On Leaving The CFC

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. – Martin Luther King Jr.

One of my main growing edges as a person is being a recovering people pleaser. Blame it on being an only child, a lonely extrovert without lots of peers to play with, a quirky black girl in a mostly white world growing up, a Gemini with a penchant for being a chameleon who can adapt to any situation… I used to put other people’s feelings and needs before my own. That shit sucked!

I ended up doing a lot of things out of obligation because it suited other people, other people who weren’t even that close to me because I really didn’t want to lose anybody. One of my best friends told me about myself. She asked, why am I investing all this energy in pleasing people who ain’t got my back? In people who don’t call me on the phone, won’t support me, when I’ve got real friends who are being left in the lurch all because I don’t like conflict and I don’t want people to be mad at me? Oh…

That conversation was a revelation. As well as being in the CFC. Writing with this group of women and with this man was super empowering. I felt like writing collectively grew my strength and willingness to take risks in my posts, risks I wouldn’t have taken before. The camaraderie emboldened me, made me want to shirk my past habits of shying away from conflict, particularly in this group. I told them things I’d never told anyone. I talked about my people pleasing/conflict avoidant life. Part of the reason Robin wrote How to Say No was because I and a few other CFs discussed our particular challenges with this word at the first CF retreat. I started getting closer to these folks, some whom I knew before and some I didn’t. We were doing great work and we were taking names.

And then I started to have challenges with one member in the collective. I was high on my feelings of CFC connectedness and brought my issues to her again and again. In her words, I was hypercritical, always pointing out what was wrong; in my mind I felt empowered not to people please because, if nowhere else, in this community I could tell my truth. The tension between us, my desire for more queer content on the blog, among other things, became a raw point in the collective to the degree that we sought mediation.

Mediation allowed me to feel the impact of what my friend had said to me about my people pleasing, conflict-avoidant personality. When faced with the reality of the conflicts between members of the collective, rather than feel like they had to pick sides, some people just stayed silent. Some folks talked abstractly, others shut down; all our various defense mechanisms were on display. It seemed that few people wanted to say how they really felt lest they displease one or the other of us at the center of these disagreements.

That hurt my feelings. I thought I had grown in friendship enough for folks to tell me if I’m not doing right but rather than really addressing how they felt about interpersonal dynamics, some folks chose to remain silent on the issue. I want the kind of connections to folks that allow us to tell each other when we’ve got something in our teeth and that did not seem to be what other folks wanted or were willing to do in that room. I realized that the collective and friendship are two different things. On that note, I decided that it was best for me to leave the collective because it became clear that I had different ideas about how I wanted to engage our issues than some of the other members.

I’m not saying all this to bad mouth the collective. On the contrary. I want readers to know how much the CFC is invested in trying to work through the hard parts of itself. The good work that comes from the collective is created by people who have real challenges while working together and that should be acknowledged. The blog that folks have come to love so much requires the dedicated labor of a few, some more than others, with sporadic and informal compensation. It seems that we are capable of laser-sharp critique through the blog but it’s been much more difficult to do the emotionally complex work of sitting with ourselves. A growing edge for the collective and still a growing edge for me.

My feminist principles compel me to tell my truth in this situation. As much work as I personally put into making this collective, I could not slink off into the night and lick my wounds privately. I needed to be transparent. Writing this post is an important part of my feminist process of healing and closure. I want to remind you dear readers that there are real people writing the incisive pieces that have come to characterize this blog. We’re just people. We are figuring it out as we go along and we don’t have all the answers.

The CFC, ironically, helped me develop the strength to walk away from it, to tell my truth while inside the collective, and not be bitter, though I’m still hurt, by the silences of some my colleagues. I get it. I was that girl who got quiet to keep the peace but the CFC helped me out of that. I feel acutely what my friend had pointed out to me about my own behavior and it is not fun. This experience reenergized my need to live authentically and do the things because I want to, not out of a sense of obligation. I feel like one of the ones who walked away from Omelas, trusting there’s another way to do things even though I have no idea if the road ahead of me holds anything better than the world I left behind. I’m willing to risk it though.

To stay in touch with me please check out my website moyabailey.com and follow me on twitter @moyazb. I am no longer running the CFC tumblr but message me if you’d like to follow my personal tumblr.


17 thoughts on “On Leaving The CFC

  1. I’m sorry to hear this. I’m glad you have gotten to a good place about the decision, and I have no doubt that you’ll continue to make important contributions, but still. Well, this is a reminder that as long as there are people involved, there will be no perfection.

  2. Moya! You already know I love you and have your back. You have always been a source of light and inspiration and radical love, even/especially now. I can’t wait to see what your brilliant, fabulous self gets up to next. <3

  3. Thank you so much for your bravery and truth. I was in the room. Before that experience, I was one of those people who thought it a shame that people could “let” personal issues stop movement work. Because of the experience that you so eloquently capture, I now know that there is no movement work without self work, accountability, and values that guide interpersonal communication. I wish you a community that values your heart as much as your hands.

    1. ^ yes, this. so much this. Thank you Moya. Gratitude and respect from corners you may not even be thinking about. Time to get my own courage up.

  4. Times of transition are always good times to pause, reassess, and recalibrate in our lives. I applaud you for your courage because in the midst of all of your other life changes, you could easily hold on to the familiar, even if painful. Some accept such as a part of life; so thank you for showing another way to self-care, that it’s okay to acknowledge the end of seasons and that relationships, just like persons, grow. And evolve. Peace.

  5. This is beautiful and powerful. You are amazing and I hope conversation on internal x institutional politics continues. Both here and across the interwebs. Accountability is work. And as so much of our activist-intellectual production happens online, it is work we need to be doing much more of. I love you. -jmj

    ps. You know I stan for Omelas! <3

  6. often we hear about the successes of collaborative work – learning about what works and celebrating what has been successful is useful. however it is also important to learn about the living realities that people face when attempting to work collectively, collaboratively, in partnership with others. in a period when people, groups and organizations seek to work more frequently in partnership, being aware of the challenges that arise, how others have attempted to address them, and more is so helpful.

    so thank you moya for your courageous and articulate summation and analysis. and thanks to the cfc for publishing it. all the best to you as you move forward on your path.

  7. Dr. Bailey,
    I really appreciate your earnest attitude. I feel compelled to share a (random) link with you on personality types as I can completely relate to your status as a recovering people-pleaser, and the problems that come with it. You sound like a total type 9. http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/typenine.asp#.UguVYxZQGLg
    Take this however you will. It could shed some light on how to continue achieving authentic self-expression despite the perceived risks. I’m inspired by your candidacy. Best wishes in moving forward!

  8. Hey Dr. Bailey:
    I’m so proud of you. I feel like a Momma/Sista seeing you travel through your phases of black feminism. Keep me posted on all of your new revelations.
    M. Bahati Kuumba

  9. An authentically lived experience! Thank you for the work you’ve done, and the work you continue to do!

  10. Dr. Bailey,
    I testified on Facebook, but I also wanted an archive here. Thanks for illuminating the collective growing edge for people working in community… specifically poc/qpoc feminist artists, creatives, knowledge workers. When The Saartjie Project began there was no blueprint for us and black women’s arts collectives were not publicly talking about the deliberate soul work and accountability that must happen alongside the artistic practice. After four years of creating together I think I figured it out as I sat in the audience at our last performance. Bittersweet.

    When I create in a black women’s arts collective again we’ll read your piece and talk about it. Your light shines bright!

    Jess Solomon

  11. Moya, I think that your post is brave, courageous and timely.

    The internet is a living breathing archive, as a blogger and as someone who is invested in Black women’s knowledge production on the internet, I understand the vulnerability that it took to “air dirty laundry”, if you will.

    Having been blogging regularly since 2005, it is deep to see the shapes and shifts, and changes within certain dimensions of the Black feminist blogosphere. Specifically I am thinking about the ways in which Black twitter, live streaming web news and other social media ecosystems have created a space, a rupture if you will, for folks to listen to Black women’s feminist knowledge in new digital ways. We produce this work but what are the costs, what are the risks, what is sacrificed? I am also thinking about what does it mean that we have this platform, these new platforms? How do the flows of capital, social and economic shape who is listened to and who is heard? Is there a relationship between the access that these new platforms create and the tensions in our relationships? How does one even begin to negotiate these relationships and tensions? How can we be gentle with each other so that we can kick ass in the world? Who are we accountable to and why?

    In fact I think that last week was a watershed week for the work that some Black women bloggers and Radical Women of Color bloggers have been doing for nearly 15 years on the internet. Specifically I am speaking to Mikki Kendall’s work on #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/14/solidarityisforwhitewomen-hashtag-feminism), Jamilah Lemieux’s work on #BlackpowerisforBlack men (https://twitter.com/JamilahLemieux/status/367439816394174464, ) and Brownfemipower’s work (http://brownfemipower.tumblr.com/post/58243492956/stop-speaking-for-us-women-of-color-bloggers-white).

    In fact all of this work reminds me that young people are watching us as a young brother college student, Marc Priester, contributed his work, “Feminism’s Divisions” (http://www.diamondbackonline.com/opinion/article_0843eb1c-0540-11e3-b12e-0019bb30f31a.html).
    Marc is a former Women’s Studies student of one of my friends and colleagues, Jessica Vooris (http://jvoor.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/spaces-in-between/). His theorizing is clearly related to being exposed to Black feminist and Multiracial feminist work. I state this to acknowledge the connections between offline, online and historical feminist work.

    Young people are watching and people are watching.

    I am not trying to capture 15 years of work here, this isn’t the time or space. But what I am attempting to do is show that the work that Black women and Radical Women of Color do on the internet is WORK. Every tweet, every post, every comment, every e-mail and phone call in the back channel.

    It is bugged to me that at this precise moment where Black women’s digital feminist work is receiving unprecedented digital and mainstream media attention, that you are leaving. You may already know this but as of last night I’ve left the CFC as well. What does it mean that the moment when there is a light being shined on some of our work – you are leaving the site that IS for many people, their introduction to Black feminism on the internet? Is there a connection between your departure and this new attention?

    Your post reminded me of the politics of being Black feminist friends and the hairiness that arises when a Black feminist friend has a conflict that she/he may not have the skills, tools, desire or will to navigate. I’ve been there. I’ve messed up. I mess up all the time (trust, you have called me out on many of thing from my abelist language ouch… intellectual carelessness when thinking through centering trans women of color…double ouch). I am a better teacher and Black feminist for those call outs, even though I gave you a big assed side eye when you did it because being challenged/pushed in new emotional/intellectual directions can be hard for Black girls. I didn’t like it. However, for me messing up means that I am living.

    #Blackgirlsarefromthefuture so they try to always make new mistakes.

    My point in writing this comment is to mark this moment, to let you know that I see you and to acknowledge how hard it may be leave something that you’ve worked hard to create within a collective space.

    You challenge me because you Love me.

    I will see you on the other side.



    For more on posts (a very partial list) on Women of Color bloggers and #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen and for more background on Hugo S. please see the following posts:

    Here are two posts by brownfemipower:

    “On Hugo Schwyzer, White Supremacist Feminism and Its Abuse of WoC”
    A Storify by Trudy

    “On #FemFuture” by Jessica Luther

    “A Chat with Mikki Kendall and Flavia Dzodan About #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen” by Jia Tolentino http://thehairpin.com/2013/08/solidarity-is-for-hairpin

    ” H is for hubris, Hugo; S is for sordid, Schwyzer ” by Flavia Dzodan

    “Black Men Respond to #BlackPowerIsForBlackMen…and We Love It” by Britini Danielle


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