‘Indigo Was the Folks’: Afterschool Brilliance

16 11 2011

“There wasn’t enough for Indigo in the world she’d been born to, so she made up what she needed. What she thought the black people needed.

Access to the moon.
The power to heal.
Daily visits with the spirits.”

-Ntozake Shange on little sister Indigo in her first novel Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo

We are in my car with the top down dodging the falling leaves when Assata drops knowledge on the subject of grades, a new clarity gained during this first term of 6th grade: “Grades are bullying the alphabet.” The girls find out that their hands can bend in ways they never knew. They read outloud parts of the books they are reading. They punch each other very lightly at the sight of a volkswagen bug. And this is just the car ride.

The Indigo Afterschool Program was an idea that 11 year old Alex Lockhart shared with her mother, using the words: “I want to go to an afterschool program at Alexis’s house.” Inspired by Ntozake Shange’s character “Indigo” from her first novel Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo, the Indigo Afterschool TeaParty is a place to share dreams, make art, blow bubbles and investigate Indigo’s practices of healing, self-love, dream interpretation, doll-making, compassion and full self-expression! Girls from 3 Durham middle schools participate!

We check in over tea and snacks letting a deep breath out at the end of our check-ins by blowing a real or imaginary bubble. We make dolls that listen, healing remedies for emotional emergencies, books for our dreams, collages for our visions, love notes for each other in the name of Indigo who used all these things to create the world she needed when she was right in the arena of the menstrual transformation.

It is an honor to participate in the building of community and sisterhood among these brilliant young women, and as the Crunk Feminist Collective reminded us with their development of a women’s studies 101 workshop for high school students (http://crunkfeministcollective.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/feminism-101-or-why-womens-studies-cant-wait-a-workshop-for-girls/)
the intentional support and nourishment of the love, transformation and brilliance that is already living and growing and possible in young people can never start to early.

Indigo Afterschool uses the model of Indigo…just one of many audacious, inventive, complex, community accountable and wise young Black characters created by Black feminist writers to give young folks a chance to love each other and explore their own magical skills, a space to critique the norms they are noticing at school, and a validation of the practices of breathing, creating and listening.

As people around the country reclaim space in their communities to activate their visions I am proud that the space that these 11 year olds (who have just proposed an expansion of the program to bi-weekly sessions) have decided to takeover my living room with their dreams.

(Here is what Alex left on the chalkboard)

Indigo Style Remedies:

Yesterday we read some of Indigo’s remedies that she creates after difficult experience and share with her community of dolls so that her growth can also benefit them.  Oh Indigo!!!

Rock in the manner of a quiet sea. Hum softly from your heart. Repeat the victim’s name with love. Offer a brew of red sunflower to cleanse the victims blood and spirit. Fasting & silence for a time refurbish the victim’s awareness of her capacity to nourish & heal herself.

-from “Emergency Care For Wounds That Cannot Be Seen” in Ntozake Shange’s Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo

The Indigo After School crew also wrote their own remedies yesterday (they also wrote a healing recipe for popcorn, getting past writers block and “boredness”).

Here is some of their advice…that I recommend keeping on hand or enacting right now for your own healing:

Emergency Care for the “the funk”
by Bailey
(i.e. like on Glee, when they were in a funk because they were afraid their singing group wasn’t good enough)

Surround oneself with loved ones, then go on top of a tall object and scream to hearts content all of ones deepest feelings. If this does not work, go in private room and listen to songs that mention only of happy things, then write down all of ones problems and think of a way to turn them around.

Emergency for Sadness
by Assata

1. go to the bathroom and turn on hot water. let it steam.
2. get your favorite incense and burn it
3. get a robe and put it on
4. put the incense in the bathroom
5. put a stool in the bathroom
6. write all the things you are sad about on a piece of paper
7. write on the steamed mirror all the things that are peaceful
8. sit in the bathroom and be peaceful with the steaming and the incense

Forged by Fire (for hard experiences that change you forever):
by Alex

Bathe in a tub of warm water without bubbles. Slowly lie down and let all the bad energy out. When you get out, don’t dry off, instead go to a silent room and let the peaceful air dry you off. Next rub your skin with soothing lavender oil. Now go outside and let the sun wrap its loving rays around you.

Amazing! Priceless and here is how you can support this space!

1.  Of course donating to the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind one time

or becoming a monthly sustainer helps infinitely to sustain this free program for superhero youth.

2. This community of readers  is the best thing ever.  Want to send as a winter break gift 1 or 3 copies of your favorite young adult book from when you were around 11?  The Indigo afterschoolers are self-identified “cool nerds” and will need a lot of reading material when school lets out next month to keep their brains engaged!  Email alexispauline@gmail.com for the address.

3.  Or contribute to the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind Library that surrounds and uplifts the participants and their parents and grandparents and younger siblings and friends by donating a book from the Eternal Summer amazon wishlist!

Keeping it quirky, eternal and off the hook!

Video: Empowering Force of Feminist Teaching | Watch Black Issues Forum Online | UNC-TV Video

13 11 2011

Often praised for their strength, many black women nonetheless suffer lives of victimization and oppression. Author and black feminist activist Dr. Alexis P. Gumbs uses black feminist thought in her intergenerational self-empowerment workshops. Hear her strategy. Watch online: Empowering Force of Feminist Teaching from Black Issues Forum. On demand, streaming video from UNC-TV

Vodpod videos no longer available.