The OWN network is doing a series on Belief. Tonight, she does a segment on Burning Man. I went to the festival twice, in 2009 and again in 2010. I have friends who have gone every year for like 10-15 years and find it to be their spiritual practice.
I wrote this on my old opensalon.com blog back in 2012
MAY 25, 2012 9:52AM
Being Black at Burning Man
Party in the desert
I wrote this as a response to a post on a Burning man group on Facebook.
The original question was:
Am I sensitive or is BM mainly a white folk thing?
There were several posts back and forth… I finally posted this:
My experiences at Burning Man have been the most beautiful and the most horrible. Everything is extreme there. Are there clueless racist folks who said stupid racist shit to me when I was there? Yes. Were there awesome loving amazing folks who were German, French, Caucasian American, Asian , Bi racial, Tri racial Quadriracial(whatever that is) who adored me, helped me when I was lost, danced with me, laughed with me, shook their asses on art cars with me, and are now my friends for life? Yes!!
Being a black person in this country you will have to deal with racism of all sorts. It still exists. I say this not with a chip on my shoulder, but as a reality of living in my skin. But the fact that at Burning man there is freedom of expression love and acceptance…now that is freeing. I choose to love. Even those who don’t love me because of the color of my skin. I can still send them love, and that love just rebounds back to me. So if they are racist fuck them!
Focus on attracting loving friends at Burning Man and you will be blessed over and over again. Yes, I’m black and I like to go out to the dessert and play every once and and shake it. And that’s okay.
Oh, on the color blind thing… to me that’s funky. I’m a chef. I see all the different colors of the food I prepare and that diversity is not only healthy and beautiful to my eyes, but each color incorporates the vitamins an minerals into the various parts of my body that I need to be a healthy well rounded person.
When it comes to money, I don’t want stock in just one type of company I wanna diversify! So when it comes to people, yes I see everyone’s color and want to learn about people who may look different than me and have a different culture, and at the same time we can share so much as human beings. We may love the same types of food, or music or dance…whatever. Different folks give life so much spice. So no, I’m not color blind, I want to behold the beauty of all of the colors, cultures, races, tribes, vibes whatever.
And when I am the one black American at a party on the playa I can break all kinds of stereotypes. I can break any labels I want, that’s the cool idea about Burning Man, you can be free if you want.
I strive to carry that freedom on in my life off the playa too. Living in this country as a black person you must deal with racisim, and we are dealing with these issues as free black people. Freedom. We are free, freedom is now our birthright. Yes.
So four years later…..October 21, 2015… my view has evolved.
I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic which invites the idea of bringing transformation into your every day life, instead of seeking big experiences connected to things outside of yourself…like doing what she did in Eat Pray Love…or going to something like Burning Man.
I am not judging those who love the Burning Man experience and community as their spiritual practice.. god I say go for it!! It’s ritual, it’s transformation, it’s dealing with challenges and coming together as a community for a common goal… that is awesome!!
One of the organizers of burning man said that black people don’t go to Burning man because they don’t like camping.
It’s deeper than that. I’d say that is a blanket statement. I have always said, black folks don’t have to go out into the desert to have to deal with adversity and survive…we have to live in America as black people dealing with living while black in America.
Yes, a select group of affluent black people have the money to go for this experience and they love it.
The even deeper issue is …class. Many folks who go to burning man essentially do not pay for it. Groups come together and do parties, dances, events throughout the year to pay for their spiritual experience in the dessert. Many then, rent their homes out while they are gone and, in fact, many make money off of the experience. This is a secret of burning man that many don’t talk about. Yes there are all kinds of aspects and people who go, and people have all sorts of ways of going.
But honestly…so many in black communities (and other communities) are struggling to make their basic needs…food, shelter, child care, health care, education… and that is the priority…
Which is in some ways a shame. Because while so many black folks and white folks who could ACTUALLY USE this venue of radical expression to create safe space to collectively process and heal race based trauma….we are segregated.
I have to move my car for alternate side parking and go for a walk…but I’ll write more on this later.
By the way….
There was an interesting post on a blog on Burners.me: Burners, and The Man called Oprah and Dr Phil do Burning Man. In it, the author questions the Black Lives Matter banner in the temple at Burning Man 2015, and a blog in the Guardian about Black Burners and the conversation by Burners on social media.
Here’s more pix from my Burning Man Experiences: