The Great Humanistic and Historical task

The hard truth, that I learned with ABL, I am working with:

“This, then, is the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well. The oppressors, who oppress, exploit, and rape by virtue of their power, cannot find in this power the strength to liberate either the oppressed or themselves. Only power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both- Paulo Freire”

Now take allllll of that in…………Ill wait…………………………………

Deep huh?

While I understand that the liberation of ALL is a personal task, I am beginning to understand my POWER of influence. This power I speak of  has been both socially given & taken, and grown within. The intersections of my identity provide me with a unique outlook. As a queer woman of color in I navigate through a patriarchal, heteronormative, white and gender rigid society that THINKS its power is found in my inferiority. As an fair complexion intergenerational multiracial femme presenting woman with her masters degree in Education, I have ASSUMED power. I am assumed to be smarter, able, prettier, better and this list can go on.

These intersections provide me a critical view of society both as  privileged and marginalized. Now please be clear, it is the responsibility of those who have ASSUMED power to be aware of themselves to work WITH oppressed communities. As Lila Watson, Aboriginal activist, says “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

This all boils down to one important truth the social ills of the world presses down on ALL of us and damages our ability to see our mutual humanity. We must release ourselves from systems that enable us to be blind to the humanity of EVERYONE. This is my human task.  Those of us that chill on the borders have the power. We have the most honest power because it is rooted within. This is my lifework. I address it everyday as an artist, educator, daughter, sister, friend and partner.

I am invested in the transformation of power not is transaction. I challenge my ideas of what I have been socialized to understand power as.  I wish not to oppress, suppress, repress my being onto anyone because I know to well what that PRESSING does to the soul.

My power is rooted in ME.

Where is your power rooted?

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Come and Celebrate with me: Self Care & Love in Continued Terror of Black Live in America #sayhername

I am settling into my home, NYC, after 2 weeks away in Andover, Mass. I was a selected participant in the Andover Bread Loaf writing workshop for educators. I must confess I attended with selfish intentions. This experience was embraced for Tiffany, the person not teacher Tiff. I was hyper aware of my need to challenge my self damaging notions of my inability to write. I needed a space in which I would approach my writing with a new attitude. I needed to be affirmed. And I was.

I am a re-born poet! And newly born writer!

The 2 weeks gifted many lessons, that I intend on writing installments on this blog. *lets manifest this yall*

While away news of the passing our sister Sandra Bland hit my newsfeed. Rage, sorrow, confusion, hit my heart & soul. Questions still remain unanswered.

In these times when we can easily be buried from the weight of the heartbreaks, the wakes, the shakes in the foundation of humanity, I chose to find the space to celebrate. To remind myself that this work is worth it because life, HUMANITY, is beautiful. Through celebration; laughing, loving, dancing; humanity shines through the terror and I am recharged to do the work.

It is also when I turn to my ancestors and elders for guidance. Our ancestors have left us their wisdom in song, dance, art and writing. These artifacts have become my spiritual doctrine, their life is a testimony of the magic, beauty of the universe, of the divine nature of brown people.

Our mother ancestor Lucille Clifton spoke to me during my 2 weeks away in her poem, Won’t Celebrate with Me.

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

—Lucille Clifton
I celebrate because I AM HERE, YOU ARE HERE, WE ARE HERE! Our loving, our laughing, our healing is our mojo. It is the life force that Mother Lucille knew was our pot gold. We are the unwanted but the most needed. Everyday something has tried to kill us and has failed. We are unstoppable. Remember to say our ancestors name, celebrate them. Sandra, my sister, I say your name because they took you from us, from those who loved into the powerful woman you are. They tried to kill your legacy and failed.
Sending my love to you all.
Take care of yourself.
I close this post with Mother Lucille reading her word magic.

May I love UP to the place you belong

Hello wonderful,

I hope you are loving yourself.

I hope you find what you are looking for.

I hope you are healing.

I hope you smile more than you cry.

I hope you are learning.

I hope you are teaching.

I hope you the best.

May you be loved to where you need to be.

May you move forward in this journey called life.

May you have company along the way.

May you know that you are great company to have, even to yourself.

Move forward my love, move forward with the knowing that you are divine.

Dear Raphael Sadonte Ward,

TLCbyTLJ_RAPHAELSADONTEWARD

Raphael,

I miss you. I thank you. I honor you.

Our short but meaningful time together as teacher & student (sometimes you being the teacher and me the student) has become my catalyst for continuing teaching, learning, growing and loving my life work of being an educator.

Thank you for the countless memories

Thank you for caring for me

Thank you for pushing me to be my best

Thank you for reminding not to take myself so serious

Thank you for the laughter

Thank you for building community

Thank you for sharing your family with me

Thank you for loving me, I know you did cause I heard you say it 🙂

Thank you for being my angel.

Love,

TI-FA-NAY! aka Teacher Tiff

The Year of Transformation & Revelation: Thank you 2014!

In 2014 …………………..

I became a College Adjunct Professor

I was asked to cover my former professors Graduate Course…..Yes I became Professor Tiff Tiff. It was rewarding to be around fellow growing teachers and share my experiences. Overall it taught me how to be a better listener and facilitator. The teachers in the program are amazing. I thank each of them for being apart of my journey.

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I learned the value of happiness, peace of mind and self care

This year I was presented with experiences that literally showed me the consequence of devaluing ones joy, self worth and peace. The acceptance of unhappiness as a constant state of being literally poisons the soul.  I learned the importance of taking care of my body and soul. I learned that happiness is a lasting condition even in times of total chaos and darkness. My peace of mind is more valuable than being right. Those who don’t know now will find out later and I don’t have to be around when it happens. I refuse to be in environment in which my worth is not acknowledged, valued and celebrated. Keep your toxic outlook where?!!! Back there!

I took control of my career

I proclaimed and acknowledged my value as an educator. 2014 taught me the importance of being a member of a community that is built on values that I believe in: respect, collaboration, trust, kindness, forgiveness, creativity, individuality, joy, growth,progression,honesty, social justice and healing. This past year was challenging professionally, I mean CHALLENGING! However revealed and empowered the courage to make a major life decision for change.

I am telling you TRUST YOURSELF and KEEP ON MOVING when you are in a place that does not feed your peace nor passion.

The universe confirmed my life journey by revealing a number of opportunities, yes institutions recruited me! What boost to my confidence. So confirming!

I am proud to say that taking control over my career blessed me with a position at a dream school.

I am an art teacher at CITY-AS-SCHOOL!

Teacher Tiff is back!

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I was a bridesmaid!

The wedding of my dear friends Tanya and David is hands down the most beautiful moment of my life! It was a honor to stand with them as they proclaimed their love. It is certainly my happy place of 2014!

Words can not express the amount of joy! I am so inspired by their bravery, commitment and trust for each other.

And dang it we were the best bridal party of 2014!

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My Idol became my Fan! 

Music is my healer. I often play Me’shell Ndegeocello’s albums to get me through my highs & lows. I admire the energy and thoughtfulness of her music. I am a fan since 13!

So you could imagine the FREAKOUT I experienced when we formed a Instagram friendship. I am so honored to be considered an artist in her eyes!

Me’shell knows who I am in this world…WOW!

Love, Mama is back! 

Yes, my sister and I are working on more dolls and goodies. We are so excited about where this will go! More about the re-launch here:

https://tlcbytlj.com/2014/12/27/tlj-of-tlj-the-unearthing-of-the-artist-formerly-known-as-me/

I witnessed the people I love FLOURISH! 

I am so proud of my family both chosen and blessed to me. I have witnessed their bravery and courage to live their best lives! They have quit jobs, started new careers, fallen in love, traveled, taught, learned, and taking risks!

*I plan on doing highlights on these people in 2015*

Overall 2014 you were the bomb. 2015 lets do this! 

TLJ of TLJ: The Unearthing of the Artist formerly known as ME

I spend my days working hard to bring the artist out of the young people I work for/with.  It is something I am proud to say I am great at. For instance this fall I meet a student who on the first day of class proclaimed ” I am only taking art because I need the credit. I don’t like art because I am not creative” Recently before going on winter break he entered the art room beaming and said ” Tiffany, I am taking Art in the Spring. I miss it. Its fun!”

Transformative. Powerful. Loving.

And I have the gift to guide that growth. WOW! I love my job.

I am inspired by my students. They are committed, fearless and excited about creating……something I had lost in my own practice.

Yes, I am guilty of falling into the dreaded Art Teacher trap: I STOP MAKING ART! 

I never noticed because well I am always creating with my students. Many days I come home exhausted from art making, my hands dyed in a rainbow of colors from painting and my favorite pair of jeans ruined with Gesso. Therefore Teacher Tiff replaced the Artist formerly known as Tiffany Lenoi Jones.

I medicated and reflected on how to unearth my creativity.The Universe immediately started dropping daily reminders.

I found my stock of dolls while helping my sister move. They were beautiful. So filled with love, detail and joy. My mother, sister and I marveled at them. I was so impressed by my past self.

By no coincidence of the Universe a sister in the community announced a calling for vendors for a Holiday Bazaar. Fearless I applied and accepted.

LOVEMAMA_TIFFatSHOWWords can not explain the welcome back I have received. A true confirmation that what I do is needed and that sharing my gift is ordained.  To quote my sister friend “your work is beautiful, people need to F**king see this” YAS GURL!

I know my Grandmother and Adrienne were in the space with me. I know they were proud of me. I shared their story, their gift and love through my sisters and I Love, Mama dolls.

It has been a joy to create again. My living room has been a mess of fabric, paint, beads,wire, yarn, paper and other instruments of MAGIC! I am sketching and thinking like an artist again.

The Artist Tiffany Lenoi is reborn.

Cheers to my best moment of 2014!

A Magical Day in a Magical Life

Early morning on a cold December day. A comfortable rush hour express train car equipped with seating. My achy ankles and ease into the orange seat. My eyes meet with relentless stare, that never breaks after many blinks and look aways. I change my seat with hopes that stares will stop but my attempts fail. I look away as my eyes land on a familiar face.

My heart beats fast as I realize who was sharing space with on this cold December day.

Kara Walker.

There I sat in a bundle of nerves thinking of what should I say, should I say anything!

Then I remembered the Universe would not have placed  me on this train, at this time, with her, if  we weren’t meant to meet. So I stood up and said hello. She smiled and we talked a bit. I thanked her for inspiring me and my students. We wished a good day.

I met Kara Walker.

The  school day welcomed students on time and ready to create. Excited I shared my morning surprise. They were happy for me and curious about the artist that left their usually outgoing Art Teacher speechless. Discussions of the intersections of race, class, gender, gentrification, police brutality, choice, education, agency and a need for change. Thank you Kara.  A meeting of the minds. I am reminded young people are our hope. They are our now and forever. Nothing planned occurred. But everything that was supposed to happen did. I am inspired by their energy and insightfulness.

We are never to old to play. We are never to old to try something new. Simple inks, water and paper produces laughs and gasps of discovering as bust of color bleeds on paper. We create cards out of hand marbled paper for our sister/daughter who has experienced great change. Through creation we build community, connections and space for healing.

A chilly and nervous walk through Harlem. My name is on the guest list of my favorite artist. She is now becoming my collaborator and mentor. I am humbled and honored.

Talks of blackness. Sounds of our multifaceted existence. Sounds of our complexity. She calls us MAGIC.

I am welcomed with a smile as I walk towards Meshell.

Meshell Ndegecello is excited to meet me. ME!

We hug tight. An internet connection meets the physical world.She introduces me as an amazing educator and artist for the people, I beam.

Long ride home. My joy surpasses my exhaustion.

A man prepares for his stop. Walking to the door he thanks me. Thank you and holds my hand. I am unaware of how I impacted him. Sometimes the universe speaks through our physical bodies.

I am humbled. I am honored. I have arrived. I am where I am supposed to be.

I am living my magical life FEARLESSLY!

I am thankful.

Notes on TLJ: Ease on Down the Road!

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Today I invite you to EASE ON DOWN THE ROAD! I have learned to surrender to the path(s) the life journey presents me. Yes, I am serious surrender!

It sounds scary because we have been trained to believe the act of surrendering is cowardly. We have also been trained to doubt our judgements, this is particularly true for marginalized people, thereby we subscribe to the idea that is an external authority would know better because they are more powerful for whatever reason(their race, gender,education,class and/or age for example).

Now listen! the issue with this kind of thinking is we submit to an authority who expertise is formulated on superficial and presumedpower”.  In surrendering I welcome those who care and love me so much that share their insights to enhance my experience because we are companions on the life journey.  The base of such power is formulated on love, in its most sincerest expression. This is the power I respect and welcome.

I surrender because I have learned I do not have control(power) over everything.  And why would I? If I had power over everything I would block all the unexpected goodness that has occurred and waiting to arrive.

I surrender because I will not waste time on things I can not control.

I surrender because I welcome the constant surprises that take my life on paths I could have never imagined.

I surrender because the misery and worry produced from wanting the unattainable control over every aspect of this life journey is pure poison that steals our joy & energy to move! 

I surrender because I much rather learn from my discomfort over drowning in it.

So will you surrender today? Will you trust your journey? Trust yourself? Trust the love(s) in your life?

Remember your life is a blessing and its important for you to be here. Your life is not your enemy.

Feel free to discuss,share and contact me.

Love,

TLJ