a brown man’s environmental study

sunday evening, march 1, 2009.

the window i look out of is lightly tinted,
along highway 895,
riding north on a commercial bus,
from washington dc to new york city.
i was in ‘dc’ to attend a conference on,
climate change,
‘global warming’,
‘global chaos’,
‘this generation’s challenge’.
i return to new york with a wealth of knowledge,
about our adapting climate,
and a sense of the urgency these changes have-
on working class and poor communities-
brown, black communities,
first nation peoples communities,
and an understanding about these communities in particular,
as environments targeted by fuel burning,
money making,
governmental endorsed agencies.
i return to new york-
clear that this ‘generation’s challenge’,
is code for the dangers the privileged of this land are in,
clear that in addition to the economic and social injustices
people of color,
we, the land tillers,
have endured for more than half a millennium-
of colonization,
we have paid the price for the violence enacted upon our environment,
by those with wealth who carelessly consume resources –
and intoxicate our earth.
‘this generations challenge’,
still does not hold the privileged self or a privileged people accountable.

i return to new york,
inspired to continue questioning-
and educating-
those who are affected most,
about the issues that create,
living conditions on the edge of demise-
physical, mental, emotional.
and i am reminded of my own articulated struggles,
the nursing and health i find when i am able to sit and write,
mark my place on the world.

i am reminded of a performance piece i worked on in 2008.
i haven’t had the opportunity to share it with many people,
and i invite you to continue reading.
below is an excerpt from the introduction.
i welcome your thoughts, questions, and offerings…

looking out a window,
to the future and working to make that possible;
a snow storm is expected-
this first night of march,
i hope it doesn’t hold me back…

excerpt:

I stand here at a crossroads in my life.
I entered graduate school and began questioning:
“am I living in the post-identity?”
As an undergraduate student, I first struggled and then fought to articulate a voice of difference that challenged the dominance of normative expression and values: heteronormatives, racial normatives, economic normatives, linguistic normatives, and intellectual normatives.
This fight initiated a furious examination of my self, my body, and my ideas.
After deep soul searching I recognized,
maybe it isn’t me?
After entertaining that thought
I examined the people who conform to the institution that maintains
the oppression of difference.
With this offering,
I invite you to reflect on the ways in which you participate in that conformity,
in those oppressive practices,
to celebrate the ways in which you resist those practices.
I challenge you to do more.

I am at the gate of the academy,
crossing another border.
I am under surveillance,
I am being asked to show them mí pasaporte,
the whiteness that should have been instilled in me by now
that allows me to pass,
on to the other side.
Pero soy mojado.
I got this far crossing through the rio Bravo,
from the streets of the Chi to the academy.
This Chicano body is a match striking against the surface,
through resistance,
I become fire,
I throw myself in the river to cool off,
and i float with the river current,
de costa a costa,
not cutting through el rio como el gringo has tried to convince me to do.

When I was younger I thought Chicano was a word that married Chicago and Mexicans.
It is.
The movement prophesized our arrival.
Claiming territory,
their territory,
just as they colonized our territory.
The 1.5 million Mexicans living in Chicago is no coincidence.
We migrate far north and settle in lands that were never/
have always been
our own-
to reclaim the territory stolen from our first nation brothers and sisters.
We impregnate the land con nuestra raza,
convert commercial spaces in to botanicas,
spiritual warehouses where one finds the tools to practice our indigenous and African religions.
We replace their God with ours,
and mount Nuestra Madre,
Coatlicue,
Tonantzin,
Guadalupe
on the altars of their temples.
We convert their schools into fortresses of resistance,
sites where the reproduction of their culture is disrupted and transformed into something new.
What does our resistance generate?!
Many of us work within these sites of new beginnings and resistance to contribute to the formation of a critical resistance,
critical cultures,
cultures in movement,
cultures that have arrived,
culturas informadas por la facultad de cada uno de nosotros.
Our bodies enter the confines of their movement towards spiritual sterilization,
the institutions of education en el America,
and we respond viscerally to the sting,
a chemical and soulful reaction.
We stare them in the face and in ours they see reflected the failures of their technologies,
y durante todos estos intercambios,
buscamos a la America.

My body, with the river,
sails along and through the land,
con la gracia de nuestra madre yemaya-
movement without ever touching the land you stole from me.
The earth facing the sun is burning.
Once the feathered serpent on land and in the sky,
I am now a scaled coyote, submerged in water.
I, the river dweller, make my way through the land without ever getting burned.
I know your landscape well,
better than you know yourself,
because you can’t see yourself.
I leave a trail for others to follow.
Under water, we can’t be seen.

I am at a crossroads in my life,
never really here,
never, really, will I ever be,
there.
i search for the rifts in your anatomy to fill with water.
To lubricate the incrustations,
the calluses of your feudal system that stifles the germination of a world
that loves itself.
once the dry earth,
you will be the fluid river for me to move through.

This performance is about corporal movement.
The movement of brown queer bodies.
The movement of this brown queer body,
as it documents the movement of other brown queer bodies,
in this country,
in these institutions,
or absent from these institutions.

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