“flights will cease
airlines can’t afford
to have planes with open seats”
panic. will i be stranded
an American abroad
i always knew i was born to be bearlike
but am i now barred from my birth grounds?
with each Black body slain
my country has rejected me
fetishized and dissected me
you are still my second mother
and i beg my adoptive mother to open
even tho i know her home is a burial ground
for my brothers
as if Black Death is a sacred rite
not a plague
and i’d rather die where my death is holy
than a land where people don’t know my name
so i bought a ticket
and was in chicago the next day
-from germany to the holy land
written by matthew charles
the last two years have worn long, exhaustive, and troubling as any apocalypse might. Yes, apocalypse. As defined by dictionary.com an apocalypse is “Any universal or widespread destruction or disaster.” Last year I was newlywed and my wife (a Canadian citizen) and I moved to the capital city of The Yukon, in the northernmost reaches of the continent, hoping to both duck the pandemic and give us space to recoup. To recover. I’d lost a lot in the year 2020. In addition to many relationships, and a job (because they were super duper racist), I’d lost a sense of self. The dual pandemics of COVID-19 and Racism stirred up a maelstrom in my life that I forreal almost did not survive. Like a candlewick burnt to its base, I neither had wick, nor reason to continue being alight. I find a deep poetic (in?)justice in this because last year I titled my debut poetry collection “You Can Not Burn The Sun” – it appears, glaringly, that I was not the sun because I was burnt the fuck out. In an as-of-yet unreleased Episode 2 of my podcast little did u know I tell Tiffany Hennes, my guest, that I was suffering from a nuclear burnout.
Like birds in migration I had a biological impulse that told me it was time to go. And so, I went. Fleeing like the disciples who were told by Jesus that upon rejection they were to kick the dust from their feet, as if to say, “from dust we come, and to dust you damn yourself; a relic- ruined by your refusal to accept Goodness when it came to you in body and speech.”
In October of 2021, a man shorter and rounder than I, a man who co-signed my displacement in 2020 came to me while I was in a group of friends. We were at a conference. He came with a smile and a “hey matthew” as if we were old friends. As if he’d forgotten that he’d made himself my enemy when he let and encouraged the org I’d slaved for over the course of 5 years to evict me from the housing they were providing me (in a county that had a moratorium on evictions because of COVID-19) all because I was telling them, in staff meetings, in the summer of 2020, how they were practicing systemic racism. What does love do in the face of it’s enemy? I thought to spit at his feet, so Dune-esque my invitation, “accept this gift of water you dead thing.”
As I learn more about the nuanced and manifaceted ways that adoption trauma can take hold in the lives, bodies, minds, and spirits of adopted persons- and this, all the more possibly gruesome when the adoption trauma is racialized as it is in the case of my and other transracial adoptees-I’m not surprised by my eviction and ejection from and by the ones who called me family. The other day I was working on a summary write up of book2 which is nearing completion, and Spirit guided my fingers to write this question, which I stumbled upon but now, can not forget, taken slightly out of context, “-examining intrafamilial violences that Black Bodies navigate when brought in to White families as objects of desire. What are the limits of desire that White Bodies have when it comes to the Black Body and Life?”
What are the limits of desire?
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor titled her 2016 book “From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation”. Many White bodies are made uncomfortable by a hashtag, and they find entirely unfathomable Black Liberation. What they want for Black Bodies is the kind of Freedom® that is patented by America and offered as subjugation and relegation to second class citizenry for all Black Bodies be they born on Turtle Island, or Immigrants to it. This is evidenced by the rising wave and staunch opposition to Critical Race Theory that we’ve seen in America this last year. Most of CRT’s opponents don’t even know what CRT is, but they know what they’d found: a convenient dogwhistle. What they say is they don’t want CRT taught in schools, what they mean is they don’t want Americans to be critical of race. What does it mean to be uncritical of race in a nation state whose impetus for inception is the Doctrine of Discovery (https://doctrineofdiscovery.org/what-is-the-doctrine-of-discovery/) which racializes all non-white non Christians as savage and therefor unworthy of Sovereignty- our Bodies and ways of life worthy only of erasure ,subjugation, slavery, and theft for the sake of establishing global unified Christian Imperial domination?
This brings us back to the more recent past, again. October, 2021. I’m at a conference called ENAG. The Eastern North American Gathering. Here is where the Eastern NA branches of the org I worked for are gathering. One day a seminar is lead by the very man who executively decided to evict me. His seminar is called “Biblical Justice”. He doesn’t talk much. This elder White man speaks for about 5 minutes, and then pushes play on a 1 hour talk given by Voddie Baucham (he’s the Black male candace owens). Voddie’s talk centers on how “social justice” isn’t biblical. He condemns intersectionality, CRT, BLM, marxist analysis, and many other things. At one point in Voddie’s talk he exclaims, “people call me a coon! and a house nigger! but I don’t care!”
These words are denouncements that the Black community levies against each other when we feel a Black Body is more allegiant to the projects of Whiteness than to the freedom of Black Bodies, Minds, and Spirits. Of course this racist elder White man picks a self acknowledged house nigger to represent him. If you’re going to have a Black person speak, let it be someone who knows, and is proud that they’ve betrayed their people. In for a penny, in for a pound, as they say. When the talk finished the old man ended by saying, “if you want to learn more things like this, we’re starting a School of Biblical Worldview, you can sign up at the table next to me.” 3/4 of the room got up and signed up. Left behind were most of the Black bodies in the room. By this point, I’d already decided to leave. The organization as a whole. The day before, actually. See, I’d left the Madison branch, but a year later I found myself flirting with joining a branch in Baltimore. The joining lasted all of one month. I had went to this seminar, run by a past abuser of mine not because I wanted to learn from him, or I was interested in anything that he might say in a seminar titled “Biblical Justice.”
No, I wanted to look my abuser in the face and for them to know they hadn’t destroyed me, or silenced me, as they’d hoped to. I went, for myself, as resistance.
Alicia Elliot writes in A Mind Spread Out On The Ground, “When I advocate for my right to forget about my (sexual) assault, I’m advocating for the same right my assaulter has been given. I’m advocating for people to believe me with the same blind faith that people believed my assaulter. I’m advocating for the right to move on with my life, the same way my assaulter gets to move on with his.”
I can not forget. But, I must move on.
A couple weeks later I would sit in a coffee shop with the leader of the Baltimore branch and tell her that I couldn’t do this anymore. She looked me in the eyes and understood. She proceeded to tell me a vision she had that she’d shared with national leadership of the org after she had heard the old racist white man’s seminar. “An alleyway abortion”, she said, “is what we do to our Black members.” I tried to conceal my visceral bodily reaction to this grotesque and true vision. For all their talk of being Pro-Life they are awfully comfortable with Black Death.
parable of the plague
“flights will cease