There have been more than a few times in my life and career when I have felt that I have been treated differently because of who and what people perceive me to be. Some based on what they have heard... some on what I have said or done... others based on superficial, surfaced outside appearances. The past few weeks, I have thought about this a lot. Pondering on how we project onto each other truth or the imagined, I searched for tools that would help me alleviate the negative perceptions that have clouded my mind. Several things came to mind.
The first... I remembered the Willie Lynch speech. Although some believe it is a hoax and others believe it points out what is wrong with us, I thought I would share it because there is truth in it. It is said to have been delivered on the bank of the James River in the colony of Virginia in 1712... 300 years ago this year. When I first read this years ago in undergrad, it was a defining moment. It was the first time I realized I was living in the residue of a painful collective past that I had mostly not created, but inherited. Here are excepts:
In my bag here, I have a fool-proof method for controlling your black slaves. I guarantee everyone of you that if installed correctly it will control the slaves for at least 300 years. My method is simple, any member of your family or any overseer can use it.
I have outlined a number of differences among the slaves, and I take these differences and make them bigger. I use fear, distrust, and envy for control purposes. These methods have worked on my modest plantation in the West Indies, and it will work throughout the South. Take this simple little test of differences and think about them. On the top of my list is "Age", but it is there because it only starts with an "A"; the second is "Color" or shade; there is intelligence, size, sex, size of plantations, attitude of owners, whether the slaves live in the valley, on a hill, East, West, North, South, have fine or coarse hair, or is tall or short. Now that you have a list of differences, I shall give you an outline of action -- but before that, I shall assure you that distrust is stronger than trust, and envy is stronger than adulation, respect, or admiration.
Click here to read it in its entirety.
Although this is said to have been applied to Negro Slaves in 1712, I believe it is sometimes unconsciously applied to marginalized groups in the present day 2012. Creating mental and other forms of systematic slavery.
The second, was how do I continue to put myself in spaces where I felt loved, not preyed upon, not expected to be someone's puppet, truly loved, inspired, turned on, not off?... I remembered a few things I could exercise to create this space and energy. When I get blocked and need something to propel me forward, I often listen to music on my home system or I browse YouTube in search of a remedy.
The third, which sparked me to write this posting, was watching Oprah's Lifeclass with Tony Robbins last night. I realized they were talking about things I already knew, but I had not exercised in awhile. Sometimes I forget, leave the building, divorce the story, and realize love is the oxygen to my soul. What I am talking about? During the show, three phrases stood out: "Love is the oxygen to your soul"; "What story is holding you back?", and "Divorce your story."
Last year, I made some difficult decision that I was aware would change my career path and life. Even though I thought I was being clear, I left an art gallery that represented me for seven years and miscommunicated my intentions on how I was planning to move forward. Perhaps I was too vague. Not sure, but I still will not go into detail here, because most of it no longer matters.
What does matter is my truth. My truth of allowing stories from my collective and personal past, control, perpetrate, cause me to live in fear of changing what I knew needed to be changed. I also realized I have divorced some of my stories, not all, but saw where I needed work. This includes not allowing others to hold me hostage to things I no longer want to cling to, be with, remember, or live in. It also includes appreciating all of my successful moments.
Life happened before we got here. It will happen while we are here. It will continue to happen when we are gone and have changed form. Why hold on to negative things we cannot change? Why not honor the present? Why not hold on to what makes us our best? Why not accept that the world peace so many hope for in the future actually starts now? I ask you, because I have had to ask myself. Are you enslaved mentally by your differences (personal and/or collective)?
Every Friday, HuffPost's Culture Shift newsletter helps you figure out which books you should read, art you should check out, movies you should watch and music should listen to. Learn more