Ava DuVernay at #Blogher15

Ava DuVernay is Not a Leader

#Blogher15 welcomed Selma Director, Ava DuVernay to close the conference with an interview conducted by Melissa Silverstein. During the span of the interview, right after Silverstein told Ava she was articulate, Silverstein asked DuVernay about her leadership in the Black community. I watched Ava shift in her seat and stammer a bit at the question. “Leader?”

The question (along with a white woman calling a Black woman “articulate”) is proof of something Silverstein doesn’t understand about the Black community. Ava DuVernay is not a leader. Ava is an artist, yes. Ava’s art is leading a conversation, yes. But Ava is not a leader. She is something else altogether.

Do you remember Inception? It was that goddamn awful movie that everyone wanted to debate what the actual premise was about. It had vivid imagery and the scenes were so creative, but the entrainment value was ruined for me when the eleventy hundred multipoint-analytical-paper-on-Inception-versus-reality hit the internet. I have no shits to give, because Science Fiction, y’all. I enjoy Science Fiction, I just don’t feel whipped into a frenzy that requires a treatise on a character’s moral development.

I digress.

In Inception the characters each carry a personalized Totem. At one point Arthur has an exchange with another character,

I can’t let you touch it, that would defeat the purpose. See only I know the balance and the weight of this particular loaded die. That way, when you look at your totem, you know beyond a doubt that you’re not in someone else’s dream.

A Totem, as I understand it helped the character orient themselves to reality. It functioned as a test, but it also functioned as a symbol. Ariadne explains the totem,

An elegant solution for keeping track of reality.

Black people know the balance and weight of particular experiences. We know, when we experience these things, that we are beyond a doubt not in someone else’s dream. These same totems allow us to see when we’ve also been hijacked. What we thought was real was actually counterfeit. Ava DuVernay is not a leader she is a totem. Her life works become totems that so many Black women and men can hold in our hands, test the weight, and use the experience to orient ourselves to reality. She shows us what it is like to be present in our own dreams. Silverstein wouldn’t understand that, so it makes sense that her question didn’t land well.

In order to protect its integrity, only the totem’s owner should ever handle it. In that way, the owner is able to tell whether or not they are in someone else’s dream. In the owner’s own dream world, the totem will feel correct.

As a Black woman I often feel like I live in the dreams of another. I feel like I have to adopt someone else’s ways, language, and look to just be okay in my world. Even then, I am not always safe.

Ava doesn’t know what she has done for me. She doesn’t know what she has done for so many. She is an artist learning to be true to herself and in the process has become a symbol of what we can be when we live in our own dreams. Ava DuVernay is my totem. 


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What We Fear Most

That we are bad

That our needs are bad

That what we want or desire is too much

That we are lazy

That we are alone

That we won’t measure up

That there won’t be enough for us

That people would love us if they knew who we really were

That there is not enough forgiveness 

That we are unforgivable 

That we are too hard to love

That we aren’t smart enough 

That we are lost

That we won’t know what to do

That we will fail

That we aren’t chosen 

That we have no power or control

That others will hurt us

That others will judge us

That others will hate us

That we will never feel better

That we don’t know what real love is

That we aren’t worthy of trust 

That we will never be validated 

That all of this is for nothing 

That we will be forgotten 

That they will believe things that aren’t true about us

That we can’t go back

That we can’t start again

That we will never find companionship

That it will hurt too much

That we won’t feel this way forever

That we won’t remember 

That we will be left out

That we will be too afraid 

That we will be too sad

That we are altogether too much to love, to handle, to be of value

And shall it be said that my eve was in

Quantum Entanglement

Listening:  Foo Fighters -Ever Long
Drinking: Jamaican Iced Coffee
Reading:  Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl

I’ve spent a long time believing that you define yourself by who you are, not who you are with. The paradoxical thing can be that once you are with someone for a while, they begin to effect who you are. So, even without trying, you become a part of who you spend time with. Ancient philosophy and religious texts are rife with imagery about this. Hell, your momma might have even communicated the paradox in some way: “you are who you hang out with, kid.”

Quantum Physics calls this entanglement. I am no physicists, but loosely I understand entanglement to be this: Entanglement is what happens to us on a daily basis. In deep relationships, entanglement seems to happen significantly altering ways. Quantum entanglement is a phenomenon where particle pairings exist in such a way that they cease to be singular. Their interactions bond them into a single state and they are no longer independent. Two become one. If the pairing is separated, there is evidence that each part will remember the other. People in relationships with each other, in a sense, become quantum entangled. We touch each other in significant ways that create shared histories that cannot be undone. We will forever remember and react to those parts of ourselves that touched another. When sex enters the picture, this phenomenon becomes even more apparent. Hippies conceptualize this social and quantum physics phenomenon as “vibrations” and “sharing energy.”

I hate when the hippie are right.

We’d like to believe we are able bodied Americans. We don’t need nobody! We are individuals, damn it! The thing is that we are born of one another and we can’t separate ourselves however badly we’d like to make it true. There is evidence, as well, of what happens to the human psyche under isolation. Hint: it isn’t pretty. We are meant to interact with one another for well-being.

I have a point.

The point is about marriage and deep relationships. When you commit to a long term relationship there are things that are yours, there are things that are mine, and there are things that most certainly become ours. The ours part is what I am talking about.

I’ve spent years with Garrett. I’ve spent eleven years, to be exact. We met before we were fully launched into adulthood. Though we are all still growing and forming, the 17 to 18 to 19 to 20 transition is a turbulent one for many. Neither of us knew what we brought to the space between us. Neither of us knew anything about quantum entanglement; that if you crash into each other that you also crash into all the stuff that the other had swirling around them. We didn’t know that we should have treated the space between us as sacristy. We should have knelt and confessed and prepared there, together, for service and life. Instead we filled that space with all our stuff and then wondered where there was room for the “us” part of marriage. The us part was there, all along, hidden under all the stuff we packed in the space between. We’ve done rehab, affairs, PTSD, surprise babies, Postpartum Depression, death, life, and all the in between.

You have to know that at some point what was theirs can become mine. I’ve taken so much ownership for Garrett’s sobriety. I’ve tried to fix him one hundred different ways multiplied by one hundred different times. It was never for me to fix.

No matter the level of diligence you work with and autonomy you work toward, you’ve crashed into someone. Your particles become their particles and you will bear the signature of all their stuff. You are who you hang out with, like mom said, after all. I’ve tried to leave many times. I’ve filed twice. I’ve threatened more than twice. I needed to know, in the end, I exhausted every effort. I felt entangled, after all. You can’t just break a particle apart expect it to be okay. Entropy, man. Particle decay.

I know. I’ve carried this metaphor too far. Like most things, I will keep working hard to try and make it fit.

Garrett will always be a part of me. My heart and mind and body know him and we won’t move in any direction without always being tied to our shared histories. “If entangled one constituent cannot be fully described without considering the others.” 

It is time, though, for us to split.