For the ones who refuse to stifle their roar

“This ability to hold on, even in very simple ways, is work black women have done for a very long time.” ~ Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens

For you,

I would do anything. This is my note of love and light to you. I have tried to write you a letter, but the words keep getting stuck in my throat. All I have for you is  solidarity, is a thought, is a prayer.

So many of us need healing. Seek yours with a stubbornness only heaven can shake. Don’t hang around in the hurt, no matter how seductive that may be. You are not what you have been through.

Strength and power,

Dusty

“Do not go gentle into that good night. / Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” ~ Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

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It’s Becoming Harder to Root for Black Men

Trigger warning: street harassment, molestation, rape culture, misogynoir 

I wasn’t going to write about this, but it’s been a week and I still get anxious every time I see him.

Writing through this may not make me less mad about it, but it will ease my troubled mind somewhat. For some of us “poetry is not a luxury, and writing is not a past time. It is survival. It is revival; it is the healing process of probing deeper into the collective memory of the soul“. (Word to Taylor Dominique Mason )

I was fixing to get into a taxi at Bree when one of the taxi marshalls groped me in full view of the people in the taxi. I immediately hit his hand away and told him, “Please don’t touch me.” The women in the front row laughed. Unfazed, he held out his hand; as though we were doing some kind of foreplay, and smiled like I was being a tease and actually liked that he had just violated me.

not a public space yo

Source: BuzzFeed

 

What I really wanted to do was kick him in the balls and tell him to go to hell. I wanted to turn to those women and call them out on their endorsement of such appalling behaviour. But what, if I was able to inflict any type of pain, would that achieve except retaliation? 100 bucks says the people at Bree would probably pull me off him, or he would turn even more violent. They did think my ordeal was funny, after all.

I love Black men. I am always the first to root for them. As a matter of principle, I never even use the N word, though I am myself Black. Heck, I want to marry a Black man one day. If you read this blog, you’ll know I’ve written about my love for him too (Ubuhle bendoda: on the beauty of a Black man.

But I’m finding it harder to root for him, and I am painting ‘him’ with a very broad general stroke unapologetically, because I can. He has a whole army of fvkboys who will come to his defense always, anyways.

Being a Black woman in this country is traumatic. On a daily basis there are at least 10 men who insist on calling me “My size” / “Sweedat” / “Lovey” etc and/ or pulling my arm and demanding to see my tattoo, get my number, start a conversation. Where is it safe to walk down the street without being a accosted by seventy men? And when?

From an article I wrote for The Con about a year ago:

“From the time a girl enters puberty until the age men stop seeing her as ‘desirable’, the idea that her body is not her own is systematically imposed on her. On any given day, as she moves from A to B, she will have to fend off unwanted attention, she’ll be whistled at, grabbed, groped, insulted for not responding, and, in some cases, the attack becomes serious. For many men, there is just no desire to see street harassment as harmful – it is just harmless fun, and is often perceived as doing women the ‘favour’ of complimenting them. But harassment on the street is nothing less than an attack on women’s bodies.

[…] Men’s failure to empathise with women is also because the harassment is not really about the women themselves. It is about male sexual entitlement and it is about performing manhood – perhaps more for the sake of other men than for women.”

I have conversations with my girlfriends almost weekly, I see tweets and Facebook posts from friends almost daily, about such experiences. No matter how many times we say, “Leave me alone”, or show no interest, or put earphones in to block them out, they just don’t seem to accept that “No means NO”. This is rape culture, how a man can assume that each woman who passes by is fair game, how he can touch her intimately without knowing her or asking for permission to do so, how he can grope a woman in a public area because he knows no one will challenge him, how he can be amused by her anguish, how he  can forget her face and move on with his life while she panics each time she sees him… The list is too long.

Left: K Funk + right: Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

Their message is clear – our bodies belong to them, they are here for their pleasure. Because you know, I generally woke up wondering how I could please randoms. The idea that I love myself is beyond their understanding. I look good because I want to, not because I’m looking for validation. But looking good is besides the point, because even on a Frumpy Fred day, some dude thinks he can come up to me and try to be all up in my space. The clothes aren’t the problem. The attitude is.

The liver! It still shocks me shem. I mean, it shouldn’t, but every time something happens I’m like, “HOW is that an acceptable way to treat a human being?!” Like, there’s no logic to the messed up way that men insist on performing this masculinity schmasculinity.

But we will overcome.

Have you seen this video of men talking about ST? You’ll laugh. Shout out to Tiq for being the real MVP. We need more men like you. As for those men making this about them. I can’t even.

All of the SMH,

Dusty,

“When Black men are willing to do the work to challenge their own internalization of oppression and reject the dehumanization of Black women and themselves by proxy, they engage in a very radical self-love. […] Many Black men fear this because in their eyes, not dominating Black women means admitting to being weak. They have mistaken the utter weakness, destruction and oppression that patriarchy is and the fragile volatility of patriarchal masculinity for strength and courage. It is neither. It is an endless book of matches placed there by the hand of White supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Black men use them to set Black women on fire as they too die from smoke inhalation. My desire is for us to live and thrive, not to burn.”

–  Trudy/ Gradient Lair

The Quiet Violence of Words

I recently went through one of the most traumatic experiences of my life at the hands of a book. Yes, a book. I read it cover to cover reluctantly, only persisting because I was compelled to write an essay on it as a course requirement at the end of term. Before that words had always been wonderful things; always associated with catharsis, creativity, spirituality, relaxation and at the very least escape. Never did it occur to me that words could be vile things.

Duiker (1974-2005) is also the author of The Quiet Violence of Dreams. Source: http://www.randomstruik.co.za/

Enter the accused, that little book by K Sello Duiker, Thirteen Cents. The book is about a homeless boy, Azure, trying to survive on the streets of Cape Town. Each time I discussed the book with friends and peers, I would stress how depressing the book was: “EVERY moment is depressing,” I’d say, “and the moments that aren’t depressing are not less depressing because they are in and of themselves not depressing, but because they are less depressing than all the other depressing moments within the book.” Yes, you get it, the book was depressing.

When I read, I am at that moment held hostage by the words on that page, restricted to what the book describes, the world the book invites me into. As I read I must involve myself in the world of the book, partake of its experiences as though they were my own. It had never occurred to me that reading is, by that description, a violent experience only because my emotions are captive and at the mercy of the author’s pen. It’s a quiet violence because it’s a hostage experience I’ve entered into willingly.

Azure is a young, black male, and Duiker’s description of his experiences raises some compelling questions about identity, history, trauma and its effects on individuals and groups, the representation of violence and reality, and so on. My contention with the book was its graphic nature: Azure is molested, raped and abused physically and emotionally, and far from glossing over these facts, the reader is forced to experience his molestation step-by-step as Duiker takes us through each act in detail. It was difficult to read, to say the least. Because of this, the book alienated me, I recoiled from putting myself in the focaliser’s shoes, and so for the first time, I was repelled by words.

Thirteen Cents is not for the sensitive reader. Source: http://www.sashaarms.com/2010/11/thirteen-cents/

I am not sure if I was more disturbed by having to engage with such violent imagery or with the fact that there are young boys in Cape Town for whom such violence is part of their every day lived experience. I felt at once ashamed to be human in a world where other human beings perform such atrocities on other human beings, and at the same time I felt angered by my helplessness. At the least Duiker managed to get me thinking about the human condition from a new perspective.

On this, the first ‘birthday’ of theDustySoulDiary, I am able to look back on my growth as a writer, how blogging has helped me gain confidence in my craft, and how it has improved my skill. There’s still a lot of growth I need to experience as a writer, but I’ll get there. I am grateful, at the least, for the freedom to write without restriction, and for that I thank the great freedom writers whose words were penned by blood and pain for me and my country. My experience with Thirteen Cents has shown me anew the power of words, of literature… Viewed as a violent act, the power words have take on new meaning in that old adage: the pen is mightier than the sword, for although the wounds of a ‘sword’ may heal, words stay with you forever.

**To mark a year of blogging, DustySoul adds a category to the four theDiary already has: “Look”. As times goes by, the idea behind this new category will be more apparent. For now, happy Youth Day.

Yours,

DustySoul

“When writers die they become books.” – Jorge Luis Borges