[Image: February 2019 Shenanigans banner]
Decolonizing Seasonality, Boosting Black Makers for Black History Month, Coming Clean About Mental Disorders – What we accomplished this February
It’s the end of February! Here’s what we accomplished this month:
NEW PUBLIC BOOK COLLECTIONS
- Maker Spotlight with Brontez Purnell, (who identifies as a Black, male, queer #OwnVoices author) on giving space for black boyhood with his new book, The Nightlife of Jacuzzi Gaskett
- Children’s books by my post favorite Brilliant Black Femme authors & illustrators – still needs some finishing touches with age captions and things. I’ll try to get those done when I have a moment.
- Picture books to help talk about gun violence, school lock-down drills, and why we don’t glorify gun violence in our home.
NEW UNPOLISHED BOOK LISTS (patreon-only access)
- An expanded list of 50+ Black femme authors & illustrators with links to my favorite books by them, which I’ll be adding to regularly
- Validating stories for adopted/foster children who have experienced trauma
- Validating stories for kids with anxiety
- I disclosed where our 2018 BFL funds came from and where they went here. This chart stresses me out.
- I accidentally sent a rough draft newsletter basically begging for funding to thousands of people. Mortifying.
- …And recognized that I was spreading myself too thin, so I took a last-minute break from working on BFL before something worse happened.
- When I came back, I reflected on why I don’t ask for help, how I’m complicit in the stigma against personality disorders like OCPD, and decided to harness the power of the mighty sloth.
- And then I belatedly announced my intentions for February’s book topics and research.
I ASKED FOR HELP!
- Monica R. will be helping me facilitate conversations and reflections on the trauma stewardship in the Luminary Braintrust group (where our Luminary-level patreon supporters (and above) get to connect) – how to avoid burning out when we’re helping other people.
- April B. is helping me coordinate the Student Ignition Society – a new group for BFL educators.
- Alison B. is taking over accepting and vetting new members in the BFL public facebook group.
THANK YOU ALL! Your help not only takes a few things off my daily checklist, it’s also a reminder that not all of this is on me alone. ::INTERNET HUGS!!:::
THINGS I WISHED WE DISCUSSED THIS MONTH
The winter season here in Boston is almost over. And dammit, I forgot to touch on a topic I’ve been researching for over a year now – cultural seasonality, and how it’s being crushed by unchecked consumerism, corrupt capitalism, white supremacy, environmental destruction, entitlement of the wealthy, and colonialism.
One of the things I do when we research a new topic is think about how I can incorporate what we’ve learned into my parenting and daily routines. Over the past year, I’ve come to recognize how unhealthy our on-demand news cycle is.
I felt twinges of irritation and discomfort in my 20’s working retail – in the peak heat of August when it’s 90 degrees outside, we’d be unpacking fleece jackets and ice axes to prepare for late autumn.
It threw me, and sucked us away from being here right now – that constant push to plan for what’s next.
And BFL is complicit in it too.
Back in 2015, folks would ask me for holiday books starting in late November. I’d scramble to request, evaluate, screen, and write up book reviews on holiday books, and it would take me 2-4 weeks. By then, people had moved on. This was frustrating, so I learned to request and start evaluating books a couple months in advance. As the list of topics we cover each month grows, I’ve had to push ahead my research schedule earlier and earlier.
This November, for instance, I was testing books for spring – which means forcing my kids to screen and evaluate books about spring when winter hadn’t even started.
We couldn’t get excited about the good parts about winter because we’re so focused on what’s to come in spring (which of course we will forget by April). All of us found it unsettling and uncomfortable – we weren’t honoring the seasons, and the dissonance created a surprising amount of stress.
So I’m not doing that anymore. It would be lovely to have a series of Black history posts and books about Valentines day ready to go on the first of February, but trying to anticipate the needs of several thousand people months in advance comes at a steep personal cost – and a cultural one as well. I’m just feeding the machine and reinforcing the expectation that everything is ready, seemingly effortlessly, for our immediate consumption.
This ties into colonialism and the erasure of indigenous faith and culture – I first got wind of this in the preface of ‘Beaver Steals Fire.’ The preface was fascinating, but I didn’t get the story.
I took note of it and left it on the library shelves, deciding not to bring it home to screen with my kids. But that preface shook me – at the time, I had been planning a series of posts about religion, faith, culture, and trickster icons, with the intent to publish everything in May of 2018.
According to this book, I couldn’t do that – because it went against cultural tradition to discuss these stories before snowfall.
Like all periods of drastic learning and change, my world kind of flipped inside-out and I had all the icky feelings that happen when you realize you’ve been trampling on people with less power. I had to put the breaks on everything and re-plan my entire year of research.
It was unpleasant, and I’m grateful for it, because it reminded me to stay humble and do hard things – like cancel months worth of plans and scramble to make do.
But also this is kind of perfect because it’s SO spot-on for a trickster like Coyote to throw a book like that at me, a metaphorical wrench in the works, ruining my need for control.
Some things, like the weather and seasons, you just have to accept.
I went home and checked to see what Deb Reese of American Indians In Children’s Literature thought of it. She LOVES this book. I realized I didn’t have the scaffolding to understand the symbolism and significance of the story, so I dedicated the past year to learning more about it. I had planned to boost more Indigenous voices, address seasonality and how all of this is tied into the kyriarchy once winter came, and then… you know. Life. Busy.
As I looked deeper into this – this tradition of Indigenous respect for seasons and stories tied in with Buddhism, tied in with Daoism, tied in with Islam – these concepts of submission to what is and working in the rhythms of a wider society.
For some reason (hint: entitled greed) we just don’t have these concepts in the US white narrative – we see submission as a weakness, a failure, and it’s our job to engage in Manifest Destiny – even if that means trampling those weaker, slower, or just those who are unwilling to be cruel. Especially if we are able to cull the chaff, taking part as active eugenicists.
The sounds of those MAGA teens taunting Nathan Phillips comes to mind, the ugly online comments I see by white people on the Wampanoag Facebook page, claiming they took over this land and are entitled to it simply because their ancestors were willing to take it by force.
So I wish I had touched on that, but I’m sensing that the winter season is soon to be over and this time has passed. I’ll honor that, we always have next year. Unless global warming kills us.
Luckily, you are smart, and I’m excited to tell you about it so you can start your own journey of learning how to decolonize the way you engage with the land, seasons, and environment around you. So here you go, a reading list to start you thinking:
- Beaver Steals Fire – Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes
- Rabbit’s Snow Day Dance – Bruchac
- Annie And The Old One – Miles (I’m recommending this with reservations – I haven’t gotten my hands on Beverly Slapin’s critique of this story to verify if it’s okay, but I do know the illustrations are a flawed and stereotypical)
- The Fall of Freddie The Leaf (Buscaglia)
- My Grandfather’s Coat (Aylesworth) – transparency: I got this one for free from PJ library
I think we could all afford to be a little more humble, a little more accepting that we can’t control everything, anticipate everything – and nor should we.
COMING UP NEXT WEEK
Next Monday, I’ll share with you our March posting schedule, the topics we’ll be investigating, and two exciting new Maker Spotlights that are in the works.