It takes quite a lot to infuriate me. Really. One, I have become quite jaded, I must reluctantly admit. People (me included) will disappoint and irritate you on a daily basis (sometimes hourly… exaggeration is underrated anyway!). Nothing new under the stars. It is the way our social fabric is manufactured. Luckily, age will don you superpowers when it comes to identifying unnecessary bullsh***. Two, I am rather composed, calm, even placid, some would think or say. The parent of a toddler, patience has become more than a goal, a necessity not just for my child’s survival but also for mine. I kid you not. Patience is not just a virtue, it is an uncompromising requirement and this is why I have found it hard over the past few years to be enraged daily. Of course when it comes what is happening in this ill-crafted world, on a scale that sometimes seems so much greater than us, my fury can seem boundless, limitless, uncontrollable,… social, economic and political injustices left, right, center, the vast absurdity of our social kind, the vacuum that our shared stupidity will lead us to… I am a woman of convictions and hopes and this 21st century is anything but hopeful.
As people of color, as descendants indebted with a kind of trauma that words and cremated relics can barely cover the surface of, as survivors, shape shifters, legacy makers, modern day creative community builders, what cycles must we still break in order to thrive? In order to live? In order to love? We often talk about solidarity and support whence trying to build a sense of kinship and community. And that sense of community is global in its meaning and desired reach but I wonder if we always ask ourselves the right questions. I wonder to what extent are some of our inherited, internalised behaviours interrogated and evaluated.
I look at the behaviours of the masculine specifically towards the feminine and pause. The constant mansplaining, silencing, overt and subvert, quasi schizophrenic denying of equal exposure, opportunity, voicing and primal understanding is so overwhelming, it is (at times) laughable. Some will view in my rant, a sum of personal experiences but I have found so many echoes to what my relationship to masculinity is that I believe it to be greater than myself. I appreciate that people will grant me such importance that they feel I could speak for my generation but unfortunately, I am much smaller in this debate that I can be given props for. Really.
It often boils down to value, for me. How we value ourselves and how we value others. I can attest to my projected lesser value in many, many instances and interestingly enough, it is often enrobed in nonsensical verbiage about culture and tradition. What to respond to someone who feels that because you are woman, you cannot have a say in providing patronymic legacy to your child? What to answer to someone who feels that listening to your argued (and perhaps, and just perhaps arguable) diatribe on what you consider to be priorities is unnecessary and better yet, unimaginable? What to say to the ones who feel that your social existence or visibility is dependent on your marital or parental status? What to say to the ones who use and dispose of you without any form or regard for your emotional- and overall- health? What to reply to the ones whose inconsistence, incoherence and deeply embedded misogyny seeps through every pore of their social bodies? How to protect, defend, and ultimately thwart those who impair, injure, hurt and kill our womanhood, our humanity?
So much work is desperately required. Needed. Wanted. Within and Without. The ever-so gifted and wise sister of mine, dancer, choreographer and lecturer Tamara Thomas, summed it up in what has been to date a milestone in my understanding and transcending of our shared frustration. She said that the process requires honesty. The work that needs to be done by all of us has to come from a place of acknowledgment… of where we are and how far or how near we have come. Realising that self-love cannot remain a hashtag or a trend but has to become our normalised practice, that rooted in self-love is value. Value for ourselves and others.
The legacy of enslavement and oppression is real. Palpable. Long-lasting. It is a legacy that turns everything upside down. It is a legacy that will make you believe that what you know or what you tell yourself is true. It is a legacy that does not enable you to question your motives, comportment, intentions, ideas, actions, realities, beliefs, cultures. We, as social beings, create these. We can decide whether what we created still holds meaning or not. We can ascertain who benefits from our lessening. We can decide who needs to be held accountable (and the answer will lead us back to “we”). We need to check and redress our feminine and masculine selves . We need to undergo surgery and remove the colonial chip that’s been implanted in our systems.
And we women will have to continue to denounce, redress, at times, prevent with constantly growing force what we can no longer accept, what we should no longer accept, what we will no longer accept. Our voices will be heard. Our opinions will matter. Our choices will be respected. We will say no, stop, not this way, try again, listen, and goodbye on a more regular basis so that it becomes law.
We will call on our Ancestors not to worship the foundations of our cultures but rather to reinvent them. We will ask them for their guidance in ensuring that whatever is engrained in all of us can be reviewed, reevaluated, renewed. We will ask them for comfort and strength when navigating those emotional high tides. We will ask them to amplify our voices constantly and consistently. So much so that they will become magnified resonances of our greater selves. We will ALWAYS stand FREE. TALL. UNAPOLOGETIC.
” They are the people of Creation. Strong, tall, and mighty people who can bear anything. Their Maker, she said, gives them the sky to carry because they are strong. These people do not know who they are, but if you see a lot of trouble in your life, it is because you were chosen to carry part of the sky on your head.”
Edwige Danticat. Breath, Eyes, Memory.
All Photos: Delphine Diallo