I wrote and performed this piece for Still Here VI: Existence as Resistance, a show featuring queer Black San Franciscans. This show was part of the National Queer Arts Festival and was the first I've ever curated. I prepared for the show in the community of fellow artists, performers, and loved ones--it was a labor of absolute love and pleasure and hope for Black folks in my city. I really really love us.
I used to live here
My whole hood a museum now. and my whole city a playground with rules against me.
This used to be a good place for a young witch to practice raising hell with two too-small hands
A place for getting on the back of the bus without paying and still feeling dignified shouting BACK DOOR.
This used to be a good place to be nobody. To hide from the too-rough fingers of the world under thick fog until you caught your breath and could run again. Or so I'm told. By the time we got here four generations ago all the good hiding spots for catching your breath were taken or we wasn't allowed to buy.
You used to be able to find a lost aunty in the TLs who told good stories and forgot which secrets were who's
You used to could dream about life as a low rider and a Black cowboy here
My mama didn't speak Spanish but sometimes she wasn't talking to Pepe's mama because Pepe’s mama, who we all thought was Selena reborn, took our clothes out of the dryer when she was impatient. And sometimes they was best friends on late Sunday night washes.
You used to could have lil’ baby dreams and get the best directions from a man nodding off while standing up
You used to could get your fortune told by the man in front of the liquor store who had been revived from death twice for the price of one loose Newport
You used to be able to have all hands on deck after watching a loved one fall off the wagon. Again. And again.
I'm 17 years old when My boo and I have matching Jordan's and matching North Faces zipped up to our chins. We kick out the red ‘stop request’ signs on the M train and put them on a necklace and wear them like a prize.
The first time going into the tunnel at West Portal I thought I was so big I crouched my neck into my shoulders so as not to bump my head and I was transformed into someone who was from here.
There is an entire microcosm of a dark world ruled by 2nd grade teachers in the tunnels between West Portal and Van Ness station. I have seen it with my own eyes.
It ain't even a Blondies downtown no more.
Where are all the black & brown children in this city? Somewhere being treated like extinction.
They dug up our bones when they turned over the dirt in them projects where Anthony's granny used to live. It's a high rise now. With the best views any building built on black back bones could build.
Or so they say. they won't let me up to see the view.
My head fell off while running to catch the 54 again today
It’s an anniversary. I remember missing the bus like this when I went home to my great grandmother, a famous mustard seed. She sewed my head back onto my neck again and sang me her famous mustard seed song called "girl you ain't got no options." She sang it in the panic soprano falsetto voice, the one in the key of "this house just won't burn down will it?" The one in the pitch of tired 24 hour Safeway light.
And it was soothing.
Besides having two girlfriends named Monique with several children each my father assures me that I am the cutest cute that ever cuted. Until one day I am nine and I get my hair permed and my thick locks become a whisper in the shadow of what they used to be. And my head feels too light. Without saying so with his mouth, I have become an adult and he stops coming to pick me up on Saturdays.
I used to live here
Several leagues beneath the sand and sea at Ocean Beach where people are burning out fog machines to keep the attraction going, there is another layer of alternate reality, a universe where I can’t find parking anywhere in the Mission
And the light goes out at my grandmother’s old house but none of us live there
And the house with our multi-generational miracle in it is nearly up to 1 million dollars on Zillow tumbling profit as it gets bought and sold every year
And I see people whose singing voices made me cry with joy lying in the street with no shoes on
And I’m losing teeth in all my dreams
I used to live here
Before my sister had the baby and summer returned in September in time to celebrate. When Cesar Chavez was Army street and I only knew one Portrero Hill and there was no pizza or dog walking there.
When we couldn’t be queer so we had to really enjoy our Halloweens in the Castro. When the Metreon was still new and the fast slide in Yerba Buena gardens was the top of the world and downtown was a Friday activity brought to you in part by a long paper transfer or a pass with a Y on it.
I know hood and hippy talk. I know “ain’t”. I know hyphy and gumbo. I know that you don’t have to get out of the car to enjoy the view but the wind has magic in it. I know that nobody puts their feet in the water but there's a blessing just for me.
I used to live here and I’m coming back for all my shit.
I’m coming back for all our shit.
All of our after BART stops running shenanigans.
All of our heart to hearts around Lake Merced a million times. After all the little things we got away with stealing at Stonestown. After our standing in line for Jordans and driving our mother’s car without licenses and being curious about the significance of why Tuesday at 12?
I am coming back for our San Francisco whether or not they let me across the bridge.
I want to see it up close. I want to see us upclose.
I want to meet all of our mothers hanging out the windows looking left and right for us to come barreling down the blocks when it’s time to come home.
I want this for all of us.
I want it to be how it was when I used to live here.