What happens when two Black queer women sell all their possessions, quit their cozy careers, and decide to drive across the country in an RV?! Find out in ELIXHER’s new column, QTWoC Chronicles, where Tabia and Mimie Lisenbee-Parker of Purpose.Driven.Love. document their physical, emotional and spiritual journey. Get an intimate look into their lives and lessons around love and intentionality.
By Mimie Lisenbee-Parker
I set my clock back this season with a grin. This summer lingered sweetly, then vanished overnight. One particular morning I poured my coffee and stumbled into a sudden shock of cold and the first glimpses of light. I like the slower pace of fall and winter, the invitation into hibernation, reflection, and transformation.
This day was like many others: hallways full of noisy, competing conversations, and tardy, straggling teenagers entering my first period English class. One of my freshmen, I’ll call him Andre, alternates between slinking in and napping or causing a loud, consistent distraction. A few days before this one, Andre was singing profane song lyrics during the lesson. When I pulled him aside he insisted that I put him out.
“Send me to the principal,” he begged. “Send me home.” He puffed up his cheeks and furrowed his brow in an effort to convince me that he was an enemy of our classroom.
“You belong here,” I assured him. Although his behavior was unacceptable, he was not his behavior. He was a valuable member of our class, and I expected him to attend and participate. He seemed surprised and sat quietly for the rest of the period.
“What could be more radical than to celebrate our lives in a system that is literally killing us?”
On this day, however, Andre was in the back of the room with his head down on the desk. When I approached him, I discovered that he was weeping. He sobbed but would not speak. He nodded when I asked him if the trouble was outside of school.
I was visited throughout that day by a coach, the guidance counselor, and another subject area teacher about Andre’s emotional state. Each conversation encouraged me further that our school community would not let Andre slip through the cracks. Lately, Andre still pushes the boundaries, but he has not stopped coming to school. And he does not seem to feel the need to puff up in front of me anymore.
Working with students like Andre who are struggling with disconnection, heartache, apathy, hopelessness, and rage connects me with a deep sense of purpose. I know who I am when I am being a person with people. When I am teaching teenagers poetry or writing or literature I am really giving them the tools to express their thoughts and feelings clearly—to tell their stories and to understand that they are not alone.
Andre, like Mike Brown, like so many black and brown children, are met with the message that their lives are not as valuable as others’. And along with the crispness in the air this season, I am hearing the question, “Who is going to love us? Who will lead us? Who will save us? Who will honor us?” I am urging that we fall back to those anchoring principles, those grounding values that still live in our rich, black roots: We are the ones we are waiting for. We are the ones who will love us. We are the ones who will save our souls.
I want us to fall back on each other, to rise up in our own communities, to protect each other, to raise our children, to build our businesses, to empower and lead and pray and bring health and healing to our families. It is up to us to create the change that we desire because no one is going to do it for us.
This holiday season is turning out to be a time of great social unrest. I have one senior class; they are better able to articulate their yearnings than most of my freshmen. They ask me, “Do you think things can ever be different?” and “What do you think we need to make change?” Today, I am thinking: imagination.
My favorite writer, Anne Lamott, says, “…imagination is from God. It is part of the way we understand the world. I think it’s okay to imagine God and grace the best you can. Some of the stuff we imagine engages and connects and calls for the very best in us to come out. Other imaginings disengage us, and shut us down. My understanding is that you get to choose which of your thoughts to go with.”
What if, even in our rage and exhaustion, we could begin to imagine our children safe in their homes and neighborhoods and youth like Andre emotionally supported and thriving? If every experience of reality originates as a thought, I am calling for an intentional resurgence of imagination as an early step toward revolutionary transformation.
Oh, and also making love. The truth is, staying in the struggle is beautiful and hard and draining. We need to create soft places for our giant, stretching hearts to land. Healers must tend to our wounds, and it is so much nicer when we can turn to each other for medicine. Sustainability lies in the laughter of ladies’ night, in the relaxation of wine on the couch with a friend, in venting and crying to a beloved confidante, in doing your best dance moves with no one watching but the dog.
For me, falling back means relishing in all the ways we make love. I believe it is a radical and a revolutionary act to make love. In a system that never meant for us to survive, slow dancing with my wife in our kitchen, whispering sweetness and encouragement, witnessing and affirming each other’s beauty, connecting with our bodies, working to listen and understand each other is revolutionary.
I am seeking to show gentleness and compassion in my home, seeking to show my partner that her Blackness, her womaness, her queerness, her masculinity are seen and honored and accepted. I’m seeing the magic in her and knowing that it is a reflection of myself. In the face of all the ways the world seeks to do us harm, we seek to show each other kindness. What could be more radical than to celebrate our lives in a system that is literally killing us? We make love to offer thanks. We make love to bask in our humanity. We make love to feed ourselves. We make love to get free. We make love to change the world.
These winter days are cooler and shorter, but I feel grateful for nature’s reminder to rest in the evenings and the extra shafts of light on the way to do my good, hard work.
Purpose.Driven.Love. is a personal movement designed around living ON purpose and loving intentionally. Follow Tabia and Mimie as they embark on an epic adventure across North America to discover a life filled with more of less. Follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PurposeDrvnLv and on Twitter @PurposeDrvnLv.
*Photos Courtesy of Tabia Lisenbee-Parker