When I first visited Ayiti/Haiti, exactly a year after the 2010 devastating earthquake I did not know what to expect, but I was deeply moved by the indomitable spirit of the people, by the immense artistry and beauty that they created everywhere and by the care and loving attention they obviously invested in their children.
But we never see or hear this portrayal of Ayiti in the media, and even less about the historical wanton exploitation of the land and resources and the people’s labor by Europeans, Americans and even neighboring Caribbean islands. All our hands are a little dirty.
However, what we are most guilty of is our negligence of thought that continue to speak of Ayiti as the “poorest” country in the western hemispher, and negates its foundational wealth, its unstoppable creativity and its undaunting determination to continue and thrive. This collective spirit is evident in the children I saw everywhere — their clean, clear eyes, their open curiosity, their keen sense of responsibility for themselves and their siblings and their innate, open beauty that was as welcoming and heart-stirring as the most beautiful flower, which of course they are, and to my delight, I felt many of them knew this, was shown and taught this, despite their immediate circumstances.
As I was driving by, I photographed this little girl squatting by the road, in charge of the two bags to her right and left. There was something golden about her manner, some assurance of belonging, some assurance that life was not going to simply use her up then sit her out. She was already installed on her throne, hence the color and texture that I employed in amending the photo.
At a vodun ceremony, I was arrested by this other girl, who was probably no more than six years old. It was her gesture, finger to mouth, angle of her upright arm, bold intensity of her eyes that I wanted to share. I am here and must be counted, her presence spoke to me. I am here and have something to share. I am here and will not be forgotten. I am here…See me!
See these children, really see them and see their island, and help them and their island to live the freedom they so daringly seized that others have been trying to pull from their hands. They are truly methaphysicians. They see beyond the immediate into a future where real freedom is a lived reality.
This is part of a larger photo/poetic project, in progress, entitled, Still: Ayiti’s Resoluteness
I am a writer who takes photographs. I am a photographer who captures lives. Actually I am a recorder who interprets and transcribes all that I see. I am a seer, learning to see more. I am a projector. I am a futurist. I am a creator of reality.
This is a picture of a Jamaican man. I don’t remember where in Jamaica I snapped his photography nor the year. I did not ask him to pose for me. He was sitting talking and I think I did ask if I could take his photograph, but that might be after I took it because the moment you ask and bring awareness, then another face is shown. I want to capture the raw, un-posed; the moment – unmasked, vulnerable and even intense.
This is what I saw or perhaps this is what I projected. I have tampered with this image as all artists tamper/alter/amend images. I do this through photo-shop, the way I use light — adding or darkening– the way I crop the image to create an effect I want, and the other ways I apply filters and other methods to alter the image, as in inverting.
I was taken with his eyes; I think I somewhat believe the eyes are the mirror to one’s soul – whatever we think that to be. I was drawn to his entire presence, solid, stocky, a man who speaks his mind, I believe. A man who insists on being listened to, a man who draws an audience. A man who might be pushed to hit his woman or perhaps not. He might be a push over, only wants to feel her back pushed up against his chest.
But now he is my man; I get to show him off the way I want him seen; I get to tell the story I give him or extract from him or impose on him. He is mine – My Mister Intense.
It has been a week since women and men and children all over the world took to the street demanding justice and equity. Reportedly , On January 21, there were 673 Sister Marches all over cities in the USA, the largest in Washington, DC, as well as the rest of the World, including Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.
I participated in the Women March in St Croix, USVI, led by a group of women with about 4 thousand participants. In good St Croix fashion, the participants were multicultural, and the event include blowing the Tutu –the conch shell horn, music, dancing, singers, speeches, recitation of poetry reflecting the diverse range of this community.
Why were women marching? What did they hope to achieve?
It was a call to action, a call to unify against the current US President who appears to want to turn back the clock. It signals the forging of alliances across lines of race, gender and sexual identification, and was a demonstration of the willingness of those individuals who want to ensure justice for all.
Above all it was a hopeful and positive event that made it clear that many people understand their self-agency and will not sit back and allow their rights nor the rights of others that many died for, be overridden.
At the end of this positive and moving event, several women took the mic and said what they were marching for, and central of course was for their grandchildren and the future generations so that they will have a voice, but also for able-bodied and physically challenged people, for Muslins and religious freedom, for the right of gays to marry, for women’s right to own their bodies, for democracy, for freedom. I was marching to say thanks to my ancestors for taking us this for and to end child abuse and domestic violence.
Although we were each marching for different causes , the common denominator was our humanity and the continuation of all our basic rights as people to live as we choose as long as we do no harm to others.
I am positive and optimistic that this movement has just begun world wide, and women who have held up and continue to hold up much more than half the sky/world, will truly rise up and take our rightful place in a feminist/womanist manner that will heal the world and bring compassion and mindfulness to all we do, and how we nurture the world.
The poem asks who is this child woman and where has she gone? Does her poems still grow in sun-flowers? Does she still dance in the rain? How has she faced the disappointments and with whom does she celebrate the successes?
The poems asks who is this other woman? Where did she come from and why does she have the eyes of the woman above? Are her poems still soaked in dreams submerged in molasses? Does she still hide among the tall grasses and interpret the shapes of clouds?
Are her songs still melodious and do birds sing her awake?
The poem really wants to know who are these faces and where do their truths intersect?
If poetry is the only truth and life is a lie where flows the water of our legacy?
My Mother still has beautiful hands, but they give her the most trouble. She laments that she has difficulty raising her arms above her head, she laments that her fingers ache and swell, she laments that she has difficult grasping things.
She is thankful that she can still use them to take care of herself, dress, go to the bathroom, even though it takes long.
I can’t imagine my mother not being able to use her hands. When I were a child her hands were never still. She could fix things around the house, the electrical iron, a bench needing a nail to stabilize it. She basked and every Saturday I lived for her sweet potato puddings, coconut cookies, cinnamon role. She was the best cook, and as a result was asked to cater for the cricket teams, but I couldn’t get enough of her stew peas and rice and pepper-pot soup.
There is nothing that my mother couldn’t and didn’t grow. Everyone said she had a green thumb, African violets, gerbas, banana trees, all kind of fruits. She also had healing fingers. When the chickens had yaws she would rub aloe vera mixed with something else on them. If the dogs got in a fight during the night with the other neighborhood dogs, she would dress and bandage their ears. When I got chicken pox, she filled a great aluminum basin with water and tamarind leaf, which she boiled, then bathed me in the water to soothe my itching.
She made some of our clothes that many thought were store bought. She made curtains for our windows, crocheted doilies for the tables and dressers; she embroidered patterns on our pillow cases and our initials on our hand-kerchiefs; she knitted tops, she made beautiful needle point wall decoration, she churned ice-creams, made wine from local fruits, juices, various concoctions, all with her hands. Her needlepoints graced our walls.
I sometimes forget how blessed I am to have an endless stream of creativity, to care about the world and contribute to help make it better, to be alive at this time and know that right now is the absolutely best time of my life, that everyday I get stronger, better, more inspired, and that I have always been able to find people who love me to support my artistic expressions and my cultural activist work.
Although it is not always easy to make my dream a reality, and sometimes I get frustrated and ask where is my help, why do I have to do so much of the leg work alone, where are the billions to fund my project –after all I want to do good in the world, I don’t want six cars and a diamond ring that cost millions. I just want to create an amazing artists colony with a profuse Caribbean garden with sculptures and an orchard with all the many fruits, and ponds and flowing water and wide open space to dream and think and create.
I want to leave my children a legacy of land and ownership, in addition to my writings, so each generation is not beginning from scratch so that we never make any ground way . I don’t want to go out the same way I came, unknown, unheralded, without leaving monuments that document that I was here, I had dreams and plans which I implemented that will exist long, long after i have gone, and will contribute to humanity.
I want it all. I deserve it all. I will live my dreams. I will continue to create and leave a lasting legacy. I will continue to help heal the world, and expose child abuse, and provide victims and parents with a voice to say no more enough. Our community must talk out, blare out, expose, eradicate and heal. To this end I have written, The Cock Crows Our Secrets, to begin the dialogue. I cannot do this without out. So support in all ways you can, spread the word, send contribution to the St Croix Foundation care of Moving Women. Raise the conversation with friends, family and colleagues, and most importantly do not be silent about these crimes that impact the entire community.
I am blessed and grateful and each day I am doing my part. Join me in happinesses and wealth building to support all our dreams. Support Moving Women’s theatre efforts.
I just put on luscious plum, one of my favorite colors, that accentuates my lips.
I love my lips, their perfect fullness and shape. I mostly wear dark colors, and I don’t spend a lot of money on lipsticks, but I have one in every purse, and I almost never go out without adorning my lips, for moisture, but also for appeal.
Men have always complimented my lips, all my lips, say I have kissing lips.
A few years ago while in the bank, one of those old fashion, charming Caribbean men that can talk you to step out of your underwear, even in a bank, I did not, started to chat me up, he said, “Darling, your lips so lovely if I had them I would be wealthy and own this bank, and I know if I were to kiss them I would be transported to heaven.” Talk about sweet talk. I must admit I smiled, even blushed – he was so into talking me up, saying he could spend more than a year just on a lips before his eyes adore my neck and the rest of my body. It made my day, and writing it now makes me smile.
When I was twenty-one years old another Caribbean man did adore my lips, while in a working meeting, that resulted in him getting into my pants, and the attention he paid to my lips during the course of our flirtation was divinely satisfying, running his fingers and tongues… okay enough.
This is actually about writing. I have lots of writing projects that need my attention –completing the edits on my forthcoming short story collection, Love’s Promise, proofing galleys on my children’s books, Look, Moko Jumbie!, drafting and editing interviews, completing a play, poems about my father, a daily guide, lots to do and this morning I woke up ready to go, but the words were reticent so I had to put on lipstick.
I discovered over three decades ago that there are times I need to put on lipsticks to initiate the writing process. It doesn’t matter if I have washed my face or bathed, or if I am in pajamas or wearing a sarong, if my lips are pretty, then I am ready to write.
The writing process of a writer is often idiosyncratic, and depending on what I am writing I need different things, a lit candle (the color and scent are important), a cup of tea, fresh flowers on my desk, always being able to see outside –trees, water, sounds-, walking around the house, taking a break to sit on the patio and visualize a scene, doing what is necessary to do the writing, which I love.
This morning my lips shouted, girl, adore me. So I went through my pouch of lipsticks and tried on several different shades. My lips are ecstatic! They love the flavor and of plum… They feel loved. They are vain and admire themselves. They can feel a tongue tracing them. They remember the pleasure of being sucked into a mouth. Now I am ready to write what I need to write!