busy market in the space. Odunlami’s essay began with a few examples of the appropriation of “poverty culture”: cowboy gear donned by those who could well enough make beyond the median salary of a real cowboy (20,000 USD); overalls worn by non-farmers who probably don’t run businesses that are consistently in the red; ripped jeans that may cost hundreds of dollars; and lastly, high-end bags made by designers like Louis Vuitton that feature the patten of Ghana Must Go bags.IMG_1327

As Odunlami noted in his essay, the Ghana Must Go bag and pattern didn’t originate in West Africa, yet it holds historical significance in the region. During the 1970s, the Nigerian oil boom attracted many Ghanaians to the nearby nation. In the 1980s, as Ghana was dragged into greater political and economic instability, increasing numbers of Ghanaians left their homeland (or chose to remain wherever they had migrated for school or work). As the oil boom began to subside and conditions in Nigeria began to deteriorate, immigrants became a target. In 1983 and again in 1985, the Nigerian government expelled significant numbers of immigrants, most of whom were Ghanaians. Those being expelled packed their belongings in these plaid plastic bags that were subsequently referred to as Ghana Must Go bags.

Ironically, Odunlami’s installation was hosted in a garden adjacent to a building that supposedly houses many Ghanaians.

For more images of last Saturday’s Shacks & Shanties performance, check them out here. And for the remaining installations schedule, click here.

About Me

When I penned the About Me section of this blog, I intentionally kept it short. I only wanted to mention the things that I believe will always hold true about me. I also didn’t want it to seem as if I was selling myself (and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if there was anything to be sold). I’m so reluctant to acknowledge this blog as an act of personal branding (Joseph E. Davis captures why here) but blogging has played an important role in my life in both personal and professional ways. I’d go as far as to say that it has helped changed the trajectory of my life. The short version of this story: After a particularly rough period of life in Manhattan, I moved to Newark where I was surrounded by quiet. The idea of blogging kept intruding on thoughts of how pitiful my life had become. Eventually I started a personal blog. Blogging there was mostly a therapeutic experience. It led me to rediscover my love for writing.  Since then, so many good things have come from that (including Muse & Words). I, now, write with professional and personal goals in mind.  I have no plans to update the About Me section but if you’re curious about the woman behind this blog and some more of my creative projects, please check out my profile in Jane O.’s Meet A Blogger series.

WATCH THIS: Eaten by the Heart (Interview excerpts) by Zina Saro-Wiwa

How do Africans kiss?
How do you like to be kissed?
When was your heart last broken?

EATEN BY THE HEART (Interview excerpts) by ZINA SARO-WIWA from Zina Saro-Wiwa on Vimeo.

The interview excerpts are from an installation piece that Zina Saro-Wiwa has in the exhibit, ‘The Progress of Love‘ which is currently at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts (St. Louis) and the Centre for Contemporary Arts (Lagos) and will open at the Menil (Houston) on December 2nd.

#BlackArtRising, October 2012

I don’t know if every October is this packed with amazing art events, but I’m claiming October 2012 as a month of Black Art Rising because I’ll be supporting quite a few indie Black artists this month and I’m more than excited.

A few events in NYC I’d be at if I still lived there…
New York Film Festival
09/28 – 10/14
Punk in Africa would be on my agenda if I were in town. Check out the full schedule here.

Congo in Harlem 2
10/8 – 10/23
Two weeks of Congo-related films and events.  Check out the details here.

Change the Mood: Africans Are Real Release Party
10/13
!!! Binyavanga Wainaina is DJing at this party!!!  Apparently the incredibly talented writer also has some DJ skills or he’s going to completely wing it; either way I have a feeling it’s going to be good and I’m really annoyed I can’t be in NYC for this. Check out details here.

Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series
10/13-10/14
Byron Hurt’s Soul Food Junkies is the feature film and Sam Pollard is teaching a workshop.  Check out full details and schedule here.

I hope all you New Yorkers enjoy these (and the million other art events going on this month)!  Thankfully the Chicago art scene ain’t too bad. Here are a few things I’m planning to check out

Chicago Artist Month
THE WHOLE MONTH!!!
I just discovered this last night so I haven’t completely checked out the calendar but 20 Neighborhoods, a woman-centered exhibition with workshops looks interesting. All details here.

Chicago International Film Festival
10/11 – 10/25
A FEW of the films that are on my agenda:
Alaskaland
An Oversimplification of Her Beauty
La Playa DC
43000 feet
You can check out the full festival schedule here.

In other Chicago film news, Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere opens on the 19th at AMC River East and the Steve McQueen retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago opens (to the public) on the 21st (Shame & Hunger are screening on the 19th).

And on the music tip, there are a couple of Felabrations in the middle of the month and Nneka is performing on the 25th at Lincoln Hall!

Suffice it to say, I’m excited about October in the CHI! How about you; What’s going on in your city?