Sainthood Not Required

This was inspired about two weeks ago by a friend who seemed to want to control my memories. I think it’s pretty common, but it rubs me the wrong way. I understand not allowing outright lies or even disrespect, but no matter how close we are to folks, we know them differently than do others.

I’m sure my dubious reputation as a relatively friendly, fairly feisty, determined-to-be curmudgeonly crank is in no danger, but I want you to promise me that after I’m dead, you will not forget those contrasts in my personality. I promise that I will haunt you if you try to cover me with false ideas of perfectionism.

Don’t diminish me by glossing over my less than wonderful traits: I worked hard to learn how to speak up for myself, to curse, and to embrace anger. I like my sometimes twisted humor and have no desire to be portrayed in a one dimensional, sanctified way. I don’t want to be silenced in life and I don’t want the silence of the tomb to be the end of the complex human that I will have been. I can accept that I might be entirely forgotten- I’ve done nothing that rates immortality- just don’t make me over, for however long my name conjures up a picture in anyone’s mind. Enjoy the contradictory stories and opinions: consensus is not required, I changed over my lifetime and treated various people differently. I am as I can/should be.

My mistakes are mine

My struggle remains real

It took many years for me to recognize the inherent violence in perfectionism and ideologies of “sweetness” and being “good” that are thrust most particularly upon women, but just as damagingly, on the various subaltern peoples in societies that hold fast to the notion that we are inferior and must therefore strive harder to be better. It is a dehumanizing concept that supports racism and the institutionalized oppression of the many people who are literally beaten into simplistic characterizations, whether it be the “thug” or the “model minority.” Every stereotype is a diminishment of the complexities of human lives and a deterrent to human be-ing.

So have the laughs remembering the stupid things I did (please never forget jumping from a horse at a fairly high speed or crossing streams by swinging from vines in Dominica- I did that!) or the petty, snarky (yet hopefully witty) comments. Remember the failure to sometimes be there in some way when I might have been needed; the (many) times I ditched social events in favor of solitude. Maybe I’ve helped a few people, certainly I’ve hurt some. I hope I’ve been kind more often than not: I admire gentle souls and see the immaturity in my own restless, sometimes thoughtless spirit. I abhor liars, phonies, and respectability politics, but respect good bullshit, a well told story, and politeness. I’ve been blessed to have a couple of friends who’ve loved me enough to “pull my coattails” when I’ve gotten too narrowly focused or have been just plain wrong, and I can only hope that they’ll outlive me and keep anyone inclined to whitewash my memory from spoiling the party or trading in real memories for Disneyfied bull. Don’t try to control the way others who knew me saw me: they have their stories, their own relationships. But thanks for wanting to come to my defense, I appreciate the love.

I want my life to reflect my growth, my human be-coming, and memories of me should do no less. If you were lucky enough to have had the Anjana Experience, accept no substitute!

#Popeye ain’t got nothing on me.

PS I do expect to be around for another twenty years, so please don’t get freaked out and call me or start eulogizing me now. Respect the rant for what it is!

International Women’s Day

On International Women’s Day, I saluted my mom, a good representative of all the women who struggle to raise and educate healthy children and provide them with the tools needed to deal with racism and other obstacles in life. She was one of the countless women who cook, clean, and iron; care for elders; help raise neighborhood children in need, as well as helping with their grandchildren. The neighborhood women who garden for food & beauty; pick, pickle & can what they grow for winter meals; cook from scratch, every single day; work outside the house to pay for “extras” like art supplies, swimming & piano lessons, sports gear, etc.

Women who believed that love was shown, not spoken, but sometimes spoke it just for our sakes. A woman who loved music but only shyly sang; who baked for pleasure and to express love, a true homebody, yet my mother also boldly fought for us, privately and publicly. She would fight police for our sakes but made it clear that if we ever wound up in jail, she’d only visit if we were serious political prisoners “on the level of MLK and Malcolm, honey, or else you’d better stay out of trouble!” Still, when I was involved in protests, she sent food. She worried for the occupiers on Alcatraz like they were her own children, but her eyes watered with pride that The People were standing up in that way again.

She read constantly, mostly for pleasure and to better understand how to maneuver around the systems that oppressed her and threatened her loved ones. She supported other women who struggled, taught me the history of unions and suffrage, and honored the likes of folk like Harriet Tubman,Paul Robeson, Helen Keller, Mary McLeod Bethune, Ida B. Wells, Marian Anderson, and for her, “St.” Fannie Lou Hamer. I grew up knowing the real stories of Native America, and what we were being told at school was supplemented with the stories of her people. We were taught to be respectful, but question outside authority, especially institutions. She was an introvert who cared about people and showed up for them and made herself fierce on behalf of what was right. She was also humble enough to apologize when wrong and try to step outside of her comfort zone to “walk a mile in another person’s moccasins.”

Mom was one of those millions upon millions of women who go unrecognized outside of their families: women who did not gladly suffer fools, were seldom “sweet”, but were always “good.” That legion of women who always tried to do what they thought was right for their families and the world. Women who understood at the core of their beings that we are all related.

She is the spirit of a billion women we honor today and should honor every day. We aspire to their strength and love and devotion.

ᎪᎯᏳᎯ

Pẹlu ọlá ati ọwọ: às̩e̩

Barbuda Is Us

Please listen and then WRITE to António Guterres, UN Sec. General.

The podcast below (link at the page bottom) explains exactly how the people of Barbuda are being cheated of their land and birthrights. This is part a new colonialist assault that employs the same rule (terranullius) that was invoked to seize Indigenous Peoples’ lands and dehumanize them. (It is a pattern that is frighteningly similar to what’s being done to Puerto Rico right now.)

If unchecked, this de facto coup, on a tiny, otherwise unknown island, helps to solidify an international pattern threatening the idea of independence around the world.

Barbuda is one of the few remaining places in the world where citizens hold the land in common. Certainly the local government has been short sighted in some decisions and it is not a perfect democracy, yet the people of this island, most of whom are the descendants of enslaved Africans, have enacted enviable democratic principals that should be respected and protected.

Please listen, learn, and then take action. In this case, the United Nations (and you!) may be able to help.

http://www.earthsharing.org.au/2018/02/de-niros-island-paradise-coup/

We Remember and Give Thanks

I’m all about family, friends, and food, and am always glad to have time off from the daily grind. I have much to be grateful for and I appreciate the many gifts in my life, past and present.

But I never forget that this holiday was born of the blood of Native Americans and that the real story was whitewashed and Disneyfied to cover up the crimes of colonialist genocide and ethnocide. It’s a day for paying respects to those whose names have been lost to us, a day to give thanks to the ancestors who persevered to bring us through, in spite of the almost unfathomable hardships of the Middle Passage and all that came after. And we remember to show gratitude to those whose lands, bounty, and generous humanity provided us with the riches we all enjoy. We bless those who clean and cook and share themselves and their love through their efforts. We eat with love, knowing that the circle is unbroken.

It is a day of mourning, remembrance, gratitude, joy, companionship, and love. I give thanks.

A Caribbean Inspired Rant

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As my heart alternately breaks and inflames with rage, I find myself anxiously begging our representatives to hurry to rescue the US citizens of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. To do what all we can for the VICTIMS of ravaging storms, in and around the Caribbean. This is what my heart is screaming.

But then my knowledge of history and the current political climate and economic priorities kicks in and I know that the point is not to “save” Puerto Rico, it’s to let as many die or give up as possible. The point is for the capitalist vultures to finish what they’ve been doing: wresting complete control over the land and all resources, including the remaining workforce. The point is to let 45’s friends and their ilk denigrate the people for being poor after taking away their ability to thrive at home. For a man who declared bankruptcy multiple times to dare to disparage victims of colonialism and hurricanes while allowing, no, encouraging his disaster capitalist buddies to steal all they can.
The pattern can also be seen in the current attempts to disenfranchise the stricken people of Barbuda by the government of Antigua, whose members have vested interests in development that will do little to profit the people of Barbuda, but will certainly take away their inherited rights to the land they hold in trust.
If these uber/hyper capitalists have their way, you won’t be able to subsist on your own land, grow your own food, use solar, fish, or pluck an avocado from a tree. Remember the 2020 Plan to eliminate agriculture in Puerto Rico? Then also remember that, as a Barbudan elder often said to me, “A people who cannot feed themselves are bound to become slaves.”
Look around the US as unions are decimated, water is polluted and your rights to it are handed over to those who pollute and sell it back to you. Look at the outlawing of your right to collect rainwater or go off grid in states like Florida. Look at the destruction of a once internationally envied, free education system. Look at the ways in which you’re stimulated to buy what you don’t need but are dissuaded from being active participants in your own governance. Look at the millions who are a paycheck away from devastating medical debt, the millions of Americans imprisoned, often because they can’t afford bail or good representation.
Look around and know that you are all being colonized and enslaved. You are Puerto Rico on a three second delay. Wake Up and ACT.

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Barbuda 2010. “The Light.”

This is a photo I took in Barbuda in 2010. I was trying to capture “The Light” that many believe to be the spirit of the island. It is my most heartfelt and sincere hope that The Light will restore the Caribbean and return the land to the true people.

The ‘ville

The reason I had no words for what happened in Charlottesville is because this is completely tragic, but not at all surprising. If you remember from lit, the flaw/seeds are always inherent in the character leading to the ultimate manifestation of the tragedy. People thought a host of folks I knew were “just being negative” or “too angry” when they spoke out against racism in Charlottesville. Some people actually said to me that they didn’t understand my rage, that I should be “used to it” and “ignore it” thus showing me that they only wished to diminish my humanity, to try to make me carry the burden of other people’s evil. Uh uh: my father might have called me “pixilated” but my mother never raised a complete fool! I know when I’m being discriminated against, singlely or intersectionally. So:
People who act shocked and wonder why we don’t share our personal reality when you make it abundantly clear after centuries of the same old same that you are not listening? People who blast and blacklist a guy for respectfully refusing to honor the symbols and songs of national racism? People who blame victims of police brutality for their own deaths? People who label children of colour as “thugs” but bestow innocence on shady, corrupt middle aged white men and refer to them as “kids/children”? Who damned thousands of black/Latino/Native folk to incarceration but now pity and protect white addicts? Who disrespect our bodies, psyches, traditions & histories every single day? I have no patience with you or with those who normalize you.

Whiteness is a political choice, not merely a decrease in melanin. Choosing not to see or change injustices, choosing destructive forms of tribalism/jingoism/ to ignore or negate the realities imposed upon people outside of your group, etc. are choices. Someone is now thinking/saying/writing: “but Black/Native/Latino people do some of those things!” And indeed, some do. But here’s the difference and here’s why we say that racism is a white problem: WE do not have power over your lives. I can’t keep you out of my neighborhood or from voting. I don’t determine your value or standing in society. This country and its multinational corporations are run by white people. Our Constitution, systems- including Race-were constructed by and for white people, most particularly land owning white males. So while not every white person is in that club, aspires to, or can join, whiteness still gives you a leg up over others. In constructing disadvantage for PoC, our racial hierarchy creates advantages for others. Not rocket science, yet millions of advantaged, “I’m not racist/I’m not rich/I never owned slaves” white people  adamantly refuse to connect the dots. Or they do so from their own fear-based frames of reference and assume that we want to destroy them in revenge, so they spout or buy into Nazi, KKK, alt-right beliefs, rhetoric, and actions. Like yesterday in a town where I spent 16 years, with people I still love.

So stop saying “This isn’t America.” Please! This IS the US, always has been, and your selfish adherence to a mythical origin and denial of the genocide, exploitation, and oppression of millions for your own comfort upholds these injustices and perpetuates oppression. It’s the blue pill of a very dangerous, self negating illusion. Unless and until white people -every single one of you- demand that it be otherwise and take hold of their rabid relatives, it will continue, under the radar or in attention getting flames. If people really want 45 out, they wouldn’t be wringing their hands and waiting for 2020. There are legal, Constitutional means for ousting him and his cohort. The electoral college can be dismantled or amended. It doesn’t change because that IS the will of the spineless, willfully ignorant, greedy, stupid, superficial people who support this regime, actively or passively. IMHO if you are not antiracist, antifascist, anti-misogynist, anti-discrimination against LGBT+ yes, you are complicit. It’s not enough just to be a “nice” person. And while I’m at it, let me just say that to my knowledge, Black Lives Matter has never dragged anybody behind a car or otherwise killed or maimed anyone. They haven’t burned down houses, shot at people, or terrorized them in any other way. There are no reports of burning Black Power fists on anyone’s lawns, so stop comparing them to the KKK/Alt Right/Nazis or other actually violent terrorist groups. If you have the ability to think you might ask   yourself why you see people demanding justice in the face of violence against their people to be a threat to you. Why do you fear ordinary, unarmed PoC who simply aren’t servile? What are you projecting and how might you get help for this problem?What I’m talking about are Systems of injustice, and unless and until they are dismantled, they will continue to oppress people you say you care about: relatives, neighbors, friends, innocent strangers that your moral codes & ethics tell you to protect and support. Unless you work against injustice and oppression, yes, you are guilty of complicity. Charlottesville is your call to humanity: choose.

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