Tuesday, March 12, 2013

just start at the beginning: crags rock fishy tadpoles
water sea primordial beneath the stars.
first waking
but still dreaming
what is the dream? how did
it reach me from the heavens
to beneath the the blackest sea?
like droplets of water in an ocean
I hear the waves behind my breast.
This is how I came into
the world.
on a sound.
I had a conversation with an old friend about the significance one's Name. He has decided to get one of those DNA tests done to pinpoint his beginnings- his African beginnings. He says it is time to re-name himself in his own language, his own image and let go that of a slave.

Years ago, I had attended a conference on African Genetics and Geneology. The subject, of course, was the significance new advances in DNA technology and how they could impact the African American's understanding of Him/Herself (I say America because the conference focused in on the United States, however I feel that this discussion encompassed Africans across the planet displaced by the slave experience). What can DNA tell us about ourselves that we do not already know? Can our Africaness be changed, altered, diminished, emboldened by the advances of Western technology?

Name carries so much meaning; it ties us, binds us, holds us up to Creation. I am glad he is thinking about the roots of is existence, taking what belongs to him; the Truth. I begin to think of how my own name has helped me find my way.
My father chose my name at a time in his life when he was also seeking out Truth - my birth, he says, triggered the need to rid himself and his children of a slave identity, and so he made the decision to bring my brother and I up out of out of this debasement by reclaiming our Name... and so I was given a name that comes out of the dreams of my Father and the mouth of my Mother. It has and continues to be my sword and shield.
I have a very difficult time with the term "mixed race". I do not think such a thing really exists for those of African descent.

I am a woman of African descent. I have learned through the years that to claim otherwise is to negate my very being. My father is black, my mother is white. I am a light skinned woman- there is little physically about me that could not easily translate as Arab or Portuguese. My mother always knew she would be raising black children no matter what they looked like, and she was right. I was brought up in Saskatchewan with my mother's family. I have a very loving family. Yet, I know that my blackness makes them uneasy. And so I have been taught to keep quiet about this fact to make others 'comfortable'. Half of myself was in hiding. I can assimilate very well- I had to- but to do so always meant burying the deepest understanding I had of myself. Blackness among whiteness in any degree, is tolerated at best- never accepted, never welcome. How often I was reminded of this.

I was not put on this earth to bridge any gap between races- in my experience it's not possible- as blackness amongst whiteness is only tolerated at best. I know who I am. I am very clear on this. I am clear that to be tolerated is beneath me. I cannot bring my mouth to speak mixed race woman. I am a woman of African descent.
This is a small work in progress...

I sat having tea with an old dread, named Isah, whom I had met him down at the fish shop on my first trip to Kensington Market. It was then, over tea he began to tell me of a time when he lived in Jamaica- back when he was young and new to understanding things.
He spoke at length of his Grandmother the woman whose age age defies the earth and sky- she lived to see 129 years pass by and to this day, still checks in on her son of sons.
Isah and I wandered through fond memories. He took me to the back country hills of his childhood, the dancehalls he used to visit with his friends, beautiful girls he wished he knew how to love. I followed the drift of his thoughts with ease, as they were not unfamiliar to me. That night over tea, we ran on the beach, caught fish in the early morning, and swam in the sea. Amidst these night travels we somehow strayed off the path, and Isah began to tell me of one evening in particular...

He was on his way to visit a friend and when walking in the street he caught sight of a man on the ground with a knife
in his hand...
I watched as he put a cupful of honey into is tea, and he told me that it was dark sometimes on the road. The man he saw was stabbing his own Self in the neck. And then he told me of Obeah.

My hair stood on end as I thought of the man lying there on the road- writhing in a pool of his own blood, the taste of iron hot in his mouth, not having the strength to stop his own destruction. I took a sip of tea and tasted the bitterness in those last echoes of pain, still listening carefully to the Dread as he remembered. My old friend spoke calmly - his voice was smooth and didn't waver. But it was his darting eyes that set my nerves on edge; I saw fear looking back at me, and it was as sharp as the memory of a knife in the road- of losing your will to darkness.

I decided to act quickly by breaking the silence with a silly joke and a request that we have another smoke. My friend awoke from his revery and smiled in relief. Feeling grateful for the interruption, he then took it upon himself to teach me the art of rolling the perfect joint, and so we spent the rest of the evening in this light digression, though deep down we both felt we were still in shadow.

It was getting late.

I finished my last cup of tea and left. The night was in hot August, so I walked home (walking is good when you have a lot on your mind). I couldn't shake the strange feeling I had; it followed me as I walked through the amber downtown streets. I knew that I would never see the Dread again- bad omen for a first meeting of friends. My unease lied in the fact that this tale was so familiar and natural to me- I somehow knew that pain and remembered that power. Why? I grew less afraid as I walked on, but no less disturbed by this discovery...

I headed toward home lost in the waves thought, when suddenly I began to feel I was wading through water. My shoes started to squish, my pants began to weigh down on my belt and I was heavy. The water rose and each step I took seemed more effort than the last. I was getting tired but kept on walking until my feet just... left the ground.

Then I swam- swam hard against a current of my own making and un-making. Drenched with sweat and dreaming, I made it across. Across a street? Around the block? No... I made it over to my old friend Ten's place just down the way.