Oppression’s Essential Guide to Nowhere: Poking Holes in the Roadmap to Success, Part 1

White business man giving a thumbs up in a classic depiction of dominant culture, photo by Sandra Dragojlovic
Dara Burwell, Coffee Shop

Dara Burwell

I am lectured by my internalized oppression: “A writer?  Fool. Do you honestly believe that what you have to say matters or carries any importance in the world?  That anyone will want to hear it?  You speck.  You nothing. The Universe doesn’t want you, arrogant Black girl.  Play with your writing circle- they will be kind to you.  Don’t even consider something so absurd as publishing.  It’s folly.”

I sit and listen.  The tapes play again and again in different forms.  They are ultimately shared tapes- echoed in the minds of millions of people around the world at this very moment.  Mass produced with the appearance of specificity- slight tweaks and variations to better capture each individual listener.  The most popular song in the world could never get half as many hits.  And the tapes block connection to myself.

I sit down and open The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, anyway.  It is one of my conscious efforts to poke at the internalized oppression, to try and unseat it.  Checking this book out, along with eight more like it, was another conscious effort.  A slow moving one because they have been sitting in my apartment, untouched, for the past four or five months as I have checked them out, been cut off from more renewals, put them on hold, checked them out again, and cycled on through.  Until today. Read More

Reflections of a Biracial Sellout.

Stamp mark reading "Sold Out", photo by Oxlock
Dara Burwell, Coffee Shop

Dara Burwell

I look into the eyes of my friend whose crisp gaze synthesizes many ways of knowing- beyond the limits of the physical world, reading into me soul-to-soul.  Does she know that this is a power she carries?  This woman seated within herself, sharpness coupled with deep gentleness and a voice softly spoken.  She tells me that she struggles with feelings of being a sellout.

A sellout?  I tilt my head to look at my magnificent friend.  The idea is so out of alignment that I don’t think it could have occurred to me.  If I hold my head this way, will some previously unknown aspects of her appear?  This intelligent, thoughtful, human, committed, knowing woman thinks of herself, in part, as a sellout?  Perhaps I would have understood better if she had declared herself to be made of marbles.

But I can certainly relate.  How many have held the same experience?

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Demystifying Monsters: A Piece of the Journey

Bare trees and blue sky reflecting on the surface of still water, photo by Luminouslens

A few weeks back, the women attending the Women of Color Writing Circle graciously agreed to workshop my blog piece “Forgiving” Men and Other Oppressors before I published the second part.  They were thoughtful and introspective, and one woman suggested that I elaborate on the section that refers to demystifying monsters in a future post.  I agree with her assessment, and immediately thought to refer back to the source that initiated that set of thoughts: Nicole Hurt.  I have asked Nicole to write about her perspective on permanently regarding the people who have harmed us as monsters.

Ultimately, I plan to further explore many aspects around healing- both through my own and other’s thinking- and wrote “Forgiving” Men and Other Oppressors as a beginning point for these contemplations.  Thank you, Nicole, for skillfully providing the aspect below: 

Couched in the syncopated rhythms
of habitually (re)enacted violence,
I glimpse snags in costumes
we have donned without thinking,
feel holes in the stitching
where skin shows through…

Nicole Headshot

Nicole Hurt

My father was the first perpetrator of violence in my life, my first monster.  And I wrote this poem as testament to a moment of shifting for me, a moment of claiming power for myself in an interaction that could have followed the same script, the same roles.  Where I was able to finally see him not as an all-powerful monster but as someone who had chosen, in his privilege and as a human being, to violently enact his own wounding on the women closest to him, the women over whom he wielded power. And where I was able, in that shifting moment and moving forward, to choose to act differently.  To step out of conflating my experiences of victimization with being defined, as a human being, by powerlessness, and in so doing, no longer allowing him his role as monster.

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