Good People of Mat, Poem & Pen~
I hope this note finds you all well and navigating this transitional time with creativity and curiosity. I can't help but wonder, in this era of COVID, the George Floyd killing, nation-wide protest, and the vandalizing and looting of already struggling businesses in neighborhoods around the country: what would our interactions with the world and ourselves be if we were curious about our own and one another's reality? If that was part of our on-going intentionality.
In Boston's South End neighborhood where I live, I heard what sounded like small explosions and helicopters overhead the entire Sunday night of what began as a peaceful protest. I woke the next day to check Boston.gov's website, found a list of all the businesses around me that had been damaged, and a press release from Mayor Marty Walsh, saying "we won't let hate destroy our city." As I walked Monday afternoon to pick up groceries from the South End market store that has stayed open steadfastly since mid-March while others were forced into shuttering, I passed the corner restaurant with its "Black Lives Matter" sign and PRIDE flag predominantly displayed in the windows. I also saw the windows of so many businesses covered in plywood, building walls spray painted, glass shattered on the streets I later pedaled past as I rode to the river in search of solace.
The problem with divisive action centers around intention: the peaceful protests were piggybacked by a group intent on vandalism and looting for further polarizing our communities around racial profile and physical identity. Aside from hurting communities that have already been suffering globally, this group failed to see, or harbor any curiosity, for the places where they unleashed pent up fury. They didn't know or care that the Richdale Foods store whose windows they smashed and convenience they looted is owned by an immigrant man from Pakistan, or how Urban Grape, the wine store across the street, is a black owned business. They didn't see that Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe was erected in 1927, and that it shunned the accepted norms of segregation at its beginning, embracing an inclusive, mostly African American population. That it was open for 24 hours for years, and when they decided finally to close on Sundays, they had to make a key.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King: "Hate cannot drive out Hate. Only love can do that." And when I say love, I don't mean the spiritual by-pass kind of love that turns a blind eye to harm, or to anyone not taking responsibility for their actions. I mean the kind of fierce love that holds us and each other to a high level of accountability for how we rise and in so doing, create our reality.
When I passed 711 last week, and saw plywood where the front door used to be, I also saw "O-P-E-N" spray painted vertically, and "Hours: 9-5pm" in someone's unselfconscious magic markered free hand. I couldn't help but feel a surge of resiliency. That too seems to be a shared human response and need: vicarious happiness when we experience the ways we all can transform and elevate in response to adversity. Urban Grape has replaced their windows and added a stone mosaic alongside the door that says "Community." And I was back in Richdale Foods last week, the owner and I greeting each other, saying "long time no see!" from behind face masks and a 6 foot social distance.
When I say that we are all connected by way of our shared humanity, I don't mean that as a by pass of a particular group's suffering, or to negate the need for racial equality, but to agree that everyone in this world has the right to wholeness, beauty, and sensuality. To me, these are all embodiments of true freedom, and those which we give rise to through our personal and collective poetry. We all possess these same basic human needs regardless of race, gender, religious beliefs or sexual identity.
It's a good time for reaffirming who and how we want to create. I invite you to do that this week: step away from the "you versus me," "we versus you," "us versus them" mentality and open with creative curiosity to how the very way we live can become an act of poetry.
Upcoming Poetry & Mindfulness Workshops:
"Poetry and the Body"
I recently led a remote “6 Weeks, 6 Poems” course on behalf of GrubStreet and it was both a challenging and rewarding time to transition an in-person class to a virtual gathering. I’ve always celebrated poetry for its ability to address what feels impossible to put into linear language, and I was grateful once again to co-create space with this group to voice individual and collective grief, anger, confusion, struggle, wonder, hope and beauty during this complicated time, and allow it to transform our relationships to ourselves, each other, and something larger. We grew dialogue & constructive listening through the alchemy of our poetry and our collective self-witnessing.
If this awakens something in you, join me this summer for my next 6 week remote course:
"Poetry and the Body"
My intention is for us to gather in diverse community that recognizes both our collective humanity and celebrates our unique individuality. We will weave the complex experiences of head & heart into meaningful art and be buoyed by a supportive community. We'll also experience how reading and writing poetry evokes contemplative practice. As always, the reading list will represent poets with a wide range of racial, sexual, social, political and religious experiences, identities and beliefs.
Exact dates are TBD. Hit REPLY to be added to my list for more info & early registration. We'll limit the group to 12!
In Poetry, Resiliency & Creative Community,