Day 13: June 30 (Terna)
Please forgive the gap! I have been sick with a cold the last couple of days. I haven’t had a cold in 2 years, so it feels familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. I joke and say that I am no longer used to NYC air, and that is what gave the virus a chance to catch a ride back home with me. The remainder of my trip was wonderful. I got to have iftar a few times with the queer Muslim crew, which was wonderful. It’s beautiful to be able to connect and reconnect with folks I have now known for a few years, and to meet folks new to me. One evening we had a lively round of “Ramadan Confessions,” which I recommend for any iftar among friends: ) I was also very happy to go to the dergah and see Shayka and the dervishes. Dhikr felt like cleansing, getting my heart clean.
I’m looking forward to starting the Artist’s Way with a dear friend tomorrow. I did it about five years ago and it was a sacred experience. As I enter a new phase of my life, time for a creative refresh. If you are not familiar with the Artist’s Way process, it is worth looking into. It is 12 weeks and absolutely worth every moment. I still think about the weeklong reading deprivation–not reading anything that is not absolutely necessary (for your job, for instance). I had never thought about reading as a potential means of avoiding engaging with one’s own creativity. As a lifelong reader, it was quite something to have to consider that possibility, and to learn to distinguish reading that is for the joy of the story, and reading that takes me away from my own expression.
Unfortunately, I had to break my fast due to feeling weak, but inshallah the spirit of the month continues in me and I can maintain that. How is Ramadan going for you?
Day 8 written on Day 9: June 26th (Wazina)
Last night got away from me and I totally forgot to write! Please accept this as a make-up post 🙂
32.5 years it has taken for me
to make peace with the spaces
in between the slash hyphen and/ors
that form my flesh and spirit
realizing too late
that the construct of
is a bust
chase after it for so long
in the form of rulings and parades
so please excuse me for
not feeling so whole
Day 7: June 24 (Terna)
It is close to midnight. I have just gotten back to Wazina’s place. It is quiet except for the sound of air conditioners humming across the way and the sound of her cats’ pitter patter. Deep breath. Tonight was our show at Rutgers Presbyterian Church on the Upper West Side. It went very well! Beloved friends came along with many new people. We felt them with us throughout the performance. I was especially happy to meet three fellow Nigerians, a first at a show! As we prepared today and performed this evening, I was reminded of the weightiness of our stories. Wazina’s stories always move me. For the first time in a while, I felt myself tearing up during one of my pieces as well. I reminded of the gravity, how simple it seems that everyone has a right to wholeness, to life without the threat of violence because of some part of the multitude of all that they are. I am reminded of how simple it is not in this world of ours. Navigating complex family relationships and aiming for our liberation from the myths and wounds of colonization and imperialism is a weighty endeavor. People bandy about the term “warrior” and even “love warrior,” yet this how I see our work. We fight, we bleed, we live, we die in the service of wholeness. We say no to fragmenting ourselves and fight day by day to rescue ourselves, to be comrades in the arms of faith and fortitude. I have been moved, just in these last couple of days, by the immense kindness of my chosen family. One of my aims in life is to be as kind and as generous as some of the beautiful human beings in my life. I am blessed and instructed by their examples.
And, how wonderful to be able to offer food after the show! It was awesome to see people piling their plates with delicious food and hydrating with delicious beverages. Thank you to everyone who came out, who came out and brought a friend, who spread the word even if they could not be there themselves, to the folks who invited us and the folks who support us with their sweat, energy and loving attention (especially Laura Marie). Wazina, I don’t think you know how powerful you are in your example. That heart of yours is mighty. Alhamdulillah! Can I ever be thankful enough?
Day 6: June 23 (Wazina)
I am usually asleep by now, but the combination of post-iftar caffeine and the cool of the air conditioning is keeping me perked up until I complete this blog tonight…
Yesterday and today were marked by many feelings of frustration, a bit of unease and ickiness.
Terna and I, along with Pastor Andrew at the Rutgers Presbyterian Church were involved in the crafting of a op-ed blog post as part of the Religious Voices section of the HuffPo. The opportunity to make visible our larger message and purpose of an interfaith performance (tomorrow evening, 6/24) is certainly our desire but it came to be with my name, image and face at the forefront…
The reasons why, I am not entirely sold on, but it leaves me standing in lots of my privileges: about my visibility, and the skin color I breathe in and who listens or reads because of it; the fact that I can be visible and that I can and do it with pretty photos and all; how I am able to block the haters on Twitter when they made me feel uncomfortable…
And most of all, I need to and want to acknowledge that this is not something I am doing alone: Terna and I stand in this gift of a moment on the shoulders of/because of the legacy of the resilient, bold, brilliant and brave women and men who came before us and crafted our beings and stories.
There is a remarkable community of queer Muslims, radical Muslims, queers,folks who aren’t out or want to be out in whatever ways we craft it to mean, allies of faith and those who have faith in humanity’s goodness and the possibility for love to be present and healing for everyone. And some of these folks will cross paths with one another while the majority of them will never like this HuffPo article, or read a post on the Poem a Day for Ramadan Group, or even meet another person that’s like them/us… but they are doing it, just like each of us is contributing our share.
I want to say that this is not a valiant effort, on my end.
I am not stoic, I am lucky.
I am not unapologetic in my assertions. I just want to be able to say what it is I am thinking sometimes…
… and hope it’s helpful.
and most of all, I would not be on this adventure if Terna were not by my side!
Day 5: June 22 (Terna)
I’ve been confused about what day it is all day. For some reason, I’ve been thinking it’s Tuesday. I suppose part of me is already in motion to New York. New York, the place I grew up, and now the place I think of primarily as full of friends. Though I grew up in NYC, I’ve never loved it with the ardor so many do. I love it like certain family members–we are forever connected and an occasional visit suffices. I am looking forward to reuniting with Waz(!), going to the dergah after about a year or so, and spending a bit of time with the beautiful queer Muslim community there. As I feel that part of me already in motion, I am reminded once again this year that Ramadan forces a slowness, a kind of presence that is inescapable when fasting. I literally cannot move quickly, cannot talk quickly. It is an opportunity for my mind to slow and for me to be present in a way fast-paced everything makes difficult. I love that. That slowness is like the soil, fertile soil, in which the inner garden grows. Usually my pace ratchets up a lot in New York and I am a bit nervous about that. Perhaps Ramadan slowness will help me to stay connected to the inner stillness the month is steadily restoring. Inshallah.
Day 4: June 21 (Wazina)
when hunger makes herself known
taking on the forms of
thirst and cravings
i ask myself:
what else do you need?
what more do you hunger for?
how else will you replenish yourself?
I’ve carried this thought with me the last couple of days and will return to it more than once this month… what are you hungry for?
This weekend, I craved family and the pangs in our bellies growled loudly…
Picture it if you can: all six of us in the family, yelling across the living room at one another, attempting to hash out an issue. My dad’s bark for order (one out a handful in that sitting) brought us all to a halt, bringing me to the very stark realization that this was an ugly moment.
we are a family and we are going to discuss this as a family, he said to us.
Yes this was an ugly moment and I would rather be here than anywhere else.
I have been longing for the feeling of being alive
and seen in their presence,
for the reminder,
on Father’s Day
that I was brought to life because of their presence on this earth.
hours later realizing it was less than an hour from iftaar time,
I felt my belly full, body wired with a caffeine substitute
Day 3: June 20th (Terna)
I have just gotten in my car to head home after taraweeh prayers. The rain began while we were inside and is steady now. it is nearly midnight and I am tired in a lovely way. Taraweeh, spending time with the Quran the last few days has been like an internal rain, watering and cleansing my heart and being. Inshallah this sacred Ramadan rain will be steady in me. I read this gorgeous verse yesterday (garden). I aspire to be such a story. There are so many verses in Quran that speak of patience in adversity as a hallmark of faith. Is adversity a rainstorm after which we either become bereft of our fertile soil or produce two times our fruit? I am holding this question as I continue to sit with grief. This morning I attended the funeral of a 27 year old black man who was murdered.Perpetrator unknown. He was a recent father, a lover of music and sport. His father in eulogizing him said he couldn’t remember any moment his son had ever been disrespectful toward him. What a beautiful thing for a parent to be able to say. I’ve heard people speak of how unnatural it is for parents to bury their children, and I felt the truth in that, sitting next to my own mother during the service, wondering what she was feeling. I realized my work as a clinician on a trauma response team will likely mean I attend more of these funerals where the order of things is heartbreakingly reversed.
As the rain comes down even harder now, I want my last lines tonight to be in remembrance of a joy of the day: first queer Muslim Iftar at my house with two loves. We ate, drank out halal ginger beer straight from the bottle, discussed a few ayat, and laughed and got angry about islamophobia and racism together and commiserated about complicated family relationships. A delicious drop from this Ramadan rain! May our beings be well watered this month, so that we are cleansed, clear and ready to be on purpose.
Day 2: June 19th (Wazina) Ramadan, much like birthdays marks a new year for me and brings with it the space for intentional reflection and inward venturing. This year in particular, I enter the month exhausted and in need of intense replenishment: between hustling multiple jobs, balancing family obligation and a combination of witnessing absorbing, dodging and responding to the onslaught of institutional and social hate and ignorance (from Ferguson to Caitlyn Jenner and everything in between). More than this, I find myself in a moment of what I can only describe as a spiritual dry spot – feeling distanced from Divine Guidance and in desperate need for re-grounding and connection. For days, I have been asking myself what intentions I want to enter the month with and meditate on rather than entertaining the comments around me about how long the summer days will be and worries about thirst on hot days from Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I trust and know that although fasting may be difficult, the most High and Merciful will provide and must humble myself to receive guidance. My intention is to celebrate in a number of ways, by building upon my spiritual practice as well as my self-discipline and integrity: – I do not pray day to day and my intention is to observe salat more often. – Daily zikr (remembrance of God) & daily prayer (dua) using my tasbeh (prayer beads) – most , specifically on the subway, as a way to bring ease to those most trying moments in my day. – Commitment to journaling and writing – as a practice in building my creative craft, for reflection and to prioritize personal insights and inklings from my core. – Most honestly, I cannot recall the last time I was sober for an extended amount of time and most definitely not for 30 days. And while I do not generally worry about what this means for me at this moment in my life, I am very present to how often alcohol is a common and daily part of my life. Maintaining 30-days of sobriety is also part of my Ramadan commitment. And most of all, I am stepping into Ramadan this year with an energy of excitement and anticipation unlike any other year that I can remember.
Day 1–June 18th (Terna) Maghrib is about 45 minutes away. I can hear the purr of the fire as tonight’s iftar, soup, cooks. I spent about 45 minutes preparing all the vegetables and other ingredients. Outside, children are passing. I know there are Muslim families on this block, though we haven’t met yet. There is the couple with a small daughter who take their nightly constitutional after dark each day. As the first day of acclimation takes hold I can feel my spirit tugging away, just a bit, from its attachment to the appetites of my body. It pulls away like a determined child, twisting out of a parent’s grip. My spirit twists out of the grip of my body to run toward Allah. What does that mean for me right now, this year? Running toward Allah means remembering how to sit in inner stillness, remembering how to be quiet (literally and otherwise), remembering how to move more slowly and speak with more intentionality. As the news of the atrocity in South Carolina sinks in, running toward Allah right now also means holding space within myself for grieving, not only my own but also the collective mourning of my peoples, my black people, my people of color. There is a time for shoring up one’s commitment to serving the cause of justice, whatever one’s particular role is–artist, healer, organizer, agitator, structure shifter, etc. Today is not that time for me. Being with incredible human beings, faith leaders, in conversation and commitment to building a multifaith movement to advance racial justice, last week in Atlanta for Mountaintop 2015 filled with me with that food. Today’s food is the sustenance of running and rocking and wailing and remembering. May this Ramadan indeed be mubarak in helping us to remember and feel all that is in us because, after all, to know oneself is to know one’s Lord. Ya Rabb!