Monday, October 24, 2011

Ancestor Worshipping: T Dot Renaissnce Style

"I walk here because you walked first,"

Since my grandmother passed, I talk to her all the time. In a very real way, since she outgrew her physical body, her fyre has been liberated into the universe surrounding me always. I have come to understand my actions as offerings I give her on the alter that is the life she gifted me with. Knowing this, it has made me more conscious of my actions and their significance backwards (into her arms), forwards (to my babies) and side to side (my community).

But in my experience, in our families, the cycle of hurt, trauma and violence can often mean that love skips a generation. This can look like 'bad parents', 'great grandparents', like endless Aunties and 2 Moms, even 3. This happens in a whole other sorts of ways too, this is not 'the' solitary experience, but one of the experiences that resonates for Folks of Colour. All too often because of slavery, residential schools, wars, silence, our parents didn't learn how to parent because they never enjoyed such a privilege. And at the same time, we also had elders that could turn $20 into 2 weeks of food, that made birthdays feel like national holidays, moved us across oceans and helped us do our homework. 

As children of the diaspora, we also learned how to craft new families, seek our villages in the cities and the hoods. Elders, parents, caregivers can look very different for us.

And it is here is where this idea sprung up. At this intersection between elders and ancestry, at the point between worship and honour and at the place between love and gratitude, we birthed our 'Elder's Dinner'.

For the past year, I have been meeting as part of the T-Dot Renaissance Collective. We are a group of emerging and interdisciplinary artists, working and rooted in Toronto. Emerging from the successful staging of Amanda Parris’s theatrical production, 32C, and her motha luvin incomparable Artistic Direction we have converged to tell a single shared story through different mediums. We will be having our first-ever collective art installation exploring diasporic journeys, from December 3-4th, 2011 at Loft 404 (located at 404-263 Adelaide St. West). 

And as I met with some of the members of the Audio and Visual Group, Keisha-Monique, Logik Donaldson and Alix Mukonambi, the idea came that we should host a dinner. A dinner for our elders, a dinner where we cook for them and sit with them and ask them questions and hear stories across diasporas, across, decades and oceans, across Ackee & Saltfish and Ugali.

Through all they have done and lived, do they know, I mean really know that they are not alone? And not just as a Black womyn or as a Red womyn, do they get to sit in the collective experience as a Womyn as Men and People of Colour and feel affirmed in knowing that in pain, imperfections, the brilliantbrokenblessed parenting, they cleared space for us to have a resistance? They have given birth to Activists, Artists, Cultural Curators, Fathers, Life Givers? They gave birth to us.

Do you remember when we were little and our elders (parents, caregivers, chosen family) may have suggested that you have a playdate with someone. Maybe because you both like to jump rope, you were both 8 or maybe just cause they wanted to have some adult conversation for an hour...this is not a grown-up play date. Not for the faint of heart, but for the exact opposite.
Welcome to the renaissance.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Learning To Love In The Dark

As I young girl growing up among mostly white people and mostly rich, racist white people. I was left with a long legacy of internalized racism. I think that is why I am so vocal about it, because I know how powerful and destructive the tools of colonialism are. Whether they are movies or Christianity. Anything can and is used as a tool to keep up oppressed, and we must be ever vigilant, because they work. And I want us to be free.

One of the ways I am working to decolonize my spirit, is by loving myself and loving my and our blackness. It has put me in a time in my life where my relationships with Black and Brown Womyn are my priority, to love them and give them my best and that includes myself. Because for a long time, I wasn't very good to myself. And whether it was because at 15, when my boyfriend's mother told me that she was pleased I was not one of those immigrants who were destroying her white middle class neighbourhood. In order not to believe I could be as bad as she described, I instead chose to pretend that I was outside of that. As a mixed race girl, it is one of the 'privileges' that we enjoy, we are able to reject Blackness. White plantation owners would do the paper bag test to us and not our darker skinned sisters, this meant that we had the option of social mobility, even if it was only out of a strategy of divide and conquer, letting a few of us through so we could oppress each other. As Keisha-Monique says, "the most powerful tool of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed".

As someone who has dated a lot of white folks or folks with white privilege and now in a relationship with not only someone who is descriptively Black, but someone who is politically Black American, I am confronting other remnants of that internalized racism, some white guilt I was holding on to, some body issues, so much in fact. And inspired by this radical (remembering that radical means from the roots;) process of loving and healing, is this piece I performed at Leah Lakshmi Piepzna- Samarasinha's launch of the most important and beautiful Love Cake. There are two pieces I perform in this, the first one is a version of a poem I submitted to Soy Forde's Creative Commess Blog Carnival, check out her blog here.

I try to remind myself that there is no purity in any of it, decolonization, even liberation are processes we move in and out of, ebb and flow, live and learn in. There is no inauthenticity in any of it, through it all we Black and Brown, this too is a part of our experience. There is so much nuance, degree in all of it. It's why I love it when we tell our stories, all of them.