Adulting got me thinking about the future…

I’m 24 and shit. One of my best friends just got married a couple of days ago. I’ve been thinking about love a lot lately.  Pretty much, get ready for an introspective, stream of consciousness piece about fear, religion, relationships, having children, and all that.

Ultimately, my vision for our world is one filled with compassion and love.

But how does one pass compassion and love on to children? 

My knee-jerk answer has always been structure and disciple. That pattern of thought then brings me to religion.

I grew up Catholic. My mother taught at the Catholic school I attended and I grew up admiring nuns. There was this running joke in my family that when asked what I wanted to be when I grow up, I would respond a nun with 10 kids. Looking back, I think I understood nuns to be powerful, compassionate, elevated women and so aspired to be that. I no longer think those things, but I digress.

When my family came to America in 2000, I continued my Catechism classes at St. Joseph where I also gardened on Saturday mornings and served as an Altar Server on Sunday evenings. My base for goodness, compassion, love, discipline, and structure revolved around church. I grew to know the good in myself through service of others and the church provided that foundation. I’d never take back those experiences.

Baby girl grew up

However, when I went away to college and had a choice, I moved away from my Catholic foundation. Christians sometimes refer to college as the place where a young soul can get lost, so my family prayed for me often during my four years at Syracuse University. When I had tough times, I requested prayers, but it was never a habit I made for myself. It’s not that I didn’t pray, I did, but sporadicly. When I felt emotionally overwhelmed or tested, I strung a few words together in prayer. However, scripture was not the place I looked to for the peace I needed.

Sweet Nature

Upon graduating college, I went off to work at Farm and Wilderness in Vermont for six months. While there I spent a lot of time out in nature meditating.

It was not about worshipping an almighty God or higher power, rather it was about working to grow myself within myself through silent meetings with myself and all that surrounded me.

It was about feeling the birds in the trees above.

It was about hearing loons learn to call for the first time.

It was about hearing the lake move.

It was reflective.

I thought about the world around me and often envisioned the ways to add light to it.

It was then that I had this revelation to become a community organizer, the most rewarding thing I have done.

Despite all I’ve said so far, when I think about raising kids, my mind often goes back to how I was raised. For some reason, I seem to think that I am the person I am today because of how much my mother enforced church. I seem to think about my grandmother and her relationship with the Bible and God. She was an incredible, loving, forgiving, compassionate person and the route she took was the Bible.

But the Bible has never been it for me.

I don’t find power in scripture in the way my family expects me to.

A lot of times that recognition makes me feel guilty. It’s like I am letting my family down, and because of that I have this back and forth relationship with myself where I say “Flose, you gotta revert back to structure and discipline yourself in The Word,” but That’s never where I find peace.

Where I find peace is in meditation, nature, and silence. That’s the space that brings me to light. 

I’m treading interesting space here because there is room for The Word in meditation, nature, and silence. In truth, I’m just not as interested in creating space for that in the way I enjoy adding Eastern religious exploration to my spiritual diet. Learning about OSHO and processing his teachings moves me more than remembering the Ten Commandments does. Having a silent meeting in nature to feel the present energizes my spirit in a way going to a three-hour church service does not.

Hold on to your tea cup, mom, I’m not an atheist. 

I met up with some college friends in New York City about a month ago, and we discussed religion. A couple of them said they could not marry someone who is not Christian, because they need that basic foundation for the power of prayer to exist within their home. I chimed in that I could marry a person of any religious background as long as they were not atheist. A couple weeks later, I said the same thing to a man who I liked and who happens to be an atheist, but that wasn’t a flag for me.

I know I’m not an atheist because I believe in the existence of God although I don’t know that I can fully articulate what that means.

Atheism is a dirty word in my family and culture — at least that’s what I have been led to believe. I have not visualized people who do not believe in the existence of God as compassionate and loving. That’s not to say I have not loved people who are atheist. One of the best inter-faith community organizers I know, Kayla Gilchrist, is an atheist, and so is a pal from college, Tyrell Carter, who I spent a lot of time with. I almost feel like I’m pulling that but I’m not racist, I have a black friend card here so I’ll carry on.

The point is, I seek to add compassion and love to my life, and I have been led to think the only way one can inherently be those things is if they believe and exist in God. But wanting to keep getting to know a man who I thought to be compassionate, patient, and loving despite his atheism turned that idea on its head and reminded me of relationships like the one I have with Kayla.

There’s fear in my future 

There’s this fear of raising kids wrong that sometimes takes precedent when I think about family, the kind of man I want to marry, and what I want for our partnership.

What I have come to realize is that because my childhood was traumatic, I have fears about parenting, and begin to foresee the things I could get wrong. I haven’t even had kids and I’ve stacked a mountain of self-blame.

I could discipline my kids in a manner that doesn’t show them that I love them.

I could raise them without compassion.

What I seem to think is that the way to prevent fucking up as a parent is to model goodness through dogmatic teachings. I mean, it makes sense. I’m a crazy Gemini who has that I need things to be orderly and perfect syndrome, but that’s not actually what I want to strive for in childrearing.

I see church and religious leaders as powerful community catalysts who have the potential to help others achieve compassion and love.

However, I recognize how politicized religion is. I believe it, at times, can create neediness and lead people to complacency. I don’t believe we need to dependent on God or a higher power to change us because they hold some secret key. I think we can do that for ourselves through any vessel we choose. This is not to say that I don’t benefit from church. When I attend services there’s usually a takeaway, something to use as a reflection point to better myself, but this idea of a higher power delivering us from evil is not how I ground myself.

Coming out

In all of this, there’s a coming out that needs to happen. I’ll have to step out of the closet and have these conversations with my parents, uncles, aunts, and cousins without guilt or fear of being an outsider.

This recent self-realization also raises questions I don’t have answers to.

What will I say when they want to pray for me?

Do I value prayer?

How can they receive the compassion and love I intend for them to receive if we are not using the same channel?

Does the Universe/God understand prayer in whatever form in comes?

What is God?

What is the Universe?

How do I raise compassionate, loving beings without the structure of church?

I don’t doubt that there is flow of energy, or that the universe works with all forms of life that are present. Does that mean there may be some other religious category that I fall into but haven’t discovered?

I think these are important questions I’ll need to answer while I adult. I’m certain I’ll encounter answers on my journey in the way I’ve been led to face my honest feelings about my religion today; through living, building relationships, and engaging with myself.

freestyle: Sampha, Blood On Me

you are my nightmare
but so familiar
my heart is the fear i escape
it beats through my chest
there’s blood on me
it’s everywhere
against the ceiling of my soul
blood on me
i’m running around these streets
but
i’m like a mouse without a treadmill
where to go where to go
i believe in god
cuz i believe in order
but i never really go where i’m meant to go next
follow the stream down the path
the wild is in the sky
right here you’re with me
this aint no love poem
you’re too complex for these romances
comedic
if you knew you’d see through these words
my brain is growing it’s own plant
sampha you’re with me in here
playing your keyboard
while my words scribble the sweetest poetry
do you think this is how lovers know they met
their artistry having made the love meant for them
maybe that’s why the best soulmances end

Flose Marie Yardley Boursiquot
October 28

Using Words to Heal

Listen to Jennifer Benoit‘s interview with blogger and community activist, Flose Boursiquot. Flose’s blog, Let it Flose, is a piercing look into the colorful journey of a woman adulting in her 20’s. While seeking solid footing in somewhat foreign territory,  she exposes all aspects of her life with a sweet sincerity that sometimes borders raw discomfort. Whether she is sharing her commentary on the state of affairs or her emotional well-being, she confronts you with an undeniable truth that tugs at the core of humanity. Want to learn more about this amazing woman?  Visit http://www.letitflose.com.

 

Things fall away

Tears fall down my cheeks like honey
On the tongue they sour
I watch a line of brown fall against my belly, I call for it to feed me

I’m hungry for a food I cannot taste
Inside my belly a child moves in my womb
To be born with all that I have swallowed

It will cry chaos and nurse on joy,
Welcome to the world

–Flose Marie Yardley Boursiquot

I Found Social Change, Action, and Ideas at the White House

On Monday I spent about eight hours on the White House lawn with two thousand others who are active engagers in the United States and maybe even the world. I’m sure the opportunity to trot the President’s backyard was enough to draw a crowd. However, I’d like to think that those of us who attended SXSL (South By South Lawn), the White House’s first ever Festival of Ideas, Art, and Action, went for more than just the novelty. We walked away having experienced intimate moments with a diverse group of people who are engaged in society.

When I saw the post on the White House Twitter page, I wasn’t quite sure what President Obama, Jason Goldman, and the team who put the event together wanted it to be. However, three words drew my attention: social change, action, and ideas. 

One of my favorite James Baldwin quotes reads, “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Although my memory sometimes impedes me from remembering the above quote verbatim, its essence always remains. When you love something you have got to embrace the necessity to make it better. I don’t want to Make American Great Again. I love this country that took my family in on political asylum enough to recognize what is already great about it, but strive to make it better day by day.

In the age of Black Lives Matter, police brutality, Black Twitter, technology, political apathy, anger, misunderstanding, and the ever-changing news cycle throwing shit all out of whack, I could not wait to hear from people who I feel are smarter than me talk about social change, action, and ideas.

Fixing Real Problems 

Jenna Wortham, a staff writer for the New York Times Magazine, moderated this panel.

It featured: Chris Redlitz, managing partner of Transmedia Capital and co-founder of The Last Mile; Nina Tandon, co-founder and CEO of EpiBone; Stewart Butterfield, co-founder and CEO of Slack; and Jukay Hsu, founder of Coalition for Queens (C4Q).

Fixing Real Problems was impactful in that it highlighted that not everyone needs to be a martyr with the world glued to whip marks on their back. Stewart Butterfield, the creator of Slack, a tool my MoveOn team loves, started off his introduction saying “I can’t take credit for the good work people who use our tool do.”

Unlike his colleagues on the panel who have organizations with missions to better their community through direct engagement, Stewart is a businessman concerned with wealth. He could hide under a cloak of privilege all his life and be fine. However, he has made the decision to be the kind of wealthy person who reaches back.

Y’all this white man talked about systemic racism in Silicon Valley. Furthermore, he addressed that tech companies could be doing a better job bringing women and people of color into their companies. I didn’t fall out of my chair or cheer, because I hold the belief that that’s what people of privilege should do, but many don’t. He went on to say, if there isn’t diversity in a particular position, create a space for that within your company.

I want to stress, especially for my readers who don’t have an interest in making a living doing good. You don’t need to be a martyr to fix real problems. Provide support, create a tool, volunteer an hour or two a week, and be the voice of reason in your office when diversity becomes merely a buzzword for good PR. You do not have to be an expert do-gooder to be invested in America’s greatness.

See the full panel discussion here: https://youtu.be/aR71RlLcXJA

How We Create Change 

“It’s time for you as young leaders to get in trouble, good trouble!”

If y’all know a little something about John Lewis, it’s that he’s been getting in good trouble since the 1960’s. He was actually arrested 40 times back then and five times since having been a congressman—talk about free my homie.

Seeing him in person was moving. His voice still mighty, and so full of history, bloodshed, and struggle. In Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, he has a conversation with TuPac (by the way, TuPac played at the White House, y’all… yup… Mama we done made it, now we just gotta dismantle systemic racism and white supremacy) who in a somber tone tells Kendrick that the Black man loses his fight after his twenties. Not Senator John Lewis. He has not forgotten his moral obligation to remind apathetic folks the importance of voting. As he stressed, voting is the “most powerful non-violent tool.” In case y’all forgot, people were literally dying, hanging from trees, not too long ago for fighting for this duty.

I hope the cadence in my voice carries John Lewis’ message as I struggle to move voters to the polls in Florida, the biggest, baddest battleground state. Although I am working to get a president elected, I want to be make it explicitly clear that participation in our democracy is not just about voting in the presidential election. Participate at every single level.

After John Lewis dropped his two minute hype piece, Anil Dash, who moderated, joked about having to follow that, but let me tell you it was only the beginning.

For those who may not know who Anil Dash is, he’s a technology geek, activist, and entrepreneur. Heben and Tracy introduced him to us on Another Round where he talked about being a person of color in this glorious American wonderland where a white man can pitch a movie about bees while folk of color gotta fight for valuable screen time. His sense of humor, love of mangoes, and wokeness drove me to follow him on Twitter— hey, Anil…

Anil gave a warm welcome to the following panelists: Carmen Rojas, CEO of The Workers Lab; Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry; and Brittany Packnett, Vice President of National Community Alliances at Teach For America and co-founder of Campaign Zero.

I make zero dollars from this blog so I feel no need to give folks equal time. This is not to take away from the great work Carmen and Evan do in their respective fights, but y’all, Brittany Packnetttttt!

Ms. Brittany is Campaign Zero’s very own, and this woman has a passion for young people and freedom. So much so that she has a bruised lung from tear gas, because she has used her body as a tool to fight for equality.

“[Michael Brown] had done all of the things we told him to do…[but] his diploma was still not bullet proof.”

Education. Education. Education.

Whenever folks are asked what it takes to slow society’s decline, they answer in their most expert of voices, education. But Brittany made it clear that no amount of education protects a black body from the brutal hands of law enforcement officials who use their badge as a poplar tree to hang the oppressed. Although racist America seeks to destroy black bodies until our limbs are left rotting on black tarred streets, Brittany encourages us to pick ourselves up. She wants us to use our flesh to “cause a shift,” until we get to a place where we are loved for who we are.

She attributes a lot of her work to a concept she and her co-founder Samuel Sinyangwe call Radical Pragmatism. On our mission to achieve justice, Brittany wants us to “[dream] as big as we possibly can irrespective of what the current reality is and [take] deliberate action toward that.”

How We Create Change left me full. The scribbles in my notebook will continue to float like the big screen in front of my eyes when I forget why I chose to become a community organizer. I’ll also refer back to the soundbites all three panelists left us with.

Final words from Carmen 

“Let’s make today and everyday a great day for people who work in this country.”

Final words from Evan 

“If we only stand on what makes us feel good at the moment, that’s not persuasion that’s preaching.”

Final words from Brittany 

“The radical dream is not just to break off the branch of police violence but to uproot the entire tree… and to do the purposeful work with us—to act purposefully to get it done.”

See the full panel discussion here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDbOuogXjKU&feature=youtu.be

Thank you

I can’t finish this piece without giving credit to everyone who nominated me to attend SXSL.