Yesterday morning when I woke up, Osama Bin Laden was dead. This morning when I woke up my Honey Bun was dead. In between those two deaths, the official word came out that National Youth Advocacy Coalition would be closing its doors forever on May 13, 2011.
PS It's only Tuesday.
On the death of Osama Bin Laden...
I have already written plenty on Osama Bin Laden. The implications of his death, the impact on us as individuals and a nation, and the reverberations around the world will play out as they are meant to play out and will become more clear in the days and weeks to come. Oils prices dropped. Stock markets rebounded. College students that were, at best, in middle school when 9/11 happened were dancing in front of the White House evoking scenes of anti-U.S. protests across the world (we really are no different or better than anyone else as a people). And stories abounded that for the first time, almost every person in the U.S. (and probably the developed world) received information about a major news event (global scale) from alternative media, specifically text messages, Facebook and Twitter.
My last thoughts on Osama Bin Laden for now, I will sum up with two quotations that I used as status updates yesterday:
I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." --Martin Luther King, Jr. (according to an article in the Atlantic...the first line of this quotation may have been made up in response to Osama's death...the rest is verifiably MLK...either way...it's an awesome quotation).
Do not rejoice when your enemies fall,and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble. --The Holy Bible, Proverbs 24:1.
I also want to honor my little brother, Julius Lacy, who has served in Afghanistan and my sister Shannon Lacy, who has served in Iraq. May you both be kept from harms way and thank you for your service.
On the closing of NYAC...
My morning yesterday was taken up with the news of Osama Bin Laden. The furor over Bin Laden's death and my own internal conflicts around his execution and its meaning had full control over my brain functions yesterday, so much so that I forgot that the public announcement of NYAC's closing would be happening. Midweek last week, on a very hard board of directors conference call, after six months back on the board after 10 years away, and after an extreme effort by the board and staff to try and salvage NYAC and keep it solvent, the numbers spoke and the recommendation from our lawyers and accountants was that it was time for NYAC to close its doors for good. I stand 100% behind that decision, though by taking the vote that I took in favor of shutting NYAC down, I was clear that my vote, in addition to closing the only national organization committed to queer youth empowerment, I was also closing the door on an amazing part of my life as a young organizer.
It was sometime around 1996 that I first became aware of the work of NYAC. In fact, it was summer 1996. I was a student at Warren Wilson College, and I had been invited to trek to DC from Western North Carolina to give a three minute speech at the first ever Youth Pride, which was a joint project of SMYAL, NYAC, and the HRC. At the time, I had just managed to get then HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch to put WWC as the only college stop on her anti-Jesse Helms re-election tour in NC. This was before the HRC had gone full blown racist and before EliZabeth Birch showed her true colors as a gross power mongering assimilationist. As you can see...I no longer support her or the HRC.
There I go digressing again.
From that point forward NYAC was a part of my life and training as a young queer organizer. I first met founding executive director Rea Carey at a SE Regional NYAC conference, through organizing work in the South, I met and fell in love with Urooj Arshad, Koren Hoard, Andy Garcia, Asha Leong, and so many other NYAC staff and program participants. And, for a brief time, I joined NYAC's board though after a year, I was removed from the board largely because I was constantly in the face of the organizations new executive director over his very problematic race politics. From 2001-2010, I ket in touch with NYAC staff and the ebb and flow of NYAC's work. In late 2010, the fierce and fantastic Amita Swadhin stalked me and convinced me to return to NYAC. Her vision for the rebirth of the organization, after years of mismanagement, stagnation and ineffectiveness in many ways, was compelling. I signed up and poured my energy and efforts into her vision. Her vision was compelling and transformative, so much so that many folks from my NYAC generation came back to offer support and love to the organization. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late and there was too much overburdened and overstuffed baggage that Amita and the rest of us inherited from the previous board(s) and administration of the organization. The end result is that NYAC will shut its doors permanently on May 13, 2011. It is a huge loss to our community and it is a very personal loss for me. The official statement from NYAC released yesterday provides more information on the decision to shut down and the efforts made to revitalize the organization over the last few months.
On the death of Edith Daugherty aka Aunt Sis aka Honey Bun...
This morning, I woke up just as David was about to leave the house for his morning dog park trip with Mimzy. I had just grabbed my phone and saw that I had three text messages and three phone calls from my Dad since I had gone to bed the night before. I was pretty certain what that meant. I shouted for David not to leave yet, and instead of listening to my Dad's voice mail messages, I called him back. He told me that Honey Bun had died peacefully and without pain early this morning.
I've known for two years or so now that this day was going to come. Honey Bun had bone cancer which is incurable, slow, and ultimately fatal. This is the third loved one that I have lost to cancer since September 2008, though with the previous two, my cousin and Mrs. Harris, there was hope that chemo and other treatments would arrest the cancer. I think the difference between hope and knowing that the end is going to come is the difference between being able to say goodbye on your own terms and having hope turn into denial which makes the goodbye harder.
That's how it works theoretically. In reality, I realized this morning that I was (and still am) in denial. Honey Bun isn't gone. It isn't real. It won't be real until I see her for myself. I know academically that she has moved on (and though I love all of you dearly that come to my blog and read this...the first person that tells me that she is in a better place is going to get the shit beat out of them). I know she is in a better place. I will refer you all to a blog I wrote recently....I could give a damn. She is my Aunt Sis. She raised my Dad. She was the first person in my Dad's family to unequivocally love me when I came out. She didn't give a shit. She was like the Honey Badger that way. I was her crazy as Hell nephew and she loved me crazy...just like her. She was smart, sassy, hilarious, elegant, no bullshit, survivor, beautiful, black, woman, mother, grandmother, aunty, sister, healer, soul food provider, gravy maker, powerful, love. She was love. She was what love was meant to be. She was my Honey Bun. My Aunty Sis. My heart. She earned her long rest, and I know that when she decided to head on up to Heaven this morning she took a minute to love us all a little bit more fiercly. I know she knew that when she went on home that she was going to be leaving behind a whole lot of people that love her. I know she went on somewhere that she could keep a closer eye on us cuz even though we are grown, she was pretty sure that we were going to burn the house down or do something dumb...cuz as grown as we get, we would never been more grown than her.
I know when she got to the other side of the River this morning, Jesus was waiting for her with a mason jar of blackberry brandy. He told her it was like that cup of oil from Hannukah and it would just keep on refilling itself. I know that Grandma Drue, and Granny Juanita and Grandaddy Dover, Miss Eva Clay, and all her other old time friends and ancestors (and probably a few lovers...with her fast behind) were waiting for her with their own mason jars of brandy and shine. I hear my great-great-great grandmother made the best roasted ground hog in the county....and Aunt Sis was never one to turn down good meat. I bet she had a hug for our first ancestors that was snatched up from Africa, and I bet whoever that man or woman is couldn't wait to tell Aunty Sis how proud they are of her and how she lived and loved her way through life.
I know she is alright now. She isn't hurting anymore. No more neuropathy. No more tiredness. No more transfusions. No more platelelts. No more physical rehabilitation. No more intensive care unit. No more hospitals. Just love. Just glory. Just celebration and rejoicing.
I am in no rush to get up there with her, but I know she is waiting or me. I bet my Grandpa Carey, the best man who ever lived, is waiting patiently behind all of Honey Bun's friends and relatives to introduce himself to her. I wish I could be there to see my two favorite and most blessed elders meet one another. I wish I were there to hear them tell each other all the stories they both told me. I wish I could watch their eyes open up in wonder that a man from Northern Minnesota and a woman from southern West Virginia could have such similar stories. And I know they both love me, so how could they not get along?
So, I am going to let myself feel what I need to feel. Honey Bun won't tolerate me acting out or stuffing my feelings in and down. But I can't be happy for her just yet. I am selfish. I have to be sad for me first. I am glad that she isn't in pain anymore. I am glad that she has gotten that mansion she has earned. But right now, I want my Honey Bun here with me....teasing me...sassing me...remind me why family is so damn beautiful.
Sweet like honey
Hunched and laughing
Streams course along her
'bout blackberry brandy
Brewed up out back
'long side the white lightning
Fried chicken and chittlin's
Collards green like those hills
Just out the backdoor
The stone wombs
That sheltered Her
That child of 1709
According to the Bill of Sale
Across the Middle Passage
Implanted in those Hills
born from a coal mine
And mountain granite
Gave birth to a black bird
Sweet like fresh honey
We shall overcome
As she built a bonfire
To celebrate Brown v Board of Education
Said, "Don't know who burnt down the Negro school."
Hehehe she laughed
"But I do know they wasn't sending my children back."
Black bird said, "I am old and crazy as hell."
She'll not be with us much longer
Daughter of those hills has bone cancer
It doesn't matter cuz she's been to the mountain top
And took us with her
Honey Bun coating our tongues and spirits
With sweet strength
This Black Bird gon' sing a little bit longer
Stronger than those granite hills
Spill stories like rivers of honey
Sometimes bittersweet memories
Of mill slaves marched off to glory
Sweet like honey
She is all we could dream to be
Strong like those hills
Those Greenbrier hills that gave birth
to a blackbird
sweet like honey
sing us home.
-Brandon Lacy Campos
-New York, NY
-September 11, 2010