Tag Archives: race

Is it okay to pray for Trump to be removed from the White House?

Seriously.

This is a question that has been heavy on my mind. Stops me in my morning prayers when I get to the part about the concentration camps, the broken families at the border who are enduring an atrocity that so many privileged white people of this country have no fear of EVER trying to survive through.

I pray for the children to have strength to survive. Survive more. These kids came many  many miles running from violence and death already and are now living in cages, in cells, in hell. I ask the Great Spirit to be with them and bless them with strength. And yes, I do feel how weak that is.  I question how much my prayers are really worth.  Like when we send “thoughts and prayers” to victims as if that’s a means to help mend and heal, to create change. But in my defense, in my state of tearful prayers every morning, that’s all I can do in that moment.

Then I pray from them and their families, for them to survive this wound that has been caused by the heinous bigotry of Trump, his minions and those who march in line with his hateful beliefs about immigrants, about brown and black folk.

I counter my state of soulful sadness, my deep burning anger with a call to action, praying for those in power to make the changes to stop this. For those with ANY power to to stop this. From the voter, the protester, the advocate, the lawyers, those who can afford to donate, those who put their lives on the line going to border; I pray for those who are creating and igniting political careers to make change. I pray for each of us to do what we can to stop this. To end this genocide (because you know, this country has committed too many of them in our history and our grounds are soaked with so much blood I fear we won’t survive the lifetimes it’s going to take to heal).

I am not optimistic in my prayers and am grateful that the Great Spirit brings me a little comfort in my state of sadness and desperation.

At this point in my prayers is where I stop. Where my next thought is to pray for his removal from the White House. I hesitate because I want to leave it wide open to what that means. Impeachment. Losing in 2020. But then my mind goes farther and I get choked up.  Is it okay for me to pray for this removal? For the images of storming the White House, figuratively and…dare I say literally to pop up in my mind in the midst of a prayer? I don’t pray for his physical harm but…  I admit there’s a but here that makes me ask this question; Is it okay to pray like this?

I believe in forgiveness and compassion. I want to be kinder. But… men like him don’t deserve my efforts. The evil he possesses along with the power that he has…(HOW COULD ANYONE VOTE FOR THIS?? HOW?) his rally cry for hate, for bigotry, for an eradication of brown people which is the grand plan…add that all up and THAT makes it okay for me to pray for his removal! Right?

I have a novel I’m working on called Stands Alone about a Mixed Blood cop who with the help of her ancestors takes on a white supremacist who starts a race war.  The bad guy, Father Raimond, has an eradication plan that means he sends his ‘family’ members out into the city to kill brown folk.  He calls himself “The Chosen”  (yeah, I’ve been working on this for a couple years so image the chill from the news last week of Trump calling himself “chosen”)  My cop, Tanner Stands Alone, is half Indigenous and half Black, and the warrior women who live in her blood are fierce AF! And the battles are strong.  The cost and the devastation is immense.  Sadly, true to life.

I’m sure that this story along with other ones I got brewing are influencing my prayers or is it the other way around?

Stands Alone is gritty and violent. It’s a war.

What is happening in our country is gritty. And violent.  It’s a war, too.

So, it must be okay for me to pray what I do? Right?

Hell, yeah.

The Vulnerability of Being Brown – Part 1

I wrote this essay months ago. After the words and thoughts got too loud rolling around in my head.  I think I’ve been waiting to see if things change, if my thoughts shift.  But I’m in a process of working on my novel, Stands Alone. Doing another line by line revision.  (This is to cut 16,000 words to get my debut novel under 100,000, which is another post or more for later).

This morning, though, I’ve decided that there is so much to unpack about vulnerability of being brown, I need to open up this up.  And where else can I do that?  In addition to therapy. Lol.

Maybe it’s the incredible work of current books and TV shows and movies that are prompting me to share my thoughts.  (GO TO NETFLIX AND WATCH WHEN THEY SEE US- NOW!) Maybe this is just time. My time.

I will continue to write more on the subject. But I’m also hoping to hear from others who get this. Who understand what this feels like. Who want to change things for people of color which…get this… is good for all people. See how that works?

Here we go. Part 1:

The Vulnerability of Being Brown – Part 1

I never contemplated vulnerability until Brene Brown’s research and books turned me on to the topic. I remember feeling alive and empowered when I understood more about what it meant to live a whole-hearted life. To be my best authentic self.

Whenever I think about vulnerability I think about resiliency, too. They’re not opposites but I think you may need one to have the other. I learned of resiliency years ago and it shook me wide open. I was in school for my BA in Liberal Studies. My emphasis was on families. I was a child advocate. While studying about how some children ‘make it’ and for others, their struggles overcome them, which I know is a very simple way of breaking this down and in no way is it simple for children born in or living with adversity, the term popped up right off the page. My thoughts didn’t travel to future children’s programs I hoped to create but to myself. My siblings. Our childhood and what we had in our lives that made us resilient. Made us survive.

Coming to an understanding about vulnerability was the same way. I went from reading ‘women’ as a whole to focus on myself. Of course, we all do this. We encounter new concepts that turn on and turn up lights bringing understanding to something about ourselves that we might not even know needed the light. I embraced the term vulnerability just like I did with resiliency. Collected these terms and my understanding of them like weapons and set out on my way.

Lately, though, I can’t get past how difficult it is to be authentic because I am always vulnerable. I don’t get to determine how much. I don’t get a break from it unless I’m home, with the news off and away from social media.

I’m a brown woman living in this country. I’m Mixed. Indigenous and Black. And I can’t hide it. And I don’t want to but yet; I am so damn tired from the weight of the target that being brown carries.

I live in a world where random acts of violence against people of color are no longer so random, where brown men, women and children are targeted, or hunted. However it happens, the man in the white house who bullies, taunts and spews hateful racism, and applauds the minions who carry out his work, sanctions these crimes. He seems so very comfortable in his power to rein havoc, pain and even death on people of color. Sure, he’s at a distance and protected right now but the white person fueled by his words and actions, who is living in fear of losing something, anything, everything to a person of color, will attack. Has attacked.

Being a woman who looks like me is to live in a state of constant vulnerability. I am confused, sad and pissed because I want to be my full ‘give zero F*#ks’ all natural fierce AF badass brown woman. I want to always be okay in my skin with these curls and this body. I want to walk with pride and purpose. And yet, I’m the woman who makes ‘kind eyes’ at people in the stores. I’m the one who makes sure I make no sudden moves around white shoppers and say ‘sorry’ when they bump me. I’m the one who is vigilant about giving space to white people and making sure they’re comfortable with me. I do all that to create armor around my vulnerability. Which also feels futile because I can’t hide my brownness. Or pretend I’m something other than what they see. And that’s what makes me a target.

Too many times, because once was too much, brown women, men, and children are attacked and killed for no other reason than being brown and perceived to be a threat, because of that brownness. And instead of dealing with their misplaced fear, those with power and privilege to harm use it to do so. To kill.

And yes, there are efforts and activists doing incredibly hard work but will that keep me safe today?

I think about these women like me when I venture from my home. My thoughts run a bit wild, wondering who’s scared, who’s running, who’s being attacked right now, and just what am I going to do if it’s me in the next moments. I know, though, that if I let myself stay in those fearful thoughts, I wouldn’t leave my home at all. Ever. So there is a part of me that overcomes this. For bits of time. That’s how I make to Target, the grocery story or the post office. That’s how I get to the movies. Or out for lunch.

But it’s exhausting. To be hyper vigilant. To carry the pain of other brown women, my sisters, my aunties and grandmothers. It’s often crushing to be in this battle. To just exist. And yet, I do.

Stacey Parshall Jensen is a Mandan, Hidatsa and African-American writer, storyteller and filmmaker in Los Angeles by way of Minnesota.

 

Hitting send on the query…

It’s hard to believe that what started as an image I couldn’t shake would become this novel years later. Become STANDS ALONE.

They were feet. What I saw. What I felt were feet running. It was night and the ground was a tough terrain but these feet knew how to move over it. Through it. With it. They were women’s feet. Black women’s feet.

I didn’t who they belonged to, where they were running to or who they were running from, but they were running swiftly.

Then I had an image of tall prairie grasses that sway and dance in the wind. Walking through them, tenderly touching the wild flowers was a woman. Then she ran. She had long black hair flying out behind her.

These images stuck with me until I discovered my main character. Tanner Stands Alone. A Minneapolis detective. Half Black, half Native with warrior women for ancestors. And they rise from her body to fight a white supremacist who starts a race war.

As more images and scenes filled in the blanks, ya know the ones, in-between present and somewhere out there, where my imagination brews, I felt something stronger with this story. Something larger.

I sketched out a pilot for it and wrote it summer of 2017. It was okay. Just barely okay. But the story was big.  I hired the brilliant Jessica Blank to read it to help with some development. As we discussed it, she asked if I ever thought of writing the novel. This question made me look at the story in a different way. An even larger but glorious way. At the same time, I was itching to write a novel. I had some chapters of a different story. I had begun to work that prose writing muscle again but whenN November arrived, I did NaNoWriMo and started with a blank page, writing STANDS ALONE the novel.

So many drafts later, I’m here now. I have the query letter, the synopsis and the database.

I woke at 4 am with visions in my head of typing up the emails, of cutting and pasting in the pages, of hitting send. I got up and got ready. Which means I spent some time on Facebook. I played with a different TV project. I cleaned the bathrooms. I pulled weeds in my front lawn. I baked bread. I showered and made myself presentable…for…my computer??  I put on my power Parshall, N.D. t-shirt. (Yes, I’m related to the Parshalls the small town on the Rez is named after). I put on my power turquoise and some 80’s music (Blondie, The Cars, Madonna), lit some sage and a candle for my mom because I really want to call her and tell her what I’m doing with this story. With this novel. And I want to hear her voice tell me how excited she is for me. I want hear her wish me luck. So I’m gonna take a couple quiet minutes to hear her spirit say that. And then…here we go.

Creating a White Supremacist Character

If there’s at least a tiny part of ourselves in every character we create, then what does that mean when it comes to creating bad guys? To creating the narcissist? The evil? To creating the one who wrecks havoc and tears through whatever and whoever is in their path?

Of course, writing to the humanity of these characters is the goal. That’s what gives them flesh. Finding their underbelly, exposing it, and then healing is a goal. Maybe. Destroying them? That’s a righteous goal, too.

I’m thinking about this as I prepare to go back into my novel. It’s been with beta readers and now I’m ready to enter this world again, which means I have to pull up a chair at the table headed up by a white supremacist. Of all my characters, my bad guys, and there’s plenty of them; I write crime suspense so my bad guys do heinous things, creating Raimond Davies has been the toughest.

In Stands Alone, my novel about a Mixed Blood cop who takes on a white supremacist, their ancestors are the soldiers in this war. Which means I wrote their histories, too. I know who Raimond’s father was and what he did to him. I know who his grandma was and how filthy and mean she was. I know who Raimond was as a small boy at the mercy of the adults in his life and how that set him on a course of hatred.

I think that in the many hours I’ve spent with this story, and the many more to come, my own ancestors settle on the loveseat in my office. Native men and women who fought the destructive forces of white men for their families and their tribes. African women who endured unimaginable atrocities and yet never stopped fighting for their freedom. They keep the sage burning, the drums pounding as they wrap their arms around me, whispering that this is the story that I need to tell. That only I can tell. They say it’s okay. That I’m safe from the horror on the page, from the horror in my imagination. They tell me I’m honoring the fight. Their fight.

My fight.

But damn.

Too pissed to write…

I just may be. Yes, I’m writing this to get some of these feelings, these big emotions out, but I’m well aware of how I can’t actually get to the page to write creatively. To work on the stories, give voice to the characters I’ve committed to but now I have to ask them to wait. Stand by.

I’m pissed. Life can be truly shitty. For so many of us. For so many.  For the people who are oppressed, those hated because of gender, race, religion and who they love.  I’m pissed for those who fear the world outside their windows and those who fear the monsters in their homes. I am pissed that this country is a shit storm of powerful men exerting their hate on others through legislature or lack thereof.

I’m pissed that the ebb and flow of feeling helpless and rising to the fight is thrashing my poor mind and body around so much so, I’m close to losing my way on the waves.

I’m pissed that the emotion of anger has its root in fear and pain. And that maybe I’m pissed first because I can’t bare to feel the pain down below the surface of my brown skin and I know that’s a false belief because I can still feel it. Saying it isn’t so isn’t truth.

I’m pissed that grief is a mutherfucker. I’m pissed that my mother is dead. And my dear friend died this week. And children are scared. And women are crying. And I can’t eat chocolate the way my heart craves because my full and ill body system is exhausted from just trying to carry me through the day, through the dark times.

I’m pissed that my anger is keeping me from the page because real life is raging so much louder than their stories and try as I might, I can’t find my way out of this world into the other.

I’m pissed that I’m still pissed. And feel like I have been for years. For centuries.