For the next eight days (including what’s left of today) I’m trying to focus on doing more work on self-advocacy and activism, especially about the things that are sometimes hardest to advocate for ourselves on but need our attention the most. I think translating self-love and self-worth into established, consistent patterns of self-advocacy is a difficult step for a lot of people–not the same for us all, as not everyone encounters the same kinds of institutionalized oppression as an additional obstacle in this process, but a lot of us could benefit from some work in this area. Or at least I know I could.
Anyway, as I I’m discussing this powerful, complex orisha, Oya, in the context of the spiritual work of becoming better self-advocates, I want to make sure it’s clear what her story is not. It is not an Angry Black Woman trope, not The Story of One Fierce Black Femme to Inspire Us All.
Just because Oya is fierce does not mean we are going to go and put her in any kind of box, and especially not a box marked by that particular brand of misogynoir.
And since yesterday I wrote about anger in connection with self-advocacy, fueling and inciting it, I also want to mention the importance of not putting ourselves/each other in boxes too. When I’m talking about rage, I am talking about what motivates me, not what we all necessarily need. Part of self-advocacy is giving ourselves space to feel how we feel when we feel it, rather than policing (or allowing others to police) our emotions.
Because the thing about Oya is her aché is, as I quoted previously, “fierce, tumultuous, changing and protective.” She is hard to read sometimes, and sometimes just…stormy. So why should we be ashamed, if we are stormy too? Or not particularly stormy, when others are fired up? There is nothing wrong with mystery, complexity, complication. It’s taken me some time to “warm up” to Oya. I’ve been guilty of not paying as much attention to her as others in my practice because of this storminess, because of the tragedy associated with her life. That’s a huge part of my motivation for wanting to spend some time focused on her these next several days, as this itadogun reading focuses on transformation, making right our wrongs. As she is both changing and change itself–for those of us who have experienced difficult changes, we can take from her inspiration to endure, we can take from her some inspiration to fight back.
I think it’s a good time for me personally to do so, too, since I’m no longer getting the “ugly” sads on the regular like I was–I think of them as more naked than ugly–intense, hard to look at in how raw and uninhibited they are–so I feel like I can confront some things I haven’t been ready to confront before this point.
Like I thought for a while I would never again feel unbroken again. Compare:
I can almost laugh at these now, which is awesome. I took them at the time because I wanted to remember, to remind myself
Big difference, right? I mean aside from not being in the middle of actively crying. I spent a lot of time in that state, those first pictures. I had lost a lot of hope–pretty much lost myself, really–and now I can really feel and see how much I have healed since then.
But if I were still that sad, if I just happened to get that sad a lot, would there not be room for me in the movement? Would I no longer be deserving of equity? And when we’re advocating for ourselves around issues like violence, can we not cut ourselves some slack for when we don’t feel real up to it?
Because the point is really that there is no right way to feel, doing the work of building self-advocacy, of activism. There are easier ways to feel, easier days than others, but for a lot of us it just isn’t realistic to wait to “feel like” doing the work.
Let’s work on ways to support each other better through the tumult, let’s stop stigmatizing folks for being too mad or not mad enough, and let’s actively engage with each other as the complex beings that we are, resisting the forces that would turn us into inaccurate caricatures of ourselves.