a communion of poets reaching for a goal together, who accept, support, and encourage each other, who open safe spaces for trust, honesty, and risk, who love, love, love each other freely and forgive each other without hesitation, who uplift and hold accountable, who bring peace and stand in solidarity, who celebrate and mourn together, who adhere to the belief that when one of us wins, we all win, family beyond blood.
When I found the spoken word community years ago, I found family. I found togetherness, comfort, safe spaces, along with unadulterated Tom-foolery, but in my head, I still found myself being very judgmental because of my upbringing. In order to fit in to my biological family, I had to endure little jokes and antidotes about my “hobby” that would keep it and the other people who are foolish enough to think this is a career in their place. I spent a lifetime moving away from my blood family into the arms of my poetic family, because I believed that standing in my truth and claiming my art out loud would expose me in a world where art could be something you do, but not something you lived.
The Watering Hole Tribe has completely transformed that for me. With you I have found life! I found a space where I can love my art, take the time to nurture it and expand. I love you guys for showing me that in our relationships tribe is different than family. With you there are no explanations, just invitations to all who want to be free through arts culture. We are creating a space where the membership costs you that one poem that you thought it wasn’t safe to write or read. This season has presented the position that I can love my family and the community of poets I see and work with daily, but that I HAVE A TRIBE outside of that…now that is mind blowing.
I have a group of people from different states, families, races, cultures that love each other and will work together for the betterment of us all. I have a tribe that strengthens itself by pressing passed and through the norm into a realm of vulnerability. That will split its own side to reach in and collect a rib to build another tribesman. There are no weaknesses here. There are no people or subjects to fix. There are only words and warriors who know when and how to use them. You are my family and I love you. Thank you.
For the last few years, the universe has been guiding me through lessons of love and liberty. Whereas, adults define love first by its hoops and requirements, I’m continually in awe of how quickly and sincerely children love, how deeply they feel it when someone leaves, and how openly they celebrate when someone returns. I’m still working on it, but there’s nothing like a little Tribe Time to spotlight the walls that I’ve lived inside of and worked hard to maintain and to also offer an alternative way of living, being, thinking, and loving anyone including strangers and acquaintances. These lessons have been about me re-discovering what children all know and recognize as essential—how to love hard, quickly, without discrimination or hoops to jump through.
Tribe Time always gives me the opportunity to break down my walls, do things I normally wouldn’t, and love fiercely and unapologetically without concern for regret or asking the question, “But what if this person hurts me, rejects me, takes advantage of me, etc.” and to be my black-girl-poet self. That’s part of the reason that we stack retreat participants 3 and 4 to a cabin, ask you to write together, to host a class, and to invite another cabin over for dinner and games—there’s no hiding. (Please believe, when we go international in summer 2016, we will not be at a resort sipping mojitos, but sitting in someone livingroom, sharing a homecooked meal, and recognizing our own complicit Western privilege.)
This Tribe allows me to be my free self without second-guessing or feeling judged and trust that black-girl-poetic genius appears in the way I blink, and doesn’t have to be wrestled for or proven. I don’t have to be anybody’s perfect anyone. I just have to be me, do my thang, and live by my own set of rules. Just love, be infected by it, then spread it around, infect others with it. I love you, guys.
P.S. Please, submit to the TWH anthology. We’re in conversation right now with a poet who we want to be the editor and who you’ll really want to read your work. Send it in.
P.S. We are now officially a S.C. nonprofit org. and we’ll find out in 52 days if we’re approved as a 501(c)3 federal nonprofit org. #Shando