“Do not think dishonestly”–Musashi Miyamoto’s first principle
When I was about eight years old broke and in utter despair, my mom stuck her head in our oven, trying to commit suicide. I talked her out of it by insulting her enough to make her angry at me, I knew even then that anger was a way to mobilize fear. She came after me like a fury, spanked the hell out of me…
But it was better than watching my mom die. Yeah, no kid that age should have had to think that clearly, act that cleanly. It rips a hole in your heart.
Somehow I knew even then that Violence stems from anger, anger is a mask over fear. And the greatest fears are the truths we dare not speak.
Yesterday, I was linked to an extensive post by a woman who descended from a mixed-blood family. They hid their black blood by marrying any whites who would have them, and then after generations tried to disguise broad noses and fuzzy hair by over-reacting and associating with racists. Virulent, violent, horrible racists, and her own childhood is ravaged with memories of the things she and others did to obscure the truth. Fear and shame of what they were.
I told her in no uncertain terms that she was not alone. Had a story to tell, and that if she could share it, she could save lives and hearts.
What was my mother’s shame, fear, the thing that tore a hole in her heart? She was a child of rape.
Abuse at the very least–I’ll never know absolutely for sure: she never spoke of her father, and my Grandmother “Mommy Lula” flushed with shame and fear at the subject, and it wasn’t until after both had died that my Uncle Willy, who lived with Lula, revealed that she had been impregnated at about the age of 15 while working in the house of a white man who owned the land her family lived on.
Years later, my niece Sharlene traced down the probable land owner. As family mythology whispered he was of Scottish descent. Apparently had mulatto children all over Georgia.
As my grandmother herself was about Obama’s skin tone, like most American “blacks” it was clear that she was the result of some similar sexual interaction. The power differential was so great between blacks and whites that, not even counting the age difference, it is not possible to avoid the conclusion of rape.
I find no way to tell a happy Sally Hemmings story about it. I can still remember the terrified frozen mask of shame on Mommy Lula’s face any time I even approached the subject.
That horribly abused teenaged girl was still alive within her, even in the twilight of her life. A girl who had never spoken her story.
I have few pictures of my mother, and have moved so many times in the last years that those I have are buried in boxes. But you can see from this image, recently sent to me by my niece and cousin Beverly, that she could easily have “passed” for white. Yeah, if she’d been willing to deny her mother and brother, and live her entire life in fear that she’d be discovered.
Sharleen said it is the only picture of Eva Reeves Barnes she’s ever seen where she was smiling.
That’s the price of living in a world that forces you to lie, or punishes you if you don’t. Because that was the horrible Matrix delusion we lived in: “one drop makes you whole”, a contamination theory of race.
She was “black” the way Wesley Snipes is white. In no sane world is someone with more than 50% “X” blood considered a “Y.”
My mother had a choice: be the least of whites, or be a princess, “light, bright, damned near white” among blacks. She chose the latter.
She traded her white genetics for a relationship with a brilliant, talented dark-skinned black man, Emory Barnes, thinking they would rise to the top together. Dad was a singer, appeared in film, radio, television, appeared in Vegas with Nat King Cole and Louis Prima, and I’d guess that he was a pretty good bet.
But he couldn’t sleep in hotels where he could perform. It was “black success”, not “success.” Ultimately the system beat him, and the resultant stress destroyed their marriage. A good bet that crapped out.
The House always wins. You can’t win, you can’t break even, and you can’t get out of the game.
That’s the song. It is not true. You can kick the table over. In any dysfunctional relationship, the first person to tell the truth ends the relationship and begins a new one.
After the divorce, my fair (as opposed to what, “foul”? See how ugly the implications are once you see them?) skinned mother was trapped with two dark skinned children. In depressive moods, she ruminated on this. Felt that having us had destroyed her life. Destroyed, in other words, her potential to “pass.”
“You kids fucked my life up!” she once raged, the only time I can remember her saying that word.
Those five words devastated my sister. I think it still does.
Somehow, even then, I knew it was the pain speaking. The pain of never being able to scream her rage at the world, being unable to simply say “I AM!”
If you were to ask me the most important thing I learned from almost a half-century of practicing the martial arts, it is the knowledge that there is no pain like the denial of your own essence. No physical death as horrific as the death of the soul. You MUST be who you are, or you become a Romero zombie, one of the Walking Dead.
“You’ll reap the whirlwind!” racists have said to me, warning me of the potential cost of “poking the hornet’s nest.”
Oh, screw you, snowflake. What the hell do you think I’ve been reaping for all 65 years of my life. Unfortunately for you, I’ve learned to ride the storm.
That’s what shamans do.
Only a commitment to speaking your truth, regardless of the cost, will save you from a waking grave.
Two pale-skinned women destroyed by the same lie, that lie existing to protect social privilege. The right to harvest the labor and sexuality of dominated people, and then blame them for the damage done, like a hit and run driver who denies he was ever there.
That damage ravaging their souls to the point that the joy was sucked away, leaving only pain. To the point that the lie was internalized: half the time Mom would say: “black blood is the strongest in the world. One drop makes you whole.”
And in other moods…the head in the oven.
Dear God. When I look at the pain borne by innocent people for centuries, the soul-killing devastation wrought by lies…by the corrupt STORIES fed to them with their mother’s milk…is there any wonder why I became a storyteller?
Any wonder why I urge that the abused, the neglected, the oppressed speak their truth, and recognize that if they speak it deeply and honestly enough, they can reach anyone who is honest enough to know that we have ALL been lied to, and told lies, just to survive?
That they must have the courage to filter that truth through their own spirit, so that you aren’t asking others to bear your cross…but simultaneously share the elevated perspective gained from being raised up and nailed thereupon?
The lady who made that post about hiding among the neoNazis broke my heart, reminded me of what might have happened had my mother had she found safe harbor among monsters. That if she can share her story, speak her truth, she can save other souls and help them shorten the time it takes to awaken.
That if my mother had read such a story as a girl…she might have lived a better, longer life. I couldn’t save her. But I will damned well save her great-grandchildren and their tribe, of whatever race, sexual orientation or politic SO LONG AS THEY SEE THE UNITY OF MANKIND…or die trying. So help me God.
Communication is the key. Storytelling is the nervous system of the body human. Writers: stop trying to be clever. You can run out of clever, but you can never run out of the truth.
And the truth will set you free. Why the martial arts? For the courage to speak that truth. Why writing? Because it is my means of sharing that truth with the world.
Why teach? Because I cannot otherwise honor my teachers. And cannot do it alone. And believe that just a few thousand awakened storytellers can heal this weary world. Free us from the lies that once “protected,” like fortresses which become prisons.
Learning to speak truth in the form of entertainment is the reason Afrofuturism exists. We were here before the chains. We will be here after they are broken. We rise. Tananarive and I will repeat our message, weekly, until we’ve shared that message with a million people. and if you’ve not been with us, or want to hear it again, or know someone who should register for this Saturday’s at www.octaviatoblackpanther.com
Every human being has chains. We’ve all been hurt. Yes, some more than others, and that is important to factor in, especially when the perpetrators laugh at how badly they limp. But if pain is part of our common humanity…so is joy.
If society rejects us we can find safe harbor within our hearts, as I did. And if you find it, you can share what you found so that other lost wanderers can create their own shelter.
How many of YOU found shelter in books and films? If you can hear what I’m saying, know that if you have a story to tell, it is right, and good, and proper for you to tell it.
There is not a person reading this who has no wounds, has not been lied to, and not told lies to keep yourself safe. But you can step out of the shadow.
After thirty years of teaching I’ve come to the conclusion that in a single year, I can transmit to you about 80% of the “root”, the “seed” of what I’ve learned from almost fifty years of martial arts and writing: structure, process, emotional control, focus, and the power of speaking that truth in your life. And deliver it all for the profit of selling a single story.
That’s the “Lifewriting Year Long” program, just one dollar for the first month, available at www.lifewritingpremium.com
All you stand to lose is the lies. What you stand to gain is the whole wide world.
We need your truth.