The Radical Brown “Damsel in Distress”

Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another. – Archbishop Desmond Tutu 

Dear Fellow Warrior,

Following the previous poem I posted a few weeks earlier, “I wrote a poem on 2020,”in this post I share that specific poem that I wrote in my head in 2020, and then on paper in 2021, and revised a bit in 2022. 🙂 I really don’t know if I am ready to share this with you now, or whether it has been properly translated to the page the way I envisioned in my head, but on Juneteenth, 2022, “Freedom Day,” I decided to suck it up, and get some courage to put this out. 

I like you to know that, it is in fact, intentionally provocative, so I would just recommend keeping an open mind about that. I am aware that the divisions we see politically in America today are connected to a strong level of contempt, disgust and resentment towards “the other.” This is a truly unfortunate and sad state of affairs.

Being someone with diverse and sometimes conflicting ‘identity intersections,’ never feeling a sense of belonging in any specific space, often finding myself in a constant state of cognitive dissonance, I have always felt in the margins. So there was always a need to tolerate the “different” purview, more prominent in the mainstream, and in some spaces, unfortunately, admittedly, hiding my own. But still, this allowed me to appreciate disagreement, and different viewpoints and perspectives.

But I would also feel that I can be heard too, especially in recent years, even if others did not share my perspective or understood where I was coming from. And from recent years, it was quite a disappointment to see a growing  intolerance toward different perspectives, including my own, which were not only evidence-based, but also grievances that I have literally experienced myself. So it is why I feel we are not heading in the right direction if we have to suppress our voices and experiences and authentic truths, and especially if the expression of such, impacts the “credibility” of our services and contributions, or creates retributions in our social/personal or professional networks. And it is indeed very difficult to embrace differences when it is connected to politics and when our politics are ultimately connected to legitimate grievances that affect not only ourselves but larger populations. But we must remain open to learning and understanding different perspectives. I don’t like to share specifics about my political preferences, or be political here in this space, but unfortunately politics are connected to matters of poverty, the human condition, and social justice, which is core to my identity and the intersectionality of which this blog was intended to embody.

I’d like to expand on this another time, and with reference to this powerful quote that I opened with on this post, from the great (late) Archbishop Desmond Tutu: 

Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another. – Archbishop Desmond Tutu 

So back to that poem. 🙂 I share this poem on Juneteenth because I wrote it at a crucial moment in global history and I feel it was liberating to write it, however amateur it may read, and it is difficult, but at the same time, liberating, to share it. While it attempts to explore multiple challenges for a woman to break through her barriers, it connects to that yearning for freedom, and that obligation and responsibility to keep fighting through the barriers, because some of us don’t have any other recourse, no choice but to keep pushing through them, and to speak up. While recognizing that this day, now an American National federal holiday, should be commemorated entirely for the recognition of the emancipation of African Americans, and their struggle … there are freedoms that many minorities, women, and people of color could not be celebrating in America today without such a struggle. It is heartbreaking and tragic to say this, but there is truth in it. As a human family, we celebrate this and acknowledge that the fight for racial, social, cultural, economic justice extends around the globe from America to Palestine, to India, China, Yemen, Ukraine, and the list goes on. And our own individual stories (which is what this poem manifests) are all a critical part of that collective narrative that extends to the human family. 

I’d love to hear what you think of this poem in the comment section below. Please do let me know when you read this, if you have any sentiments. If it a different lens than your own, I recommend using this as an exercise. I believe tolerance and mutual understanding is a learned skill that we must be more proactive in practicing, especially in today’s times. I would like for you to hear this poem from my voice at some point, as a spoken word piece, so you can sense the sincerity and perhaps even the pain in the words. Maybe I will do a video, and I’m going to see if I can go to an open-mic poetry night at Busboys or something, maybe not for Juneteenth today or tomorrow, but perhaps sometime before my upcoming birthday in July. 🙂

Thank you for reading and giving this piece a chance. I hope as we celebrate “freedom,” we work towards the Inward and Outward Revolution, that must come together for the necessary transformation, for a more peaceful, prosperous, equitable, and just world. 

*******

The Radical Brown “Damsel in Distress”

Coffee or Chai.

Wine or Water.

Education or Marriage.

Career or Children.

Red or Blue.

Two choices.

Always “two choices.”

 

Forced to choose between two

The “fork in the road”… such is the illusion.

Regardless of what she chooses,

She is merely an emblem of ‘the forgotten.’

Disguised…as a “Damsel in Distress,”…

And as a self-proclaimed “Qurbani ka Bakara,” … a sacrificial goat.

 

She gallantly walks into a room

Blinded by the blossoming white daisies…

Eyes roll … faces turn away.

Extra.

“Extra” is what the kids call it these days…yeah?

Her smile…. unwelcome.

Her grace…. unwelcome.

Her humor…. unwelcome.

Her wilderness… unwelcome.

Her complexity… unwelcome.

Her intellect… unwelcome.

Her merit … unwelcome.

Her singlehood…. unwelcome.

Her promiscuity… unwelcome.

Her celibacy… unwelcome.

Her expiring biological clock …. unwelcome.

Her softness and shyness… unwelcome.

Her loudness and boldness… unwelcome.

Her ambition… unwelcome.

Her religion…. unwelcome.

Her intersections…unwelcome.

Her determination, persistence, patience, tenacity…. Unwelcome.

Her courage and bravery… All Unwelcome.

 

“So exotic looking,” You tell her… as she approaches you…

She responds with her smile.

Her ….’exotic’ smile.

Her smile…. unwelcome.

Maybe it’s the clothes.

Too overtly ….what you say… “ethnic” or “cultural,”

(Even though she shops at Nordstrom Rack.)

Maybe it’s the shape of her eyes or her long nose.

Maybe it’s the basketball hoop earrings …too much bling.

Maybe it’s that diamond nose stud… too much bling.

All too much. Too “unprofessional.”

Too much.

Just… “Extra.”

 

And as you wait for the “correct” answer to your question, “Where are you from?”…

 

… She speaks.

She stutters.

Her stutter…. Amplified and Unwelcome.

She makes mistakes.

Her mistakes…. Amplified and Unwelcome.

She tries to change, in order to assuage your discomfort.

Her efforts toward evolution…. Unwelcome.

 

So you ask her… “what radicalized you?”

 

Her Brown-ness is insufficient to inform Revolution.

Starving minimum wage is insufficient to inform Revolution.

Not having healthcare is insufficient to inform Revolution.

Rising maternal mortality among her black and brown sisters is insufficient to inform Revolution.

Unequal pay is insufficient to inform Revolution.

Slaughter of innocent children in a classroom is insufficient to inform Revolution.

The violence against her gender is insufficient to inform Revolution.

Palestinian bloodshed is insufficient to inform Revolution.

Murdering and torturing her innocent black and brown brothers is insufficient to inform Revolution.

 

You punch her… in her crotch, as she pushes you off…

And she watches you take the spotlight, limping in the darkness with the rock clamped to her tongue.

She embraces her darkness and places the rope around her neck.

The agony of her dark side fuels her fight for her survival and for the greater good.

But you still ask her, ‘why are you so angry?’

‘Stop being angry.’

You chastise her.

You marginalize her.

You scrutinize her.

You ostracize her.

You make her the problem.

You lasso that very rope around her neck and fling it to the Ballot Box to choose…

Red or Blue.

Red or Blue.

Red or Blue.

And tell her…. that if she doesn’t make this “consequential” choice, she’s the monster.

She’s the alien.

She’s the reason for the collective grief and misery.

 

“What radicalized you?” …You keep asking….

As she screams “Allahuakbar!” …. Simply because she loves Allah.

I repeat: Simply because she loves Allah.

These screams emerge with every beat of her ‘condemned success’ and her ‘condemned failure.’

 

She gives you the receipts…

Over and over again.

You know the answer.

You don’t care for her answer…

…..

But she also has some questions:

…..

Where are you, …my dear Revolutionary?

What are you hiding from?

Why do you show up only when it’s convenient?

Reveal yourself…

The fight isn’t over.

The war has only begun.

 

Come out, my radical brown beauty

Put on your Jumkey…

And come…

Come out and play…

Revolution is here, has been here….my dear lassi …

And here it is, to stay.

*********

 

Thank you again for taking the time to read this!

It really means the world to me. 

 

Peace, Warmth, and Blessings, 

Your Sister, Dr. Elsa

Warrior KQueen

“She wasn’t looking for a Knight. She was looking for the Sword.” – Atticus

 

A painting for Juneteeth… hugged by a Palestinian Keffiyeh… 

May be art

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