Healing the Past & Present for the Future: A TLCbyTLJ & Black Lives Matter Collaboration

 

Black Futures 2016 - Tiffany Lenoi Jones -Healing Justice

 

Our bodies hold a story of trauma and triumph. My story is an inherited narrative. My ancestors live in my body.Their aches and pains radiate in our bodies.

“Epigenetic inheritance” is the idea that environmental influences such as smoking, diet and stress can affect the genes of your children and possibly even grandchildren. Imagine how the impact of your ancestors repeatedly being abused, refused and neglected have impacted their descendants? Imagine the impact of inherited and experienced trauma onto a body?

Over time my community has learned how to cope, sometimes ignore, the impacts of trauma on our health. As a result we are plagued with stress disorders, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Not mention that our trauma is exploited. But that is for a post on another day chile!

I am one of the amazing artists commissioned by Black Lives Matter to create an image for Black Futures Month. I was given in the theme healing justice. Healing Justice is the awareness and healing of the inherited & experienced trauma on de-humanized bodies. To read more about Healing Justice click here READ NOW! 

My artwork tells the story my Family Tree.

The Past…………

The top of my tree stand my Paternal Great Great Great Grandparents, who survived the brutality of slavery and managed to raise a family. My Great Great Great GrandMother holds her heart charka as she stands next to her husband my Great Great Great Grandfather Burl.  I can’t imagine the harm they experienced. The power of their will to live and love lives within me. Surrounding them a glowing beam of yellow honoring their divinity as guides in my life and their descendants . They survived for US. Ashe!

Beside them stands my maternal Grandma, Virginia Elizabeth Lewis, who managed to love even with a broken heart.I call her Mama. My Mama was an artist, a dancer, an amazing cook and free spirit. She worked her mojo through her love, her food, her designs and her smile. My Mama was a victim of domestic violence, my grandmother was a victim of western patriarchy and white supremacy. My Mama internalized her pain. Surrounding her is glowing beam and gold halo honoring her as my angel. Her heart radiates. We hold our hurt in our hearts. Our heartache is heart disease. My Mama survived for US.  Ashe!

The Present……………..

Beneath the ancestors stands my given and chosen family: My father, mother, sister and myself. My father, a Vietnam Vet, who working towards his healing both in mind and body. My mother who holds a candle burning at both ends, she like many black women do much but fail to care for self. My sister, Erin, and I stand blowing out the candle, symbolizing us caring for our mother by giving her permission to heal.  My sister and I individually work towards bringing healing justice to our family tree. My sister a healer through fashion & self image and I a healer through art & education. We are hugged by a rose and sage, both plants have been meaningful in my healing journey. We are clearing the harm of the past in order to move forward with love and wealth in health. We will no longer burn the candle at both ends. We de-invest into the stigma of being a strong black woman. We push back on messages from a capitalistic,heteronormative, white,patriarchal, body policing society that finds its strength in our presumed weakness and inferiority.  We find strength in being vulnerable. They survived for us, we heal for them. 

The Future……………….

I have found my chosen family in my school community, City-As School. City-As is an alternative transfer high school in NYC that serves the city’s most unwanted but most needed young minds, these young people WILL change the world. The power within them is resilient. It is the power that liberate us all. Their power is rooted within. It is important.

In my village, called school, I am a mother, teacher and healer. Teaching is my healing justice.

In my artwork I highlight two powerful black educators and healers in my community. Ummi, an educator, mother, writer and healer stands proud as she signs the word “Heal”. She is my healer. She reminds me to care for self and stand in my power. She loves me to where I need to be. Andre, an artist, yogi and educator stands in a yoga pose. He welcomes me  every morning with reminders to relax and breathe. He conducts daily medications and yoga offerings for students and staff. He is magic.

Ummi and Andre stand behind Alexis, a recent alum of City-As. Alexis entered my life as student and remains in my life as family. Alexis mother to Riley. Alexis is an inspiration of radical womanhood and motherhood. She makes me better. In her life I see the importance and influence of healing justice as it directly impacts our future, Riley.

Alexis holds a supercharged Amethyst, in her hand. Amethyst is a clearing ,healing and protective crystal. Alexis stand behind Riley, who has already proven that my healing is her healing. She is magic, pure black girl magic.

Riley, the only full color person in the tree, stands in awe of the butterfly in hands. The butterfly representing hope and transformation.

Riley is our future.

We heal for her. 

We stand behind her because her black life matters. 

Our black life matters. 

 

 

 

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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?

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

The Life Journey of TLJ: Living the Best Life

This was a post on my TLC by TLJ facebook page. I am posting here for those who want easier finding. 

I ask myself daily if I am living my best life. It serves as means of checking in with my spirit. There were times in which my answer was NO! I was unhappy,unhealthy, unproductive and not living in my light.
What did I do?

I sat quietly with myself. I allowed myself the space to be silent in order to hear myself think. Thats when I was able to find my purpose.

I identified what did serve my purpose. I pursued those things, I made the time and invited the necessary unknown that would support me in living my best life. I spoke what I needed into existence. Positive talk always!

I identified what didn’t serve my purpose. I removed those things and if removing was not immediately possible I changed I how I reacted to it.

This inner chat helped:
“This experience,person,place or condition does not define me. I define it. I proclaim its function and impact on my life.”

Most of all I have been patient. I have been welcoming. I have been fearless. I have been reflective. I have been investing.

I claim my best life because I deserve it.
And so do you!

So cheers to you living your best life!

Love,
TLJ

I got a story to tell!

We all have a story to tell, to be heard, to be valued, to be learned from and sometimes to be told again.

We have stories of love,pain, healing, laughter, sorrow,anger and pure bliss. Tell your story and tell it true.

Today, as I set up my new classroom this song ringed in my new space, to be shared with amazing students this school year. I am humbled by how my life has grown this year: new apartment, new relationships, new job! and a renewed outlook.

Whats your story?