Sistah Summerfest 2003
                June 6-8, 2003
An Event for Womyn of all Ages,
                               Lifestyles and Persuasions



In The Spirit FemmeNoir Events Contact Coffee Klatch The Village

Pat Parker
Twenty Years . . .
The Women Gather
Since I Do Not Dare
An Ideal Partner
The Greatest of These
In The Spirit
You Were Loved
You Are Not Alone
Choose Your Label
Peace On Earth
This Life I Live
Eros, Pathos
Choice of Weapons
On My Own


In The Spirit

I have been on quite a journey these past few months.  I have journeyed to my past, to my soul, to the present, to the future and, through my mind.  Finally, I came to a quiet peace as spirit quieted my soul and let me know I will be okay, no matter what, I will be okay – and so it is.

To paraphrase a quote from Mark Twain, I’ve been through a lot in my life; some things have actually happened.  A few weeks ago I found a rather large lump in my breast.  Looking back at that particular moment in time, and with a little amusement, I can see how I went from living to dying in all of 2.5 seconds.  Within hours after finding the lump, I was already contemplating the actions I would take:  I would have both breasts removed, I would decline chemo and radiation treatments but, I would be interested in alternatives to Tamoxifin.  Within days, I was imagining myself bald-headed and without breasts.  Within one week’s time, I was in Kaiser’s Urgent Care demanding to see someone about the lump.  Within two week’s time I had my first mammogram and was now insisting I be seen immediately by a doctor or surgeon.  In a nutshell, I became a ranting, raving, hysterical maniac. 

Since I found myself attacking any and everyone, I shook myself hard; I slapped myself hard across the face, and asked myself what I feared to have become this most illogical human being.  The answer was death.  I feared dying.  I feared the thought of dying.  I saw my own mortality and realized the urgency of life.  I will add here I still know nothing about the lump in my breast.  I will know nothing for another week.  I have no clue whether I have a malignant or benign lump – a tumor or a cyst.  What I have come to realize though – death comes. 

If it is not my time to die, nothing and no one can take me away.  But, if it is my time to die, nothing and no one can make me stay.  Death comes.  It hangs in my future and sways back and forth in front of my face each . . . day . . . I . . . live.  And there’s my answer:  Live.  Live.  Live!  There is nothing I can do.  If it is there, it’s there and there is nothing I can do, but live. 

To get myself through this fear and with the shedding of copious tears (I mean the fall down on the ground, mess up your face, runny nose, ugly cry), I killed myself off.  I had a funeral for myself, played the music I would want to hear at my funeral and, instead of looking for someone to speak about me, I spoke for myself – I gave the eulogy. 

I let spirit guide me though my long digression on self until I noticed some interesting themes.  I discovered Angela, the observer.  The precocious child who never spoke at family gatherings but watched everyone.  The young adult who liked driving to a Donut shop for coffee just to park and watch folk.  The young woman who could not just go to college and get a degree in journalism – no, she had to become a professional student taking 18-20 hours a semester instead of 12 or 16, just to understand the control board used at television stations (switcher), the studio camera, the 16mm Bolex, sound engineering and acoustics, keyline & paste-up; it was as if I had to know what went into journalism from print, to television, to radio.  I came to the conclusion I am one anal retentive daughter of one.  I need to know stuff about stuff I don’t really need to know stuff about – but I am still curious.  Even to this day.

Towards the end of my very long and detailed eulogy, I decided to search my past to find the happiest moments in my life.  I found those moments to be times I spent connected, soul-wise, to people.  The first impressions were those evenings spent on Dr. Margaret Burroughs stoop with a bunch of men I admired:  George Gilmer (a mentor of mine and a photojournalist and documentary photographer); the late William (“Bill”) Walker (muralist); Eugene Wade (aka “Eda” muralist and one of my professors); Dr. Margaret Burroughs (author, poet, artist and founder of the South Side Community Arts Center and the DuSable Museum of African American History); and her husband Charles Burroughs (writer).  How I loved those balmy summer evenings, sitting on the stoop, watching the cars pass as conversations rose and fell, words bounced from the curb, off passing cars, to surrounding buildings, down the street, and finally returning to rest at someone’s feet waiting for the theme to be picked up again and formed into yet another thesis, hypothesis, or antithesis. 

Taking an interest in the soul is a way of loving it.  The ultimate cure, as many ancient and modern psychologies of depth have asserted, comes from love and not from logic.  Understanding doesn't take us very far in this work, but love, expressed in patient and careful attention, draws the soul in from its dispersion in problems and fascinations.  It has often been noted that most, if not all, problems brought to therapists are issues of love.  It makes sense then that the cure is also love. -- Thomas Moore, Care Of The Soul

This little exercise in soul work helped me understand the true meaning of living in the spirit and the gift of life.  Though I have been less than perfect in following spirit, I have tried to follow spirit even when it meant going against well-intentioned friends and family members who thought I should “hang with folks my own age.”  These “old men” and “old women” inspired me, taught me, encouraged me, and helped me to see the larger picture, and the larger picture did not include a myopic view of myself or my little world.  The men and women I’ve encountered in life, particularly, Dr. Margaret Burroughs, Ruth Waters, and Christine Tripp, taught me to look past myself and take a new look at an old adage, “find a need and fill it.”  Through them, I realized what quickened my spirit then and stirs my soul now are the men, and particularly the women, who brought me closer to W.E.B. DuBois’ Souls of Black Folks

Dr. Burroughs gave birth to a Black Arts movement on Chicago’s South Side.  Across and down the street from her home was one of her children, the South Side Community Arts Center.  The DuSable Museum of African American History, another child, was started in the Coach House behind her home which later became the place many artists called home, including my friend George.  My first published photographs, printed in the Chicago Defender, were photos of Dr. Feldman, one of the museum’s curators and a professor of mine, and the renovation of the DuSable Museum.  Of all my published works, this is the only newspaper article I have kept for 20 plus years. 

My conversations with Ruth Waters were brief mostly, consisting of cordial hellos and goodbyes sans one moment which will forever remain suspended in time.  While at SISTAFest one year, Ruth and I stood by an old wooden table, in the designated smoking area, discussing life, love, and politics.  In that brief 20 or 30 minute conversation with Ruth, I learned it is through giving; you receive.  That brief conversation is one I will not soon forget.  Yes Ruth, you were right, it is through giving that one receives and this was Ruth’s life – she gave.  Ruth Waters was one of the founding members of the Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum. 

If you walked into the home of Christine Adams Tripp, you walked into a bit of history, the place where the Unity Fellowship Church movement was born.  The first meetings were held in her home before moving around the corner to the Ebony Showcase and later to its home on Jefferson where she continued to serve as usher and member of the choir.  The Unity Fellowship Church movement was something Christine was most proud because it gave those marginalized members of society, the Black gay and lesbian community, a place where they could go and commune with God and to know God’s love extends to us as well. 

Christine purposely placed her bed facing East.  She did not rely on alarm clocks to wake her, she relied on the rising sun (or risen Son) and everyday, faithfully, Christine arose from sleep thanking God for waking her that morning.  This proud, card carrying lesbian of color lived 12 long quality of life years from her diagnosis with breast cancer until her death.  Christine, following spirit’s guidance, chose initially not to undergo chemo treatments and radiation; instead, she filled 11.5 years of her life with living and when the end was near, Christine was not long suffering.  God is Love and Love is for everyone.

My journey taught me wherever I found love, whenever I experienced love’s glow, when someone gave of themselves for the benefit of others, the words and images of them were imprinted on my heart and soul with indelible ink to remain forever.  Thus, I am no longer worried about the little lump in my breast, it is insignificant – death will come.  It may not come today, it may come tomorrow, it could come three months from now or ten years from now but, death will surely come.  Spirit, however, IS with me now and will be forever more.  I now choose to live each day as if it were my last.  And, if death should come sooner than I would like it to come, I can look back and say I’ve been truly blessed.  Spirit has guided me, introduced me to mentors, educated me, and taught me it is not about me but about those whom I’ve shared this gift of life and love. 

So, my sisters, learn from these who live in the spirit, who are a part of our history, who stand in pulpits across this country, tall and proud as lesbians teaching God’s love is for everyone and know that it is.  Live your lives just as fierce and fearless.  If tomorrow you are having coffee with a friend and notice a particular sparkle in their eyes, do not be afraid to tell them this.  Tell her, or him, that you are being particularly selfish today as you wish to enjoy the sparkle in their eyes.  Fear not about what they will think because this moment may be the only moment the two of you may share together.  Give love and you will receive love.  Do not worry about tomorrow because tomorrow will come with its own healthy helping of worries and problems.  Live today, share today, love today – love your neighbor as I can only assume you love yourself.  It is in this place – in the spirit – where you will find the greatest love.


Now for my final installment on my experiences with the essence of Christine Adams Tripp. 

After getting over myself and realizing there is nothing I can do about the lump in my breast and, after realizing the managed care system, as it exists today, leaves much to be desired.  I committed myself to take over Christine’s website, House of Concern, and continue her dream to educate and empower women on matters of health – mind, body, and soul. 

In the earlier portion of the week, before taking over the website, I had my first mammogram at the very hospital where she died.  During this examination, I realized I was no longer wearing the ring given me by friends of hers who removed it from her swollen finger a week or two before her death.  I was traumatized and searched everywhere for the ring.  Finally, I resigned myself to the realization it was lost.

During that same week, I launched a hysterical one-woman campaign to complain about the level of care (or lack) I was receiving from Kaiser.  I called just about everyone, sent emails to just about everyone including the press.  By the end of that week, I had either spoken to, or heard stories from, more than 20 women who had left the Kaiser system for exactly the same reason – these women found lumps in their breasts and Kaiser put them off for months or weeks as well.  By week’s end, my fury had run out of gas as I listened to one woman after another, some I personally did not know, tell story after story about finding lumps in their breasts and the trauma experienced while waiting for a response or care from Kaiser.  These same women, as it turned out, had cysts or fibroadenomas.  These women lived through weeks or months of terror because, for them, all they knew about lumps in breasts was cancer.  By Thursday, I called the ISP which hosted Christine’s site and took it over. 

Christine wanted to start a section here on FemmeNoir entitled “Being Your Own HMO.”  Unfortunately, she never got the chance to write that first article.  I have now redesigned House of Concern with the same bells and whistles she asked for when FemmeNoir made its official launch in August 2001.  I can still hear her voice as she asked “why doesn’t my site look like that?  I want my site to look like that too.”  Well, Christine, it does.  After moving her breast cancer images and pages around and redesigning the site, I created a dedication page for those lesbians of color who have journeyed home with cancer:  Audre Lourde, Pat Parker, June Jordan, Ruth Waters and Christine Adams Tripp.  By Saturday, the site was up – not complete – but ready for launch. 

Saturday, I resumed my life without hysterics, and set out to purchase some long-distance sprinklers to water my lawn.  When I returned home, initially, I began watering my lawn the Christine Tripp way – stand, water, move to another section, stop, and stand, move again, from section to section, just as Christine did when she watered my front or back yard.  I never understood the small pleasure she derived from watering grass in this way, but I had to laugh myself as I reminisced.  Finally, I said enough.  I went to my car, pulled out the boxes and assembled my little sprinklers and set them up to go.  What a wonderful sound, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, swirl, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, swirl.  Then I laughed as she would often raise those five exclamation points she called fingers and say “Ms. Thang, turn that off, that’s no fun” and I would raise and wave my hand in a “you ain’t gonna worry me” fashion and say “it’s fun to me.”  I laughed aloud while reminiscing and listening to the tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, swirl, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, swirl. 

As I walked back to my car to retrieve another set of sprinklers, this time, my eyes were diverted downward, to the ground near my car door, where I saw the golden words “LOVE” – it was her ring.  How many days had I pulled in and out of my driveway and not seen that ring?  How many days had I washed down my driveway and watered my grass and not seen that ring?  As I lowered to the pavement to retrieve the ring, tears fell; I had done what I needed to do.  I had come from the valley with lily in hand and alas, I now know I am going to be okay. 

In a letter to Carl Seelig, the Swiss author and journalist who wrote a biography of Albert Einstein, Jung writes about his first inkling of synchronicity:
Professor Einstein was my guest on several occasions at dinner . . . These were very early days when Einstein was developing his first theory on relativity.  He tried to instill into us the elements of it, more or less successfully.  As non-mathematicians we psychiatrists had difficulty in following his argument.  Even so, I understood enough to form a powerful impression of him.  It was above all the simplicity and directness of his genius as a thinker that impressed me mightily and exerted a lasting influence on my own intellectual work.  It was Einstein who first started me on thinking about a possible relativity of time as well as space, and their psychic conditionality.  More than thirty years later this stimulus led to my relation with the physicist Professor W. Pauli and to my thesis on psychic synchronicity.

Jung was led to state a theory that attempted to articulate a single unified system which embraced both matter and spirit and threw a bridge between time and eternity.  This was his theory of synchronicity.

Murray Stein -- Jung's Map Of The Soul



The Books That Accompanied Me On My Journey

Cancer in Two Voices
Cancer in Two Voices

This is a journal that spans three years in the lives of a couple, Barbara Rosenblum and Sandra Butler, from the diagnosis of Barbara's breast cancer to her death.

Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life
Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life

The author is a former Catholic monk who now works as a Jungian psycho-therapist. In this book he attempts to apply insights from Renaissance philo-sophy, poetry, art, psychology and theology, as well as from his experience as a therapist.

Meditations on the Soul: Selected Letters of Marsilio Ficino
Meditations on the Soul: Selected Letters of Marsilio Ficino

The problems that taxed the minds of people during the Renaissance were much the same as those confronting us today. In their perplexity, many deep-thinking people sought the advice of Marsilio Ficino (1433-99), the leader of the Platonic Academy in Florence.

In devoting his life to the study and translation of the great dialogues of Plato and the Neoplatonists, Ficino and his colleagues were midwives to the birth of the modern world. Ficino was fearless in expressing what he knew to be true.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom: A Toltec Wisdom Book
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom: A Toltec Wisdom Book

When you get tangled in endless dilemmas -- at home, at work, or with friends -- you need to simplify. Don Miguel Ruiz offers the means. In this small book of wisdom, Ruiz, a shaman and healer, instructs us in the four agreements that ensure right conduct. Be impeccable with your word, Ruiz urges. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best.

Jung's Map of the Soul: An Introduction
Jung's Map of the Soul: An Introduction

Earlier surveys of Jung's ideas have been difficult to follow; or have lacked unity. Murray Stein gives us the whole formidable sweep of Jung's thought, presenting Jung as simul-taneously a dedicated scientist, a creative artist, and a seer in the tradition of Eckhart and Blake.

Songs of Innocence and of Experience
Songs of Innocence and of Experience

From my earliest memories, I always loved the poetry and art of William Blake.   Blake was one of the finest craftsmen of his time, an artist for whom art and poetry were inextricably linked.

He was an independent and rebellious thinker, who abhorred pretension and falsity in others. His Songs of Innocence are products of this innocent imagination untainted by worldliness, while the Songs of Experience resulted from his feelings of indignation and pity for the suffering of mankind.

The Songs of Innocence and of Experience, containing some of Blake's finest and best-loved poems, are present here in the form which satisfied the high expectations of his poetic and artistic aspirations. The fifty-four plates which Blake originally etched and coloured by hand, are faithfully reproduced with the same delicacy and dimensions as the artist created them.





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