Category Archives: Daily Musings

Women Marching For Justice

womenstxIt 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.

womenempoweredadisaWhy 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.

frontwmarchingadisa17 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.

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Having What You Want

img_5958Do you really want to have what you want?

Do you even know what you want and not what the media or your neighbors or even your parents and what others tell you that that is what you should want?

Do you daily see yourself having what you want?

Do you have love and share love freely and daily with everyone you encounter?
Are you thankful for what you currently have?

Do you complain and put others down?

Do you envy or celebrate other’s accomplishments?

Does your joy and happiness feed others?
Do you marvel at the sun, moon, the people you see, the animals around you?

Do you spend quiet time reflecting on your life?

Do you eat what is right for your body because you have checked in with your body and not what is trending?

Do you exercise so you limbs and joints can rejoice at their power?

Do you keep all promises your make, regardless of how small or large?
Do you just speak thoughtlessly, saying all the things you can do, or are going to do, but forgetting the moment the words are out of your mouth?

Do you truly value yourself, thank your mind, your spirit, your heart, your body for contributing positively to life?

Do you feel connected to others, and are you willing to work with others for the greater good?

Do you feel empowered and that you, and you alone can single-handedly make a difference for someone other than yourself.

Are you willing to grow and change, when necessary, an out-dated idea, belief, action, way of being?

What are you thankful?  To whom are you thankful?  To whom are you accountable?

Who helps you to grow outside and beyond yourself?

Can you measure or demonstrate ways you have changed and grown in the last year, in the last two years, in the last five years?

Who have you helped lately, and in what way was the help tangible?

Having reflected on all of the above, go in peace, be peace and share your divine peaceimg_5945 with others.

Walk Good

 

Queen of Katwe: We Have to Save More Than One

imgresI had resisted going to see Queen of Katwe because it is produced by Disney, and I am weary of Disney’s penchant for romanization and fabrication of a perfect reality, often at the cost of truth or accurate representation of history to sell to “young people.”

Nonetheless, I braced myself and went, and am glad that I did. Queen of Katwe is the important story of ten-year old Phiona, who after many years becomes the leading chess player and master in Uganda.

Performed by Madina Nalwanga, who is exquisitely beautiful, the story is set in the impoverished city of Katwe, Uganda. Phiona’s curiosity and wanting an escape from selling maze to help feed her family, leads her to chess, and over the years of steady progress, exposure to life outside of the slum, she strives for a home and more opportunities for herself and her family.

Lupita Nyong’o, herself a beauty, plays the mother who supports Phions in her goals despite misgivings; and David Oyelowo, plays Robert Katende, Phiona’s chess tutor who teaches her about life and emotional struggles and expanding her horizons. This is a stalwart cast that appears so at home in the setting that as a viewer I was right there, as hopeful as the people of the Katwe community.

But I was also acutely aware of the vast disparity and class biases so evident throughout most of Africa and the Caribbean. They might all be Ugandans, but class divide is rife in those communities, and the colonial legacy exacerbates the gulf between the poor and the rich, the latter, who often do not see the need to help those less fortunate. Watching the movie had my chest tight for other reasons –just witnessing the plight and poverty of Katwe, which is a mirror of many, many cities, towns and villages all throughout Africa and the Caribbean, and I can’t help but point fingers.

While it is true that those former colonial societies have had corrupt leaders who have squandered money from the people, they are not the real thieves, even though the West wants us to focus on a handful of such leaders. The fact is Europe and America daily feign amnesia, and act as if their exploitation of these societies have not led to their impoverishment, while developing the cities of Europe and the USA.

Why Europeans are not deeply ashamed of their exploitation, why they don’t drop to their knees to seek forgiveness for how much they have and continue to steal and rape the African continent, speaks to their deep-seated denial of their savage actions. Given Uganda’s natural wealth, reported as the 133rd largest export economy in the world and the 81st most complex economy according to the Economic Complexity Index (ECI), Katwe and other such cities and towns throughout Uganda should not exist.

Endowed with numerous natural resources, including, goldtungstentinberyl, and tantalite in the south; tungsten, clay, and granite,  micacopperlimestone, and iron in the north, and is said to be so fertile it could easily feed the entire African continent if it were farm commercially, so why does such poverty exist? Uganda was the original Garden of Eden.

Given these resources there should be no city like Katwe and no child or adult in Africa should live in the abject conditions depicted in that movie. Collectively, we all should feel deeply ashamed and work to eradicate those conditions for once and for all. It is not enough to have Phiona, in as much as we applaud her. There are thousands like her, and in order for Africa and the Caribbean to catch up and recovery from the holocaust of slavery, we have to provide opportunities for many thousands Phionas. Let repatriation begin.

Europe must be made to compensate by building schools, housing, universities and hospitals, and equipping them with the latest technology for the masses who are still reeling from the terrorism and violation of slavery that build Europe for more than 500 years.

 

26 Years Later: Dash’s Daughters of the Dust Still Shimmers

 

A stormy day, but I was not about to miss seeing Daughters of the Dust (1992) and hearing Julie Dash, the writer, director and filmmaker speak, and thanks to my friend, Alem all this was possible.

I had not paused to think it was over 25 years ago when I first saw the film in Oakland, and loved it.  I still remember that first viewing, being swept away by this original narrative that did not present African Americans as poverty trapped victims who needed to be rescued by benevolent whites.  There are no such white folks in this film, and African Americans are able to speak and direct their own lives.

The Gullah people remind me of the Maroons in Jamaica, so much so that after seeing this film, I wanted to, and many years later, did in fact get to visit one Gullah community in South Carolina and meet some of these people.

I was flooded with these memories as I sat in the theatre waiting to see if this film could do it again. Well I was not prepared for Standing at the Scratch LineDash’s most resent short documentary on migration, with a satchel as the main character. I love Dash’s sensibilities and this documentary is so clever yet simple, and poignant and beautiful. It is a meditation, a song, a dance, a homage, a surprised all wrapped in one elegant package in film.  Seeing it made me more certain than ever that I will direct a movie before my demise.

And yes, Daughters of the Dust did it again, and I suspect if I were to see it ten more times it would do it again, every time. Daughters of the Dust  is the story, but it is more than the story.  It is the Peazant people on St Helena Island, and their lineage and intersecting stories, and their defiant beauty. When I first saw the movie, I remember thinking that the director must love her some black folks, especially black women in our natural beauty, not fired and dyed and laid to the side with so much make-up our skin cannot breathe and shine through. In Daughters of the Dust  our beauty is on parade and we are so-so fine.

When a member of the audience, during the Q&A, asked Dash if she thought about having subtitles as the dialect was hard to understand, her response was right on point. Paraphrasing, but in a nutshell she said, train your ear to listen to how we speak in the same way you listen to Irish or other accents that are equally unfamiliar and difficult to understand.  In other words, respect how we speak and listen keenly, and for that reason, except for a few subtitles in the beginning, Dash sees no reason to do more.  Also, she mentioned that a study was done and there are over 20, 000 words or more used in mainstream American that have their roots in West African languages and lexicon.

25 years ago when I first saw this film, this  was a common compliant –not being able to understand what they were saying—by both African-Americans as well as whites.  However, I understood what was being said and attributed that to my Caribbean heritage and hearing similarities in our nation language.

Daughters of the Dust is lush, and full of relevant cultural material, and everyone should see it. I am glad the Mill Valley Film Festival decided to honor Dash and her movie, which believe it or not was “the first full-length film by an African-American woman with general theatrical release in the United States in 1992. In 2004, Daughters of the Dust was included in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.”

 

 

 

 

2 Faces or 1

opal87The 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?

opal2016The 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 Makes Things

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.

 

 

 

Blessed and Doing the Work

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.seahibicusadisa16

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.

The Cock Crows Our Secrets Flier Final

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.

Put on Lipstick

FullSizeRender (2)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.

FullSizeRender (1)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.

FullSizeRender (3)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!

Sisterhood and Letters: That’s What the Association of Caribbean Women Writers & Scholars (ACWWS) Represents.

ACWWSSuriname2 we are wrought from salty foam

rising from the surface of the ocean

we are rocks and limbs

meeting the swell

like mountains pushing

back the storm

I had the fortunate pleasure to be among the 50 invited writers at the first international gathering of Caribbean Women Writers conference, held at Wellesley University, April 8-10, 1988, organized by Selwyn Cudjoe. My short story collection, Bake-Face and Other Guava Stories, had been published January 1986, and was praised in the New York Times. That initial gathering changed how I thought about myself as a writer, and introduced me to a supportive community of women who, like me, were seeking to tell their unique stories of the Caribbean and share them with the world.

As a result of the above gathering, The Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars (ACWWS) was born, spearheaded by the late Helen Pyne Timothy, founder and inaugural President. I invite us to stand in a moment of silence to honor the passing of this sweet spirit. Pyne Timothy was at various times Dean and University Dean for the Faculty of Arts and General Studies at the University of the West Indies St Augustine ,Trinidad; also, she had been the inaugural Chair of the Department of Language and Linguistics at that institution. Pyne Timothy saw the need for a women to come together to celebrate the works of Caribbean writers and scholars so founded ACWWS.

Throughout the years, I made sure to attend almost all of those bi-annual conferences in order to see and share with my sisters and learn what was trending, gain insight about new works and theories, but also to experience the warm, comforting feeling of being in a community of brilliant women, who were about supporting, but also interrogating each other, probing and pushing one another to go further, dig deeper, write more, network, create space for new voices and growth and come together to share and expand our insights. And it was with this keen realization of this important mission, why I agreed to be president of ACWWS.

ACWWS is still needed as an organization, and still provides a vital platform for Caribbean women writers and scholars. We need young scholars to step forward and grow this association so that we can continue to host bi-annual conferences that focuses on the work of Caribbean women writers at home and throughout the Diaspora.

  words fill our handbags

heavy as any fisherman’s net

each an endless puzzle

we shuffle to stitch meaning

ACWWSOpal2010 copy

we are women of the same

mother who jumped ship

but did not sink instead

held firmly to yemoja

 

scrap paper from magazines

wall paper our walls telling

a story not our own yet one

as familiar as our own life

 

no more will we be invisible

our voices roam freely and loudly

we are the architects of our future

moving beyond glass confinement

 

color us multi ethnic   name us

madonna and jezebel we are twins

who have run through fields and found

the other side  a place of our own making

 

If you are a Caribbean writer and/or scholar I urge you to become a member of ACWWS -http://www.acwws.org/