Mothering Ourselves Manifests

January 17, 2011

Lavender water, feather boas, dance breaks and booty shakes.  Split pea soup and togetherness tasted. Queerness affirmed, fear and shame released, plants watered, seeds planted, clay molded, days stretched into smiles of finally free.

The past two weekends have been a dream come true and I am not the only dreamer.  Audre Lorde, black lesbian feminist warrior mother difficult daughter dream-sourced poet, wrote in her Essence magazine in 1983 that “we can learn to mother ourselves.”   The MotherOurselves Bootcamp in Durham, NC and the Thicker Than Whatever: Unstoppable Mother/Daughter Relationships workshop in Atlanta, GA were two manifestations of Lorde’s risky pedagogical dream.  The proposition “we can learn to mother ourselves” which also became the title of my recent dissertation is one of the most preposterous and inspiring conjectures I’ve laid eyes on.   Who is “mother” if we do it ourselves?  Why reclaim “mother” in a motha-effin racist sexist society that has blamed black mothers for every type of social problem?  And don’t we all ultimately hope to escape our mothers whether we admit it or not?

Well the past two weekends have been testaments to the fact that it is indeed possible to be preposterous and inspiring, to learn a self-love that makes us grow and challenge each other, and then to sustain self-love and share it and eat it and write it down.  The MotherOurselves Bootcamp in Durham, NC drew a vibrant room of women of color  and genderqueer people of color from ages one to sixtyish from cities as far as Detroit and Los Angeles.  We engaged Audre Lorde’s essay and tried on living inside of the specific principles of mothering ourselves that she suggests, distilled here as the Mothering Ourselves Manifesta. Over three days we did five cycles of meditation to release the drama we have around the term (mama) and explored the concept of motheirng ourselves in a speak the truth booth (podcast coming soon at BrokenBeautiful Press!), by transforming yogurt cups into new homes for seedlings, with play-doh and with photographs.

Nia, Manju and Miya shine in the “Who We Choose to Be” photobooth.

Finally we created our own “mothering ourselves covenants” and a privately shared blog and calendar so we can send mothering ourselves reminders and lovenotes to each other on a regular basis and hold ourselves accountable for how radically good we’re going to be to ourselves and each other henceforth and forever!

And then THIS weekend in Atlanta, GA at the historic MotherHouse (former home of the National Black Women’s Health Project/Imperative and current home of reproductive justice organizations SisterSong and Sisterlove) my mother and I co-facilitated the first ever Thicker Than Whatever: Unstoppable Mother/Daughter Relationships workshop and it certainly will not be the last!  Mothers-daughter dyads, sisters and individuals from Nashville, Charlotte, Brooklyn, DC, Atlanta and Asheville spent a day releasing fear, declaring love, practicing trust, listening and affirmation towards a queer friendly model of revolutionary mother/daughter love!!!

If Audre Lorde is right, and we can learn to mother ourselves, why not put a whole new twist on the idea of growth industry. What is keeping us from building an earthship university of mothering ourselves and each other powerfully where experiments, study and practice feel as familiar as play.

2011 is already teaching me that not a thing can stop us from the resplendent transformative love we deserve to live with every breath.  Not a thing.

One Response to Mothering Ourselves Manifests

  1. Rashida on January 18, 2011 at 3:18 am

    It is brilliantly defiant and wholly progressive in speech and action, that Lorde does not say "we can learn to mother each other." She says instead "we can learn to mother ourselves" which does not fit or breathe in traditional boxes of mothering instead it breaks down familiar barriers and shares the labor, task, healing and nurturing of mothering. In this space and light we reclaim authority to define and recreate what we truly need in an effort to love ourselves and our sisters better. Thank you for creating a safe space to begin this journey.

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