“Truth is a part of our foundation…even though pain may come from being vulnerable, beauty will surely follow.” –Tatiana Zamir
Tatiana Zamir wants to touch you.
Yes, you read that right.
Not only does Tatiana Zamir want to touch you, she wants you to know that it may be one of the most moving experiences of your life.
The word touch carries a lot of meaning for us humans. Being touched is a basic human need—but because so many of us have been injured or betrayed or abandoned in our quest for intimacy, we have forgotten how uplifting and nurturing it is to allow ourselves to feel the healing and serenity that comes from letting another human authentically meet our need to be touched.
Zamir, who is a graduate of UCLA’s renowned World Arts and Cultures Program (and is also a licensed massage therapist and graduate of the Institute of Pycho-Structural Balancing), believes she is on earth to remind us not to lose our vulnerability.
Talking about truth and touch and vulnerability with this multi-talented healer, dancer, teacher, writer and theater producer reminds me of the opening quote from the Oscar-winning Paul Haggis film Crash a movie which, at its core, was about how we hide our truths and our vulnerabilities in an effort to feel safe:
“In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.”
Zamir is on a mission to change that—one human being at a time.
Whether Tatiana is transporting a client to “another realm” via her “Healing Hands” massage therapy practice, or delivering messages of hope and healing to packed audiences through her sold-out theatrical dance production, “Moonlight Reflections,” or teaching her students to “sweat joyfully” via her popular “Afro-Hip Hop Dance Class,” Zamir has made it her life’s work to share her temple and her truths in ways that are healing, inspiring and spiritually uplifting.
“I grew up dancing and I always hated going to dance classes in Los Angeles because they were so competitive and I just wanted to have fun. Then I found this class and I couldn’t be happier. Not only is it dance, but it is a serious, fun workout!
The best thing about the class is, the studio is filled with students from no experience to dancers, so the instructor, Tatiana, creates an incredible workout and choreography that allows you to either just keep up or stylize it to your own skill set. Tatiana is sweet, challenging, fun and super talented.” –Ashley L, Afro-HipHop Dance Workshop student
“This class is the most enjoyable cardio style dance class I’ve taken in my 20 years of taking classes at various studios and gyms in LA. It’s a great workout whether you are a beginning dancer or a professional. Tatiana is a knowledgeable teacher with great energy and she creates such a welcoming environment. Everyone is there to have a good time and a good time is ALWAYS had! I always walk out of this class with a smile on my face.” – Tracy M, Afro-HipHop Dance Workshop student
“Through a diverse range of topics, from the female African American experience, to spirituality, materialism and struggles with family and the pains of growing up, Tatiana Zamir weaves these dramatic vignettes to tell a story of love, creativity, roots, forgiveness and healing that is truly inspirational…I left the theater floating on a higher physical and spiritual vibration!” ~Dustin G.
“[Moonlight Reflections] was AWESOME, I was moved!!! I laughed, cried, danced, etc.!! The entire cast… amazing. Folks NEED to see this work…” ~Leslie G.
“Tatiana truly has a talent of transporting your body and mind to a whole new level of bliss with her intuitive touch. “ – Taylor D, massage client
“I have traveled the world, literally, getting massages and body treatments everywhere I go. I have had just about every type of massage; shia-tzu, swedish, thai, spa pamper. Throughout every experience I always find something to complain about; it’s too hard, not hard enough, not long enough or just not all around complete. Healing Hands by Tatiana is the only time that I get to fully let go, not think and enjoy the love my muscles receive. ” –Yaani King, massage client
If the ultimate Purpose of Life here on earth is tied in any way to how effective we are at using our bodies, our minds, our talents and our time to inspire growth and healing in others, Tatiana Zamir is setting an excellent example of how to get that done—and how to have a great time doing it.
I recently sat down with Tatiana for an in-depth discussion that reveals how and why she is so committed to and effective at touching others, and why she is so good at telling the truth:
KC: Why are you on earth?
TZ: I’m a truth teller. I’ve always been a fan of the truth. It’s always come easy for me to express it, and I hope to inspire others to be closer to the truth–whatever that looks like in their own lives.
Why is truth telling so crucial to you?
In the Baha’i writings it is written that “Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtue,” so we can’t really grow or develop spiritually if we cannot be truthful about where we are now. We are essentially spiritual beings and part of what helps us to be spiritually successful is to be truthful.
If Tatiana Zamir were a brand, what would that brand represent?
Vulnerablity. Truth. Healing. Creativity. Inspiration. I’ve been hearing so many people say how inspired they were by Moonlight Reflections. Whether inspired to go create something themselves, or to finally address some situation in their lives that required truth telling and honesty. I think people saw on stage tangible examples of how being vulnerable can be the foundation for real change in our lives and in our relationships.
What does vulnerability mean to you?
There are no walls. Or fewer walls. I have a couple of walls as an artist and as a human, but there really are not many emotional boundaries I won’t cross. I’ve had people tell me that creatively and emotionally I’m really brave and courageous, though I don’t really feel that way because it comes so naturally to me. Sharing is not something that’s hard for me. I think vulnerability is letting your walls down and not being afraid of what people will think and knowing that the truth is part of our foundation and that even though pain may come from being vulnerable, beauty will surely follow.
The ways that you reach for your fellow human beings are very tangible. Why are you so open to sharing your temple in such visible and tactile ways?
What else am I here for? If I can’t fully be myself and fully share myself with the world why do we even exist? Because I’m so attracted to the truth, I always want to get to the core of who people are and I want them to see me right away. I believe it gives people permission to be their true selves when I do that.
What inspired you to want to be a massage therapist?
It’s something I’ve always loved to do and I was always really good at it even before I received formal training. I hadn’t really considered massage as a career, but I have always been attracted to healing, and I know that when I massage a client I’m literally making the world a better place. Healing touch produces so much good in the world.
Your clients really do rave about your technique. What makes you such an awesome masseuse? There are a bazillion massage parlors in L.A., why do your clients come back to you?
I think people come back to me because I’m really in tune with what’s happening with people and I really nurture them while I massage them. That may sound like “duh doesn’t every masseur do that?” But, unfortunately, the answer is no, they don’t. I get massages myself all the time and I’m often disappointed because I feel like people are so disconnected from the touch they are putting on your body and the work they’re doing is not reflective of the frequency your body is at. I’m really good at connecting with people and being present with them. People often say to me “I’ve had massages all over the world and I’ve never experienced that before.” My clients say they go into a zone. They go to another realm. They get their muscles worked on but they’re having an out of body experience as well.
You are a person who lives and breathes dance. What are people missing out on when they have no dance in their lives at all?
I really feel everyone’s life would improve tremendously if they danced every day, and I believe that so strongly because of what it does for me. Dance really takes me to a higher place. No matter what frequency I’m at, when I dance, it takes me to an even higher one. If I’ve had a bad day, after dancing, no stress can touch me. If I’ve had a great day, I’m just that much happier. I don’t know if it’s from releasing endorphins and relieving stress or what, but I feel closer to the Creator. I feel a real spiritual high.
Can I experience that spiritual high vicariously through watching others dance, or do I need to experience it by actually dancing myself?
I think you could have a piece of that high by witnessing it. I think you can feel that and I think you can experience some of what we’re feeling. I think you take it to another level when you do it yourself. You’re feeling things that are unique to you and depending on how your body’s feeling and where you are, you’ll experience it at a uniquely personal level. It’s a different experience when you put yourself out there.
If I attended a session of your Afro-Hip Hop Dance Workout, what would make me want to come back?
I believe my students come back week after week because they get a great workout–they’re drenched at the end–but they’ve had an amazing time doing it. They’ve told me they really love the music. I mix up my playlist with Afro beat, dance hall, salsa and hip hop, and I”ll mix contemporary radio hits with old school artists like Common and the Roots. You would love the intimacy of the class too, and the uniqueness. It feels like family. Everyone is supportive and loving and you don’t always get that in a dance or exercise class. But my class is like a family reunion every time. People say they feel very supported and supportive there.
Your decision to create, choreograph and produce Moonlight Reflections must have been a huge leap of faith. Is this a new direction for you? Will you venture further into dance theater?
In the process of creating that show I felt a happiness I had never experienced before. It felt so right and it was clear that it was where I needed to be. It’s very new for me to even be thinking about this right now. This is a new dream for me. I had a burning desire to bring my ideas to life in a theater and have people witness it. I had no idea it would sell out two weeks in advance and that people would call for me to stage it again. I don’t know yet how this calling will continue to express itself in my life, but I do see myself in the future as a producer of work that heals and hopefully inspires others to heal and inspire others.
What did you learn about yourself in taking that risk?
Being a producer requires bringing a lot of skills to the table that I might not really need to use too often in other areas of life. Hiring and assessing and critiquing the expertise of staff for example. I had endless learning experiences, but the thing that really floored me was that I never anticipated how deeply moved people would be by my work. It’s inspiring and humbling to see how sharing truth can ripple out into other lives in meaningful ways. I am still receiving letters from people who were moved by Moonlight Reflections. And, I mean written letters sent in the mail. In this age of technology, that is so stunning to me. People must have been really moved and inspired for them to sit down and write me letters and share their stories with me. I’ve had so many parents say the show made them think twice about their relationships with their children. They really want to be different and open and truthful and work harder at nurturing their relationships. I also had many young people come up to me after the show to say they felt like I told pieces of their story so truthfully, without me even knowing their actual story.
A significant part of Moonlight Reflections entailed the abusive-turned-estranged-turned-healed relationship with your mother. Through movement, music and spoken word you told many truths about your childhood experiences with her that were not cute or sweet. You really exposed some hurtful things that many mothers would not want exposed. How did your mother feel about that?
Her friends were like “I can’t believe you let her say these things about you.” My mom’s response was, It wouldn’t have been as powerful if she didn’t. What Tati shared is the truth. It’s what happened. The healing part of our story is so powerful because the painful and uncomfortable part was truthfully and fully shared. The show created even more healing and love between us. I had never had so much support in my life from my mother as I did with developing and producing this show.
Our healing occurred because my mother was able to finally tell the truth after she was in denial for so long, and she was able to truly apologize for hurting me all those years. A true apology is when you really mean it, and I knew for the first time in my life that she meant it. In the past I felt her apologies were followed by a million excuses. “I’m sorry but I was a single mom and this and that…”
This apology was different in what way?
It was something I truly felt. It was genuine. It wasn’t an angry apology. It wasn’t an I’m sorry, but…” It was genuine and it was beautiful. And, more importantly, after my mother apologized, she actually changed. She actually became a different mother. She doesn’t yell at me. She doesn’t verbally abuse me anymore. She came to a place where she really wanted something different for us.
So many people were touched in amazing ways by your journey. What do you think we can all learn from your story of injury and healing?
The truth really will set you free, if you allow it to. That saying has a whole new meaning for me now.
If you are a serious aficionado of “conscious” hip hop music, you are no doubt familiar with the name Kumasi Simmons, a.k.a., Kumaserati, a gifted hood-born poet with a unique flow that has attracted souls from as close as Brooklyn and Compton to as far as Paris, Jakarta, Tunisia and Ghana.
Kumasi has collaborated with some of the most creative and prolific artists in popular music, including Kanye West, Adam Levine, Mos Def, Malik Yusef and The Game.
When The Game heard Kumasi’s soul-stirring flow, he welcomed him to the Black Wall Street label as “Kumaserati,” BWS’s sole “conscious” contributor. After recording curse-free, drug-free, woman-respecting songs under the Black Wall Street flag, in May, 2012, Kumasi independently released a 27-track hood gospel project entitled Soul Music.
Soul Music is a majestic offering of uplifting, inspiring and cautionary songs with titles like Same Soul (f. Tara Ellis), Change (f. Mos Def), Highway to Hades, Promised Land (f. Kanye West and Malik Yusef), Be Kind to Your Mother, and, my personal favorite, Amazing Grace.
As if Kumasi wasn’t busy enough in the studio making his Soul Music dream a reality, last year this Compton, Cali native was sponsored by the U. S. State Department to travel the world as a cultural attaché, visiting developing democracies in Indonesia and Africa, where young, mostly Muslim, citizens are both curious and dubious about American culture and freedom of expression.
Kumasi performed with fellow Muslim artists via the group Remarkable Current in an unprecedented cultural exchange program through which they delivered messages of peace and brotherhood across barriers of language and ideology. For more information about this project, visit remarkablecurrent.com .
The video below (f. Kumasi), paying homage to Tunisian revolutionary hero Mohamed Bouazizi, is an example of the incredible creativity and passion hip hop music lends to messages of freedom and calls for progress around the world. Is it just me, or is this track SICK? And by sick, I mean AMAZING.
I recently caught up with this self-described “servant of God,” to find out what motivates him musically, what’s keeping him busy now and where he is headed next.
KC: When you released your first album, Change Gon’ Come, you used your given name, Kumasi. Now you have adopted this new moniker, Kumaserati. What’s the story behind this name change?
Kumaserati is an alias that was created to help young people remember my name. Kumasi is the name of a city in Ghana, and until I can popularize that name as an artist, I want to help people find me and find my music. I want to leave a positive impression on impressionable young people who will respond to that name because it is associated with something they value. A Maserati is a vehicle. Kumasi is a servant. Kumaserati is a servant of God first and foremost. The way that I serve may require different strategies.
Speaking of strategies, I understand you’ve joined a music group called Kaj (www.thekaj.com). What is Kaj and how is it different from the music of Kumaserati?
The Kaj is another strategy for Kumasi to exist in service to God. The word Kaj is a combination of the names of its members, Kumasi, Anas and Joel. We came together to do a project that is soulful and that is inspired by people that inspire soul music–like Curtis Mayfield. Like The Ojays. The Kaj is using the language and diction and the integrity of those times with the sound of today.
It seems to me there’s this gap in music today where some of us feel we really have to look and listen hard to find contemporary music that is still soulful or soul-filled. It sounds like this group is the perfect fit for us.
We weren’t really trying to specifically fill any void. We were just trying to make music that we like and that people like. Our intention is to create music that is about love, and is also correct towards women. Theres’ a song about domestic violence. There’s a song called The Sounds of Making Love.
Is there a percentage of The Kaj’s sound or style that you would call hip hop, or is it a departure from your hip hop roots?
That’s an excellent question. The attempt here is to be intelligent and at the same time be cognizant of using simple yet meaningful words. You won’t hear us saying words like “swag.” You might hear words like “darling” and “delectable.” The word choices are deliberate. Our music is supposed to make you feel happy and make you feel like you want to make love to your woman and retain the respect due to women.
On your new album, Soul Music, you included a track called “99 names of God.” Tell me three of those names that are embodied in your music.
“Sublime. Gracious. Mighty.”
How did an artist so focused on heavenly goals, end up at Black Wall Street with The Game?
He really wanted a conscious artist on his label. My affiliation with Black Wall Street provides an opportunity to broaden my reach as an artist. I will always have love for The Game for opening that door for me.
What is one quality of The Game that would surprise people?
People might be surprised that he has a great sense of humor. People may be surprised that he’s a family man. People may be surprised that he’s a man who is striving to be a better man and a better person. You might be surprised to know that he is in tune with his Creator.
You have collaborated with some heavyweights in the industry. Who would you like to work with that you haven’t yet?
I love Jamie Foxx as a person and Pharrell as well. After meeting and vibing with them, I would love to work with them. Also Will.i.am. I admire his creativity. Cee-lo is really gifted and down to earth–really for the people. I would love to work with him. Of course, Tupac, when he comes back.
Thank you for that awesome segue to my next question. If you died and God sent you back here as a woman. What would your mission be?
To be an example of class. An example of motherhood. We need more examples of strong women who are powerful generals who have command. A powerful woman doesn’t want a man with a nice vehicle with nice rims. She cares for her people. She cares to improve lifestyles besides her own. Some women believe that sex is their power. Their body is their power. But that is not the extent of a woman’s power by any means. If more women could set powerful examples, young women in our culture would create better humans.
Speaking of women and how we are perceived, in hip hop culture certain women are afforded a measure of respect and others are not. You were involved in a controversy in which you came to the defense of Kat Stacks, a self-described “hoe.” What made you think Kat Stacks deserved to be defended when she attracted so much drama and negative attention through her own actions?
When you meet a man in the hospital or grocery store that man is your brother. If that man is white or that man is black that man is your brother. If that man is Chinese that’s your Chinese brother. Whatever mind state a woman is in and whatever decisions she’s making that may be wrong, whether its to use drugs or to sell her body, that woman was born a princess. On earth we are all family members. Once you have that outlook, you can act accordingly. When it comes to a person like Kat Stacks you wish better for her. You don’t have rancor in your heart, you realize that that is a woman who was created by God and you have to respect that. He gave her lungs and eyes and she was not a mistake. She is a creation of God. How does God feel about that which God creates? If we ask ourselves that question we may find ourselves being careful to not dishonor that which God created, even if that creation has not begun to honor themselves.
You recently traveled on behalf of the United States as a cultural ambassador where you addressed thousands of young men and women whose impressions of of this country were deeply and positively impacted. Is this a new direction for Kumasi? How does civil service fit in to your goals?
This was another opportunity to serve God. I’m not into politics. I’m into people. I’m into peace. I was able to be peaceful with the people of Indonesia. I was also able to go to northern Africa. I did a song with El General (Hamada Ben Amor), the young rap artist who got locked up for speaking out against the president of Tunisia. Last year, Time magazine named this young rapper one of the one hundred most influential people in the world.
It’s important to create alliances everywhere you go. In Paris I was able to do this. In Africa. Eventually if your voice becomes big enough you can invite people to hold hands. I’m very grateful for the opportunity.
What can we look forward to next from Kumaserati?
I am currently in the conception stage of a project that will ultimately bear magnificent fruit. I am collaborating with two women whom I deeply respect and admire, not only for their amazing talents, but for their pure intentions to help heal people’s pain and to serve the human family.
Myself, Hope Shorter and Tilly Key, along with producer Christian Shorter, are putting together a project that, in spirit, will be like having Lauryn Hill, Sade and Bob Marley collaborating to serve. I”m not trying to equate us talent-wise, though the talent here is crazy, but spirit-wise the intention is that huge.
The project is called “Child of The World,” and it will be geared toward educating young people about nutrition, healthy lifestyles and philanthropy via a series of non-profit concerts in major urban areas like downtown L.A., Chicago and NYC. We will bring music, message, and meals to the streets with the sole purpose of connecting to and serving our fellow man.
“I wish, so much, that I hadn’t stayed with the bodies over night. Because that is how I received my imagination…I could hear their blood going into the earth…And I know TOO MUCH.” -Kola Boof
Naima Bint Harith (a.k.a. Kola Boof)
Whenever I think of Kola Boof, I see an image of Naima Bint Harith, a little girl with gorgeous deep brown skin, a sweet smile and shining eyes, who, at age six, witnessed the murder of her parents.
Naima’s father, Harith Bin Farouk (a light-skinned Arab/Egyptian) and her mother, Jiddi (a blue-black Gisi-Waaq Oromo from Somalia) were both slaughtered in retaliation for Harith’s “crime” of speaking out against the enslavement of the charcoal-skinned Sudanese by the lighter-skinned Arab ruling class.
During the first night of her new life as an orphan, Naima’s innocence was dyed blood red as she spent the dark hours before dawn lying alone and traumatized with her parents’ lifeless bodies.
Within days of the murder, Naima’s Egyptian grandmother informed her orphaned grandchild—the only living child of Harith and Jiddi—that her skin was too dark for her to be welcomed into their light-skinned family. Little Naima was put up for adoption.
When I think of Kola Boof, I think of that little girl who should have been happily skipping along the banks of the Nile with her parents, but, who was instead violently and callously flung into a war against white supremacy that no human being should have to (but every human being should be willing to) fight.
It is not lost on me that had Naima’s father been unconcerned and complacent in the face of the injustice he saw, he would still be alive. Her abandonment and suffering are born of his sacrifice. Our complacency is a twisting knife.
If you don’t know who Kola Boof is, I’m going to have to let you Google her, because trying to sum up this writer/activist’s life and work in a few paragraphs is an impossible task.
Suffice it to say that the Sudan-born, D.C.-raised author of “Diary of a Lost Girl,” “Long Train to the Redeeming Sin,” and “The Sexy Part of the Bible,” writes edgy, thought-provoking, paradigm-shifting literary prose (and, at times, vicious, profane, irreverent twitter rants) that have led journalists, fans and haters to variously label her “genius,” “disturbed,” “talented,” “polarizing,” “brave,” “racist,” and, increasingly, among her hundreds of blocked haters on Twitter, “crazy black bitch.”
Though Boof can at times be found at the center of distracting social media hurricanes (like the recent drama in which she boasted about regularly sexing Djimon Honsou during his marriage to Kimora Lee Simmons), her impassioned and important message is that the earth’s dark-skinned black woman is systematically disrespected, hated, insulted and erased by those who, influenced by white supremacy, cannot or will not recognize her black beauty and her intrinsic perfection as a creation of God.
It astounds me that anyone disagrees with that message, as it is quite apparent that in every country or culture on this planet that is heavily influenced by European values, dark-skinned women with black-African hair and features are rarely held up (for its sons and daughters to look to) as models of what is beautiful, marriageable, or worthy of admiration.
Don’t even get me started on the American entertainment industry and its proliferation of images that relegate dark-skinned women to the roles of maid, mammy, slave or sex worker. But it’s not just the media that is guilty. Too many young dark-skinned girls are tormented by their family members and bullied from toddlerhood, with the terms “African,” “dark” and “nappy” being viciously hurled at them like profane weapons.
Insult is added to this injury when darker-skinned black women are uninvited or invisible in situations where light-skinned or biracial black women (whose physical features are closer to the “white ideal” of beauty) are welcomed to show off their “black” beauty. If you need an example of this blatant disregard for the plentifully pigmented sisters among us, click here, or here, or here, or here, or here.
It also astounds me that so many lighter-skinned people who profess to be about “erasing racism,” “honoring diversity” and “building unity” are so resistant to understanding Kola’s life experiences or at least listening with an open mind to her observations about the annihilation-by-rejection and psychic injury dark-skinned women are being subjected to around the world.
I get that folks are turned off by Boof’s caustic delivery and her irreverence-bordering-on-hatred for some of the world’s most revered institutions (such as Christianity and Islam). I get that people are offended by the sweeping negative generalizations she makes about the inhabitants of entire countries (especially since she so deeply and righteously resents the negative generalizations made about black women). I get that people are shocked and repulsed by Kola’s disregard for what she sees as repressive and oppressive Western moral codes.
What I don’t get is how there is this loooooong line of individuals ready to invest their energy in attacking Kola for her lifestyle, her opinions and her temper, yet there are so few champions who are willing to speak up about the HUMAN RIGHT so many black girls have been denied—the right to be seen, to be admired, to be protected and to be cherished.
I admit I am frequently appalled at the words Kola Boof uses to voice her rage against her detractors—especially the vitriol she reserves for black American men (whose psychic injury she acknowledges, but cannot forgive); but even when she is at her angriest, my gut feeling about this sister is that she created “Kola Boof” to be the warrior she needed but didn’t have on the day her parents died–a ferocious defender who should have been there to protect little Naima—the generous, intelligent, soft-hearted, world-embracing spirit that lives inside Kola.
Given the mountainous struggles that little girl faced (severe trauma, several abandonments by parental figures, adapting to American culture, learning English, rejecting colorism…) it makes perfect sense to me that her alter-ego Kola would (on the surface, at least) be so FIERCE.
Anyone who knows even a little bit about the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder a severe childhood trauma creates, knows that one of its key components is an easily triggered and exaggerated fight or flight response. It is an extremely difficult to control SURVIVAL response that has nothing to with intelligence or morals or wisdom.
Among the many symptoms PTSD sufferers deal with are:
Physical ailments with no apparent physical cause
Fear for their safety; always feeling on guard
Feelings of shame, despair, or hopelessness.
Difficulty controlling emotions.
Impulsive or self-destructive behavior.
Changed beliefs or changed personality traits.
I don’t know Kola personally and I don’t know the degree to which any or all of these symptoms affect her life, but her writings, her online presence and her tweets seem to indicate that there is much residual injury that she lives with daily. If she is suffering from PTSD, I see no reason why her life’s work to restore THE ORIGINAL AFRICAN WOMAN to her rightful pedestal of dignity and respect should be diminished by it.
“I am a very SAD, broken, damaged human being…And I live, literally, by the grace of GOD. The pain in my vagina I have spoken of…but rarely the pain in my brain and my heart.
My teeth and my bones hurt me like headaches, because I am so broken and damaged EMOTIONALLY.
People read my books and ask, “How can you write like that?” It’s because I live in constant emotional “psychotic” pain.
Don’t they understand that I saw my parents killed in front of me? Do they think a child can EVER grow up and get over that?
And now I wish, so much, that I hadn’t stayed with the bodies over night. Because that is how I received my imagination. From that night, when I could hear their blood going into the earth. I suddenly had an “imagination”. And it’s very…
And I know TOO MUCH.
Much of the vicious attacking you see me do…is mainly to make people AWARE of the rage and bitterness that they create in the world…simply by accepting the world the way it is.
That’s why I tell people…don’t accept it…REBEL.
Because although it’s too late for Naima…it’s not too late for the daughters of the future.
When YOU SEE me hurt someone, strike at someone…I’m just trying to set a new example for the MULES of the world….that we mustn’t go down without loud screaming and fighting.
…I don’t see myself living that long, and I just want to give…as an artist….what the people NEED.
And I pray for my sons to be OK. I know I’ve taught them how to make generations and where inside themselves to find answers and to find me.” -Kola
Although I have never met Ms. Boof, I interacted with her online many years ago and did speak to her once on the telephone after she wrote an amazing poem for me entitled “Angels and Insects” which she posted at the African American Literary Book Club (AALBC) discussion board where she and I crossed paths.
An inter racially married white woman on that discussion board who called herself, “Moon,” had become the target of Kola’s rage when (among other things) she refused to acknowledge that white and light-skinned privilege exists at the expense of black women. Kola was trying to get Moon to realize that privilege and injustice are inseparable and that her white privilege had a cost that she simply chose not to acknowledge (which is another privilege).
Moon was the source of much conflict on that board because she was a white visitor to a black online forum who was always in “teach” mode, and she did not seem to respect the opinions of the black women whose life experiences differed so greatly from hers. Moon was convinced that simply by mothering her mixed children and teaching them that love sees no color she was actively promoting the unity of the human family. “I don’t walk in brown skin,” she wrote, “I can sure teach children about love.”
Being the product of an interracial union myself, I joined the debate. (Forgive the use of CAPS; it was an intense conversation):
“Your children deserve more than your LOVE. They deserve to LEARN what it means to live in a society that will try to convince them they are BETTER because they came from YOU. Who is going to WORK DAILY and DILIGENTLY to undermine that lie in your household?
I am not a hater, Moon. I KNOW in my SOUL that all human beings are ONE CREATION, and these designations of racial categories are not REAL. But that does not mean human beings are not behaving as though they [the labels] are real. WE are all affected by our socializations regarding race, skin color, hair texture, innate intelligence, morality, etc. etc. etc.
You cannot toss me indescriminately onto the heap of black women who you consider jealous of you and your husband, or simply hate your whiteness. My mother is white and my father is black and I can speak on the subject of white privelege personally, because having white skin and blue eyes I am treated with UNEARNED deference just about everywhere I go.
One of the few places my physical appearance is not automatically “respected” is in the company of black women I don’t know. That is when I humbly SHUT MY MOUTH AND LISTEN so that I can LEARN more about what it means to be a black woman in America — and thereby understand more clearly what it means to be a member of the human family.
I don’t agree with everything Kola says, but I don’t take what she says personally either. I know she is “FIGHTING for her life…” Her fight to lift up black women does not diminish me….WHAT are YOU fighting for MOON? The rights of all humans, regardless of skin color, to love and intermarry? That right already EXISTS. As you said earlier, your life is proof of that.
Show me proof that Kola’s BLACK SONS are held in HIGH REGARD by this supremacist society. She is fighting for THEM, MOON. And for EVERY BLACK BABY who will be shown and told (maybe by YOUR children) that they are NOT PERFECT EXACTLY AS THEY WERE CREATED. They will be told that if their father had lain with a Scandinavian or an Asian or a Mexican or ANYTHING but their AFRICAN MOTHER they would be more beautiful or smarter or healthier or… (you know the list you’ve heard it many times).”
Kola’s response to my post was immediate, and, I believe, sincere.
…I have never denied that I have many prejudices against Bi-racial people and white people—despite that fact that I am, technically, Bi-racial and that my White Arab birth father was a great, great man who dedicated his life to the dismantling of “White Supremacy”. He called it “the world’s only true religion”.
But my “prejudice” against Bi-racials and Whites is not what I…..REALLY…..feel when I’m alone, topless in the mountain streams praying. I feel LOVE for those people—only I keep it a secret, because I fear they are against me and my sons.
It seems there are two realities co-existing within this daughter of a slain freedom fighter. There is Kola Boof, the consummate REBEL whose words and actions are symbols of her RESISTANCE to being controlled, ignored or annihilated by the spirit of white supremacy that destroyed her family and threatens her progeny.
And then, there is Naima Bint Harith whose broken heart did not lose its capacity to love us all.
I wrote and posted this short poem on the AALBC discussion boards eight years ago. It still reflects why I love her:
Naima peels back her own skin with life-sharpened nails and we peer inside
see, a huge heart oh, and innards soft, open, vulnerable
and in her exposure we are exposed safe, selfish, cowardly
Another June 16th human being I really love is John Howard Griffin.
6/16/20 – 9/9/80
I hope you already know all about this man, but if not, he was a White anti-racist who grew up in the South and wanted to do something to reach the hearts and minds of White Americans, most of whom were in denial about the conditions under which Black people lived.
Griffin conducted an experiment in 1959 that included shaving his head, darkening his skin with lamps and pharmaceuticals and living as a Black man in the deep south.
Though he endured for several weeks, he ended up cutting the experiment short, as he found that being a Black man was too difficult for him to maintain for long. He wrote a book about his experiences that made him a celebrity and (to some) a villain.
“Nothing can describe the withering horror of this. You feel lost, sick at heart before such unmasked hatred, not so much because it threatens you as because it shows humans in such an inhuman light. You see a kind of insanity, something so obscene the very obscenity of it (rather than its threat) terrifies you. It was so new I could not take my eyes from the man’s face. I felt like saying: “What in God’s name are you doing to yourself?”
“Suddenly I had had enough. Suddenly I could stomach no more of this degradation- not of myself but of all men who were black like me.”
“When all the talk, all the propaganda has been cut away, the criterion is nothing but the color of skin. My experience proved that. They judged me by no quality. My skin was dark.”
Mr. Griffin knew when he conducted his experiment he would forever be putting himself at odds with those in America who didn’t want the ugliest realities of racism to be exposed and so vividly expressed by someone White. After his book “Black Like Me” was published in 1961 he and his family received continual death threats. They left their Texas home and eventually moved to Mexico.
“John Howard Griffin was one of the most remarkable people I have ever encountered…He was just one of those guys that comes along once or twice in a century and lifts the hearts of the rest of us.” -Studs Terkel
Here is an excellent article about Griffin’s life, his experiment and his writings: JimCrowMuseum <<–Highly suggested reading!
[embedplusvideo height=”350″ width=”430″ standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/b0Ar6J-ZBPI?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=b0Ar6J-ZBPI&width=430&height=350&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=” id=”ep3231″ /]
“It seems to me that our country is involved in a kind of mass insanity where you can abuse the gift of sight in order to use it to discriminate against somebody.”
If you have ever attended a cultural sensitivity training or participated in a forum or workshop exploring issues of race and racism, you have probably noticed that when the dialogue moves to a specific focus on white/black relations (and the ferocity with which institutionalized racism impacts black people and communities) someone in the room will object.
The objection is often couched in terms that sound inclusive, like “What about Native Americans? They’ve suffered too.” or “That’s not really different from how gays are discriminated against.”
It can be an exasperating moment for those in the room who realize that any authentic effort to focus a lens on the concept of “white supremacy” will invariably lead to a discussion about white on black racism. Not because it is “more important,” than any other expression of racism, but because, as activist Scot Nakagawa so aptly puts it, “Blackness is the fulcrum.”
I’m often asked why I’ve focused so much more on anti-black racism than on Asians over the years. Some suggest I suffer from internalized racism.
That might well be true since who doesn’t suffer from internalized racism? I mean, even white people internalize racism. The difference is that white people’s internalized racism is against people of color, and it’s backed up by those who control societal institutions and capital.
But some folk have more on their minds. They say that focusing on black and white reinforces a false racial binary that marginalizes the experiences of non-black people of color. No argument here. But I also think that trying to mix things up by putting non-black people of color in the middle is a problem because there’s no “middle.”
So there’s most of my answer. I’m sure I do suffer from internalized racism, but I don’t think that racism is defined only in terms of black and white. I also don’t think white supremacy is a simple vertical hierarchy with whites on top, black people on the bottom, and the rest of us in the middle.
So why do I expend so much effort on lifting up the oppression of black people? Because anti-black racism is the fulcrum of white supremacy.
A fulcrum is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the support about which a lever turns” or, alternatively, “one that supplies capability for action.” In other words, if you want to move something, you need a pry bar and some leverage, and what gives you leverage is the fulcrum – that thing you use so the pry bar works like a see-saw…
…while there’s no bottom, there is something like a binary in that white people exist on one side of these dynamics – the side with force and intention. The way they mostly assert that force and intention is through the fulcrum of anti-black racism.
Please read the full text of his article, and know why I so appreciate Nakagawa’s take on this issue, not because this point was never brilliantly and succinctly addressed by others, including contemporary black writers like Dr. Joy DeGruy, Michael Eric Dyson and Michelle Alexander, but because whenever this sentiment is expressed in any public way by a black person it is mis-perceived as self-serving (read: whining).
When non-black anti-racist activists like Nakagawa, Edward James Olmos and Tim Wise speak about the unique impact of white supremacy on black people, and acknowledge that its eradication will herald the eradication of racism for all groups, a significant number of people will find the message more palatable.
Perhaps a significant number will also find their way into this struggle to internalize the concept of the oneness of humanity, become devoted to dismantling white supremacy and work to purge our institutions, homes and hearts of the insidious (often subtle) blight of racism. . .
Jean Rankin was a wife and mother of thirteen children living in a modest home overlooking the Ohio river in what was the “free state” of Ohio. Through her window she could see a clear and gorgeous view of Kentucky, where thousands of enslaved African Americans lived under the cruel system of American chattel slavery.
For forty years, leading up to the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, Jean and her husband John opened their home to offer food, lodging and directions further north to nearly 2000 fugitive slaves seeking freedom.
As a mother, and as an American woman who descended from enslaved Africans, I am awed and humbled by this family. When I think about putting my own freedom and my own children’s lives at risk to serve others, it is a frightening, daunting idea.
While researching this subject of whtie anti-racists in American history, I am finding hundreds of stories of courageous and inspiring people like the Rankins who have been left out of mainstream hero worship. I hope you will agree that it is time to remedy that omission. These are amazing American heroes our children should know about.
The idea for this project came, in part, from an article I read about a young girl named Lisa McClelland who tried to start a “Caucasian Club” at her high school. Long story short—for her own safety, she eventually had to change schools.
Prior to her exile to another campus, the 15-year-old insisted her proposed club would be “a positive organization dedicated to honoring diversity” and a place to learn more about what it means to be white.
Amid the firestorm of controversy Lisa sparked, a KKK representative welcomed her to join their group, and the local NAACP spokesman slammed her idea, calling it racist in name, if not intent. He said,
“When we use the word ‘white’ or ‘Caucasian,’ it has always been associated with racial bigotry. Using that term opens up old wounds…”
What message is sent to young people with the omission of white anti-racist heroes from our national history? White Americans will not (should not?) bother themselves with issues of racial justice?