Self Care in 5 Easy Steps

These times are hard: if you’re woke and paying attention, each day brings its own two-day sized dose of pain and heartache.  The good news is that that feeling that you’re feeling is a side effect of revolution.  But while you wait for the revolution to not be televised, how do you keep from dissolving into a puddle of woke up tears and anger?  Smntks has a few tips to keep you in the struggle, no matter how real it gets.

Breathe: the first go to for some chill is surrounding that big heart of yours.  Use those lungs to expel the poisonous energy we drink when we engage in spiritual battle with injustice.  There’s a  reason that yogis, sufi and puppies all expel breathe to reach maximum zen.

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The conscious regulation of your breath calms your mind and floods your body with what it needs to make it to the next breath.  String those breaths together and wha-la you’re meditating.  Meditation is shown to increase all kinds of good things without the side effects of oh say Xanax and wine.  Most importantly, give us a big dose of connection and empathy that can help us love our way through this crazy world. So take a breath–one that fills your lungs until you feel your own potential, and then push it out with all the fight I know you have in spades.  Take five minutes of breaths. Take 500.  They’re free.

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Disconnect: You’re conscious.  Me too.  We’re not alone in this fight.  It’s okay for you to take a break from the battlefield.  There are a million of us here, so when you feel like you can’t take it anymore you have permission to exit, stage left, until you’re ready to reload. Sometimes the pressure–and the injustice itself makes us feel like we can never rest, but that is a sure recipe for failure.  Shut off your media for a few days–studies say a three-day media detox can help you feel more balanced.  Time away from the struggle can also help us remember what it is we are fighting for.

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Find something nice to look at:  What is your favorite thing to see?  Kitties? Beaches? laughing children holding balloons?  Go seek those things out and fill your eyes as deeply as you’ve filled your lungs.  Research show that just looking at a large body of water can reset your inner workings. Besides, if eyes are the window to the soul, then our windows have surely been tainted by all we have been witnessing these last years.  Clean your window with beautiful visions.  Somewhere in your soul must reside the template of the utopic world you want to make.  Every once in while, recharge that vision.

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Make something:  Fighting chaos and destruction can make us lose our way from the creator inside of us.  Making something beautiful–whether it is a sock or a meal or an arrangement of flowers–can remind us of the power we have to complete copacetic constructions.  Craft projects, unlike race and class, are constructions that you can control on your own.  Making something–sock or society–is a process: slaying at the micro process of crafting will have you ready to slay the bigger beast of social process.  You also might make something awesome for the battlefield!

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Reconnect:  Family and friends are not just for Facebook.  Go see people that you love and who love you.  Touch them (appropriately, please, unless they’re into it!), talk to them. look at how awesome the people that you know are.  Ask the kids in your life about the future–and believe them.  Talk about springtime, and spaceships and the time you laughed so hard milk came out of your nose. Give them something you made, and let them give you some love so you can top off for the next time the struggle gets too real.

These times, these times.  We will look back and know that these were the times that changed everything.  The moment is now, but don’t let that stop you from taking a moment to reconnect with the now inside of you.  We need you–yes, you– to be a healthy conscious happy warrior for justice.  So take a break.  The fight will be here when you get back.

P.S. If you make something post a pic in the comments and I’ll share it out!

Smells Like Teen Spirit

I was in line at T.J. Maxx in the gauntlet–you know the line that’s lined with socks and kitchen gadgets and stuff you don’t need but are likely to buy if you’re stuck looking at it long enough–and I saw this little gem:

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I saw this candle with no frame of reference for how “ivy league” would smell  but like cops and presidential politics, the old Ivory towers have faced their own waves of upheaval over the last two years.   So maybe it smells like old money and racists S.A.E. frat boys? Perhaps it smells like a mattress worn by the girl next to you to bring attention to the lack of administrative response to sexual assault.  Or is it the heady fragrance of pepper spray and banner paint.  It certainly doesn’t smell like sunshine and roses.

Higher ed is a microcosm of the wider society–and if done right, should be first to incubate, test and perfect new ideas and ways of being.  Campuses roiling with tension need real solutions that–when developed thoughtfully–can help the rest of society follow into post-apocalyptic paradise.   And they’re full of young people fired up and ready to go.

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This grey candle of college sure didn’t smell like like America’s shiny future, but it’s not too late to cook up some new scents–humility and transcendent humanity? superstrings and singularity? Let’s just start with the simple scent of justice and love.   Anyone have a match?

When Dumb Is Smart

Ah, the siren call of dinging notifications–we love them, we hate them, we seem doomed to live with them.  When was the last anything you did that was not interrupted by a phone? If you’re like the other 187 million people in the US that own a smart phone, you wonder sometimes if it owns you.  But what if you could take back control of that little electronic beast?

Enter the dumb phone case, invented by Jeff Lam at Weiden & Kennedy  .   It seems only right to have and ad maker try to save us all from our phones: who knows better how to make media intrusive than an ad exec?  Here is the answer to all your distraction.

Not only will this phone save you from the lure of your phone, dude’s not even going to charge you for your freedom.  You can print this phone case out yourself using a 3d printer.  No printer? No problem:  here is a map of all the 3d printers in like…the world.

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We have the concept to help you de-phone, and now you have the technology.  The question is do you really want to be free?

 

 

Formation: For Nation, For Self

This weekend in an increasingly unsurprising surprise-move, Beyonce dropped a surprise single, “Formation” which was surprisingly woke and, unsurprisingly, Black twitter’s collective head exploded.  The video is a beautifully unapologetic apologia of black feminism, full of the trappings of contemporary blackness.  And it is dope.

The video is full enough of symbols to bang out a media criticism master’s thesis, but you don’t have all night and I’m not paying tuition so I’ll try to hit the highlights.

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The video starts out with Beyonce perched atop a New Orleans police car in a flooded out Nola neighborhood–throughout the song she references her family pedigree so often a video viewer might be forgiven for thinking that she is claiming Nola as her own.  A few more establishing shots firmly establish that you are in the world of post Katrina New Orleans–and not the one where people celebrated the rebuilding of the city on the recent 10-year anniversary of the storm but the real New Orleans  where both the storm and the regentrified rebuilding continue to slay local residents.

The video pays homage to today’s black radical feminists: born in the wake of a storm, splattered with the blood shaken from cops hands, awake, agitating, unafraid.  Unlike Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood fantasy of women who slay, Beyonce shows us how real women slay in a world realer than anyone should want.  She shows us sisters with real black bodies moving with power and agency.  She shows us flashes of black culture unrecognizable to middle america–not the smiling coontastic network black, or the tear gassed protesters–but a black that exists where white America is not.  She showcases a range of black beauty that is existing not in opposition or response to, but out beyond the ideal of white beauty.  The press, the illuminuts, the haters, the cops all get zero fucks from the queen.

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In the midst of times full of racial tension music has been both call to arms and therapist couch.  Questlove’s call to artists to respond to the political realities of black America have seen a Wu-Tang-crew-sized response with artists from Talib Kweli and Killer Mike, to J. Cole and, of course Kendrick Lamar all providing soundtrack to the revolution.  With so many women at the center of the movement for black lives, it seems only fitting that the ladies get their own black lives banger, special for the sisters.

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Not only did Beyonce make this banging song, and this blazing video, but she also marched out onto the field during the Superbowl halftime show with a team of black dancers complete with raised gloved fists and afros tucked into beret a la black panthers.  Yup, sandwiched in between Coldplay and Bruno Mars was a little slice of go-ahead-and-lose-your-mind-white-supremacists. Fox news dragged Rudy Giuliani out storage so he could yell about inciting cop-hate, despite the fact that Beyonce didn’t once reference cop hating–or 9/11, so this is really none of Giuliani’s business.

Beyonce has not typically been one to tread a political path in her music, but these times are making us all more woke than ever.  She should be applauded for using her significant celebrity to highlight black women, especially in such a powerful and authentic way. As a mother to a beautiful baby-afro-wearing Blue, who does her own slaying in the video, Beyonce’s evolving black feminism is powerful modeling–of the cultural sense–for women both inside and outside of the black community.

The video to the song is rich with complex and layered symbolism.  We see Beyonce in places all cut from the new southern gothic–row houses and interiors cramped with golden southern sunlight and old bookcases, a porch fit for Madame Levaux’s coven of witches in New Orleans. Natural hair, and white lace, Gucci body suits and second line–Beyonce’s evocative imagery represents America’s troubled waters as a proving ground for black girl magic where she is high priestess here to share with you her prodigious power to make America love black women.  Like the culture of New Orleans itself, the story of black America she shows us is a layered petticoat of culture and of history.

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So right about now, you should be feeling pretty good.  Maybe ready to buy the song–but you’ll need to download Tidal because the song is only available via Bey boo’s music streaming service, which last we heard was costing the couple money.  But it’s a great song!  Maybe you’re ready to go see the Queen herself.  Lucky for you, she-surprise!-announced a 40-city Formation stadium tour. Okay, no Tidal, no tickets, maybe just a little merch!  We got that too:

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At Shop.Beyonce you can cop any of the latest must have accessories to the struggle–perhaps a bag that lets others know hot sauce is inside-cute!-or would you prefer a phone case that says that you that bitch when you cause all this conversation.  You can even get a sweat shirt that warns you will Twirl on Haters (wonder how long before Kenya Moore want her piece of the honeypie).  Hey, what if you want to be Bey? You can even go to Vogue for a lookbook of Beyonce’s Formation styles.

It all starts to seem like an awful lot of commodification for a protest song.  I mean no one’s rocking a Kendrick Lamar Aight trucker hat at martini-brunch. Is this video an authentic expression of Blackness or a carefully crafted product that commodifies the very images of resistance to sell back to the people its meant to uplift?

Last year, Beyonce and her Boo planned a summer tour together–the On the Run tour.  The tour materials, complete with Bey in a Vogue-ish ski mask harken back to the old Bonnie and Clyde that had worked so well for the pair in the past.  This time, tickets were a tough sell.  In the time of Black Lives Matter, thuggin’ it out in between parties at the Met didn’t seem to get the same street cred that it used to.  Nor could she go back in time to the Mrs. Carter tour, drenched in Eurocentric finery, and expect the very woke sisters of today to spend their hard earned cash on $100.00 tickets.  Embracing the political issues her young fan base faces worked well for her on songs like Pretty, so sprinkling some #blackgirlmagic on her new work was no risk.

If the song pays homage to Beys own blackness and love affair with her people, why not use the more poignant imagery on the merchadise?  Instead of having more realty tv twirlers, why not have any one of a number of powerful images from the video the shirts?  Black hat middle finger up?  First raised (in aGucci dress) on a cop car? Instead, the Formation money shot if you will is of her hanging out of a car window.  It seems to beg a who did it better between her and Kendrick Lamar–and the joker.

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Berets, afros, gothic, Nola, second line, cop cars, graffiti, flood, black hoodies, hot sauce, big frieda, ghanian chiefs, hot pants, police lines, black boys, hair shops, parasols–it starts to feel a bit like Bey collected everything running through the dreams and nightmares of black women and arranged it–artfully, elegantly–to conjure a sisterhood…and to sell sweatshirts.  When she calls on us to fight, I’m not sure we agree on the end game.  I think the best revenge would be justice, or maybe a culture shift, even a hint of equity but all she wants to slay for is paper.  In fact, she strenuously defends her right to operate as a capitalist in free market economy:  you can do that, but I though we were on some black power shit?

And before you tell me what they donate, know that Beyonce has a reported net worth of $250 million dollars.  Peeling off bail money is laudable, but not considered to put them up among the ranks of active black philanthropists.  It is good to see the couple helping out more after the long standing beef with Harry Belafonte ended just this past fall.  The beef started when Belafonte called out Jay Z for his lack of activism.  Jay Z’s recent pledge of $1.5 million from Tidal is a step in the right direction, but again, not enough to make them stand out in a field of philanthropists with smaller net worths.

About this time in my love affair with this song, I start to feel little over-committed. Oaky, so it wasn’t really this oh-hey-look-a-song-I-made-! since the world of Formation is way to formed from song to video and tour and live performance and even merch. The song-as-product takes lots of planning, and this one seems like it was carefully planned to push the very buyable world of Formation. It makes me wonder if the perfectly timed Superbowl controversy was about black bodies or green backs. Nothing makes teens loves something more that Fox declaring it demonic.

Is it possible for something to be both amazing and problematic? Yeah, symbolic constructions are often like that.  Best believe this song and its video have earned the title instant classic.  But the hyper commodification of black power imagery is selling a lot of product–something we are right to be watchful of.  In these times we have little more than our own sense of self–we’ve got to guard that–even against Mr. and Mrs. Carter.

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But its not too late, Bey, to be that black Bill Gates in the making–remember he quit the business to devote himself fully to charitable work and social change.  Think of how amazing you’ll look slaying systemic racism in that Gucci.  We’re here waiting for you, in formation.