Today I am thinking about the violence in my neighborhood. I am remembering the young 17 year old girl who was shot coming out of a party one block away. After she died, during the prayer walk, her sisters begged that the violence stop, that there be no retaliation. I am thinking about the recent question asked on my list serve of women poets about myths where a woman attacks another woman. I am thinking about the article that I read in the City Pages about the girl gangs: the Ladiis and the Baddest. I am thinking about the dog my room-mate just got for protection because one of our neighbors had his home broken into in the daytime, while he was at home. And I am thinking about the dreams I once had as a young woman of Peace and Love, to unite us all in brotherhood, recognition that we all share the planet.
Feminism? It has not filtered down to my neighborhood. Poetry? The kids walk along the street repeating rap and hiphop lyrics to themselves, ready to burst into cussing and screaming at the least provocation.
But I can’t sit still and watch the chaos around me without doing something. So I go down to my local library and volunteer to teach a writing workshop. I call my workshops Writing Circles for Healing: words to light the way because it is something I know. I have experienced the violence of losing my partner and my son to suicide and the shock, despair, anger and guilt this has put me through was assuaged by prayerful patience, by the love and support of friends, by dark hours of shaking a fist at God, by putting myself into challenging situations where I didn’t speak the language and knew almost no one, by loving and surrendering my expectation, and by writing down my words: poems, stories, memoir, essays, and then acting them out and sharing them. And by holding the space for others to be vulnerable and to dip into the deep well of their pain, their memories, their losses and their passions.
So. I have to be trained as a volunteer, I have to go through an orientation, we have to see who will come and sign up for creative writing. But I will be there. Ready for whomever shows up. Ready to walk through my neighborhood with a notebook in my bag and a smile. Maybe, just maybe, the light will shine and get us through these times to something that resembles my first dream of peace and love. Maybe I can convince the girls to be powerful with hope and openness and courage to speak their truth as much as with fists and weapons. Maybe we can start a revolution to take back our homes and to feel part of the neighborhood instead feeling that we are at war.