Dear Strong Black Woman

I finally got around to buying Jennifer Sterling’s book, Dear Strong Black Woman: Letters of nourishment and reflection from one strong black woman to another. And beginning to read it.
I think I’ve been reluctant to read it as I was thinking it wouldn’t tell me anything new. And I think I was also not in the right place to face it, to face a big chunk of harsh reality.
I know what it’s like being a black woman in a predominately white world. In a world where my worth is questioned and examined daily and always come back wanting.
I’m a strong black woman and have had to become this way or live this stereotype for good reason. For survival. And being vulnerable and showing my weakness or even asking for help has been for decades non-negotiable. Not happening.
But I was wrong. This slim but powerful book is just what I need right now. As it speaks to my soul, it speaks to my suffering. It legitimatises my experiences and struggles. It’s a witness and a testimony to my existence. And I thank Jennifer for writing these letters to me and to other strong black women like me.
As hard as some of these letters are to read, they are the balm I need to keep moving through this world, strong but also vulnerable, open hearted and beautiful.

Putting things into perspective

Not even two week gone yet since I’ve had surgery on my spine and there’s a voice in my head saying you should be doing more. You should be further along in your recovery.

I didn’t sleep well last night, if at all. So I’m going through my day being super critical and super negative in my outlook. Today, I can do no good. Nothing right.

Before I allow myself to wallow any further or spiral downwards any further, I need to shift my energy.

I get creative. I’ll be sharing a new series over the weekend but for now not only getting into the creative flow helped but also considering what I’ve already achieved this year, helped in an upward swing in my thinking, self-reflection.

This year saw me complete not one, not two, but three ‘100 day projects’. This has never been the case before. I’ve never been able to complete one #100dayprojects before never mind three!

So what was different this year in my approach, my thinking, my practice?

I’m not sure if I can pin it down to one thing as I do believe it was a combination of things, such as timing, tasks, enjoyment, accountability to self etc. But I think the main reason came down to my perspective. I set the challenges, I chose the focus, the timeframes, the mediums. I was in control but more importantly I was doing it all for me. I wasn’t completing a daily piece of art for anyone else, for their approval or appreciation. I was doing it for me and how it made me feel while doing it.

Stuff the end product it was all about the process and how for that time I set aside to create all self-criticism and doubts and fears were turned way down low, to nearly a whisper.

So I’m taking this process and applying it again when the self-criticism and doubts and fears rear their ugly heads during my recovery stage. I’m getting creative, luxuriating in the flow because here I happy and at peace and in the flow.

The Healing Properties of the Sea

My task today is to write a love letter to the body of water that has sustained me, healed me, and nurtured me.

This has to be the North Sea as it has been on my doorstep for decades, even if, I’ve just come to appreciate it more in last 10 years.

A couple of years ago, I came up with the title, ‘The Healing Properties of the Seas‘ for a project involving water. It was basically 10 second videos of bodies of water. On a website for everyone to enjoy. Accompanying this would be a symposium, interviews with me talking to other people about their connection to water etc. There would be an open submission for people around the world to share their 10 second clips of bodies of water.

I have hundreds of 10 second clicks of the North Sea and other waters and I feel I don’t appreciate water enough. The planet’s water enough. I’m fixing to change this and hopefully get, ‘The Healing Properties of Water‘, off the ground. Are you with me?

Longsands, Tynemouth, UK

Meaningful Presence

I am more and more present: in my mind, body, heart, soul, and conversations daily.

I am guided to use my energy and gifts in the highest meaningful way.

I am blessed with genuine support and insight in my community, conversations, and interactions.

My vibration is meaningful.

I arrive home to myself, daily.

— Lalah Delia

This month, my favourite month, is almost over. And I feel as if, for the most of it, I haven’t been present. I feel as if I’ve just been bouncing from one event, one to-do to another without taking a breath. If I wasn’t doing something for someone else, then I was getting prepared to do something for someone else. I’ve had a few moments of disconnect from self just because I haven’t been able to take the time to check in with myself. Or so I thought. I had the idea that I’m too busy for self-care. I was of the idea that I couldn’t hold another thing in my head that wasn’t contributing to the task in hand. Anything that I believed wasn’t adding to the event moving forward then it had to go or didn’t gain my attention. And this included myself, my own self-care and self-love.

Love is my word of 2019. And as we arrive at the end of October with just the mad freewheel down to Christmas and the New Year, I’m not sure if I’m further along this road of love, especially self-love as this is a practice that takes time and commitment. My self-love practice has been intermittent and practically non-existent this month. But instead of beating myself up about it, I’m choosing kindness. I’m choosing to be gentle with myself and to just start again.
“There is no beginning too small.”
— Henry David Thoreau

Flaneuse roundup and other things

The month draws to an end. And so does my challenge of walking out every day, taking photographs and reflecting on the practice. I didn’t manage it every day as mid-way through sickness hit our household. But I do think I completed more walks than if I wasn’t trying to complete the challenge.

Today was a glorious window of light, that I’d be a fool to miss out on. So it was a quick dip in the bay and it was bitterly cold. And then a brisk walk along the shore to warm up. It was a great way to start my day and help with productivity for the rest of it.

As promised to my Patreon sponsors, I delivered my first essay from the forthcoming mixed genre memoir. I’ve made a commitment to share one essay and reading list that I used to complete the essay at the end of each month for the rest of the year. Yes only four months but still that’s four essays done than not.

The theme was climate justice this month and I enjoyed writing it once I got into it. This essay’s been brewing since I first came across the work of Wretched of the Earth. So the time and space and audience to finally complete the beginnings of an essay around this. This is just a draft but at least I now have something to work with moving forward. Making this commitment made me accountable. For which I am thankful.

You can jump on Patreon for as little as $1 to read it if you want. And as always, I appreciate feedback, comments and arguments.

Here comes October, my birthday month. Yay!

Moving Foward

Over the weekend, I attended a Wretched of the Earth gathering in London focusing on #climatejustice, billed as Building Our Power. This was a first for me to attend such an event; where I knew the majority of participants would be black, brown and indigenous people as well as gathered together to discuss the climate crisis. I didn’t know what to expect but I was excited about the prospect as far too long I’ve been the only black face in the room when talking about the natural world, the environment and conservation.

The event didn’t disappoint. It was such an amazing and inspiring space to be part of as everything was being co-created; the values and actions, the tactics and strategies of the movement moving forward. What struck me and what I take away with me and move forward with is the way that the climate debate is framed within Western society is wrong and misleading. There has been growing concern for endangered species and the melting icecaps and how we can make a change through recycling and other such individual measures. Yet this narrative keeps hidden the major causes of climate change along with the pain and suffering that has been experienced for decades within the Global South because of such.

Climate Justice is about re-writing the narrative and exposing the inequalities and injustices that have been going on for the last 500 years through colonialism, imperialism and capitalism. This climate emergency cannot be divorced from other issues such as housing, crime, poverty and racism. we enjoy a privileged standard of living in the West because communities and people in the south suffer, be that through being used as cheap labour or have their homes and livelihoods decimated due to extractions industries and drought.

There is so much to be learned around these issues which I’m motivated to explore and share. The creative non-fiction memoir of mixed genres which I’ve been writing this year centres about a black woman’s body with/in nature, I envision to take on a more climate justice stance as I continue to champion how nature has helped me heal and how we, humanity, need to heal through our re-connection with nature.

The Re-Education of Sheree Mack

Fires broke out in 131 indigenous reserves from 15-20 August, 2019*

I considered myself to be an educated person. A person with a certain degree of knowledge, with recognisable qualifications which would signal knowledge and expertise. I’ve talked before about my eyes being opened and becoming wise to the system. At no point did I think I knew it all but when you’ve spent so long in the educational system as a learner and teacher, you do build up the belief that you know a thing or two. However, what I’ve learned or had to be re-educate myself about in the last few months is how this world, not my small insular world, but this global space we occupy and share with millions of diverse species is through an unfair and unjust and unequal and corrupt system.

Blazes have been seen on the Araribóia indigenous reserve in Maranhão state – a heavily deforested reserve on the Amazon’s eastern fringes, which is home to about 80 people from an isolated group of Awá indigenous people, described by the NGO Survival International as the world’s most endangered tribe.

I thought I had a handle on power and who has it and who doesn’t but I have to admit, my understandings were naive and academic. I’ve experienced inequalities and injustice and discrimination and prejudice. I know I’m at the bottom of the pile being a black working class woman in the U.K. But when I see black and brown people who look like me but who are losing their homes and livelihoods and lives because of big business, fossil fuel companies; because we in the global north demand material goods and lavish lifestyles at half the price then I know I enjoy a certain level of privileges.
I choose to be a vegan for environmental and animal welfare reasons. I can make this choice because I enjoy a certain level of income that allows me to pay for these select choices in what I eat or don’t eat. People surviving in poverty do not enjoy this luxury.

Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has been widely criticised for failing to respond quickly to the crisis, issued a
decree on Thursday banning fires in the Amazon for 60 days – a move environmentalists described as largely symbolic.

So yes my eyes have been opened to the disportionate distribution of wealth in the world but I still have so much to learn. Consider this the re-education of Sheree Mack because I realise now that I have been indoctrinated into a Western way of thinking and being. And it’s a total
mindfuck. Basically, I’ve been thinking and living as if I’m a white person but really I’m a Black Woman. And always will be. No amount of education and striving and hustling and appeasement is gonna change this fact. This reality. I‘ve been acting as my own thought Police within myself, keeping myself in check with blinkers on, trying to make others comfortable and not really questioning or analysing the news and information I’ve been fed and digesting.

The fires are often used to clear pasture and deforested areas in the Amazon during dry winter months, but there have been 28,000 this month – more than any August since 2010.

I’ve been fed a warped set of norms and values that places colonialism, imperialism and capitalism as the mordus operandi and the only way of operating that is worth my attention and respect and love. The Global South did not exist on my radar except as primitive, backward and unworthy. I’ve been ignorant of my people, my cultures, my heritage, my lineage. That connection was severed 500 years ago and it suits the minority in power to continue that disconnection by any means necessary be that through education, media, culture, science, policing; the system. The system in which I, and those that look like me, will always be viewed as ‘other’ and deemed inferior, not of value on a human level, but worthy enough to be exploited and oppressed and eradicated.

Fiona Watson, advocacy director at Survival International, said land grabbers are targeting indigenous reserves because they are often remote, well-conserved and unprotected.
“It’s clear to me that a lot of these fires are set off deliberately,” she said. “The difference now is that with Bolsonaro’s message, the Amazon is up for grabs.”

This story. This task. This re-education is not linear. Nature isn’t linear. Spiralling. I came here after actively reading and engaging with the fires in the Amazon. I was lead to believe that this was a natural disaster; lightning storms after such high temperatures etc. The reality is all about the climate, but not climate crisis but climate justice. I might be coming late to the discussion but this is better than never. And my eyes are wide open now.

*These quotes are taken from Dom Philips an article printed in The Guardian 29/08/2019 here (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/aug/29/brazil-amazon-wildfires-indigenous-reserves-remote-areas)