By Niki Esko

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By Niki Esko

Women of Color
Conference 2009

February 14, 2009 • MLK Student Union • UC Berkeley

revolutionary love:
from "me" to "we"

redefining intimacy and activism

The EWOCC is one of the longest running, and some would say one of the most radical, events that provides a space for those involved in the community, and/including teachers and students. Previous conferences addressed decolonization of creativity (or art as the expression of woman's life and identity), physical and spiritual health, and other subjects pertaining to the self, sisterhood, and community. This conference will urge women "to embrace voice, knowledge, music, dance and art dedicated to revolutionary love." The explicit message and significance of this all-day event cannot be stressed enough: the examination and celebration of the self is necessary for true activism to push the boundaries that keep revolution at bay.

This conference focuses on
"self-love, from which we connect mind, body and spirit, and discover ourselves. From a place of self-knowledge, we are able to extend ourselves to progressively more inclusive spheres beginning with friends, parents, romantic partners, children, and broadening to community, and the nation." If we cannot embrace this knowledge, then we (both women & men) cannot embrace the needs of others, cannot fully comprehend the larger societal diseases.

artwork by Swoon

I recently came to the understanding that the ways in which I was attempting romantic love were not progressive, were not healthy, and therefore not productive. Selfish, frightened, angry, jealous, and insecure love is b[l]inding. I realized that this stemmed from a false self-love or at least a skewed picture of my own self-love. If I could not intimately love myself or a partner then how was this damaging and limiting what I gave to the resistance? My energy was spent on pain instead of healing, on worry instead of trust. If I could not heal myself, how could I hope to be a part of healing my community? I couldn't. The two are inseparable because the spirit of a community, or bayanihan, is composed of each of its members. I am still struggling. A conference that addresses such an issue, for women of color specifically, is necessary for our continued advancement as women of color.

We must see
"love as a healing process that inspires personal growth and resistance to oppression, exposing and exploring the ways in which institutions shape our perception of love. We challenge resistance and activism to begin inwardly, evolving our own reality and then progressing outward as we confront the intersections of poverty, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, militarism and imperialism."

I hope that the women who read this try to make it out to this event. Even if you live far, you will not regret building with other strong women of color. Here is a little more incentive for you: the keynote speaker is Cherrie Moraga (see past blog entry for a teaser if you aren't familiar with her work).

Click here for registration info & here for the press release

It is hard to write about love when there is blood in the streets. It is hard to fight in the streets when there is blood pouring from our hearts.

Trinidad & Roberto

By Niki Esko

They didn’t want to hold you.

They felt too attached. Too dirty with poverty.

A fishnet was my first crib.

Its ends attached to the corners

Of our one room shack. Torn fibers hung

Low and dusted the grainy floor

Lightly scraping

Against the wooden planks—shk, shk, shk

My first lullaby.

Born beside the roar of a waterfall

That poured into the ocean

During the rainy season,

When the fish could not be caught,

My lungs filled with the despair of a barren sea,

Then collapsed like old boats beneath the falling water.

Until this day, my tears taste like the tropical salts

Of our front yard.

Two small graves rested behind some banana trees

Between our plot and the neighbor’s.

My brother and sister’s bodies nurtured the green-black fruit

And the trees’ broad leaves sheltered my parents

As my new parents walked away with me

In their clean arms to a sparkling new shore

Thousands of miles

And a thousand cries


From the heat

And suffocation

Of begging fists.


By Niki Esko

Kamusta Folks,

I have been on a short hiatus due to a crazy Fall 08 school semester and 2nd Trimester (si, I am with child! An energetic, kicking, and punching child!). Fortunately, I am on a relatively long break from school. This has allowed me to spend a good amount of time with pamilya and other loved ones, my writing, and books. Although I do not have an interview post ready for yall tonight, I do have some quotes and excerpts from a few of my new favorite/treasured books (&, as with all my posts, please read in such a way that your throat and lips vibrate. Ahem, i.e., aloud):

from Woman At Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi,

"It seemed to me as though I reached out in the dark and took her hand, or that she reached out in the dark and took my hand. The sudden contact made my body shiver with a pain so deep that it was almost like pleasure, or a pleasure so deep that it bordered on pain. It was a remote pleasure, buried in such far away depths that it seemed to have arisen a very long time ago, longer than the length of memory, older than the remembered years of life's journey. Something no sooner remembered than forgotten, as if it has happened just once before, only to be lost for all time, or as though it had never happened at all."-- p. 33
"Revolutionary men with principles were not really different from the rest. They used their cleverness to get, in return for principles, what other men buy with their money. Revolution for them is like sex for us. Something to be abused. Something to be sold."-- p. 88

from Love Works, by Janice Mirikitani,

"Circus acrobats walked
in mid air, a miracle of balance and grace.
flying and catching without a trace
of fear
with only what seemed a thread
they hung onto life
as they swung
over the teeth of tigers.
I would be frightened to fly,
in fact, couldn't try
with my words in a sky
of shhhhhh
don't tell
don't cry."
-- first poem written in grammar school, p. 16

"You bring out the BE in me,
the boundless in me:
blissful healing of trade winds
billowing waterfalls of hair
belts of kukui leaves
beloved hula of our arms
blessings of my grandmother's journey
the blood of her hands in this black coffee soil,
brave generations breaking chains of greed."
-- from 'You Bring Out the "B" in Me,' pp. 86-89

from Amar En Los Anos De Guerra (Loving in the War Years), by Cherrie Moraga



My lover and I are in a prison camp together.
We are in love in wartime.

A young soldier working as a guard has befriended us.
We ask him honestly-- the truth-- are we going to die?

He answers, yes, it's almost certain. I contemplate escaping. Ask him to help us. He blanches. That is impossible, he says. I regret asking him, fearing recriminations.

I see the forest through the fence on my right. I think, the place between the trees-- I could burrow through there-- toward freedom? Two of us would surely be spotted. One of us has a slim chance. I think of leaving my lover, imprisoned. But immediately I understand that we me must, at all costs, remain with each other. Even unto death. That it is our being together that makes the pain, even our dying, human.

Loving in the war years."-- p. i

"In this country, lesbianism is a poverty-- as is being brown, as is being a woman, as is being just plain poor. The danger lies in ranking the oppressions. The danger lies in failing to acknowledge the specificity of the oppression. The danger lies in attempting to deal with oppression purely from a theoretical base. Without an emotional, heartfelt grappling with the source of our own oppression, without naming the enemy within ourselves and outside of us, no authentic, non-hierarchical connection among oppressed groups can take place."-- pp. 52-53

These are all words created and put forth by strong womyn of color. Each writes with unmatched passion that takes on a thirsty search for freedom using self-examination and the stories of others. The intensity of each book will leave you wanting more; and from there, I hope you search inward and exhale what you find into the world, in long, liberating breaths.

& I will leave you with the words of J-Mirikitani, in hopes that readers of this blog will soon search vehemently for a pen and a piece of paper:

"I believe the poet has a responsibility to warn of dangers to our spirit... If poetry connects and humanizes and restores our souls, the power of our words must be written across the chalkboards of schools, the pages of history and literature, and the electronic pages of the future... If the power of the word raises us from the slumber of complacency and warns of the powerful hatred perpetrated against people who are labeled as "different"; and if it awakens our passion for justice, we must read and write as if our lives depended upon it. "-- excerpt from the Inaugural Address 'The Power of Poetry,' pp. 14-16

[if you are thinking of purchasing these books, please check your local bookstores or instead of using Amazon or Borders or other pure evils. Salamat!]